I love a metaphor. I just can’t help myself. I enjoy a good simile and can revel in the resonance of a fabulous allegory. During my healing journey, I have turned to all of these methods of descriptive expression – they have somehow been the most succinct conduit for communicating my innermost thoughts, my deepest emotions and my darkest fears. They have allowed me at times to articulate my lost voice and conjure up in imagery my struggles in a way that I thought others might quickly comprehend – a short-cut to me. The translation of my inner world into an easy to see and feel imagery has often helped diminish the isolation and the disconnection – enabling me to tentatively connect with others, and others to connect with me.
There have been many but here are just a few….
“I’m gonna have to hang on tight, I think this is going to be a rollercoaster” … words to a therapist the first day we met and she declared to me ‘enough is enough’.
“OK – well it has to be a no-holds-barred approach to this therapy thing then (Queensbury Rules only)” … my response to her telling me enough is enough.
“I feel like I have been hit by a runaway truck running a red-light” … me trying to explain how it felt to be floored by a breakdown in my mental health.
“My mind shattered into a thousand pieces like a dropped glitter ball” … how it felt the moment my long and fiercely-held guard fell away and I entered the world of PTSD.
“I feel like I am being thrown around by a tornado – unable to get my feet on the ground, unable to grab a hold of anything and take a breath – I’m surrounded by the tumbleweed of my mind” … me trying to explain how it felt to be so very overwhelmed.
“The poltergeist of my childhood is raging and throwing her toys out of the pram” … me realising that ‘little me’ felt it was her turn to be heard and seen.
These, and many, many more have served a purpose. They found their place in communicating something that felt too hard to spell out in good old plain English. But they also enabled me to maintain some distance from the reality of the things that were painful. Wrapped up in a neat little verbal picture they could be nonchalantly thrown for others to catch without me needing to completely engage with what was at their very core. I could offer them out, then leave them with the receiver and carry on in my merry old way not really changing anything. They rather ironically and ambiguously allowed connection whilst maintaining disconnection – keeping me at arm’s length from the very things I was trying to explain.
And then, one day, after months of battling with myself and holding myself responsible for all my woes, I had an epiphany. My eyes widened as I suddenly had a thought. A deep visceral thought. A growing sense of knowing. Perhaps, actually, just perhaps, these things I am struggling with, trying so hard to describe – the pain and the confusion, the lack of kindness to myself, the self-blame and the shame, the coping mechanisms I had found myself turning to – maybe, just maybe, the root cause is trauma. Perhaps it’s not simply ‘me’ after all – it’s not who I am nor who I need to be. It may be my past but it sure doesn’t have to be my present and it can jolly well take a hike from my future.
And oh, my goodness. Allowing that concept to settle was like amber nectar being drizzled over my soul. Maybe I am not crazy. Maybe I have been traumatised. Maybe I am just human. I am a human responding to something that hurts humans. That makes me human, that’s all! Blimey! Hallelujah!
Until that moment – and to be fair it was a long time coming – I had not felt I had a right to say I had experienced trauma. Self-blame meant that I couldn’t. Shame – especially at the ways I had coped – meant that I didn’t have the courage to hold my hand up and say “I think trauma might be the reason for all of this”. And ‘trauma’ and ‘trauma-focused’ seemed to be becoming so commonplace; a buzz word on social media and within service provision. I thought maybe I am just trying to find an excuse for the way I have been living my life.
But the knowing was definitely growing. And so, I took what felt like quite a risk. I reached out to a clinic that clearly named its raison d’etre as trauma recovery. I picked up the phone and nervously offered up the possibility that I was traumatised and that I thought I may be experiencing PTSD. There was a growing inner strength to owning that thought but I feared at that moment it might all be dashed and I would be told to look elsewhere for help. So, still not convinced that I had a right to approach such a clinic, I asked if I should tell them first about what happened. I was looking for entry permission – for a confirmatory trauma stamp on the back of my hand. “No, not at all. If things are not feeling right then you are in the right place and we can work together to explore that”. Phew! What a relief. I was being let in. It felt safe. It felt like the right place at the right time.
And – from that moment on – from the point of believing in and owning my trauma, from saying it as it was (not the detail – that almost seemed unimportant suddenly, but just saying that I had experienced trauma) I felt liberated. Liberated from the self-blame. There was a tangible reason for my struggles – an explanation for my poor mental health, for my less than kind coping strategies. And by being liberated from self-blame, I was liberated from shame. And by being liberated from the shame I found room for self-compassion. And by finding self-compassion I began to really (like really) feel I deserved peace and freedom, joy and a life lived the way I want it to be lived.
So, I ditched the metaphor. Slung the similes. Sent the allegories airborne. I said it as it was.
The trauma did it. You didn’t. You are not to blame. There is hope and there is joy waiting for you. Find your healing tribe and say it as it is. If it hurts, tell someone. If it’s confusing, ask for help to unravel it. If it’s doing you no favours, find someone who will help you find a kinder way forward.
We are all on our very own journey but I have found some healing magic in connecting and sharing with others on theirs through some inspirational group work and some inspirational women. It has been a revelation and a liberation. Seeing the similarities amidst the differences has revealed our shared humanity and has given me the permission I needed to give myself a break.
In the words of Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, we’re only human after all.
Written by Annie
Recover Clinic client
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO READ
DON’T SUFFER IN SILENCE
We believe in inspiring and empowering all women to move beyond destructive coping strategies and to learn how to love who they really are. There is a more meaningful future out there waiting for you, free from trauma, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, anxiety and depression, and we are here to show you the way. Reach out to our friendly advice team confidentially today to learn more about how our outpatient clinic and/or online program can be tailored to you.
WRITE FOR US
Have you got a story or learnings to share about your mental health? Then we’d love to hear from you. Whether you want to talk about your own recovery journey or how you have supported a loved one with their healing, you could give others hope who are experiencing something similar. We’re open to all ideas and you can absolutely remain anonymous if you prefer.