I’ve been hiding. I can’t post another picture or go to my studio and start making another piece of art.
I can’t even answer my friend’s text messages. I can’t keep pretending that everything is ok. That this past week was the same as any other. But I can’t lie about it.
So I’m going to say it out loud, here, because the hiding makes me feel worse. The hiding makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong, that I should be hiding.
I learned to hide early in my life and did it for many years. But I’m not doing it anymore. I can’t live the life I’ve made for myself if I am not honest about it.
I’m stuck in a bad place and I feel like I can’t move on with my life until I write this.
My mother is 93, is very sick, and has been for some time. And I am not doing anything to help her.
She is in Assisted Living and my sister and brother help take care of her. I’ve written before about my problems with my family, and how I no longer see them.
That was not an easy decision and one I have struggled with especially since my mother’s health is failing. I made this decision because it’s unhealthy for me to be around them.
Being in therapy these past few months has helped me understand why this is. I think I always knew it but didn’t want to believe it. Understanding it and having the right words to speak about it has been helpful.
My family is a trigger. The trauma is still hard for me to articulate, it was not one event. I do know some things about it, such as being frightened by my violent and controlling father and bullied by my brother.
Now, when I have contact with anyone in my birth family, the trauma is triggered and I revert to the small frightened child I was growing up. Sometimes it is worse than others, but I always experience panic attacks to differing degrees.
This past week, I also became dissociated, something that has not happened to me in a long time.
According to the website Mind, dissociation…” is one way the mind copes with too much stress, such as during a traumatic event. If you dissociate for a long time, especially when you are young, you may develop a dissociative disorder. Instead of dissociation being something you experience for a short time it becomes a far more common experience, and is often the main way you deal with stressful experiences.”
During dissociation, I felt disconnected from myself. It was as if I had left my body and was sitting next to myself. It wasn’t that I was distracted, it was that my mind was blank. Thinking and talking were difficult. I was numb. I was going through the motions, taking pictures, feeding the animals doing what work I could, without feeling anything.
That night, Jon sat in his study watching TV on his iPhone, which he never does. When I asked him why he was watching it without me, he said it was because I wasn’t there.
It lasted for days and was awful. I don’t want it to happen to me again.
Experiencing this as the person I am now and knowing that I was in a dissociated state often in my life was upsetting. In the past when it happened it was so familiar to me that I never knew it wasn’t the way I was supposed to feel.
It was also revealing. It made me understand how serious and damaging my childhood was. And how harmful being triggered back to that time still is.
I have always felt like I didn’t belong in my family. I always wanted to be accepted by them and felt I wasn’t. I often hid my true self in order to try to “fit in.” As I came to understand it more, I tried to talk to them about it and what I was feeling. But it never worked. Either they didn’t want to hear it, or they just didn’t understand.
Even now, there are times I realize I’m still looking for their approval.
At the same time, my great fear is to go back there. To be pulled back into a life where feeling this way is “normal”. I’ve written before that when I’m around my birth family I lose myself, now I understand that there is a word, a diagnosis for what I am experiencing.
I hear stories from people all the time who are taking care of their mothers. They fly and drive to other states and countries to be there for them, to share the caretaking with their siblings.
I wish I could help take care of my mother. It makes me sad that I have chosen not to. I could do it. But it would destroy who I am. And I am not willing to give up my life anymore.
Not the life I have now. It’s too good.
Jon, the farm and my studio have become my home, my safe place. Jon understands, knows and supports me like no one else ever has in my life. He loves me for who I truly am.
So I’m going to protect my life by protecting myself. By making the best decisions I can, taking responsibility for them, and being happy when I can be. By not hiding anymore, doing the work that fulfills me and spending time with people who are nourishing and know and like who I truly am.