I recently had a friend tell me that he was fascinated by me. A little shocked I asked him “how so?” He went on to explain that he was fascinated by me because even though I have been through trauma it doesn’t seem to phase me.
That in itself was a compliment to my strength and resilience. It took a lot of hard work and many tears to come to the place that I am at today. This road has been long and the nights were even longer. There was a time where I was put together in the streets and a hot crying mess in the sheets.
For years I walked the path of purposefully busy. I thought if I kept myself extremely busy I would some how forget the pain and leave the past behind me. That tactic didn’t work. During the day I’d be busy, but at night it was just me, myself and I. Well Cullen too. I had to learn how to be alone with my own thoughts and love the woman standing in the mirror. Those lessons were the hardest lessons to learn. During that journey I also had to learn how to ask for help. Mostly I had to trust that my friends & family actually did want to help and that they didn’t see me as a burden.
Being a burden is the last thing I wanted to be. I became hyper-independent. I didn’t need to ask for help because the only person I needed to rely on was myself. I scaled cabinets to get things down from above my head, learned how to fix simple things around my apartment and mostly I became my own best company. Hyper-independence works until it doesn’t. It serves a purpose until it doesn’t. My hyper-independence gave way to an unhealthy work ethic. In the early years after my divorce I was no stranger to 70+ hour work weeks. I lived to work. My career became my everything, it’s what I hung my hat on and connected to my worth. I found peace in the daily grind and became content in being purposefully busy.
I didn’t need to waste my time going on dates or meeting friends for coffee. Those activities took away from work. My friends looked on as my spark and zest for life faded. The AJ they once knew was not the AJ that was standing in front of them. This new version was hyper-independent and didn’t care if she missed the sunset. She was content with being purposefully busy and needed nothing more.
On the days where old memories crept in she threw herself into her work even more. Work always kept the scaries away. Keeping purposefully busy always kept the scaries away. Purposefully busy worked until it didn’t. On her birthday in October 2014 she found herself crying in the shower. All the events and emotions of the past 5 years came bubbling to the surface and she didn’t know how to deal. She didn’t know how to shove them back into the pocket they sprung out of. Emotions are messy and AJ she didn’t have time for that.
But this was different. In my heart I knew I couldn’t keep living like I was living. I was tired of the storms. I was tired of pretending that everything was alright even though I was dying inside. Step one was getting over my fear of asking for help. For the longest time I believed that only the weak waved their white flags and asked for help. Boy was I wrong, it takes the strongest of the strong to make the call for reinforcements. Asking for help was the first step of my journey to healing.
For the next five years on Tuesday nights I bared my soul in Ms. Emily’s office. We unpacked my bags one by one and she talked me through the triggers. She gave me the tools that I needed to deprogram myself. She gave me the support that I needed to realize that it’s ok to say “no.” And that I don’t have to do everything and be everything for everyone. But mostly she taught me that I too deserve to live a life. Work/Life balance was a struggle in the early days, little by little and started to build something that I could be proud of.
She reminded me that my abusive marriage was only a chapter and not my entire story. She allowed me to grieve the loss of my sons and Charlie too. Ms. Emily allowed me to grieve the me before trauma took hold on my life. One blood clot changed everything and everything went down hill from there. She reminded me that I was not jinxed or cursed, it’s just bad things happen to good people without an explanation or reason. It just happens.
But what matters most is what we do with it. There are people who wear the victim card on their sleeves and it serves them well. It gets the attention and sometimes validation. But then there are those like myself who wants to be seen for anything but being a victim. I was handed a victim card once, I threw it in the trash. I didn’t have time to dwell or relieve the past, I wanted to move forward, I wanted to thrive. I wanted to be a light for others to follow. That person who holds your hand and says “it may not seem like it right now, but it’s going to be ok,” for she has seen the battle field.
Hyper-independence and purposefully busy were my bandaids. If I kept myself purposefully busy then I didn’t have to put in the work towards healing. If I remained fiercely independent then I wouldn’t have to worry about being a burden or someone letting me down. Taking the first step off that wheel was the scariest step I’ve ever taken. Putting in the work and really looking at everything I’ve been through was the hardest yet most rewarding assignment of my life.
Therapy grew me in more ways than I could ever begin to explain. My faith served me well, she carried me on the darkest days and showed me the way so that I could heal. Therapy saved me. Now I know there are folks who go to therapy just to go to therapy. Therapy isn’t going to work, unless you yourself want to do the work. As women we spend so much time healing the hearts of others that we forget how to heal our own. We forget that being purposefully busy is a coping mechanism and not a life that’s worth living.