The last three months or so have been what I can only describe as a boxing ring from Hell. If you take every single pain, trauma, anxiety, and fear that I have – manifest them all at once, then lock me in a ring with them and give me no relief or way out – that might be the right idea of what life has felt like in my world.
Scared of spiders? Toss ’em in. Snakes? Those too. Lions, tigers, and bears? Yep. The only caveat is I’m not allowed to die. But I am allowed to be beaten to the point where death feels like the ultimate kindness.
I’m not gonna lie, though – this isn’t my first round in this ring. I just thought the match was over. I didn’t realize there would be a round two, but there is. There definitely is.
Round one was about fifteen years ago and it lasted a long, long time. I remember leaving treatment for the eating disorder thinking that my problem had been solved. Little did I know the problem hadn’t even been identified yet. The ED was simply the coping mechanism I developed to numb and distract myself from the problem.
When I got home from treatment I thought things would get better but they actually got worse. Much…much worse. I realized way too late that the eating disorder was not the source of my pain, which is why my pain didn’t leave (but rather intensified) when I recovered. Not only was my pain still there, I now had no way to numb it. I had to feel it in all it’s intensity with absolutely no numbing agent or distraction.
I remember sitting on the floor of my room after coming home and just feeling horrifically angry and betrayed. The entire thing felt like a cosmic bait and switch to get me to give up the only safety net I had and land me in a war zone with no weapons. I mean, never mind my particular “safety net” was literally killing me – but still… I remember drawing a picture of myself with a knife going into my heart and blood gushing out. I hung the picture on my wall and that picture is a good representation of what the next decade of my life would look like.
I still had so much inner pain and struggle of which, despite the years of therapy, I still failed to understand. I still had no words to really describe it much less deal with it. Therapy and identifying the source of the pain -an abusive family and childhood- certainly helped, as did getting away from the source. But disconnecting from the source of my pain did not magically heal it. In fact, I never even found words to describe or identify what I was actually feeling or why I was really feeling it. It was just….pain. Continual turmoil. Endless suffering.
Imagine standing in front of a machine gun which continually sprays bullets into your body at a steady rate over the course of years. Somehow you are supernaturally protected from death, but because you are being sprayed with bullets day in and day out, that fact is actually a curse upon your life, not a blessing. When you’re trapped in that condition with no way out, the idea of death becomes the only relief. It becomes your only way out and it becomes your fixation. The only way to escape the unbearable pain.
Say after 26 years of this daily assault of bullets, you finally gain the ability to get away from the machine gun. Then what? Call it miraculous if you want, but it’s only a mild consolation that the bullets have stopped. Your body has sustained 26 years of daily assault and you’re broken and bleeding from every orifice. And worse, you’re walking around in life one step away from death itself but no one and nothing even acknowledges the wounds, much less offers tools to heal them. People expect that once you get out of a bad situation, the problem is solved. They expect you to be “normal” – whatever that means. They expect you to behave as though there had never been pain, much less a 26 year daily assault. Ugh, people…
By now it’s been a decade since I escaped the original source of abuse and pain in my life. But the damage they did to me was so deep and pervasive I have only begun to scratch the surface of healing. It took 7 years just to heal from the coping mechanism I developed to survive the assault. It took another 8 years of subsequent escapism just to get beyond the persistent desire to die. Now I’m 35 and I still have all the initial pain created during the first half of my life. So essentially, despite so much time in the boxing ring, I’m not one centimeter further than where I started.
So here I am at round two in the boxing ring of Hell, which appears to be the round where I finally…after so many years of running, numbing, and distracting myself from it…I finally turn around and face the pain. Where I finally look at it, identify it, feel it, and learn what to actually do with it. No more stuffing, no more dismissing, no more running, no more denying, no more distracting. Just looking at it. Feeling it. Dealing with it. And finally…finally…moving on from it.
You say the word healing and people think of angels coming down from Heaven and dropping a handful of fairy dust that magically dissolves all pain and suffering. I mean, maybe that’s how it works for some people. But that is not how it is working for me.
For me, it looks like being locked in a boxing ring with every deeply rooted fear and pain I have ever had or felt. It looks like being forced to fight a fight I’ve run away from my entire life, and not being allowed to avoid, numb, or escape it. It looks like a fight to the death…but I’m not allowed to die. So that means it’s a fight to the death of the past. Death to the trauma that has shaped me…disfigured me. The death of the ghosts that have haunted me and pain that has clung to me my whole life. The death of the fears and the anxieties and the traumas that have followed me. Death of the belief systems and lies about who I am and who God is that were born of it.
Yes, it’s a fight to the death. But it will not be MY death.
It will be a fight to the death of pain.