“You’re only as sick as your secrets” (a saying from AA).
As an “emerging yogi” I’m realizing how true this statement is. As I was meditating before the sun came up earlier this week, the word “truth” kept coming to me. There’s no real path to enlightenment in secrets. I have to be vulnerable and speak my truth for myself but more importantly, for others. And so, here’s Part I of my truth. I tried to keep it short but come on, I’m an English teacher and honestly, there’s a lot to my story.
Ever since I was about 9 or 10, I would get frequent stomach aches. My parents would try to figure out if I needed Pepto, Tums, a trash can or a toilet. These would come and go at least twice sometimes three times a week and sometimes end with a lovely session of me praying to the porcelain God. Looking back of course, I now know I needed none of the above. I had begun my relationship with anxiety–bad anxiety that would come from thoughts of “are UFOs real?” “Will I go to heaven or hell?” and on and on. Things that felt very real and scary to me at the time.
I come from a long line of anxiety ridden folks, worry-warts, pacers, perseverators.
Through each stage of my life, I can see anxiety present–too present. The fight or flight within me escalated and dialed to “constantly high”. Starting with the childhood anxiety turning into teenage angst, followed by being nineteen and pregnant and married while also going to college and attending a religious organization that increased my inner fears. Total recipe for major anxiety. Couple that with a husband, at the time, who was just as clueless and scared, worried about the future…my atmosphere was a perfect container for anxiety. The container of anxiety seemed to not have a stopping point, it was like a balloon that just kept blowing up with more and more anxiety, more like a red balloon that had “DANGER” written all over it. Another baby seventeen months after my first son was born and then two years after that, the arrival of my daughter. I was still going to school and still working part-time to keep things afloat. Issues between me and my ex were expanding the balloon of danger. Perfectly built container for anxiety…a balloon that would inevitably BLOW UP.
And it did. At twenty-four, as the story goes, my ex-husband had an affair. I was completely crushed, absolutely heart-broken. And then, there I was, single-mom of three, going to college and working. I knew I had to be strong for my kids. In turn, I would “protect” my kids by simply holding in my anxiety, now blowing up a balloon of anxiety and torment within myself, taking on blame, shame, and guilt. “Where did I go wrong?” “How could I do this to them?” “What kind of irresponsible person would allow this to be their children’s existence?” “None of this was in the plan” “Divorce isn’t in ‘God’s Plan'”. Panic rose within me. The self-hate began to erupt and overflow, taking over my entire self. The burning pain and shame seemed to burn through my entire being and flooded my mind, my heart, my body, my actions. I know with absolute fact that the only way I survived that time was because of my kids. Like most parents, I wanted more for them than what I had and here I was, letting them down. Calling myself a “nothing”. My mom thankfully let us live in her basement and I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through all of it if I didn’t have her to help me with the kids. I couldn’t even do that.
Once I finally graduated and got my first teaching job (thankfully), had my own place and had a somewhat decent custody agreement where my kids were with me 50% of the time, I began to cope. Unhealthily. I went the numbing route. At first, I coped through promiscuity which led me to a clinic in Kansas which was traumatic and confusing. I knew there was no way I could have another child when I was already in way over my head with three kids from my ex-husband who was successful in his career and wanted to at least be a good dad. There was no way I could have a child with a stranger from another state who I didn’t even know (who I later found out was a convicted felon). I sadly and traumatically had to terminate to keep myself alive, I really believe that. And of course, I began to beat myself up and continue the negative self-talk. “How could you be so irresponsible?” “How could you disrespect yourself in such a way?” “How could you go against all of your beliefs for this?” “You will surely go to hell now” “You went from religious wife to a piece of trash”. I stuffed those emotions deep inside of me like I had all of the rest.
There I was, mom of three by twenty-five, finally getting back on my feet, just barely. Tight roping it, wobbling and swaying the whole way through. My body, my mind, my soul, so tired and heavy from being in fight or flight, from holding shame and guilt. Out of touch with myself, I just needed something to “take off the edge”, to numb the pain. That’s when I introduced myself to Mary-Jane. I liked her, a lot. I thought she was my friend. In fact, we quickly became best friends. Every time my kids went to their dad’s it would be just me and Mary Jane. I began to feel relief from all of the anxiety, at least temporarily. I thought I had met my soul-mate. I loved Mary Jane.
But, like any other addict, I couldn’t just stop in moderation. Not to mention, marijuana is illegal in my state. So there I was living two lives. The strong, hard-working mom and school teacher. And the other, full-time best friend and enmeshed lover to Mary Jane. I felt free with her, all of my past traumas seemed to dissipate at least for awhile and the future seemed like a blurry existence that I could ignore when I was with Mary. I really was her biggest fan. Of course, as any other addict knows, the promises Mary made were all lies, bent realities. She gave me the temporary relief from fight or flight t that I thought I needed but in reality, she was leading me down a path of darker and shadier roads. She started to cloud my judgement so much so that I became a different me. When I would stop hanging out with her, the self-hate, judgement, shame, and anxiety would come to me in ways that it never had before “how can a mother do this?” “how did you come this far to only have one unreliable companion?” “You are a poor example” “You stoop so low”. I couldn’t stop. The self-hate would always lead me back to Mary but in a more committed way. I needed more of her. She started off as someone who would calm the voices of self-hate and she rapidly transformed into a cruel tyrant that I needed to SHOUT at the voices of self-hatred within me. She was my absolute “ride or die” and my greatest enemy. And then, she slowly got me caught up.
Life turned from dysfunctional to straight-up chaotic. My ex-husband got re-married and moved into a $300,000 home. I was stunned. Insult to injury. HOW could I be living paycheck to paycheck in a run-down apartment while he is rewarded with such a life when he’s the one who ruined mine? I couldn’t let it go. I was so stuck in the past. Then, an adjustment for custody was submitted to the courts. HELL. The most horrifying, painful, kick in the gut and straight fist to the face. How could he ruin our family then replace me so easily? How could he allow this new woman to intrude so heavily with my children? How could he take everything away from me and now try to take away my children? I was beyond crushed, beyond overwhelmed, fight of flight was at an all time high. And I was at an all time “high” myself with Mary, just me and her…totally isolated from anyone else. I felt she was all that I had and our co-dependent relationship with each other really took over.
(to be continued…)
I leave you w my effective and healthy daily practice, my meditation that leaves me feeling both grounded and free in my truth. Namaste