I was recently asked to stay silent on something that could have helped many people in deference to fear of negative responses and sharing secrets that weren't mine to share. This sent me into a rage. Who were they to silence my voice? How dare they dictate which forums I am allowed to share on?
I spent a sleepless night with a stomach tied up in knots. Anger, hurt, and a whole host of other emotions battled in my mind. The very nature of what I feel is my vocation, sharing stories in the effort to inspire and help other people, felt threatened and challenged.
The struggle between compassion and truth waged in my very being. I have always been a truth teller, even though it's caused me conflict again and again, so stifling the truth is the very antithesis of who I am. In the end, I decided to cave because I could not withstand the turmoil but I did not feel settled.
I felt like I was giving in to others demands, which let me tell you, did not, and does not, sit well with me. Yet, a small voice in my head had to admit that some of what they were saying was true. Was what I wanted to share my truth to tell? Had rosy glasses blinded me to see a certain way when, in essence, I knew better from past behaviours?
Yesterday while I was talking with my counsellor, we discussed this and she gave me something to think about that helped me understand the other side a bit more. Our stories are our stories, yes, but to a certain degree. If our stories contradict someone else's story and then it is made public, the truth that they have created is then challenged and will have to be faced. Who am I to have that power over them? Who wins?
Does it always have to silence you though? That is the question that I am left with. I guess what it comes down to is, are the consequences of sharing something that you can live with?
I decided to look for the gifts from this chaos instead. The situation helped me examine my motivations, it showed me certain truths, and it once again guided me to see that things had nothing to do with the actual events and consequences and more to do with personal lessons and growth. If I look at it from a higher perspective, I arranged all of this for my own benefit. How can I stay angry at that?
As many of you know, I've been living with and managing mental illness for most of my life. Anxiety and depression have been my constant companions and powerful foes. Yet, this post isn't about my struggle. As the country shines a light on mental illness today for the purpose of reducing stigma, I too focus on bringing awareness to the disease of the mind.
People often say that living with mental illness is no different than living with any other type of disease yet I tend to disagree on some account. When you have a physical illness, like a broken leg, you know that eventually it will get better. You know that regardless of what you think, the bones will knit and heal. It is acceptable and accepted.
Not so with a broken mind.
A broken mind tells lies. A broken mind doesn't make sense. A broken mind scares people and makes them fear you. They don't understand that a broken mind has lost the capacity to manage emotional pain. They don't understand that with a broken mind, it's extremely difficult to heal within the same framework that makes you unwell. No, a broken mind is managed, for healing the mind requires thoughts and sometimes those thoughts are just too elusive to reach.
We live in a society that doesn't allow for emotions. It doesn't allow for us to be sad or sensitive or afraid. It makes us feel less-than, not enough, and weak. We've been conditioned to call emotions illness when really they are healthy expressions of release.
We've stopped talking with each other, really talking with each other, when talking alone has the power to help us heal. No, we shun visiting a therapist or counselor as that might be perceived as weak.
The disease is not so much about mental illness as it is a societal disease. We see each other as "other" when really we are all just trying to survive, to simply be. We are human. We make mistakes. We feel sadness and grief when people die and we feel very real fear when our lives feel threatened. How could we not all feel anxious and depressed in the society that we live in? Yet, those feelings are increasingly pathologized and medicated as well.
So how do we heal from the disease of our mind when so much conspires to keep us unwell? How do we find relief when our thoughts and feelings keep us prisoners, inflict torture, and make living sometimes too hard to bear?
We start with gentleness and compassion. We set aside self-judgment and self-recrimination and we admit that we are sad or weak or lost and get comfortable with our truths. We dig deep to find the courage to face our greatest pain. We challenge the thoughts that keep us bound in our nightmares. We believe that we are strong enough to battle any demon that our minds throw at us in the knowledge that we are the puppet-masters behind the curtain of the lies.
We breathe, one breath at a time if we have to, but we continue breathing to physiologically calm ourselves down. We distract ourselves in times of great darkness so that the darkness will not sink us down to the point of no return. We reach for faith, what ever that means to you, in order to believe that there is something greater than ourselves. We eat "brain-food", walk, dance or move to create chemicals to ease our suffering and we turn to water, a bath or shower, to heal us in an intangible way.
Most especially, we let go of others judgments of us and be the emotional, sensitive, imperfect human beings that we are. We're all doing our best. We're all just trying to survive in a society who's demands are simply too much for some of us to bear. Does that make us ill?
"Guilt is often an attempt to keep us attached to love."
When these words came out of my counselor's mouth, they hit me right in the heart. She'd been attempting to say the same thing in a more intellectual manner, and while my brain and mind grasped what she was saying, I couldn't find the way to distill what she'd said into words that I could process back.
Yet, as soon as she re-framed guilt this way, my heart recognized a truth that made sense. It was like every cell in my body reacted and the tears started to flow.
I've spent a good part of twenty years with guilt as a constant companion, right from the birth of my son. I felt it, I could intellectualize it, I could talk about it, but I couldn't quite figure out a way to let it go. I couldn't quite heal it and take it's power away.
