I’m coming up on the one-year anniversary of launching this blog—a project that I initially started as a way to work through issues that were surfacing as I was undergoing a treatment program for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I began this as an online diary that would introduce an air of accountability while I was doing a lot of the deep-dive work involved in the healing journey. Writing about what I was going through, in a sense saying it out loud for the first time, allowed me to safely “test out” my thought process in a broader scope. More importantly, it has become a “canvas” on to which I place all of the emotions and words I am unable to share face to face with my wife, my son, and my friends.
I naively jumped into this project having no idea what the impact would be, with the only parameters being that I would be completely honest about the successes and setbacks I met along the way, also, that I would actively pull back the layers of shame, built up from years of hiding what happened to me as a child. In less than one year, this “little blog” has grown to an audience of 150,000 readers, and what began as a monologue on the page has morphed into a dialogue with countless other readers who are on a parallel healing or self-discovery journey.
It’s impossible to devise a metric to measure whether I’m in a better “head space” today having initiated this very difficult journey. What I am certain of is that healing from trauma is by no means a linear process. There are days I feel unburdened and almost “weightless”, and there are others where I am overwhelmed and despondent by how trauma has tentacles that embed deeply into every facet of our life. As soon as I think I’ve sufficiently dealt with an issue, it’s as though another layer of the same issue rises to the surface and demands my full and immediate attention. The American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says “nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” With each passing day, I see the mystery of the human brain as it shields us from seeing what we are not yet ready to come to terms with.
What I thought would be a linear three-stage process of reconciling my past, accepting my present, and building my future, has proven to be a circuitous exploration of emotions, relationships, and self actualization. For years, I used drugs and alcohol to suppress emotions I couldn’t bear to look at. Like every other addict, I was naive to believe that I could somehow selectively “numb” only the negative emotions; whereas in actual fact, this numbing behaviour repelled all the joy and love from entering my life as well. As I sit down to write this today, I can tell you that the secret of childhood sexual abuse no longer lies buried deep within me, entombed in layer upon layer of shame. For that, I am eternally grateful. But I would be remiss were I not to tell you that I’m haunted by night terrors that throttle me from sleep many nights. While at the same time, I’m buoyed by the outpouring of support I’ve received; equally, there are many times I feel achingly alone and adrift, not really sure how I am meant to process all these unearthed emotions.
Before I move forward into the next year of my blog, I thought I would share the three essential truths that can be distilled from the first 12 months of my writing.
1. “Until you’ve found pain, you won’t reach the cure.” ~Rumi
I’m anything if not predictable. As you may already know, a great deal of any 12-step recovery program involves coming to terms with “acceptance” and learning to recognize self-destructive patterns. I believe that a lot of the frustration we feel stems from our knowing that, with a little prudence, we could have avoided the mess we find ourselves in. A recurring pattern in my life is my aversion to facing discomfort head on, be it emotional or physical, until the pain becomes impossible to no longer ignore. This behaviour is disquieting on its own, and were I able to compartmentalize these issues and simply ignore them, they may not cause me as much grief. Where I get into difficulty is that I tend to poke and prod at these discomforts. Just as my tongue continually probes a throbbing canker in my mouth, I experience shock waves of pain brought on completely of my own doing. Instead of beating myself up for not addressing problems as they appear, I intend to find solace in the words of Rumi that “Until you’ve found pain, you won’t reach a cure.” I’m loathe to admit that discomfort is the manifestation of a “teacher” in my life, but it’s become apparent that continually pushing it away only delays the inevitable reckoning.
2. “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ~Douglas Adams
I’ve always attempted to build a life that is safe and predictable, and I’m not sure if that is simply in my nature or the manifestation of some coping mechanism to deal with the after affects of the childhood sexual abuse. In either case, my life of late is anything but predictable. I’ve decided to leave the comfort and security of my career as a teacher to pursue full-time writing and advocacy. Welcome to the uncharted waters of vulnerability!
3. “Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~George Bernard Shaw
I love this philosophy because it resonates hope and mystery, as it’s all about projecting, building, and creating, rather than retreating to a place where “you were” in an attempt to find a “you” that was “lost”.
I’m a competitive long distance runner, and for the past 20 years, running has been a metaphor of my vain attempts to escape from a life I was too terrified to live. This year has taught me that no matter how far I run, my fears, uncertainty, and discomfort are resting and waiting to greet me when I eventually stop running. As Pema Chodron would say, they keep “returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.”
Namaste. . . and I hope you'll join me for another year.