Self care doesn't always look like long baths, yoga, or vacations (although they don't hurt). This morning it is sitting on a dewy chair, slowly sipping coffee, listening to the birds, breathing deep with the wind, and talking it out with a friend over messenger without feeling guilty for letting the kids stay inside and have some screen time. As much as they need fresh air and activity they also need a happy, centered mom.
We love to talk about the light at the end of the tunnel because it is important to have hope and to remember that nothing lasts forever. But sometimes we forget to mention that that light can be blinding once you're in it, and those who have been in the dark have a strong fear of what they cannot see coming.
Your growth does not stop once you've reached a certain destination. Even if you are no longer being wounded, there are still things that will need healing, and scars that will feel tight some days. Often, we don’t even realize how badly we are hurt until we are somewhere safe. Forgive me while I beat this metaphor to death - but you don’t stop to think about cuts on your body or a bruise on your head while being chased by a bear. You just run. But when the adrenaline comes down, and it is finally safe to feel, suddenly all of that pain will likely come crashing in. This does not mean you are broken. Healing is rarely comfortable business.
As a wise woman said "love and safety are so fucking scary."
When you've learned to be on edge and reading everything around you constantly - when you need to predict when things will go sideways so you can run damage control - letting your guard down for even a moment can have catastrophic results. You do not unlearn a lifetime of this in just a few days, months, or even years.
Those times when you feel truly safe and happy can spike your anxiety, seemingly out of the blue. Your body starts screaming that you need to be careful. Your stomach tightens, heart races, and your mind begins searching for things to worry about. It will always find something, and it will latch on. This does not mean you are broken. This does not mean you are incapable of living a joyful life. It means you are a warrior who learned to live on a battleground that you did not choose. You are shell shocked from relentless gorilla warfare and peace can sound a lot like the quiet of birds before an attack.
Reach out to the wonderful people in your life. Hell, reach out to me if you’d like. If your fears involve someone in your life, and they are safe, talk to them about it. Let them reassure you. You don’t have to have all of the answers . You don’t even have to understand what you’re feeling. Just let someone else see you. I answered one of my best friends, when she asked how I was doing this morning with “I don’t know what’s happening, but it’s awful.” And you know what? She was in the same vaguely terrifying boat. Anxiety festers in silence.
We often talk at red tent about the healing spiral. If you imagine healing as a spiral staircase, you see that every step brings you up out of the darkness. It also, quite irritatingly, brings you back around to the same view over and over and over. You will think you healed something and wash your hands of it just to find yourself staring it in the face again. Sometimes it has been such a long time since you faced this particular shadow that you can’t even recognize it at first. This does not mean you have toppled all the way back down. You are facing it this time with more tools, less baggage, and a better understanding of how to move through. If the rest didn’t take you down this certainly will not. You’ve got this.
This work is coming to you now because you are ready for it. You no longer have to fight. You GET TO heal. The world needs you and all of your light, and you are ready.
As cliche as it sounds be grateful and send love - to yourself. You did it. You survived. These triggers and defense mechanisms are there because you were strong enough to get through, and they were your tools to do so. Send love and gratitude to yourself for all you endured, and praise former-you for everything that did not take you down. “Thank you for protecting us. Thank you for being so strong. Thank you for figuring out ways to survive. I see all of the hard work you did. We do not need those tools anymore. It is safe here. We can finally set them down.”