I don’t hide in the shadows any longer. It was a conscious decision, although at the time I didn’t really know what that meant. When my memoir was published, I went from no one knowing my story to letting the whole world know my story. It’s more than a story, it’s my life, my truth. It’s true that I don’t lay out all the sordid details of my past in my book, and very few people in my life have earned the right to hear all the details, but, I share enough of myself and the resulting struggles I have with PTSD that I’m comfortable with the volume of my voice and that I’m being heard and making some wonderful connections.
I still struggle every day. It’s the way it is for me. Fall is a particularly hard time of year. Now, instead of pretending all is well while feeling like my soul is being crushed into jagged shards, I’m honest with people. I have learned self-compassion. Instead of saying, “I’m fine” coupled with a thinly veiled smile, I say, “I’m triggered, I feel shitty, and I’m trying really hard to stay present.”
No one has shied away from me when I tell them I’m struggling this Fall. They still want to do lunch, meet for coffee, go for walks, and keep engaging. While hiding in the shadows and always trying to be okay, I was unreachable. I was still social but it was different. I had a thick wall up, and my social circle was different. Aside from a core group of very good friends, I was surrounding myself with people who sometimes bordered on narcissistic. I was attracting those kinds of people because it was comfortable for me. I could navigate that personality. If fed my desire to hide. A funny thing happened when I emerged from the shadows after Untangled was released. The narcissists dropped me like a hot potato. I’m not sure why? But when that happened, it opened the door for some wonderful people who are also starting to emerge or have come from their own shadows to enter my life.
I was having coffee the other day with a friend who is just beginning her journey of openness. It’s tough, especially for someone like her, who is a bubbly, open-hearted, extrovert. She has had an extraordinary struggle in her life. Her truth is real, and it’s shocking, and it’s gut-retching, and it’s her past. My friend, like me, had to repress her past in order to have a life. Until that sneaky past caught up to her and she knew that if she wanted a fulfilling present and a hopeful future she had to look at these things square in the face and deal with them. I don’t know if she has PTSD, I don’t ask. But I relate to and greatly admire the courage she displays in the face of such turmoil and growth right now.
As we were having coffee, she brought out a package wrapped in netting and a ribbon. It was the beautiful rock that is pictured in this post. Rocks are extremely important to me. I started connecting with them when I was alone and being tortured in a country far from home. I picked up a white rock, put it in my pocket and knew that if I died and no one found me, I at least had a solid connection to something; a rock, the earth. I still have that rock in my jewelry box. Since then, I pick up rocks from everyday random and also wonderous places. I give rocks as gifts and use rocks as an activity when I do creativity workshops.
Coming out of the shadows is still a new way of life, and sometimes it still feels like an enormous risk. I feel broken, mostly from having to live with the symptoms of PTSD, but when I put that beautiful rock, with the pieces of glass, the double spiral beads and felt the solid heft weighing in my palm, I felt overcome with tears of gratitude and connection. Connections are what ground me. I found it was a constant struggle to let people connect to me when I lived in the shadow of fear.
My friend, who had no idea what rocks meant to me, said that she loves to create things from broken glass. She calls it Beauty from Broken Pieces. To me, that is a beautiful mantra for all us. You can’t get through adulthood without having some broken pieces, but we can find some beauty in our shards.
Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph