A Fiery Peace is not intended to serve as a public platform for private journal entries. I want this to be a professional space where personal storytelling and reporting are used to help normalize mental health issues. To me, the difference between a journal entry and a blog post, is that a journal entry is a deeply personalized, private experience. We use journals to identify and work through emotions. A blog is a public space and this blog is not meant to serve as an ego project. I want to tell stories that provide comfort, education, or inspiration to other people. In order to do that, each post needs a clearly thought out purpose.
This post, however, is going to skew closer to journaling.
A recent spiritual exercise kicked up raw emotions connected to past trauma. I haven’t written publicly about my history of trauma because I haven’t known how to tell that story. I still don’t. But I’m going to try.
The December full moon fell on Saturday the 22nd at 9:49 a.m. PST. I woke up early enough to run 6 miles, pack a bag, and head to the park for a full moon ritual. There were a handful of children playing on the swing set and one man throwing a tennis ball to his yellow lab. I waited for the man to leave before laying out a yoga blanket, arranging some crystals, and lighting a sage bundle. The kids and my nagging fear of violating a city park ordinance were distracting, but I let these things go to more fully dedicate myself to the full moon ritual suggested by Jessica Lanyadoo on her Ghost of a Podcast.
Lanyadoo suggested making three lists to harness the energy of the Full Moon in order to better transition oneself into the New Year. The first, a list of what has never served you. The second, a list of things that once served you but no longer do. The third, a list of anything that you are holding onto that is truly outside of your control.
This is the unedited list of things that have never served me:
Numbing my tougher feelings with food, drugs, and alcohol
Drinking enough to make reckless decisions
Resentment and bitterness for those who have hurt me
Shame for decisions I’ve made
Guilt for putting myself first
Diving headfirst into friendships and relationships before that person has earned my trust
Trusting employers to be compassionate towards my illnesses
Selling myself short – not believing in my worth, my talents, and my vision
Solving other people’s problems to avoid addressing my own
I’m sharing this because, though it was a challenging experience to put name to the behaviors and obsessive thoughts that do not serve me, the emotional release that followed was healing in an unexpected way.
In my early 20s, I was in an abusive relationship. When I first sought treatment for the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that followed, I was treated by a cognitive behavioral therapist and a psychiatrist. 15 years ago, CBT and antidepressants were standard for treating PTSD. Research in the field of PTSD has since shown that both methods are limited in their ability to heal survivors of trauma.
In the years following that relationship, I have struggled with anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. Dr. Simon was certain she eradicated the PTSD, so I carried on believing the anxiety and depression that lingered were the result of bum chemicals in my brain. The obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and bouts of agoraphobia were considered extreme symptoms of anxiety flare-ups.
In 2018, more than a decade after the abusive relationship, my gynecologist changed my birth control. All hell broke loose. I had a manic episode that lasted for about six weeks. My primary emotion was rage. I stopped caring for myself. I slept for only a handful of hours each night. My sleep was riddled with nightmares. Most nights I woke up hyperventilating, my pajamas soaked through with sweat.
As if those six weeks weren’t horrible enough, two incidents – one professional, one personal – ushered in a depression darker than any I had previously encountered. My therapist and psychiatrist were in agreement. The two incidents occurring in rapid succession while I was trapped in the grasp of a manic episode had retraumatized me. The PTSD had been living in my brain and body all along. The right set of hormonal imbalances and external triggers brought it clawing to the surface.
When I look at the list of everything that has never served me, I see behaviors meant to keep my darkest memories from resurfacing. The pain of the abuse, both while in the relationship and the first year after the relationship, was a pain I never again want to experience. I used food, alcohol and weed to stop scary emotions from overwhelming me. I stopped trusting my ability to recognize red flags that popped up around men, friendships, and employers. I internalized the hurtful messages that were hurled at me in that relationship. I learned to believe that if I put myself first, I’m a bad person. I shouldn’t pursue my dreams because I’m not skilled or talented. The way I looked at the world is naïve at best, stupid at worst.
What the list from the full moon ritual shows me, is how much I have continued to hurt myself to avoid addressing the trauma of abuse. I can allow myself some grace. I know that there were times when the pain was too great and it was pertinent to adapt survival mechanisms. The pain was temporarily squashed, positively reinforcing the survival mechanism. A habit was formed.
All that being said. I’m absolutely sick and fucking tired of turning my power over to my past. Now that I’ve had the awareness to identify these behaviors, and the grace to accept them, it’s time to do my best to release them. That list, so help me God, is staying in 2018.