the creeping shame…

We’re now exactly two weeks away from Samhain/Halloween. The day I ritually observe as the beginning of the new year. It is the witches’ new year, and my memories are being stirred as we approach, remembering and observing the things I have learned this year, and the things I have let go.

I have long said that October is both the month I dread and the month I love. The shadows this month holds are bottomless and all engulfing when they rise up. October was the month I believe the first r*pe happened to me. As a 4 or 5 year old, the days of the month, or even the month itself is completely blocked. But I remember the colors of the leaves starting to change, I remember the way the air felt, I remember that pull towards death. Not death as the ending, but death as a transformative rebirthing.

When I chose the word Alignment for my word of the year 2022, it almost immediately threw me through multiple intense and uncomfortable situations. Relationally speaking, I have evolved a lot since a year ago. Even going back to reread old posts from the past two or three years, I can see the change. And as is the case with every year I choose a word, that word has become the bane of my existence. Constantly shifting and pushing me to always be growing and expanding. Speaking of expanding, Expand is my word for 2023. You have to be in alignment with yourself before you can expand. I can feel an expansion coming, it started back in 2020, but now it is time to start letting out the seams, loosening the ties, and letting go.

To be in alignment with myself is no easy task. I never thought it would be easy, but even the hardest parts sometimes can surprise us, right? This month alone has pushed me past breaking points multiple times. I’m still picking up pieces from this last one, I’m still trying to dig out of the pit my logical mind was shoved in to. Trauma brain has been so fucking loud. It’s not only been loud, but it’s been pushing my traumatized disorganized attachment type to the forefront…much to my shame. Why shame? Because I have a tendency to hold myself to such high standards that the moment I fuck up, I can’t see past or around or before that moment, it becomes all about how much I fucked up. Those negative voices hold it over me, and I have to fight tooth and nail to break through. Although, if I’m going to be fully honest with myself about this, I don’t always want to fight it. I succumb to the voices of my parents that pop up in those moments, and I let them berate and tear me down.

It takes way less energy/spoons to let those voices rage than it takes to fight back. So much less so that to fight means almost all of my brain power has to be sent forwards for the fight. I then have nothing left to even take care of daily functions, and that’s not always an option. Then throw in shame and embarrassment…both have been really loud over the past week. Sitting in front of my therapist last week, sobbing, trying to explain quickly the entirety of a situation so we can get to the “please give me advice” part, the shame and embarrassment were right there egging me on, trying to convince me to hold things back, hide things the that would only “further your discomfort.”

I didn’t though. I shared everything, even the parts I am ashamed of. Even the parts that make me look bad. Because I am not that person at my core. I will own every part I have to play in something, even when it doesn’t look good. I know the power of taking responsibility for my own actions, and even despite the loud and angry voices of my parents in my head, I will still step forward to say yes, that one’s on me. But the shame? For some reason that one clings to me like a leach or a burr. I’m having a much harder time shaking that one off.

I feel sad, and my heart hurts still. I’m trying to trust the expansion, trying to trust that I am not alone in this work. I am trusting myself, trusting that my core feelings and states of being will prevail. I am trusting myself to silence the voices of those who have successfully gaslit and manipulated my sensitivity to wrong doings (false or real) in the past. I am fighting to regain a balance, and I’m tired. This month has had a much higher toll this month than recent previous years.

I choose honesty over hiding and cowering behind the shame. I choose me, the current survivor version of me, over the broken cowed version of me. And choosing this version of me means fighting that much harder to dig them out. I don’t know if I am worth the fight, I have asked one of my closest friends to hold hope for me as it isn’t accessible to me at the moment. I *think* I am worth it, I think I am worth fighting against the nights tossing and turning because my brain chooses those moments to remind me of the shame and the things I fucked up with. It is in the darkness that I come face to face with the rawest version of me. The version using the wall to hold themselves up, crying that we can’t make it.

Holding myself to a certain set of standards is harder when the voice and face of my father sneers at me and uses the words he’s used many times to beat me down.

When I hear him taunt me with “you just run away from difficult situations,” I remind myself that no, I sit with the discomfort, I hold myself gently and try to allow space for grace and fuck ups.

When he whispers that I am dirty and filthy, I remind myself that he is the one who is filthy, I am innocent, I am pure.

When he yells in my face that I am a sinner and going to the pits of hell, I remind myself that he was my hell, and I am good and true and safe.

