Friday, April 30, 2010
Do a Little Digging and Find Yourself
The following is a post I wrote as a guest blogger for Heal My PTSD, LLC. It has since been featured as a blog-a-thon story at Fluttering Designs and I've gotten some positive feedback via email regarding the post so I'd like to share it with you here. It's a piece that was written to show other sufferers of PTSD some of the ways I began to discover that I could be "ME" again. I hope you enjoy it, but most of all I hope it inspires you to do a little digging to find your way to your own true self.
My name is Megan. I am 32 years old, and I am just beginning to discover who I really am... and that’s okay with me.
During a discussion with my therapist in the summer of 2009, I decided it’s time to for me to find myself. These are the facts: I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a daughter, a sister, and a friend. But beyond these labels, I had no idea how to define myself as an individual, and that bothered me. I was tired of watching the people around me celebrate their individuality, following their passionate pursuits while I sat idly by and counted the days until my next therapy session. I had hidden in the shadows of my diagnosis for so long that I had neglected to develop my own interests. I had spent my entire life just existing, and I wanted to know what it felt like to really live. Was there something beyond the depression, the anxiety, the hurt, the pain and the shame?
My therapist suggested reminiscing... remembering the things that brought me joy as a child. What did I love to do? What made me smile? What did I get lost in? My answer: books. I remembered hot summer days spent lazing on our front porch, reading my favorite stories while I squinted and shielded my eyes from the sun’s bright rays. I remembered the year I was the top student in my reading group and my teacher rewarded me with my very first chapter book. Books were an escape for me... a safe place to turn to when the burden of my reality was too difficult to bear. But somewhere along the way, I forgot about the happiness I found in the pages of a good book, and I stopped reading altogether.
Summer came, and with the blessings of my husband and our two sons, I enrolled our family in the summer reading program at our local public library. I started reading every day, and quickly rediscovered the sense of adventure and the hope I found in the words of others. I had found at least one little piece of the puzzle of who I really am. I am a reader. Becoming a reader again was a wonderful thing. I would wake up each day and look forward to completing household chores and motherly duties so that I could retire to the couch at the end of the day, good book in hand. In the summer of 2009 I read 26 books. With each book I read, I found a little more joy. I was taking time out of almost every single day to devote to the search for myself.
Taking time for myself felt so good! I learned that in order to find the joy I had been aching for so deeply, I had to create the circumstances that would allow me to experience it. I realized that waiting for joy to “happen to me” was like waiting for the flowers in my garden to grow, all the while refusing to give them any water. How could I just expect joy when I was doing nothing to nurture myself? As time has passed, the “finding myself” experiment has moved from reading to singing to dancing to painting to just taking time each day to play... I’ve discovered a love for writing, a love for cooking, and a love for board games. And who knows what else I’ll get into? The journey’s not over yet! That’s the beauty of it all.
One of the books I began reading over the summer is “The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse” by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. My therapist and I have been working together to complete the exercises in the book and the companion workbook, and it has changed my life. Realizing that every step of healing is my own personal choice and is completely dependent upon my willingness to try and to sometimes fail... well, it’s changed me.
I no longer place limitations on myself. I have learned that I am not only a survivor, but that I am also a thriver, a voice, a brave and courageous warrior in the fight of my life. I’ve realized I have power. I have the power to dwell on the circumstances surrounding my trauma, or the power to do the best I can to process the emotions I’ve been so afraid of so that I can live and experience true peace of mind. Processing my fears has allowed me to let go of the past and move toward reclaiming the joy that was stolen from me so many years ago.
Every day I make choices. I make choices to remember that I’m no longer in the midst of my trauma. I make choices to try new things when I see that old patterns and old coping mechanisms aren’t working for me. I choose to participate in programs - like Angela Shelton's 30 Day Healing Journey - that teach me new ways to find joy. I choose to speak out against the kind of abuse I was subjected to as child. I choose to speak out to let other survivors know they are not alone. I choose to educate myself and to do what I can to help others who have faced the same type of adversity that I’ve experienced.
My life is not perfect. I make mistakes. I have bad days. But overall, my life is now filled with an abundance of joy simply because I choose to be joyful. Sometimes the choice is not so easy to make, but when I consider what I’ve discovered about myself by choosing to live joyfully... well, I wouldn’t have it any other way.