I have spent my entire life running from my past. I ran for many reasons. I ran because I could not accept the things that were currently or had happened to me. There wasn’t much I could do except run. Especially when I was still in the midst of it and those abuses were my present.
I don’t think I could have accepted what was happening to me while it was happening to me. And so I shut down. It is not uncommon for people who have experienced trauma to block it out no matter the age. To, in essence, mentally remove themselves from what they were or are experiencing.
I am not saying that it is easier to accept what happened to me now that is it my past. In fact, it may be more challenging because there is a part of me that thinks the past needs to stay in the past. The that have gone by, and though I still remember, it rocks my very being to make myself remember. I think that for me to accept what was happening as it was occurring would have broken me.
Becoming Emotionally Numb
That deep level of broken, soul-shattering, helplessness that would have taken over my need to live is not one that I could have come back from. Especially then, in the middle of it all, I was precariously balancing between functioning enough to push forward or falling back into the darkness. That dance, with its continuous minute adjustments, was a struggle every day. Some days it still is a challenge.
And so I ran. When I think of running away, I mean in my mind, and emotionally, not literally. Although, as I re-read that last sentence, I am thinking, no, I literally ran away. I wasn’t initially successful in physically running away. Not until I was an adult who could legally leave home was I able to go for good.
But before I could physically run away, I had to run away emotionally, to shut down any and all feelings. And to never, ever show anything. I was playing the ultimate game of poker with the highest stakes possible, my very life. That is what it is like growing up in an emotionally abusive environment. Never let the other side see what you are thinking or feeling. Don’t let on that you care about anything. They will twist your own feelings and use them against you. You can’t trust anyone, even yourself, at times.
And so all of those memories, all of the bad things, the fights, the chaos, I pushed it away. I pushed it down inside of myself. Each time a new situation arose, I would push how I felt about it down. I had to do that so frequently that it became second nature. No thought was needed to squelch that emotion.
Staying in Control
That automatic response to emotion has stayed with me throughout my life, to this very day. Push those emotions and keep them away. I must have control over what I show to the rest of the world. I do that whenever I am faced with extreme emotions, whether it is happy or sad. I push it down. I don’t let myself express those feelings.
I become overwhelmed easily with my emotions because I have never actually dealt with any of them. It could also be that I do feel emotions on a deeper level because of my introvertism. I am still working on figuring that out. Either way, I keep that lid on very tight. Sometimes that need to push those emotions down is even stronger now than ever before.
Or is it?
Could I think it is stronger because I am challenging myself to be aware of those feelings to bring them to the surface instead of burying them as I have always done? Or that I am more aware of those emotions, and therefore also more aware that I am pushing them down? I am pondering these questions and pushing myself to feel that I am tired of being numb.
Fake It Til You Make It
One of my siblings told me that I was purposefully being hurtful by not showing emotion. I felt that was unfair. I was part of a nerdy family and raised on Star Trek. Spock was a favorite character of everyone in my family, especially to me. He lived with logic and yet struggled with the ‘human’ emotional side of himself. Why could he get away with not showing emotion, but I could not? Even then, as a child, I had so much practice being numb that I had nothing to give emotionally, even during traumatic events.
I learned that people expect other people to show emotion when certain events occur; otherwise, you are labeled a ‘weirdo’ or told that you are selfish or hurtful. None of those things was what I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be those things because I wanted to be like everyone else, and also, I did not want any of that kind of attention.
And so I watched TV, and I learned how to express emotions on the outside. I would practice the mirror’s facial expressions until I felt it was good enough to try it out in the real world. Depending on people’s reactions, I would either practice more or commit it to memory to use it again. It is how, and why to this day, I am so good at controlling my facial reactions and acting like everything is okay.
Most people don’t have any idea if I am upset until I blow up. I did that to my husband just last week. I didn’t mean to, and I didn’t even realize that he didn’t know that I was getting upset. How could he not see the sudden change in my face? Oh, right, he couldn’t. Remember that thing about this being my automatic response? Yup that still happens.
Running So Far
Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I don’t believe that is the true definition of insanity; in fact, I am pretty sure that it is not. It is, however, an excellent lesson to understand and learn. Why would anyone expect that the outcome will be different when doing the same thing they did before? They shouldn’t. And yet we do.
I kept running and pushing down my emotions. And to deal with that pain, that was compounding over the years because I wasn’t dealing with it, I drank heavily to handle it. I drank to keep that lid tightly on those emotions, but eventually, it started bubbling over. There isn’t enough alcohol on this planet, nor could my liver process all of that alcohol that would allow me to keep running.
And so I stopped running. That one sentence made it sound so easy. It wasn’t. I had to remind myself that there are areas of my life, and my thought process that I could change if I did not like it. It took so much for me to slow my run down. Once I slowed down, I focus all of my energy on slowing to a walk. And then, only after that was I able to stop. The whole process took almost two years. And I am only at the beginning.