After Marmee died, I expected to fall. I was confident that I would eventually be okay but that would come after some time in a mental health unit. In a very strange way I almost wished for the fall. I wished I could disassociate enough to not be present in my pain. When I didn’t have a mental health break down I began trying to understand why not. What makes some people break and others not? Was I ignoring my grief? Was I merely doing life but not really living it? Don’t get me wrong, there have been days and weeks where I barely functioned. Days where I have been just present enough to order take out for my kids and give them the passwords to their screens. But I was still functioning and wondered why my resiliency was winning?
I don’t think it was a surprise to a lot of people that I was surviving better than I thought I would. I’ve always been described as Strong, Resilient and Powerful, even as a young child. Alone those words sound like really positive attributes, and they are.. but they have often held double meanings.
Strong has also meant Hard
Resilient has also meant Volatile
Powerful has also meant Loud and Bossy
Over the years I’ve felt like I have needed to appologize for my hardness, but stay strong. Like I should be ashamed for how loud or bossy I come across, but still shine my resiliencey and be powerful. I’ve been at a loss for how to do that and wondered if I’ve even wanted to do that. These parts of me, the good and the messy, have served me well. They have guided me through unimaginably difficult times. They have protected me from hurt and helped me, quite literally, survive at times. That strength and resiliency kept myself, and those I loved, safe. Making quick decisions based on my emotions and what I though was my “gut” has served me well.
Anyone with trauma is going to have a well developed survival instinct and often that is what controls our reactions and decisions. Everone has it but it looks very different for everyone. As I continue to journey and become who I am, I’m realizing that I’ve mistaken that instinct as being my resiliency. Sometimes, my inner self, the part that holds my true resiliency matches up with that survival instinct. But often that instinct is reacting before I’ve had a chance to listen to my deeper emotions or logic that lies below all that protection.
Maybe this is also true for other trauma survivors. Maybe we are told we are so strong but hard or so resilient but volatile, because we actually have an over developed survival instinct working on overdrive. Maybe that resiliency is in all of us and it’s that survival instinct that is the wild card. That instinct is what looks hard, or messy or loud. Maybe we need to try and quiet her down so we can hear our deeper self. Listen to that inner being of who we were, and still are, before all that other stuff happened.
I’m learning to listen to myself more. I’m trying to be curious which part of me is guiding in any given moment and what I’m actually feeling, apart from all those protective impulses. After doing a whole lot of sheer survival in my life, this new way of thinking and processing IS HARD, especially with out my mom, but it’s getting easier.
Finding that place in my body that holds these different parts of me has been helpful and eye opening too. What I had mistakenly taken for my gut actually holds that resilient survival instinct. It’s kept me safe for so many years and sits just above my belly button. Often it bubbles up in to physical anxiety in my chest. I can look deeper though. Below my belly into my actual gut and behind the anxiety, into my heart. That is where my actual strength sits without the hardness, resiliency without volitility, and power without being loud and bossy.
My mom knew it was in me and described me as Scary Strong. She understood the dichotomy of what that meant inside me though. When she said it, she wasn’t trivializing the full scope of the my being. She knew what was deeper. She knew that the scary in me wasn’t the wall that people see but the overwhelming ability to make it through realities that should probably have made me crumble. She recognized the scary survival instinct, that was messy and uncomfortable, protected me time and time again. She had it herself, though it showed up differently. She also recognized the strong in me that was deeper and resilient and so powerful without any double meanings.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense… This is just some of my processing that that I’ve been doing lately. If you understand these ramblings I suspect you can relate and maybe this can help you recognize the Scary Strong in your own self or those around you. Maybe that awareness can create some empathy or curiousity for both of these incredible parts of our beings.
To becoming who were truly are! XO