Trigger alert for mature themes including child abuse, and trauma response.
I. So, there I am, sitting in my studio in a Zoom room with my therapist (bless her for offering virtual sessions), and I’m recounting the parts of my weekend that feel relevant. I move from one story to the next with a wave of my hands and an ‘anyway’ as usual, and then circle back to another part of my weekend, and she stops me, because when I was telling story A, I did something with my hands that I stopped doing when I was telling story B, but that I then repeated when I was telling story C.
She tells me what I was doing – a totally subconscious thing where I’m scratching the pads of the fingers on my left hand with my left thumbnail. She demonstrated the action for me, and then asked me to repeat the action, to slow it down, and to check in with myself about what comes up.
II. I’ve been doing the teeniest tiniest bit of Somatic Experiencing with her for a little while now, so I know some of the things I should be paying attention to. Any pain. Any buzzing in my forehead. Anything to do with my vision, my heart rate, or how embodied I do or do not feel, but this unconscious action – this tiny little clue to the fact that we were dealing with a trauma response in both story A and story C would have completely escaped my attention, because, listen – when we’re telling our stories, we are not conscious of the signals we’re sending, but someone trained in SE *is* conscious. They are paying very close attention to every damned thing, even in our silence. This is why I’m finding it so valuable, because I can headspace myself back to some semblance of centred if I *know* what’s up, but I am not always going to know what’s up. What’s up is often buried under layers of self-protection. Having someone help with the dig is *crucial* to trauma recovery. Sure, some self-help is possible, but a pro is *needful*. I know that better than anyone.
III. So, I slow things down, and I begrudgingly repeat the motion, scratching the pads of my fingers with my thumbnail, and as I’m doing that, I catch myself doing it with the right hand, too. Something is definitely in there, I think, as I sit in silence while she watches me like a hawk. Something is in there, goddamn it. Here we go. And up it comes. Up it comes. And I am thirteen, and I am lying on my side in the bedroom in my father’s house. I’m facing the wall, and he is very, very drunk. I am curled up into a ball, my eyes wide open but unseeing. I am terrified. I know what’s coming.
His check came in, so he’s drunk a case of Molson’s. He’s feeling talkative, so he’s pulled a chair into my room, and is sitting at my bedside, waxing poetic at me while I pretend to sleep. He starts sweet like he always does. How glad he is that I came to live with him. How it’s changed his life, given him purpose.
And then it shifts to how much he hates my mother and how awful she was to him.
And then it shifts to how sexy my legs are and how much he wishes I wasn’t his daughter.
And then I start to sob, and beg him to leave me alone, and that trips the wire in him, and he starts to beat me about the back of the head and shoulders.
I fight back, like I remember my mother doing. When he’s drunk, he’s weak and sloppy and a few well-aimed punches and kicks will send him whimpering and limping away in due time…
He never remembers in the morning. He wonders out loud why he is so sore. Assumes it’s some kind of flu coming on, which gives him the perfect excuse to lay in bed and drink all day…
This happened to me for about a year, like clock work, whenever the check came in or someone else brought beer.
IV. I have no idea why this piece was stored as it was in the pads of my fingers, and I may never know, but I know that hanging out in that action in silence unlocked it. I always had this piece *cognitively* – this is not a case of ‘lost memories’ or anything like that. What I didn’t have was the piece where when people are drinking around me, some part of me is thirteen and lying on my side in bed in my father’s apartment, waiting for the words and blows to come raining on down all over my little body, If people are drinking around me and there is even a hint of darkness in them, that part of me goes into a powerful and confounding trauma response.
This is not the fault of the people drinking around me, and of course, no one around me is raining blows down on me these days – they wouldn’t dare – but that doesn’t matter. There is no feeling safe *at all* in a trauma response, especially when one is completely unaware that one is *in* a trauma response.
V. I have been bewildered over this for years. I know that I am incredibly reactive around people who are drinking. There are certain smells, tones of voice, body postures that *terrify me* in these moments, but because I didn’t have *this part of the piece* I didn’t know why or what to do with it. I just fucking spin, and cycle through flight, fight, freezing, and fawning. I, myself, go to a very dark, hopeless place when I’m around people who are drinking. There is rage in there. There is disgust. There is, above all else, though, terror.
