Yesterday, I began exploring the question of how to measure healing from child abuse. I focused on how my sister and I endured similar abuses but reacted very differently. Most people (from an outwardly American measure) would call me the “successful” one because I have had more stability in my life (financial, marital, etc.). However, my stability came at the cost of losing connection with the core of who I am. I lived most of my life pretending (and believing) I was someone I was not. I lived most of my life playing a role and shoving down my core beneath a bunch of food (through a binge eating disorder).
Contrast this with my sister, whose life was less stable until about 10 years ago. (Both of us started our healing processes about the same time.) Ten years ago, her marriage fell apart, she became a single mother of two young children, and she struggled financially. Most people in our lives thought her life was falling apart, but she will tell you that was the moment she took her life back. While she had always been connected with who she was, she spent many years numbing herself to her truths. The “chaos” in her life was actually what she needed to go through to take back her life – to say, “I accept myself the way I am, and I am not going to live my life in a way that anyone else imposes upon me any longer.”
I have no question she was in a much more emotionally healthy place than I was that year, despite the fact that her refrigerator was empty while mine was full. There is more to emotional healthiness than your bank account, and financial stability can come at the cost of yourself.
Many people seem to measure success from the outside. My “outside” really has not changed that much from before to after therapy and healing work. I am still married, still have food in the fridge, still have a job, etc. My external story does not reflect the healing work that has taken place inside of me.
For me, my hard work of healing is reflected in how I feel living in my own skin. Ten years ago, if someone posted a comment that disagreed with me on something meaningless, it would shake how I felt about myself. I would feel shame because I said something “wrong.” I would stew about it for hours – “Michael thinks I was wrong about X. I am a stupid and bad person.” I would binge eat to stuff down those feelings. I would cry because I was such a loathsome person, and I would anxiously check my blog until Michael posted again and didn’t seem mad at me. If we wasn’t mad at me, maybe I was OK and dodged a bullet – he didn’t yet see what a repulsive person I am. Side note to Michael ~ Thanks for being a good sport about me picking on you for my example. :0)
I didn’t write a blog 10 years ago, and you can see why! However, I went through this dynamic on message boards for adoptive mothers.
Contrast that with today. Michael and A x, who are two of my most active readers, posted alternative points of view on that blog entry. I did not feel shame, cry, or worry that they would never read my blog again. I read what they had to say and considered their points of view. I thought about to what degree they “heard” something different than I am intended to say and clarified accordingly. I thought about areas in which they heard me just fine and simply had a different opinion. I considered their points of view and tried to see my words through their eyes. From there, I thought about where I stand after scrutinizing my own views.
As typically happens, their thoughts spawned another blog topic. :0) What does healing mean to me? Part of what healing means to me is that my thoughts and other people’s thoughts no longer change who I think I am or how I feel about myself. That’s a HUGE change for me!
Photo credit: Hekatekris