What is Love? The Year in Mental Health


2020 has been a year of reckoning for me. Reckoning with myself.

So much time to contemplate. 

Now I know that no one gets to tell me how to feel about my childhood. No one gets to tell me when to feel what I feel or how to process my trauma. AND they don't get to tell me not to feel. 

For the first time I allowed myself to FEEL the anger. I let the anger toward my grandfather out of the heart shaped box. I acknowledged it. I embraced it. I saw that it was good, not bad. It was appropriate anger. I saw the egg shells he made our tiny feet walk on. I saw the emotional manipulation he used to destroy my fragile grandmother and used to torment my mother. I saw the reason I don't sleep at night. I looked at all of it, examined it. I asked "What the fuck?!" and I saw just how much his presence and influence caused me to act in the same way toward my own family. I swallowed hard pills this year. And I started down the path of healing. 

I'm still on that path. 

People with a trauma history often have a propensity to negative cognitive processes, expecting negative outcomes and having a foreshortened sense of the future. These negative thought processes produce depressed mood and worry that, in turn, make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.  Victims of trauma are also likely to have medical problems such as chronic pain or digestive disorders that interfere with sleep.  These may have resulted from injuries sustained during the traumatic event or developed as a result of stress related physiological or substance induced changes.

I use to pat myself on the back for being so transparent and not living in denial about anything. Heck, I wrote poems about my childhood trauma. I talked freely about my step father Donnie jacking off by my bed when I was nine and him attempting to do more than that. But now I see that I was telling a detached story. I'd put the emotions, the feelings associated with my grandfather, my early childhood trauma and that experience with Donnie, away in my Heart Shaped Box

Another thing I've come to terms with is I always refereed to Donnie as "a man briefly married to my mother" but he was a man who stepped into the void left by my father. For a short time he was my step father. I realized that I can't recall anything he said while he was my step dad other than "stop screaming" and "I'm leaving." that's crazy. that those are the only words I can remember him ever speaking. 

And you know what's so telling about right now, right this minute in my mental health? It's that as I'm typing this I'm steady thinking about family members who may read this and I hear them telling me "What's the big deal about that differentiation between Step Dad and a guy your mom was married too? You're over thinking this as usual. What's the big deal? Just move on. God your'e obsessed with all this. I'm fine so why aren't you?" I hear all this and more because their Heart Shaped Box doesn't understand why I'm working through the stuff in my Heart Shaped Box.  

But this year, to get healthy for MYSELF and for my family, I opened my Heart Shaped box and took out the feelings of horror, disbelief, anger, shame, fear and anxiety and I felt them, worked through them, I'm working through them and working to integrate them with the rest of my mind. They're a part of me.

I'm still working.

Emphasis on WORK.

I learned the Heart Shaped Box is a good place to store pain and trauma when we are small children but over time that box morphs into a sharp, electrocuting, tinder box.. All the events and experiences in that box start to shoot deadly volts of electricity when we get triggered. As my therapist said, "nothing is forgotten it’s all there forming us even when it’s tucked away." It’s just more powerful in a negative way when it’s in the heart shaped box for too long.

A lot of this process is writing and feeling the emotions as I write. 

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing." 

That has always been one of my favorite quotes of CS Lewis.

I swallow a lot. 

I grab my phone, click Spotify, my "Liked Songs" list and I play what is Love by Haddaway every time I work on this blog post. I hear that song quite a bit in my mind. 

Since I've been in therapy, working on myself working on my marriage, I've spent time shuffling through the files stored in the Heart Shaped Box. One by one I examine the contents and realizing a lot of what I had filed under Love was certainly not. 

My grandmother told my sister, brother and I all the time that she was the only person who loved us. She would say that while in the course of bad mouthing our mother.  That was not love.  Her rage fits and physically taking it out on us was not love.  She knew very little love herself. She was beat and orphaned as a child and the only love she knew was from an aunt who took her in and feed her well. That was how my grandma showed her love to us; she feed us well and told us stories. She was a good story teller. Those are memories of love I have of her, eating her food and listening to her stories. But now I know the parts that weren’t love. When she told me I was a sexy nine year old after my step father jacked off by my face as I slept, that wasn't love. 

I believed a lot of wrong. I believed lies about love and life. I was shown that women take abuse, they scream and throw fits about it, become progressively miserable and make everyone around them miserable but they stay and take it then pass that trauma on to their children.

That is not love for themselves or anyone around them. That is self-hatred. I was raised with self-hatred. I was told repeatedly that my grandfather didn't like me. He was the only male figure in our home from age one until around age ten. He was an alcoholic who verbally and physically abused my grandmother. Those fights would wake us in the night. There was always turmoil. Lack of money was always a problem. We moved all the time. My grandmother would complain to us about not having groceries to feed us. Grandpa would start cheating on her and she'd kick him out briefly. She'd let him return because she was completely dependent on him. She didn't drive or work. I have no idea how many hours of my early life were spent trying to comfort my grandmother while she cried and complained about how awful he was and yet she stayed. 

She laid all her pain on us. We were little kids. We lived in a tornado. 

My grandfather was also a pedophile who messed with at least three different girls. My grandmother knew of two of them and still she stayed with him and let us be around him. 

That is not love and coming to terms with all that has been jarring and painful. All the anger and rage that gets triggered at the worst time is because I never worked through these issues. I never worked through being around constant turmoil & violence as a child.

A couple years ago when Abel was putting us through hell is when we all had our baggage float to the surface. I knew I didn't want to settle for being a rage filled mother who couldn't reach her son. I knew I didn't want my marriage to end because I didn't know how to communicate correctly. I knew I didn't want to end up accepting misery and giving it to everyone in my life, like the women in my family before me. 

I'll be damned if I won’t die trying to fully grasp what is love because there is no way to love without being able to recognize it's truth, where it is and the places in time where something sold itself to me as love when it wasn't. 

Love is not pain. 

That is how men like my grandfathers sold love to us all. BOTH my paternal and maternal grandfathers were abusive men, alcoholics and cheaters, who should have been kicked to the curb with no looking back.

For too long we've believed that bullshit they sold us. The men who run all the cults of personality throughout history made us believe that men get to give abuse and women have to stay and take it. THAT'S A LIE FROM THE PIT OF HELL!

My father leaving us when I was a baby and my grandfather abusing our grandmother in front of us, being an alcoholic, making it very clear he didn't like me, constantly telling my mother how she was a failure and filling our home with violence and trauma, that was not love. 

I see parts of all of them, in me. I am a product of that environment.

I moved away from it when I was 17. I ran like hell and then I watched myself repeat what I'd learned. I watched ancestral destructive behaviors manifest in my children. Like the movie A Historyof Violence, the poison was in the family whether the kids knew about it or not. 

That is not love. Me not taking care of my shit long ago was not love for myself, my marriage or for my children. The feelings of guilt and shame was me wanting to undo damage done, wishing to go back in time and have a do-over. It is not love to deny myself healing or to not give my children a mentally healthy parent. 

But it is love to do that now. I love myself now by working on myself. It's hard work and it's a surgery that hurts like hell but this shit year of 2020 got me there. 



What is love?

Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me
No more

Oh baby, don't hurt me, don't hurt me
No more
What is love?
Yeah

No, I don't know why you're not fair
I give you my love, but you don't care
So what is right and what is wrong?
Gimme a sign

What is love?
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me
No more

What is love?
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me
No more

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, oh, oh
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, oh, oh...


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