And now I know why, and now I know how to take care of myself.
VI. SE has been the single most useful and also hardest therapeutic process I’ve ever undertaken. It feels a little like magic, like something shamanic is going on – like my therapist and I go in through the body in search of splintered off parts of self that have been imprisoned for decades, and once we find them, we bring them back to the now, with the safety that exists in the now, and the compassion that exists in the now. Soul retrieval. The real deal.
I will love myself in all my parts.
VII. I hesitated to share this because it is such a vulnerable thing to reveal. I don’t want the people in my life who enjoy their drink feeling in any way responsible for me or my reactions to it. I, too, love to imbibe. I party like a Canadian, eh? And that’s not going to stop. But I want you to know how powerful this process is in case it’s something you need, and I also want to be fully, deeply, truly known, so voila.
Keeping quiet about stuff like this in the name of ‘propriety’ feels like self-abuse at this point. That old self that would just shut up and smile, that would clench her fists and her jaw, but dare not say what is actually happening within her in the moment? She’s dead to me. What is true for me is true for me. It is no one’s responsibility but mine to deal with it, to heal it, but I deserve to be heard, witnessed, and known and loved in all my parts. All of them. Including this part where things that are happening around me can make me feel so unsafe that I am transported back to my thirteen year old body and my father’s apartment and his boozy stench and his fists.
VIII. Like most women I know, I have a laundry list of violations that have happened when alcohol was part of the equation. Some of them happened when I was very, very young, and some of them happened when I was a fully grown person and in possession of a powerful no. They *all* came up yesterday after therapy. All of them, like a movie I couldn’t pause. I jotted them down as they came up so I could have some sense of control over the flood, so I was okay, and I didn’t spin out into the horrids like I have before. It was manageable. I acknowledged each memory, and when they stopped coming, I washed my face and got on with my day.
And now I know.
These traumas (and all violations are traumatic) have been stored up in my body. I can be sitting there *thinking* I’m having a good time, or thinking completely useless things like “Why are you not okay right now? What the fuck is wrong with you?” but if I check in with my body in moments that in *any way resemble* any of those past moments, it will tell me OH HEY YOU ARE NOT SAFE, and it will tell me that through my heart rate, my emotional state, the way I’m interpreting and filtering what’s actually happening.
IX. I have this piece now. It is a huge piece, and it’s going to change everything, because when you know the situations that cause a trauma response in you, you can go in with your eyes open and your awareness completely attuned to whatever your body is trying to tell you. You can remind yourself that this *now* and you *are safe*, and you can do whatever it takes to ensure that you remain safe, and that you are responding to the truth of the moment.
X. C-PTSD fucking sucks, but I am bigger than it, and the work continues apace.
I. My notes from a workshop I took for this cycle from New Moon to New Moon included these words about Full Moon in Scorpio: Deep & cathartic. Intense. Revelation. Something is illuminated that must be grieved. Challenging. Disruptive to relationships. Breaking habits/relationship patterns.
It was all of that. The whole weekend. Deep, cathartic, intense, revealing, challenging, disruptive. The things I want to change within myself were lit up and on display. The cracks are starting to show, and I know that’s how the light gets in, so I’m okay, honest, but I’m afraid there are (very valuable) things I can break with my intensity, my bull in the china shop approach to my own emotional content, and that fear tempts me to shut down.
II. I’m not going to, though. I’m going to simmer down a bit, maybe. I’m going to go quiet, hang back, let things unfold with a little less push & pull, a little more of the attitude of the gardener. Weed. Water. Let things grow as they grow. Quietly wonder. Gently await. Harvest only when it is actually time and not a moment before.
III. My notes on this cycle tell me that May 30th and 31st are going to be lovely. “Dreamy, affirming, solidifying, deeper awareness of how to work within your relationships for healing and building…”
Okay, then, universe. Bring that.
IV. I have nothing to say about the final episode of Game of Thrones, except maybe this:
V. I did exactly zero art this past weekend, and I am jonesing. I feel pregnant, like there’s some mysterious being in here somewhere that wants to burst out – something true and raw and maybe bloody and fanged and furred.
