Are you an (adorable) dragon like me?
“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk
Any kid who had the privilege to ferry to the Gulf Islands as a kid knows that Hornby Island is the best (FIGHT ME). Every summer growing up my family would spend a week there camping and I hadn’t been back since I was a kid (gasp). It was really special to be there with my family two weeks ago for a weekend getaway.
Along the cliff face opposite the site are beautiful deck chairs overlooking the water. On our second night there, we sat watching the sunset sipping gin and tonics and sharing Gulf Island memories and trying to remember exactly how many years since we had been back. As I was reminiscing, I was struck with a very clear intrusive thought: the cliff below our feet crumbled and everyone I love most toppled into the ocean in a mudslide.
It’s good and bad but I’m used to these images now. I can thank them for their imaginative depictions of my family’s demise and move on. But this thought was startling on another level because I realized I had had it before, many years ago, many times, as a kid.
I don’t often remember ghost fears from being little because my coping mechanism for so long was to suppress, suppress and when in doubt, SUPPRESS HARDER TEAM. In healing old wounds there are layers you peel back as you’re ready to face a new level of discomfort and understanding: this flashback was a new petal falling away. O.C.D. has been going on a long, looooooooooong time my friends.
The truth this mini-episode made me acknowledge is I have made progress communicating but not enough. This is easier to write to a (maybe populated? hello!) void than it is to my family. I know they will read this and I appreciate that so much. I am so difficult when I’m scared. My knee jerk reaction to protect myself is to be hard and cold.
For the longest time I was 95% sunk with just my lips above water, my purpose in life being to say “I’m fine! So fine! Thankyousomuch!”. If I asked for help I would have to admit how much was going on in my head and that was WAY more terrifying than living in a numbed state of “Fine! Leave me alone!” It’s easier to put up fierce signs saying “stay out, the dragon is IN!"
Like, fuuuuuck. I’m so good at wearing masks. I'm so, SO good at pretending everything is fine that speaking my mind and thinking it's valid is so hard and vulnerable. I also don’t trust myself, I don’t validate what I feel because I made deception a tool. What feeling is real? What feeling isn't? I think my entire early adulthood has been about trying to redefine my centre.
Make sense chillins? Is anyone else out there really bad at asking for help? Is anyone else exhausted from being a one person army of “handling it” (insert dry laugh) on their own? And STILL staying quiet and testy?
My “training”, my ability to acknowledge, embrace and move on from intrusive thoughts helped me to not spiral by the mudslide thought, but it shook me. How many fucking 1000’s of times have I covered what I was really thinking? How many times have I lied to people in intimate settings to “protect” them from “danger” and hurt myself in the process? How much of my teen years was I afraid that I don't remember?
Can I just be done with this. I am le tired.
Nope, sorry sweetie. The answer is nope. Because anyone who holds mental health in their traveler's bundle knows management is the name of the game and healed is when you are holding fear in one hand and your best self in the other and moving forward with grace and humility into something you never thought possible. (Thank you Lisa Nichols for that concept, check her out, she’s a game changing coach.)
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry to anyone I lied to about what was really going on. I’m so sorry to myself for not believing I could be good. I’m so sorry to my family for being so difficult and rude and coarse and not having the ability to be kind through the pain. I know I’m being too hard on myself but I need to say this. Someday I’ll say it in person.
Silence magnifies pain.
So this cave dwelling (adorable) dragon is going to keep putting baby toes into the sunlight. And probs get burned. Cause I’m pasty like that. Gawd I love metaphors.
(This is dragon fruit btw. Hahahaaaaaa.)