When s**t happens, that’s life and you’ve just got to get on with it … right?
Yes, and no.
I’ve experienced so many shattering events, I could make a world record winning mosaic from all the pieces.
I’ve picked up those pieces and I’ve carried on time and time and time again.
In yesterday’s blog post I mentioned ‘a straw and camel event‘ that happened earlier this year, so called because it followed a series of awful events but was the one that broke me. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although, reading about the origins of that idiom, I realise that my ‘straws’ were actually rather more ‘tree trunks’, so it’s really not surprising that this camel’s legs buckled.
I know a lot about getting on with it.
Events such as losing a parent to suicide at the very moment I reached double figures and simultaneously being cut off, without warning or support, from all connection to that side of my family, were treated with about as much gravity as a broken fingernail. So what? Get on with it! The message was clear. It became a familiar pattern and I learned to ‘suck it up’ no matter the tragedy, trauma or difficulty. It’s part, but by no means all, of the reason why I endured an abusive family situation well into adulthood (I was tempted to write horribly abusive, but there is no need to clarify. Abuse is abuse, no matter the type or form; it’s all horrible.). It became normal to me to have devastating things happen – witnessing extreme violence; being assaulted; losing all my family – yet put a smile on my face and get on with it without complaint. Despite having no real understanding of how bad things were, I still felt the effects of the bad stuff. For a long time I just didn’t know why I felt them.
I know that years later I am no longer the closed book that I became, as a result of the culture of silence so often encouraged, or imposed, in an abusive environment. I know that in different circumstances I would always have been an open and honest person and I’m glad to have at last been able to grow into that person. I know that I am often very matter of fact about things that have happened in my life, things others would deem alarming at best (ironically, I am horrified by similar events happening to other people). I know that stems from having to just get on with it. That experience normalised terrible things for me and put me at further risk.
After the straw and camel in late spring, life stopped. I withdrew. I could no longer cope with doing … with living, much less with seeing others able to live their lives. I retreated into my own special sort of stasis. It’s a coping strategy that’s sometimes helpful, sometimes not. (I long to get to a stage where I can abandon it) A wonderful psychotherapist, who helped me a great deal, described it as being something like a animal frozen with fear at the point of an attack. Unable to take more pain, hurt or disaster I disconnect from the world, it can’t get me if it can’t reach me. I lost the entire summer that way. What a waste, right? I agree, but* …
My username here, and on Twitter, is borne of a desire to live life to the full, to be true to myself and to really live, not merely exist. I am very much a ‘do-er’. I love to be productive, creative, busy and active. I am ambitious. My ‘modus operandi’ is very much to grab life by the horns and, given half a chance, ride the heck out of it. I don’t want to waste a moment …
*With the best will in the world, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you can’t just get on with it. Sometimes you need time out. Sometimes you need help and support. A little compassion and understanding go a very long way.
There are those who will argue. Like the person I saw claiming on Twitter this weekend that depression (just one of the many effects I’ve felt) is a choice not an illness. Grrr.
Please don’t judge. It’s a cliche, but I do believe that, for the most part, you cannot judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Sometimes you just can’t get on with it and nor should you try to do so.
When I am vulnerable, I do worry about being judged. I worry about it very much. I know it comes of being told I was useless, weak, filthy, dirty and more … ad infinitum. That was abuse, it wasn’t fact. I have learned enough, developed enough and recovered myself enough to know that I am not ‘lacking’, but I still fear being deemed so, vulnerable as I am. I fear I won’t be helped or treated with kindness but could instead be blamed. I have to try to hang onto the better part of me that says … You think you could do better in my situation? I’d darn well like to see you try!