When I was growing up, I never grew up. I grew upward. I grew taller as most kids do. But many aspects of my development stopped at a very young age. While my brain grew intellectually, my unprocessed emotions from my traumatic experiences thwarted my reliance on emotional intelligence and intuition. I had shut all of that down. And while I grew taller, I hid most of my unprocessed experiences in my body which resulted in chronic bouts with pain for many years.
There is much discussion in the therapeutic community about how much recovery is possible when acute (one time) trauma becomes complex (chronic and inescapable) trauma. Most trauma experts are convinced that recovery can be extensive, but may never reach “full” recovery (whatever that may mean). As Dr. Bruce Perry stated in The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog, “she [his patient] will always love with an accent”.
I have always been optimistic about my recovery. I am willful and not afraid to go to the dark, shadow places in my psyche. For years, I have thought I could erase the affects completely, living a life that is untouched by my previous trauma. I have been told I am asking for too much by more than one trauma-focused clinician. But I can’t help it. I see the affects of my work. I see the emotional, mental and physical symptoms of my trauma falling away. I know the person I was before recovery and I know who I am now. So while I will keep my expectations in check, I can’t help but reach for the stars. And I keep looking for the signs that I am, in fact, beating trauma.
Sometimes, those signs come while I sleep. Over the years, I have had some horrible dreams and nightmares. As a novice dream-interpreter, I have learned how to use those dreams as steps in my recovery. They have provided great insight. So when I dreamt about a house the other day, I knew it was supposed to represent me. This is not my first dream about this house. It is vast with many rooms and people. They aren’t all pleasant people as you might imagine. And in the past, many of the rooms have been locked, burned, flooded and otherwise left unusable. I have never been able to fully ascertain the full number and size of the rooms in this house. But the other day, something was different. The house was a bit quieter than I have experienced before. Some of the main rooms were empty. Other rooms had open doors for the first time. It looked as though it was moving day. As I went to the front door and peered outside, there were hundreds of boxes on the sidewalk in front of the house.
These would be the boxes I packed as a child. Back then, I didn’t know where to put things. Nobody ever taught me how to process trauma, and if they had, I would not have been able to fully grasp the concept. I was too young. So I took my nasty experiences, packed them in a bunch of boxes and shoved them away in rooms. I locked the doors and swallowed the keys. I made them inaccessible (or so I thought). As a kid, it was the only thing I could do.
So now, it is moving day. The boxes are on the steps and the rooms are open. A large portion of my house is ready to be redecorated using my new adult-understanding of who I am and who I will become. As I walk through my house, it is a beautiful opportunity for me to become the self I was intended to be, without the trauma. But it is scary. As the old “stuff” slips away, I feel … empty. The old identity, the victim identity, the worthless identity, is moving out, but the new has not yet come. It is as though, there is nothing. It is as though, I am nothing.
And nobody wants to be nothing. It is ok when we are children. We are supposed to be a blank slate when we are children, even teenagers. We are supposed to be discovering who we are and what we want to be. But at 42 years old, it is a little late to be nothing. It is a little late to begin again.
Or is it? Is there really another choice? I guess I could stay the victim. But if I want to be something other than the victim, and believe me I do, I have to clear it away. I have to move it out. I have to make room for the new. So I could have done it in my twenties or thirties. Or I could do it in my forties, or even eighties. But it must be done if I want to move forward.
So I sit with my empty house and I contemplate what it means to have nothing in so many of my rooms. I think about what I would like my life to become. I think about who I would like to be. But I don’t know how it will manifest. I can’t know yet. I have to wait with my nothingness, my emptiness.
Because the truck is coming with my new stuff.
And I get to put it wherever I want.