“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” Max de Pree
I wish to extend Season’s Greetings and express Happy Holidays to everyone who celebrates this time of year, for whatever the reason, or reasons, that are near and dear to you.
I come into this time of year with a mixed mind, part happiness and equal parts dread. I am grateful that I have some awareness of why the dread can be so difficult to work through. Despite many years of trauma awareness and healing work, I still get sidelined by thoughts, feelings and memories of the past trauma, abuse and losses in my life. I suspect, it may be this way my whole life. I don’t like it, but I am okay with it. I’ve learned that trying to fight and make it go away, only makes it worse.
The painful stings of the past are not as hurtful anymore, but there are still days and times that my mind is in a funk and it is hard to climb out of myself. Some times, there is a deep sadness; my shower helps bring relief, for that is where I can allow myself to cry. I never showed crying to anyone from childhood on, I learned to ‘suck it up‘, at an early age. It gave me the only sense of power I had in regards to the brutality my parents were inflicting upon me. With my mother, I could laugh at her, as she beat me, with what ever was in her hands at the time. My father was strong, so I could not laugh through his assaults, I simply suffered in silence, the best that I could, because, if tears flowed, he would “give you something to cry about”. I learned that showing any kind of weakness only brought more pain.
Years later, when the crisis of my past came to visit for an extended stay, my ex-wife, my partner, my best friend of twenty one years, expressed a desire to help me through the storm. This storm of 1993 was going to keep swirling about for several more years. That desire to help and be with me, while I tried to heal, soon become old news. Unfortunately, I had learned to express sorrow and my deepest secrets with her of my painful past…when divorce came calling and all of my sharing of past hurts, weakness and my “mental illness” [post traumatic stress, major depression] were dredged up repeatedly in court, well, I swore I would never show weakness to anyone ever again.
I’m mindful, that in the simple act of this writing exercise, I am letting go of some ‘weaknesses‘. I am sharing some vulnerability. I can do this in my songs and in writing, or if I am presenting somewhere. But I do draw the line at crying and letting down my guard in front of folks. Call me silly, but it is, what it is.
Truth be told, there is a part of me, that just wants to ride away into the sunset…to disappear off the grid. I do not wish to harm myself, but I do wrestle with just letting go of everything and hunkering down in my home and finding work that is so far removed from what I do now – to escape into anonymity. I am tired from all of this and I now I am in the midst of a depression.
I have learned NOT to make major decisions while in the throes of depression. I have learned from my mistakes of the past when I let go of many things and made some poor choices while struggling with depression.
There are a few things that help keep me grounded and in the present, the simple act of my communicating this way, or through my songs, the Surviving Spirit newsletter, e-mail exchanges, my weekly, “Thought To Share quotes, phone calls, advocacy endeavors, etc, they do work. These acts of communication help me to stay connected with folks. The responses I get from so many, also help give me guidance and strength to continue. The exchange from another human being, that what I have said or shared has helped them for that day, helps keeps me focused.
“The same person who seeks help can also offer it.” Judi Chamberlin
We all matter in this world, we all play a part, we all have value. When someone is struggling with trauma, abuse, grieving and mental health concerns, it is hard to see one’s value in life. Society can help to reinforce many negative stereotypes and projections upon yourself. The holidays for so many are a strong reminder of what they don’t have, of isolation, of estrangement, of condemnation and being ostracized by so many. That hurts, and being bombarded constantly with messages of the holiday cheer and what you need to buy for yourself or someone else can reinforce feelings of inadequacy and that you don’t belong. You are made to feel weak.
A few words about being “weak” for those who have not struggled with depression, trauma, abuse, grieving of major losses, etc. I grew up in a world of pain inflicted upon me by my parents and their equally perverse friends. As a result, I had a lot of bottled up rage – I was in countless street fights and barroom brawls…I engaged multiple opponents, I fought people who had clubs, bats, bottles, and faced a few who brought forth guns. I am still alive today, because my rage enabled me to persevere, prevail and walk away. That said, I had a lot of physical punishment inflicted upon my body by those I faced off against, I did not feel the pain during the fights, but felt it afterward. A bottle, busted over your head, is going to hurt. My body ached from some of these battles with others…I wrestled in school, I boxed at a young age, I studied the martial arts and sparred with others. Those physical pains, as bad as they could hurt, paled in comparison to the pains of depression. So please do not think anyone is weak while dealing with depression and the other traumas of life, they hurt.
The good news, I recognize these feelings and thoughts, I don’t like them, but there they are, my ‘friends‘, who travel with me in life. When my ‘friends‘ visit, I may play my conga set, sit down at the drums, pick up the guitar, write in my journal, go for a walk, practice the marital arts and shadow boxing, watch a movie, try to read, do some work or rest; I’ll try a multitude of ideas and actions, some with success. Sometimes I can only ride out the storm. These works of distraction do help mitigate the dissociation or just the plain-old-blahs that are going on. They are not a cure-all…they help, but they don’t drive away the ghosts of the past. I’ve learned not to feel guilty when I cannot shake the doldrums off.
For many of us, the holidays are a difficult time to navigate, please, try to understand this. Please hold out the hand of friendship and caring for those struggling at this time of the year and embrace these same thoughts and actions for the New Year. We don’t need isolation, condemnation, blaming, shaming, etc. We are healing, allow us to heal, help us to heal, and please try to re-frame your thoughts and feelings and embrace this mindset of thinking – “What happened to you?” and do away with, “What’s wrong with you?” When society engages in these thoughts and feelings, the world will start to heal…
“Trying to suppress or eradicate symptoms on the physical level can be extremely important, but there’s more to healing than that; dealing with psychological, emotional and spiritual issues involved in treating sickness is equally important.” Marianne Williamson
Thank you, Michael Skinner
2015-12-The_Surviving_Spirit_Newsletter_December_2015 – Resources for the Holidays and more