His apparition is starting to fade now, but I can still feel his hands around the back of my neck, those cool gripping fingers, his hand bigger than my actual neck. While I can still feel the fear I felt a week ago, anxiously scanning the vast crowds around me, trying to find his face so I had enough time to run, I recognize that that was the consequences of such a huge trigger coming to light. His presence hasn’t been this strong during this month for about 5 years. While it’s been over 9 years since I last looked him in the face, I can still see his eyes, I can still see his mouth move with disgust, I can still feel his hands on my shoulders and neck. The ghosts of his fingers wrap around my wrists and I want to cry out as the rush of panic and need to escape pours through me.

I’m still feeling the whispers of last week’s trigger as I go to give my children pain meds because of fevers and coughs and stomach aches. I am the trusted adult, and I am giving my children meds that will cause them to be groggy because that’s what those meds are supposed to do. I am still watching/replaying the way my brain put things together as the trigger reached it’s peak last week. I am still feeling the terror I felt as I watched adults hand out drugs, and then feeling the irrational fear for those accepting them that they were going to be hurt by the boogeyman that is my dad. The irrational terror of those handing out drugs is continuing to fade, but it’s still lurking there, just out of sight.

Triggers and trauma and disorganized attachment do not exist in a space of logic and analytical reasoning. Those things exist in a space that is irrational, ruled by fear and panic, and the protector who rises up in that space has a singular purpose from which it cannot be swayed – PROTECT at allllll costs. I trusted adults giving me medicine to keep me safe. I then found out later that not only did they not keep me safe, they purposefully gave me medicine so that I would be immobilized/incapacitated and they could harm me. With all of the things swirling around in my head, beating my younger selves up is not one of them. If anything, seeing the innocence of my children and their faithful trust in me helps me realize I am not at fault for accepting the things I did from my parents.

My heart hurts for my baby self. The one who was so excited to take “big kid” medicine. The one who happily accepted the medicine cup from their dad, who watched to make sure I drank all of it. I felt that baby’s body in my limbs last week. I felt their childish lack of strength, the little hands and fingers trying to clutch for anything familiar, anything that might be safe. I felt their legs frozen in position, unable to move, hide, run. I felt his shadow looming over me, the boogeyman coming to abuse me, the father who was supposed to protect me. I grieve for that little one. I hold her gently, I comfort their tears, I remind them and me that we’re safe. I remind them of the work we’ve done to release the pain and grief of what we have lost because of him.

This is what alignment has been for the past two weeks for me. It is the shedding of this anger and grief for what has been done to me, and the wounds that periodically get ripped open again. It has been acknowledging and allowing space for the root of the shame to be heard. And then digging it out so it doesn’t continue to bury its roots in me. I feel shame over how I acted under the influence of my trauma and the roaring trigger that took over everything, including my voice.

I have mostly successfully been able to handle my triggers in the past. And truthfully, I 99% of the time can. This particular trigger finally hit so hard and fast there was no preparing, there was no talking myself through the way my brain transformed people who are typically safe into the person to run away from. I don’t even know what all I’m supposed own about that, outside of some new carefully placed boundaries, and apologizing sincerely for any harm I inadvertently caused. And then all I can do after that is continue to do my best to push through this work.

I fucking hate triggers, especially the ones that wind up the ghost of my dad. But is he really a ghost in those moments? It isn’t like my brain has made up a new narrative about him. It is quite literally my brain reminding me of the things that have already happened. Instead of them being placed in a timeline of a past events, it is currently happening in my brain. I am currently in danger, not WAS in danger. How am I supposed to hold my ground against that? It is very real fear, very real panic, terror, helplessness. Even if the situation isn’t actually harming me, my brain physically cannot always tell the difference. And that’s the other part I feel shame over. I have very little control over the way my brain decides to react to trauma. I have little control over my brain deciding a current situation is exactly the situation I have already been before and I was truly in danger.

I suppose the swiftness with which my brain reacts to a [potentially] dangerous situation could be applauded? And yet, how can I possibly walk myself back down when all of the protectors and triggers explode? This shift happens so infrequently now, I no longer remember how to ground myself when I feel this tornado coming, when the presentpast takes over.

However, I do know, now of course, that last week’s trigger had been winding up for at least 3 weeks. I had been too dissociated after my youngest’s surgery to really catch the beginning tendrils as the trigger began to wind its roots around me. I felt the uneasiness, but thought it was only the things I had been anticipating as triggers. Hindsight is 20/20 and mine is certainly crystal clear now. I have so many regrets, but also, it is passed, I can no longer change the things I did. I certainly continued to make choices that not only pushed myself out of alignment, but also harmed and affected others I love. And the repair work for that is still ongoing. And will continue to be so.

I am both anxious for October to be over, and saddened. This has been a particularly difficult October, but also one that has brought a lot of growth and stretching to the forefront. So not all bad, just hard. I am now looking forward to intentional release on Samhain, the night I sit with the spirits and intentionally release the things from this past year.

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