Have you ever started down a path only to be diverted into unknown territory? This happened to me recently as I went into a meet and greet session with a potential therapist for one of my kids. I went in with the goal of getting my daughter on the right track and came out with a therapy appointment for myself as well! I was totally taken back. The therapist explained that in order for me to best support my daughter, I had to work through my own suppressed issues and feelings about experiences in my early life, namely my parent’s divorce.
To say this, albeit relatively short journey thus far, has been one of the toughest things I’ve ever done would be a gross understatement. My parent’s split when I was 16. And even though it was a necessary thing it still disrupted everything I had ever known. It was as if my family had stepped on a land mine. Suddenly we were selling the house and my dad was living in an apartment in town. My mom was moving to a city not far away. I was headed to college in the fall and my little sister was in limbo about where she was going to live.
As if that wasn’t enough to process, I thought I would set a few more things on fire. I broke up with my boyfriend of almost 2 years (also my first love) and quit ballet, an activity I had participated in and loved since the age of four. I remember feeling numb and checked out for most of the spring of 2000. I was set to graduate in June and it was as if I was just rolling through the motions.
Ultimately my mom moved to Albuquerque, NM to start her life over and my dad to Louisa, VA to be closer to his work. That summer my sister stayed with our dad and I stayed with my grandmother so I could be close to my friends and my job. That fall, I started George Mason University. My dad drove me up and helped me settle in. It was a very exciting time and that allowed me to continue to squish down all the feelings I had about my family shift.
For the next two decades I would continue to push those feelings down. The end result being a wife and mother of three who was relatively numb to her feelings, making it very difficult to connect and relate to her children and husband’s feelings. It also meant I walked around feeling depressed and exhausted and anxiety ridden.
As the therapist and I began our work, I realized that I didn’t know how to identify what I was feeling. I literally struggled to name a feeling, to say nothing of the fact that I couldn’t describe how that feeling manifested physiologically. It was eye opening and frankly, embarrassing. Over the past few weeks I have become more tuned in to my body when I recognize an intense emotion, anger for example. It’s starting to make me more aware of other feelings and how they effect me.
I have found that I feel a bit lighter, a bit more aware and connected to the world around me. I still have a lot of work to do, both on myself and with my daughter, so that we can both heal and come out on the other side stronger. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like there is a light at the end of a tunnel I didn’t even realize I was in.