The Reckoning: Walking Into Our Story

Brene and I went on our first date at Chez Rising Strong two years ago, almost to the day. She demands a lot from me and yet I come back for more.  Four books in, three variety pack highlighters and more swear words in the margins than I care to admit and with a fifth book just released, our relationship is complicated.

I opened Rising Strong to write this first story and noticed that my first swear word is not even in the first chapter, but the introduction.  She did me in with this sentence, specifically the part in italics:)

Too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed.

What interests me is that I didn’t highlight the following sentence;

“Emotional stoicism is not badassery.”

I have to admit, even looking at that quote NOW, I question it.  When we see people who have it all together, do we not see them as badasses?  “Look at them!  They have xyz going for them and they are just working.it.out!”  To give this a full explanation, a background would be helpful.

Following their much needed and overdue divorce, my father joined a local megachurch which primed me follow suit.  Some church environments are quite loving and healthy, but this church (due to its leadership structure) was an example of manipulative gaslighting.

As a young girl in my pre-teens-high school, I watched the leaders speak poorly behind closed doors about the people (particularly girls/women) who often came up for prayer due to their home/psycho-social needs.  Looking back, their requests for support were highly warranted and they were bold and strong for asking for help.  However, I saw the ugly side, where they were seen to be weak, over emotional, lacking faith/strength for asking for help or having strong emotions about their situations.  So, I did what any young person does, I learned and adapted.

I learned at that point that to earn the respect of the elders, to keep my feelings inside and to be “strong.”  A very strong wall was built between myself and the outside, but little did I know that I also built a wall between myself and my feelings as well.

Thus a Castle was built to keep others out and away from accessing my feelings, but the irony was, there was a drawbridge that went up, that kept ME from accessing those feelings as well.

There that fortress stood, facing me in an emotional stalemate for years.

I recall sitting down and feeling like the weight of the world was on my shoulders despite having a beautiful family and a solid marriage.  All the stories of my life got filed away into these cabinets in the fortress and I felt as though I couldn’t talk about any of them freely for fear of the whole castle crumbling.  Even so, these filing cabinets would open at the seemingly random times and it was starting to affect my relationships. I felt so heavy with the burden of my life of stories, threaded with abuse, assault, neglect, and hardship (some of that I didn’t even have names for yet, or awareness of the weight of them all).  I didn’t feel as though I could sift through these stories on my own but understandably felt very vulnerable presenting them on a silver platter to be judged by another.

I spoke with a therapist when I was younger, but I never felt any clarity, and looking back it was my lack of disclosure due to my mistrust of all people in authority due to their views on emotional disclosure.  I had tried to tease out some moments with this therapist to see if they would help me by slipping in some hints that I was in real trouble, but they didn’t seem to catch it or didn’t seem to care.  So, after a few months, I decided that it wasn’t worth my time to sit there, or their’s and I stopped going.

Reaching out to a new therapist was a large leap for me, as trust wasn’t something I was going to give freely to anyone. I didn’t figure I was going to last long there, so I did what any responsible adult would do, I went to the internet and googled ” {my city} trauma therapist” and picked the photo that spoke to me.  (And yes, I AM laughing as I’m writing this now.)

Night one at my new therapist’s office was hard for me.  It was situated in an area that wasn’t super safe feeling, and I had to wait outside and ring her cell to be let in.  Waiting outside for someone I didn’t know in an area I was unfamiliar was a bad start.  She had two strikes against her already.

When we went up to her office, I felt quite unsure.  What DOES one do at the first therapy appointment? I feel like there should be a guide book for this (much like “do you take off your socks at the OB/GYN?” Seriously, do you? I still don’t know.) So, I launched into why I was there in a story-of-my-life, what I know now as “floodlighting”. I was only going to be here for a couple of sessions, you see, then get everything off my chest and run away and never answer her calls never have to see her again sort of way.  The opposite of vulnerability.  I was going to use her, then dump her.  It was genius.

I ran into one big problem. She saw through all my bullshit.  She was insightful.  She used curse words in my session.  She’s covered in tattoos. (I mean who IS this person??) She stopped me mid life story and told me that I shouldn’t tell her any of this yet.  I didn’t really know how to explain that my openness (faux vulnerability) had an expiration date.  So I returned the following week.  And the next week.  Three years later (again, almost to the day) we still are going steady, doing hard work. She’s helped me save my life, several times over.  She got me to be curious about my story. She’s one of the biggest reasons I am where I am today.

When I think of vulnerability, that room is where I have been the most vulnerable. There will be countless stories here, from there.

The Rising Strong Process (Step One)

The Reckoning: Walking Into Our Story

Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.

~ Brene Brown- Rising Strong