When I woke up this morning, something just didn’t feel right. I was hurting and sad and I didn’t quite know why. Right before waking up, I had a dream in which I heard my toaster beep (I have one of those super fancy toasters that don’t scare the hell out of you by catapulting the toast at you when it’s done, but subtly let you know that the toast is ready by beeping, while slowly making it emerge from the inside of the toaster), which made me think oh cool, someone’s here!, a very questionable thing to get excited over considering I live alone.
Upon further reflection about what may have caused my seemingly inexplicable unease, I remembered that lately I’ve been struggling with dealing with my close relatives. There’s no precise incident that could explain my sudden inability to cope apart from the fact that I’ve been digging into my past for a while now, trying to uncover what’s been sweeped under the rug for the bigger part of my life. Now I’m not saying this is necessarily a good idea (seriously, don’t overdo it – no amount of ruminating on the past will change the past) and it hasn’t been an easy journey. I feel like once I had ripped off the bandaid, there was no turning back. Once I had started digging, it all resurfaced − everything that had ever hurt me or caused me pain slowly crawled into the spotlight, asking to be tended to.
Occasionally, I even get random flashbacks of moments from my childhood, triggered by conversations, thoughts or people’s behaviour. They hit me like lightning, not always in the most appropriate moments, pulling the rug from under my feet and draining me of energy.
Nevertheless, I’m glad it’s happening. I’m glad I finally found the courage to go there, to rip the bandaid off decades of bottled-up emotions. To finally realise where it all came from and to forgive myself for behaving the way I did.
What’s even more difficult than uncovering the roots of basically everything is refraining from blaming the adults who set me up for the experiences I’ve gone through. It’s indeed easy to finally have someone to blame for the mess I sometimes feel I am. It’s easy to point fingers, to make myself the victim and to refuse to take any responsibility for where I go from here.
It’s their fault, so they’d better fix me!
As much as I would love to just have someone “fix” (quotation marks because I’m not broken, so no actual need to fix) me, give me a magic pill to make everything alright, that’s not how it works. Working through feelings isn’t a one-stop shop. It’s a process. There’s a new challenge almost everyday. It isn’t something you can just get over with and then put away in some dusty cupboard for the rest of your life. In fact, you have to be willing to show up for yourself again and again and to be understanding and forgiving towards yourself. If you don’t have the habit of treating yourself nicely, you’ll be surprised how hard it can be not to beat yourself up.
Last but not least, you may need to kick your own butt a couple of times along the way.
I need to acknowledge that being angry at my family doesn’t serve me (or them, for that matter). It doesn’t solve anything and it doesn’t undo the past. I need to remember that everyone did the best they could with what they had at their disposal at the time, knowing that they too carry their bottled-up emotions around with them and experienced things that left them unable to cope.
What I still struggle with the most is accepting that my struggles don’t need to be validated by anyone but myself in order for them to be legitimate. My feelings are real and valid, whether they’re understood by others or not.
If I could go back in time, I’d like to pay my younger self a visit. I’d go to her childhood room where she’d be crying, curled up in a ball next to the window, a spot that she chose because it was furthest away from the door, providing at least a little bit of concealment from whoever may enter the room, and because the cat loved to sleep there.
I would walk up to her, wrap my arms around her and tell her that it’s alright to be sad, that I know how difficult it is for her sometimes. I would tell her that no matter what it may feel like at this moment, she’s not alone.
I know now that all she needed was to know that she wasn’t inadequate. That she was good enough exactly the way she was. That she didn’t need to be perfect in order to be lovable. That she wasn’t responsible for the grown-ups’ happiness. That she was capable of great things.
Because she was never inadequate. She’s always been strong. She may have shed a lot of tears in that room of hers but she carried on regardless, without missing a beat.
And if that’s not badass*, then I don’t know what is.
* Slight exaggeration for stylistic reasons 😇.