shadow work: healing from childhood trauma

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trigger warning: this is a true story of childhood sexual trauma. names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

Her face looked disturbing as it loomed over me, peering down, expressionless. I just lay in my crib, limp, and unable to do anything as she touched me for what seemed like eternity. I felt like a science lab rat—voiceless and unworthy of consensus.

I was about 5 when I remember my next experience, this time with my friend Marlena, playing house as husband and wife. We were naked in my bed when my older brother threw the door open. He and my other sibling taunted me about “doing it” and dangled it over my head for years, threatening to tell my parents, calling me a lesbian, and when they were mad; telling me I was going to hell.

Another time I was at my playmate Monica’s house and her mother caught her pulling down her underwear. She ran me out of their home and forbid me from playing with her ever again.

For several years I experimented with my friends; curious, confused and excited—I found myself attracted to the same gender—a direct result I’m sure, of being molested at the age of 2. I enjoyed these friendships and even the thrill of possibly getting caught. I was about 10 when I remember the first time where I found myself angry with my friend Amanda for wanting to tell her father that we kissed. I realized then how scared I was, and how uncomfortable it felt to harbor these emotions of what I didn’t know at the time was a cocktail of shame and guilt. I felt like I was doing something bad, and I was a bad person for doing it.

During this time, I became very scared of men. I had an older cousin who lived with us for some time who tried to flirt with me and be alone with me and touch me. “You know our family is a type of religion where we have to marry someone in our family.” I stood dead in my tracks, a look of being dumbfounded on my face. Another time, I remember him walking into my room and trying to look at and touch the underwear I was wearing as I was tucked in bed, unsafe against his predatory hands and lustful eyes. I was too embarrassed to tell my family, we were quick tempered and hot blooded—I didn’t want to even imagine what the men in my family would do to him. I just wanted it to all stop and go away. I became more and more ashamed of myself and my body, retreating inward where I had no say in anything and no courage to stand up for myself.

My female experimenting ended as I transitioned into middle school. Pushing it to the back of my mind, assuming it would disappear if I ignored it enough. I abandoned this part of me as I went through puberty, as if it were a rite of passage or a coming of age requirement to leave myself behind.

I was a teenager when, ironically, my family had moved to the home of my old friend Amanda. One day, after being gone for years she came back to that home to visit. I sneaked a look at her behind the blinds through the kitchen window as she caught up with my brother on the back steps. I remembered opening the back door, pretending to need to talk to him—the look on her face of disgust when she saw me left a permanent scar. I felt like a monster.

It was in that same house when I tried to come out as bisexual to my mother. I was in my late teens and had been secretly dating females. My mother looked at me like I was a demonic beast. She didn’t understand, she interrogated me with a bunch of questions; “what about your boyfriend? Is he just using you for sex?!” “you don’t know what you are talking about! You are going to hell! You learned this from your friends and the tv!” she continued to berate me through my closed door before finally retreating to her room. About an hour later I heard her voice again; “Mabelyn, let’s just pretend that this never happened. Don’t tell your brothers or anyone about this, ok!” I felt completely rejected and undeserving of her love. Worthless, like a piece of trash discarded out the car window. I couldn’t make sense of it then, but this only added to all the shame and guilt that was bubbling inside—ready to explode like a wild, untamable, violent volcano.

It was the winter of 2016 when I had my first panic attack. I was working at my new job as a preschool teacher. I was in a classroom filled with children the same age that I was when I was first molested. It hit me like a ton of bricks as I fled the room, unable to breathe.

“Have you ever experienced any trauma?” My therapist asked me as I sat in her chair choking and crying at the same time. Before I knew it, the words had already left my mouth; “I was molested by an older female child when I was two, my family doesn’t know about it.” I explained how I felt like a horrible person, I remembered the look of Amanda as I told my therapist between sobs that I ruined all of my friend’s lives. For years I tried to stay away from young children. I had convinced myself that I was infertile and did not want kids of my own. When my siblings became fathers, I avoided their babies like my life depended on it… 5 years that I can never have back. Babies made me uncomfortable, and deep down I truly believed that I was going to grow up to be a pedophile, as if I had contracted some type of disease when I was 2 and it was incurable.

“You’ve been making up stories in your head Mabelyn,” the therapist told me.  “Lot’s of children experiment,” she said, “and you weren’t forcing anyone and pinning them down, your friends were figuring things out too.” I had never looked at these situations that way, I just knew, or thought I knew, that I was sick and a menace to society. Hearing her say these words in a sense gave me the permission that I wasn’t able to give myself to finally begin to heal. Over 20 years of suppression was awakening. I remember seeing my clinical herbalist Allison, as she mentioned the idea of Saturn Returns; and how this is a point in your life between the ages of 27-29 where Saturn digs up all your shit that you have never resolved and throws it in your face,” here you go!”