There is something in here about pleasure seeking gone wrong – too much of the good stuff. Habits that I want to break because I lose myself somewhere in all of that, lose my ability to think slow and measured thoughts.
There are some parts of self that are meant to be inhibited, meant to be tamed or they will run me into ruin.
Knowing who they are is part of the work of the moment.
VI. I got a hair cut. I really like it.
VII. Today’s forecast calls for wobbles & spins, and all the tools in the tool box.
VIII. Got a piece of hate mail last night about one of my classes, which came just as I was going into a pretty wild spin. INSERT SARCASM HERE: Wonderful. Just what I needed. All my doubts about myself came crash booming into sharp relief. Imposter. Useless. Garbage. Nonsense. Unworthy.
I had to work really hard to wrangle myself back to some kind of centre while I was already feeling worn down like a road.
I managed. My peoples helped. I am well-loved, even if I am fucked up as a soup sandwich. Knowing that helps me shake it off.
All good this morning about all that, though. I issued a refund and got on with my life, because what else can one do but that?
IX. Standing on the overlook at the dam at Three Bridges. The wind up, smelling of rain. The hawks circling over head, lazily catching updrafts, coasting, gliding. The bench on Woolwich trail. People watching. The little waterfall looking so enchanted and perfect and pretty. Feet in the dirt for the first time this season. A coin buried amidst the roots of a beautiful tree as an offering for the solace offered by that moment. The way we do complete silence. Holding his hand.
X. I like to think of myself as unbreakable, but I’m not. I know that. But it’s truth time, my loves. The only one that can break me *is me*.
I terrify myself. I take myself to dark places. In my frenzied drive to heal *now, right now, because ain’t nobody got time for this* I delve when I shouldn’t, deeper than I should, with no respect at all for my own true pace or need for a more careful excavation.
I’d like to stop doing that, and so the work continues.
I. I don’t want to talk about Mother’s Day at all except to say that there was sweetness, and there was bitterness, and I’m doing my level best to give my time & energy to sweetness these days.
This quote sums things up nicely:
“You have to learn to get up from the table when love is no longer being served.” – Nina Simone
II. Six years of therapy in and I have learned to get up from the table and even flip the fucker over when necessary.
III. This is going up in Moonshine on May 17th for Full Moon in Scorpio.
I *loved* making her, but she did a number on my neck, and shoulders. It was *hours* of filling in the petals on those background roses. Hours! But in Moonshine, we treat our effort as an offering to the divine for blessings, boons, and the attainment of our desires, so a little blood, sweat, and tears goes a long way. HASHTAG ART WITCH. :)
IV. I am falling in love with couch art done on my iPad with an Apple Pencil. You can set Procreate so that it records your every stroke, which makes for really fun time-lapse videos.
This was only my second piece, and I’m learning so much.
This was my first piece.
I foresee some of these going up in my Society6 shop at some point.
IV. I feel pretty low right now. Empty. Spilled out, with not a lot coming back in. I was talking to my son about this the other day, about how I’m in the middle of grieving a lack of care that’s been a theme throughout my life, about how easy it is for me to do and give and please until I start to feel completely spent, about how often I don’t even know what my needs are let alone how to ask to have them met.
I need a crisis before I can say OH HEY DON’T DO THAT or OH HEY PLEASE DO THIS. That fucking sucks, but given my history of being abused or abandoned if I express a need, it comes as no surprise. I’m over it, though. No more of that. I am paying very close attention to where energy exchanges begin to feel unbalanced, too much like fawning or people pleasing. I’m asking myself ‘what do you need’ and I’m learning to ask for those needs to be met.
Hard work. Worth it.
In response to our conversation, and because he knew I’d had a spectacularly shitty day, he made me dinner – a perfect meal of steak and sautéed summer squash, and did not let me life a finger for the rest of the evening. We’re talking wine refills. We’re talking dog wrangling. We’re talking cleaning up the kitchen.
It’s a thing, y’all.
V. I often meet my own needs by proxy, by which I mean I throw myself body and soul into meeting the needs of others. Doing what I can to make others happy, comfortable, satisfied, to make them feel like they matter feels *really good to me*. It feels redemptive. It feels like something I am also giving to myself.
