A Closed Window
This week my therapy homework was to just notice. Notice when I’m seemingly fine and suddenly irritable, startled, or when physical symptoms crawl up on me such as the closing of my throat ala Darth Vader force choke, tightening of my chest, that sinking feeling in my belly.
While sifting through my stories week after week, searching for patterns, behaviors, and meanings I stumbled upon something sinister locked far away in the darkness. Early childhood nightmares. I’ve never been good with following the majority, in fact, some version of “misfit” feels apropos, thus, my story doesn’t include the typical evil characters one finds in these types of tales. You know the ones, religious figures, family members, trusted adults, or people at sleepaway camps. The experience is adjacent to this world and now that it’s starting to unfold it’s terrifying, confusing, and devastating.
I’m not ready to share the details as I have yet to unlock the entire picture. The entire story may never unfold for me but is making it’s way out of that shadowy dark place in my mind. I’ve woken from sleep with images flashing before me. Noises take me back to a specific time and place. My body is screaming like a 5 maybe even 10 alarm fire. Internally it’s all hands on deck. My amygdala is at the wheel shouting instructions. Cortisol flood, heart rate increase, breath go shallow. I’ve had to stop several times just to write this paragraph. The aftermath is going to be me attempting to self-soothe in a way that isn’t a complete shut down of emotions and numbness. I had to strategically block out time to even do this because I’m working on allowing myself to stay with it. That means as everything pulls back what follows is a change in body temperature (I get very cold), extreme fatigue, and no sense of safety. Crawling into bed, listening to a podcast, crying, and ultimately taking a nap is the way through yet that requires time and time is a luxury I’m often not afforded.
If this also sounds like a toddler post tantrum I would agree. I can only surmise that a tantrum followed by the gift of security and support to recover was something I never experienced. This part of my story wasn’t one time and it wasn’t one month and it wasn’t one year. This narrative weaves through 5, maybe 6 years of my life. All developmental years.
All of this makes “noticing” difficult. Right now I have big existential questions, a life lived through a lens skewed. I can’t help but wonder what all of my life experiences would have been like had I been given the right all children deserve, to develop, grow, and learn with a foundation of safety and security. My brain was forced to shift and grow in a way that ensured I survived. Existing isn’t the same as living.
Simultaneously, there are the minefields and muddy waters of navigating relationships with my family in the present. People who have done a multitude of good, created joyous occasions, provided love but also whether willfully ignorant or not, are complicit.
So what have I noticed this week? Plenty. I’m at the point where I have to shut off and just distract. I was able to improvise with friends this week, work with a writing partner, and eat way too many home-made espresso chip cookies. My window of tolerance has closed and I’ve drawn the curtains tight. For now, I will retreat back into the comfort of the darkness that has been my companion all this time.