It’s been a distressing few weeks, but I’m holding on. It seems like every upward shift comes with its own opposition. And oftentimes, though there are real external circumstances going haywire, nevertheless the biggest turmoil is internal. Some days, I don’t know how to honorably stand up under it.
I think what I’m realizing more and more is that I have expected my recovery to be more like a going and a coming. I’ve thought, all this time, that “healing” is going to mean a clear beginning, middle, and end. I’ve been under the impression that once I am “healed” my life will crack right down the middle and separate neatly out, into the “Before Healing (B.H.)” period, and the “After Healing (A.H.)” period. In the A.H. period I will always know who I am, never have any problems, everyone will like me all the time and life will always go my way. I’ll have a lot of money, my ideas and beliefs will be readily and widely known and extolled, and changing the mental health and social landscapes to facilitate awareness of dissociative disorders will be as easy as booking a ticket to Ireland. In this same paradigm, in the blissful A.H. period, a situation will never arise wherein I don’t know what to do or what feels right to me or what my needs are or how to meet them. I will have everything I want, and it will be easy to get. Making myself understood will be a breeze. Understanding others will be effortless. Blessings and fortune and favor will follow me wherever I go. All of this because I am now “healed.”
I’m starting to have my doubts about this.
One of my friends, Suzanne Reece, put it this way:
“Because I hit trauma as an adult, I’ve got strong before and after memories. There was sense of being thrown off a moving train up in the normal world into a dark underworld that was populated with victims and perpetrators. The normal world went on above, oblivious to what was happening in the underworld. …One of the reasons I rarely let anyone know what had happened, is because I knew they couldn’t handle it and…I would then have to spend time managing their reactions while compartmentalizing mine to have to deal with later. It was exhausting and often with little payoff. It was easier not to ask anyone to understand.”
I relate so strongly to this feeling of being sucked from the realm I’m familiar with and dumped unceremoniously into a foreign land. A land where people speak a certain suggested language, although the meaning of that language is not always agreed upon or clearly defined. My first flashbacks are the catalyst that I remember pulling me out of the place I had understood as my world, my home, and leaving me stranded in a place I didn’t recognize, couldn’t understand, didn’t want to inhabit. It’s felt a bit like Neo in the matrix, accepting everything he sees at face value, believing at any moment he will wake up and things will return to normal.
Ever since that time, my daily life has consisted of learning how to move in between these 2 places; the “real world,” where everyone else who isn’t damaged seems to live. The real world is the place where everyone smiles all the time, everyone has friends that stay in their lives forever, and everyone except me seems to know how to live and behave as a normal human with a normal propensity for this bizzarely jarring existence. Then there is the other place; the underworld where the survivors live. It’s a dark place, full of suffering, where heavy burdens are placed on shoulders that are not designed to carry them, and relief is the only major short or long term goal.
I’ve never gotten used to the feeling of traveling back and forth between these 2 worlds. The confusion and isolation of not really belonging to either one has left me drifting, with a heart that feels scattered and homeless. In some sense, I feel I should cast my loyalty with the underworld, because I feel such a strong sense of kinship and even responsibility toward it – the drive to try to help however I can. But on the other hand, existing entirely in the underworld is as if I’m suffocating. I don’t want to define myself by a disorder, a diagnosis, or even a piece of my history. I don’t want to live an existence that focuses entirely on avoidance or maintenance of symptoms.
The recovery journey feels to me like a continuous invitation to come back to “the real world,” but I’m starting to doubt more and more that such a place even exists…or at least, not in the way I’ve framed it in my head. If not, what then?
What is recovery? Where does it exist, and with whom, and in what way?
I don’t really have any answers to these questions at the moment. I’ve spent so much time pursuing something, this thing called healing (or recovery), and just considering whether my vision of it might be an illusion has left me feeling a bit lost. I wish I had something more helpful to offer, but perhaps others can relate. Cheers. ~J8