I can (and do) take it too far. I can (and do) take it to the place where I give all and ask for nothing, or I set up some kind of way off balance energy exchange, paying way more than I should or giving way more in return so I don’t feel guilty about having BASIC HUMAN NEEDS.
That. Has. To. Stop.
My therapist has started calling me on it, so it’s very in my face as a thing I’m becoming aware of. Catching it when it happens is step one. Preventing it from happening is step two.
VI. I need a retreat. I need a break. I need to refill the well. I need to be touched with love. I need a massage. I need some fucking F.U.N. STAT. before this low takes me under.
VII. THREE SLEEPS.
VIII. Sometimes, when I’m feeling really depleted, I buy myself things. This was one of those weeks. I got myself a new set of long handled watercolour brushes, a Paul Rubens palette of glittery watercolour paints, and a pad of Paul Rubens hot press paper. I also got myself a wifi booster, since wifi in the studio is pretty craptastic and that makes doing anything live really frustrating.
VIII. Speaking of Paul Rubens stuff, I saw it reviewed on Emily Artful. If you don’t know her, you should. She’s hilarious, and I have really been enjoying her channel. This whole ‘talk while making art’ thing people are doing on YouTube is really inspiring me. If only I had time!
Maybe I’ll make time. What should I call my series?
I. I am feeling fairly quiet inside relative to last week and the week before. The sacral pain is easing a lot, so I know I’m healing up, and the ease with which my body is now moving means a more peaceful inner landscape. Thank the gods for small mercies.
II. I had myself all wound up in a tizzy yesterday over a few things – thought a thing that wasn’t actually due until the 4th was due yesterday, had some dread over what I knew would be a difficult conversation, had a desperate need for a nap, thanks to a craptacular sleep the night before but felt equally afraid of napping because napmares. I did nap, though, and dreamt about doing laundry, which was fairly neutral.
I’ll take doing dream laundry over wandering around lost without wallet or phone, crying and in pain, trying to get to my love, who has no idea where I am any day.
III. Got a kid coming over for dinner tonight. I’m going to make meatballs for and we’re going to play 10 000. Do you know this game? It is wicked fun. All you need are six dice and some paper and pens. We’ll probably take turns asking Alexa to play songs.
Stacey is busy preparing to vend at derby tomorrow, so he’s taking her place as my ‘post-therapy human contact’.
How lucky am I at all anyway? So lucky.
IV. This girl, man. So grateful to have her. She keeps me on my toes, but she is so full of mischief and simple joy.
This was her after being put in ‘time out’ for torturing the cat. Look at that face!
FYI, that stack of pillows there? My surface design. This is called ‘Head Space’ and you can find it and other designs by yours truly on Society6.
These pillows solve the problem of limited seating in my tiny apartment now that I’m having people over on a regular basis.
I want to do a design that matches the colour scheme in my living room, which is all black, soft grey and teal, but these are super fun and funky for now.
I am working with the idea of collaboration, and delegation, and letting people *help* with the things they can help with. We make vows together at new moon in Moonshine, and you’re just in time to join us since this lesson is going up today. Use coupon code missyou to get a juicy discount.
VIII. Chani Nicholas has been informing my work with the moon in its astrological signs as it waxes and wanes in our sky, and I couldn’t be more grateful. It has been just the deepening I’ve wanted. She also does these fantastic playlists for each sign that I gobble up like I’m starving and they’re a perfect musical buffet.
IX. He is the first thought every morning and the last thought every night. He is branch to my root, my perfect consort.
I was telling him yesterday about how much more useful I am to my people because of him, because where before he arrived on the scene, I was constantly trying to serve from a well I had to scramble to fill, he just fills it. There’s a new softness to me, a deeper, more intimate connection with my own heart space.
I’ve always been a heart-centred teacher, but the access he has given me to all of my parts by witnessing and loving them means I show up as more myself than ever before.
You’ve noticed, right? I know some of you have mentioned it. If you’ve been served by me lately in any way, you have him to thank.
X. And this, just because I used to wonder if this would ever happen for me, and it has.