Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Turning 50 - Healing and grief


I've been in therapy pretty steadily through most of my adult life. I was somewhere around 20 when I was first diagnosed with PTSD as a result of childhood sexual abuse. There were of course many more layers of trauma  - I was raped at 17, I grew up in a household with parents dealing with their own mental health issues, and I was in an abusive relationship that I wouldn't leave for another three years. Not to mention growing up femme in America. 

I was full to the brim with unhealthy coping mechanisms and had very little sense of self or self worth.

It's taken me nearly 30 years to finally feel like it is okay for me to exist and to learn how to give myself the things I didn't receive as a child. It hasn't been easy at all - healing work never is - and I am very grateful to be able to finally see myself as deserving, but in three decades of this work, of being told there was a better way to be in the world (and finally feeling like I'm there) there was one thing no one mentioned to me.

No one ever told me about the grief that is part of healing. 

No one mentioned how once you know and understand what it was that was taken from you (your self worth, self esteem, self trust, sense of safety, your sense of self…), and you begin to learn how to love yourself and you finally understand how it feels to have a sense of being worthy, you can’t help but ask, who would I have been if I'd had this all along?  

No one told me how to mourn that me that never was. 

When I mention it, the response is generally, “well why dwell on that, just be that person now” and I want to roll my eyes. No shit Sherlock. Of course I want to be that person now (why else would I have spent the past three decades working to get here?).

But that grief is real, and we need to give people space for it. Denying it or telling people that they shouldn't feel it or just let it go is more than a bit gaslighty, especially for people who have had to do a whole lot of work just to get to a place of understanding that they and their feelings have value. 

You are allowed to grieve.

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