I knew I was on the right path, and I could finally start to forgive myself, and move through the pain of healing within, this time choosing to relive each trauma again in order to heal and move on, transcending the suffering into lessons of love.

To be continued…

 

Love always,

Mabes

 

 

shadow work: overcoming our fears

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Fear is not our enemy, but it isn’t our best friend either. Fear is like a needy and insecure younger sibling.

It took me a long time to change my perspective about fear. For the majority of my life I always sat on the sidelines and watched other people take risks and live as if they had not a care in the world. Then I went through my “experimental” phase in which I used substances to numb and cope with my fears to pretend they weren’t there. After coming out of my depression in early 2017, I went back to being scared of everything, only this time I was hyper aware of my fears so it often turned into episodes of anxiety that would last a few days, making me feel emotionally and mentally crippled.

Due to recent events, I’ve had no choice but to make radical changes in many areas of my life, especially in the emotional and mental well-being department.

This is by far not an easy or quick task. It is unquestionably part of the shadow work that many people in this world avoid or sweep under the rug. But I had had enough, and the screaming in my mind was only getting louder with my ill attempts to bury them alive.

One of the exercises that I recommend is to create a table on a Word document and list out your fears. Then add two columns, in which you mark off whether the fear is rational or irrational (seeing the fear typed out allows you to put it in perspective). The final column is called “reality” and here you’ll write out what the fear really means and the truth of it if any. Not only did this help me tremendously in realizing when I was creating stories in my head and running with them, but it also helped me to learn about myself as I figured out where the fears came from, and I was able to sometimes reveal that I was a lot more self-sufficient than I thought. Definitely a humbling boost to my confidence.

A self-care practice that I had been putting off for months was to get back into meditation. In a different post, I wrote about how I always used to pursue answers and validation outside of myself and how it led to me not trusting myself and not being able to tell the difference between my intuition, my fears or the mind games my brain liked to play. About a week ago my fears were coming at me in full force, giving me anxiety, causing me to feel emotionally unstable and on the verge of panic attacks. Beneath it all I could see in bold letters my body and soul shouting out “MEDITATE!!” Finally, I gave in to that demand and started to meditate again. I started with just a few minutes every day after my morning chanting, or in the car before work, or any other time in which I felt overwhelmed, anxious and fearful-as long as I was able to. Luckily, I used to meditate 3-4 times a day in the past, so slowing down and tuning in comes easy to me. Still, I was petrified. Most times that I meditated was because I had a specific question or fear in mind that was taunting me. I would be close to shaking as I quieted my thoughts and asked my inner being about it. I never knew what the answer was going to be, so it could have well been the exact thing I was fearing. Despite that, I knew that the only way out was through, and I needed to know these answers in order to move on and make suitable choices or changes for myself. In some cases, the trust in myself was so depleted, that I would have to meditate several times about the same fear- at last realizing what my intuition and heart’s desires were telling me along with the fear that was clouding it all and how I could overcome it. After just a couple of weeks of incorporating meditation into my day I am noticing my self-confidence, self-trust, faith, courage and inner strength improving. It makes me question why in the heck did I ever stop meditating in the first place?

Turning to your spiritual practice is another great way to help you overcome your fears. It allows you to put them into perspective as you grasp the bigger picture. It reminds us that we are so small in this world, and our “problems” are not always as bad as we imagine them to be. And if the Divine created us as perfect beings, then that means that we already have everything we need inside of us in order to be our best selves and live our best lives- and that includes the tools to persevere past our doubts. I personally made it a priority to chant during these difficult times, and even though I felt so helpless at the time, it definitely reminded me of who I am- a badass mama who is here to show up fully in this world as the greatest version of myself so that I can help others do the same.

The thing that we don’t realize about fear is that it isn’t there to bring us down or turn us into miserable, mopey victims who never go after their dreams. It is here to tell us something. It is a teacher to us, and it’s intended to show us our areas of improvement, a past trauma that we need to heal or if something in our gut doesn’t feel right. It’s important to embrace our fear, dig into it, feel it, accept it and learn to move past it. This is why we should have compassion towards ourselves when we are feeling fearful and make it a mandatory to be gentle and loving to it in order to conquer them.

Let’s make a vow together that no matter what our fears are, we will do the work necessary to master them so that we can continue on our paths to creating a legacy for ourselves.

Thank you so much for reading, please leave any questions or your own personal tips in the comments below.

 

Love always,

Mabes