In the irony of ironies, when we struggle most with feeling alone…sometimes we really need to BE alone. That is the beginning of the clarity that I found today. It is also intertwined in every other bit of clarity and peace I have found.
It all goes back to trauma. It all centers on the fact that I have C-PTSD. I will admit that I do to others, but I fight the label in my own head and heart. I don’t want to be different. I don’t want to feel differently…see things differently…love differently…and need to be loved differently. And yet, I do. No matter how much I fight the label…it is part of who I am.
So, why do I try to fight it? That’s easy. Shame. Shame is the tie that truly binds those who have lived through trauma. Any trauma….but maybe even moreso with a complex trauma…a trauma that wasn’t a one time event, but was perpetuated upon the victim for years. I actually did a little research into shame and PTSD and found this
“When someone has shame, they are hurting themselves internally, blaming themselves for the events that caused their PTSD and the transgressions committed against themselves.”
Makes no sense right? Why in the world would someone feel shame and blame themselves for someone else hurting them? There could be many reasons. Maybe they feel like the events leading up to it were their fault somehow. Maybe they believe that there’s something inherently wrong with them that made them deserve to be hurt. Maybe they blame themselves for not running sooner. Maybe the shame comes from people telling them they should be healed and forget it ever happened…even though their heart tells them that’s not possible. Maybe…if they’re like me…they’ve always known that they were the common denominator in the various people that hurt them…so they must be the problem.
Whatever it is…shame teaches us to be alone. To hide. To believe that there is something broken within us that makes us unlovable and unworthy.
And, so, many of us learn to wear solitude like a protective armor. If we don’t let anyone in, they won’t know our shame. If we don’t tell them how much we hurt, they won’t judge us for not being ok. If we don’t show them our weakness, we can’t be abused again. And mostly…
If we CHOOSE to be alone, then we are in control of our own hearts, minds and feelings.
Control of ourselves is probably one of the most sought after feelings for someone who’s life was torn apart by something outside of their control.
And THAT is the hallmark of C-PTSD. Complex PTSD. PTSD from a nightmare that was out of our control and wouldn’t end.
Anyway, back to the alone part. And now I will only speak for myself.
For Me: I got really good at being alone. I had my woods and my music and my books. Those things that never hurt me. When the past came back to haunt me, only I knew. When there was a trigger that caused me to be afraid and ready to run, only I knew. When I felt like everything was flooding, only I knew. That may sound terrible to most, but to someone who was struggling with shame? SO MUCH BETTER than letting others see me break.
Then I found people. Amazing people. Wonderful people. People who want me to lean on them. People who want to support me. And I thought I could do it. Hear me out, I’m not saying I can’t…I just thought I could EASILY do it. I thought, “Wow! This is awesome! What a blessing that I have these people who just want to love me!”
But the shame lived on. I did my usual thing that most people never catch onto. I tell people so much that they never question what I’m not telling them. I tell them when I’ve had nightmares, but maybe I leave out how I woke up screaming and with tears streaming down my face. I tell them when I’ve had a trigger, but…quite honestly I couldn’t explain that fear to someone even if I wanted to…so I share a watered down version of it. I admit that I’m sad or angry or scared or feeling alone, but…
I keep it inside because I’m ashamed. I stay alone with my shame. And because of my shame I further find myself alone.
So…what happens after decades of that? We learn to be really good at being alone.
People are scary when it’s people who have hurt you. People can rip the floor right out from under you. People can decide you’re too broken to love. People can decide you’re dramatic because they can’t understand what built you. People can decide you aren’t worthy. I say people, but in reality it only takes one.
It only takes knowing that ONE person told one other person that they don’t like you. It only takes ONE person walking away from you because you’re “too much”. It only takes ONE person telling you that you’re broken. That one person, in your mind, becomes everyone…because your shame tells you that they’re right.
So, for me…I went into this spiral. Because as I tried to come out of my solitude…I also have now had about 7.5 months of…let’s just be honest…really fucking shitty luck in a lot of aspects of my life. October – Sexual Harassment. December – Having a complete stranger track me down regarding my traumatic event and publishing my life on a website. Later December – Broken Leg. January – Broken Leg. February – Broken Leg. (You get the point, my leg is still not healing.) Then came the heart problem that I’ve been trying to navigate and the fear that comes there. And now…only a few people know this, but…my abusers sold my childhood home and now I don’t know where they are. They could be anywhere. Through some research, we think we have it narrowed down…but not 100% sure…and that is still local. I can’t even begin to explain to you how scared I am to be in a crowd at this moment. Yesterday, I cried…at a 5k…because I was so overwhelmed by the PEOPLE and until I feel safe again…people are overwhelming and terrifying because any one of those people could be the people who want to hurt me.
And even as I type that, I’m ashamed. Why? Why am I so ashamed by that fear? Because so few people would understand and will only see me being dramatic. I’m glad they can’t understand. But the shame puts me back to being alone.
So, now I go back to the beginning. My being alone and why that’s actually been a good thing.
When you only know “alone”…when that is how you’re used to dealing with things…that spiral that can happen when you’re hurt because you’re feeling misunderstood by even one person…It’s really hard to stop feeling that when you’re still surrounded by people. It builds…and builds…and builds…until you begin to feel like you can’t be loved by anyone and the world is better off without you.
That’s where I was at last night. I have never so badly wished that it would all just end.
So, I withdrew.
I canceled plans. I shut my phone off. I leaned into the solitude.
I allowed myself to feel. I allowed myself to think. I wrote.
I spent time with my daughter and laughed over silly things.
I let myself feel everything I’ve been trying to deny out of shame…out of fear of being misunderstood.
And, for the first time in months, I feel this sense of peace. I feel back in control of my own emotions because I’m not letting them be led by what others are (or might) be thinking.
I love my friends. Seriously, they have become my family and I would move heaven and earth to help any single one of them. And I do know that many of them feel the same about me. But…because the reality of my life has been that I have been alone…I think I need to accept that SOMETIMES (not all the time, but sometimes) I’m going to need to REALLY take time to be alone to sort my feelings out.
And I have to do it without feeling ashamed of needing that space.
So…things still are what they are. Tomorrow I still have to deal with the things that I’ve been dealing with. They aren’t going away. Therefore, the fear and worry are also not going away. But I can handle them…as long as I remember that I’m not broken…that I am not the one who traumatized myself…that I am stronger than most people even know…and that there’s never been anything I can’t survive….
And that sometimes I need to find the answers in the quiet.
And there is no shame in that.