What my counselor offered me this morning was another way. She reflected back ten years of knowing me and my journey to show me something that I was too close to see. She shed light on the dark and the light of me to embrace the truth of who I am.
For twenty years I have loved my son. For twenty years I haven't wanted to be a mother. For forty seven years I have been an imperfect human being and for the past ten plus years I have tried to live from a Higher Perspective, a spiritual knowing that I am a perfect Soul. I've lived this tug of war inside myself, always trying to make one side win and punishing myself when it did.
The very act of making choices that seemed (or what I judged to be) "bad" violated the "good" Self/Soul that spiritually I've strived for and known myself to be. Straddling between the two halves of myself, the very imperfect human and the unconditionally loving and aware Soul, have driven me almost mad at times. It's no wonder that people have psychotic breaks. It's very hard to live in balance between the two...to walk in reality with the awareness of Spirit and the Divine. Yet, I digress.
Guilt became my means of holding on, of making myself pay, over and over, for making choices that I deemed "bad". So when my counselor framed it as a way to stay attached to love, it felt like a 180 degree shift. It was a hard concept to wrap my head around, and at the same time it caused my heart to ache. Twenty years of causing myself pain when I could have seen it as staying attached to love was a heavy price to pay.
I never realized that I could hold two opposing truths at the same time.
I didn't realize that I could love my son and not want to be with him. That I could love him and not want to be a mother. So much self-vitriol spewed for the sake of either/or. So much self-inflicted pain when both truths could be held lovingly.
To look at guilt as a gift is a way to take the barbs out of the torturous claws of the mind. When I visualized myself at either end of that tug of war rope, pulling and struggling to win, I realized that I could simply drop the rope, that neither could win and both truths of who I am could be right. Both truths could be held.without struggle.
I don't know if I'll ever not have guilt as a presence in my life. This Soul of mine has chosen a path that, good or bad, is a challenging one to walk. So to be able to see guilt through this new lens, one of being attached to love, is a way for my Higher Self to love my human self with compassion and love.
I no longer need to punish myself for the choices I've made. Those choices weren't "bad". They were just choices that felt right in that moment. And despite the voices of my past that told me I was "bad", that continue in my own mind to judge me as "bad", I'm not "bad" either. I need to stop telling myself that I am. I am human and doing the best that I can.
I can stay attached to my love for my son without inflicting self-punishment because I chose to separate from him, and stand in the truth of who I am, in balance, and with love.
P.S. I really wish I could articulate more for you how this concept works, how it was described to me that made sense. I can't and it's frustrating. It's fleeting in my mind but my heart retains it's truth. I needed to write out the experience so that I could hold on to the transformative power it had on me today.
I write to explore and express my mind and heart.
One simple sentence, one simple explanation yet it's been a life-line for me over a lifetime.
Writing has always been a form of therapy for me, whether I was conscious of it at the time or not. Even back to when I was a teenager, I wrote to express what I couldn't share with anyone else. I had a hard time verbalizing the words of my heart. It was so much easier to capture them on paper.
I started with poetry. Poetry held beauty and pain and I loved how it was a form of writing that felt free. My teenage, angst-filled, misunderstood heart, poured out lines to try and express the depths of my despair.
As I got older, I moved on to journaling and wrote the words that I couldn't share with anyone else. My journals became a safe place to try and understand my thoughts and feelings. I could express rage on the page when it didn't feel safe in "real life". I could reveal the true dark feelings of depression when the darkness made me feel like I was drowning.
Now, I write as a form of catharsis. I write the stories from the past as a means to extricate myself from the emotional pain and trauma that they've held over me. I find especially, in this kind of writing, profound liberation. I've been able to dissolve lifetimes of hurt by being brave enough to dive head first into the pain and the tears and write the wounds out of me.
Nothing has given me more clarity, more self-awareness than the act of writing out my thoughts and feelings. I guess that's why it's always been hard for me to write fiction. There is too much emotional and mental treasure to mine in the mind of someone highly sensitive and emotional like me.
I know that I have it in me to explore more creative writing, and sometimes I do. Yet, I love writing about feelings and thoughts and emotions. I love writing about self-awareness and self-love. I love writing about vulnerability and courage and I love writing to explore every beautiful pain and gift that my journey brings.
Writing has always been therapy for me yet it's also something more. It's a part of who I am, the very channel for my heart's expression. It's like a direct line to my Soul and the vessel for it's inner wisdom.
My heart is broken
and in pieces with grief
and will never find it's way
to wholeness again.
Those lost pieces
can never be filled
as they are the wounds of loving
and it would dishonour them
by even trying.
Those holes, those wounds
reveal the light,
the pain pierces their vacant absence.
My grief bears witness
to everything my heart
chose to hold dear.
No, those holy wounds
cannot ever be healed
but they can be honoured
for the gifts they bring;
the gifts of loving
and of letting go.
For in letting go
do we embrace
our own impermanence
and we celebrate
the fleeting act
© Tracy Kelly 2019