As I sat there pouring my heart (and my eyes) out I felt something inside switch. I had given up on my vision of "strong". As a child I learnt that crying was not strong, talking about your feelings was not strong and admitting you were wrong? MY GOD! Don't even go there.
Fast forward 20 something years and here I am, tears rolling down my face, talking in almost a whisper about how I FEEL! I guess the day I woke up and FELT was a pinnacle moment for me, I tried and tried to block the feelings out. I busied myself... when I say busy I mean I planned my day minute by minute! Calls, emails, the never-ending "To do list", parties, pointless meetings... ANYTHING to make sure I was so busy my mind could not wander off into "no man's land" (the part of my brain which stored memories.) What kind of memories, I hear you cry: Memories that hurt me, things I did not want to deal with and stuff I had done wrong, they were all piled up in "no mans land" then I put a big fence around it, topped it off with some barbed wire and added a couple of wild, hungry dogs to protect it. PERFECT.
Haaaang on a minute, what if being busy did not stop my crazy mind from trying to get past the dogs? DO NOT WORRY I have a few more tricks up my sleeve... Alcohol, late nights/ no sleep, work, work, work, controlling what I ate (one tomato with one square of feta cheese a day), adrenalin and running away.
I used many tactics to distract my mind, alcohol and late nights provided a haze. I was either drunk, hungover or exhausted and therefore just about coping with life (we have all had one of those hangovers) so the furthest thing from my mind was dealing with trauma I had been faced with 20 years ago.
Control was another extremely useful tool, I could not control what happened back then HOWEVER I can control what happens now (yes this is a useful tactic when used in the right way but I was not) so instead of accepting the past and changing my future I blocked it and controlled my time and my calorie intake. I worked to busy myself, I got praise for how many late nights I did which made me feel good and I barely ate which made me feel powerful. I was totally in control of my life. Or so I thought.
I had got so used to living in "fight or flight" mode adrenalin was another go-to tool. I got my kicks out of driving scarily fast, putting myself in dangerous situations and generally throwing all caution to the wind and having no fear. I got a kick out of living on the edge. What if all that got too much? RUN AWAY. Get out and blame everyone else. Let is all blow over and then repeat the above.
Why was I so scared of "no man's land"? The memories created a stir in me. I felt... sad, angry, like a child, despair, confusion, whatever the feelings were I did not like them and I wanted to be rid of them. I wanted to feel like a legend (like I did at work or when drunk), numb (like I did when I was hungover and exhausted), or on a high (like I did when I was full of adrenalin).
Then one day I woke up and I could not escape what I had been blocking for so many years. I had escaped my City job, I had gone travelling, I had found yoga and meditation, I was healthier than I had been for a long time but there was still a niggling feeling. The day I woke up and I felt down, I felt negative, I felt the same anxiety I used to feel but I could not blame it on work stress or tiredness, I felt like I was living someone else's life, I felt guilty, I felt fake, I felt unloved, lonely and I knew something had changed.
I tried to drink through it, I started creating to-do lists, my mind started calculating how many calories were in every mouthful of food I consumed. It did not work I still FELT, and it was coming like a swarm of bees. The emotions started jumping over the fence, melting the barbed wire and petting the dogs and I did not know what to do.
I got angry, I cried, I did not want to be in my own body. I started to talk and all of a sudden I could not stop talking. I then felt shame for burdening people with my problems, I felt like my issues were not comparable to others who had been through war and other horrific experiences, I felt ashamed that I was talking to people about things that had happened in my past that included other people, I did not want them to be judged. However, I had to talk. If I didn't it just went round and round in my head and I could not escape it.
Here I am a year on. Still dealing with trauma, still crying, however, I am further down the path of recovery. I am trying not to feel guilt or shame, I am allowing myself to cry and "let go" of the past. Rather than collecting it all up and throwing it over the barbed wire fence, I am unpacking it, understanding no one is perfect, forgiving myself and others for whatever they did wrong and then allowing the anger, the hurt and the humiliation to wash away.
I have realised in one short year that crying, talking and dealing with your emotions is, in fact, strong, having feelings and expressing them in the right ways, being able to support others and working through things that happen to you are all vital to becoming a stronger, happier and healthier person. I realised by blocking everything I was not being brave, strong or a hardcore warrior who never cried (which is exactly what I thought) but merely running away from what scared me. So yes these days I cry, I feel, I talk, I express and I have never felt stronger.
I encourage you this year, next year or whenever you feel you may be ready to face your past and FEEL your feelings. Cry if it helps, do whatever you need to do to become the strongest and best version of yourself.