Healing is a Beach Sometimes

Some days I don’t know what to write and the words just start to flow.  One at a time. Drip. Drop. Plip. Plop. Like the start of rain.  Light, spring rain at first.  Then a torrential summer downpour, the kind you find along the coast with the seas storming in the background.  The words ebb and flow.  They erode the beach.  The beach, filled with the pebbles of my fears.  My thoughts.  My worries.  One by one, the tide floods in, removing each pebble.  One by one.  Washing each thought from the beach, slowly over time.  Gently sweeping them out to sea.  Cleaning the beach for new thoughts to gather.  The words rush in waves, moving, constantly moving.  Peaceful stillness amidst the swish, swash, swoosh; the cooing of the waves.

The beach is always changing, always moving.  Nature takes its course and the sands move along.  The plants grow, the storms come, the animals reproduce.  The beach has its own life.  Slowly changing over time, morphing into something else, not always pretty, marred by man and the scars of storms…but ever present.  Continuing on its circular motion, from beginning to beginning.

I find that the process of healing is like the process of a beach, evolving over time.  Before anything happens, you start out as a pure, white sandy beach.  Sure, you’ve got your quirks, your weird little animals scuttling in between the sands.  But eventually, things change.  The sand erodes, pebbles are washed ashore.  Sometimes people destroy what you’ve worked so hard to conserve.  Nature takes its course.  The marks appear, the waves wash them away.  Time changes everything.

Healing is a process, it’s not an end result.  You will never be static in your healing. The memories will sometimes hurt and the pain will sometimes be remembered.  But if you are patient with yourself, if you allow these fluctuations and stand strong at your core, then you will be something amazing.  Like a beach, you are beautiful through the nature of your ever-changing flaws.

Yes, healing is very much like a changing beach.  You’re going along just fine and then a storm hits.  A vicious, traumatizing storm that destroys you, that makes you unrecognizable to yourself.  But slowly, you pull yourself back together.  The sands return and you find peace and tranquility again.  But the feelings always fluctuate.

That’s how it is with healing.  You get better, everything is fine, and life goes back to normal for a while.  You begin to feel happy again.  But eventually, something comes along that throws you right back to where you were for a moment.  Whether it’s a flashback, a new encounter, an old memory that suddenly rushes in.  Sometimes, years after feeling better, you have to cope with a feeling all over again.  You have to learn to be strong all over again.  You have to persevere through the pain all over again.

In and out.  In and out. The tides go.  Life may flux and flow, but healing is a continual process.  The trick is to never give up.

Tuning out and tuning in

Many of you may have heard of the phrase “zoning out.” We all do it at one point or another. It happens when our eyes glaze over during a boring lecture in class, or when we’re especially tired after getting no sleep the night before. But for those of us who have experienced trauma, tuning out your surroundings can become a powerful coping mechanism; and sometimes the ONLY coping mechanism for a while.

When I was younger, tuning out my surroundings, the people in my life, the hurt, the anger, the emotions, numbing them and losing myself in a world of daydreams quickly became my greatest skill. I read novels of escape and adventure to escape the trauma of my childhood abuse. I roamed the grassy fields behind my parents’ house alone, pretending I was a warrior princess, or a ninja, or a cop with a gun, someone that nobody could hurt. That nobody would DARE hurt. Or when my brother would hurt me, I would fly behind the walls of myself, to a fortress of my own design. To a place where I was in control of my own life. To a place where I was strong; not a weak, scrawny, beaten down and abused little girl who was trapped in a world of hurt.

Tuning out became my only way to survive, because the pain was too intense, the feelings and emotions too disturbing to tune in to.

Tuning in again after years of abuse can seem nearly impossible. I have spent my whole life lost in my head, tuning out everything around me. But once you are surrounded by good things, by good people and good friends and beautiful surroundings and better opportunities, it is time to tune back in again. But how?

In an earlier blog, I wrote about “Grounding Yourself” which is one important training tool of tuning in to your world again after abuse. Yoga can be another way to tune back in, and meditation (something I hope to write more on later) is yet another. But there are other, simpler and yet much more difficult small ways that I have trained myself to tune back in.  Here are a few of them:

Remember to breathe.  Funny how sometimes, even when I just sit outside and read a book, I am holding my breath.  So breathe in, breathe out, and inhale the freshness of the air around you.

Make eye contact with others.  This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to train myself to do.  For me, the abuse trained me to be timid, to be shy, to never look in the face of others, for how could I face anyone?  Ugly and small and pathetic as I once believed myself to be.  And yet, overcoming this seemingly small barrier, this small obstacle, has lifted my spirits and given me more courage.  I feel proud, proud of myself, every time I can remember that I am the equal of the people around me, and that I can look them in the eye.

Really look at things.  Often, I have a tendency to look through things, not at them.  I pass over them and deny their existence.

Get yourself to a place where you no longer have to tune out your surroundings.  Free yourself from your abuser, surround yourself with good friends, build a support group, and get to a place in life where you want to tune in.  Where you want to feel every moment, be present in every moment, soak in every wonderful moment of the freedom you have to be yourself.  Free yourself from the guilt.  Free yourself from the hurt.  Find healing and then enjoy that healing by being present for every moment of it.

It’s time to put the past behind and tune back in to the wonders of the world in which we live.