"We told her to sit with us so we could share her sadness." (Dohuk, Iraq)
I have cried over the past 7 months. A bit. Once a month or so, I am so overcome with something that I finally collapse into a pile of tears and sob my heart out for a bit. Usually in my car. Or very quietly in my bed. And every now and then, a few tears escape my eyes when I'm talking to one of my friends. But not enough. I have not cried nearly enough to purge all this pain and anger and sadness that lives in me still. Sitting in my throat and under my lungs is a huge well of unshed tears. I can't seem to unleash it.
I was sitting with my friend Lee in Cape Town 2 weekends ago when the email arrived from my lawyer about the meeting he had had with John-the-Narc. John was claiming all sorts of fraudulent things and lying about so much. It was heartbreaking to read through it all. Lee sat with me while I read it aloud to her. I could feel my heart breaking into even more splinters than already was there, but I kept reading and processing. Eventually she looked me in the face, and held my hand and said "Do you think you have to grieve in secret?"
The sad answer is 'Yes'. I do seem to believe that. I find the idea of inflicting my grief and pain on other people a hard and humiliating thing to do. I just breathe it in and suck it up and put on my poker face. Even in sad movies. And at funerals.
It's probably because I was sexually abused as a little girl. It started at 5 and went on for a few years. Not dwelling on that issue now, suffice to say I felt then that it was something too horrible and shameful to inflict on my family. So I very quickly developed that poker face so that the family wouldn't suspect anything. Of course, now I also understand that my narcissistic mom and bullied, absent dad made very little time for my needs anyway and taught me that I couldn't really rely on anyone for help. So the survival skill for me was to fragment myself, and bottle up my emotions and be OK in the world. My parents never knew when I had crushes on boys. Or fights with girls. Heartbreak was kept invisible to them and felt late at night in bed when I was alone. I learned to internalise fear and grief and pain very young. And fight my own battles. And bounce back. I never let my own inner battles interfere with anyone else. They stayed mine to hold.
Of course that isn't actually a very healthy emotional way to be, long term, even though it may serve me well in the short term. But I think never learning about healthy ways to express and process grief and pain has been the root cause of the autoimmune issues I now suffer from. The key factor in autoimmune disease is that the body attacks itself. And each autoimmune disease is a different kind of attack. So my Hashimotos causes my Thyroid to be attacked and killed by my body, messing with hormones and energy mostly; and for Rheumatoid Arthritis, the attack is focused on the joints mostly, causing severe pain and limited movement, and also fatigue. So holding onto all that grief and pain for years on end has caused my body to finally revolt in protest, and is actually forcing me to find another way to be.
I am being vigilant in trying to learn these new skills. Writing this blog is one of the key commitments I made to myself to help me learn the skills of processing my emotions better. Reaching out to my precious friends has been another. Giving myself the space of 100 Days of Solitude to reflect on all of this is also a part. Managing my diet and exercise regime is really helping my body start to recover from all of the consequences of my dysfunctional coping strategies over the years. Selling my company is removing the key stressors in my life. Eliminating abusive relationships that suck my soul energy from me. Building my 'Nkandla' tribal village is redefining and shaping how I want to exist in relation to my family and my tribe.
I just haven't yet mastered the knack of crying it out. I can't seem to be able to unblock the seal. I'm considering renting a pile of chick flicks and watching them alone in my room - somehow break the seal with other emotional feelings and cry my way into crying for myself. I really don't know. I do feel at quite a loss about it right now. So this blog is about naming it. Acknowledging it. And admitting to myself that I don't have the answer yet.
I need to cry.