Let’s call a spade a spade: Last week was an absolute train wreck. Anything that could go wrong DID go wrong. And to be honest, as someone who is in recovery from complex trauma, my nervous system is overactive even on my best day. But this past week has been a smorgasbord of one difficult situation on top of another, none of which I had control over, all of which triggered feelings of rejection and abandonment.
When I feel rejected or abandoned, my default defense mechanism is to shut the whole world out and pretend like everything is just fine. I’m stubborn and fiercely independent, so most times, I’ll be damned if I ever admit I’ve been hurt or feel rejected by others. This isn’t helpful. Humans need other humans – I know I certainly do. I’ve spent years in therapy trying to break down this defense, but it’s one of my stronger ones; and although I’m much better than I used to be, whenever my life feels really out of control, I fall back on this defense.
But here’s the thing I tell myself and my patients over and over again: If I’m hurting/upset and I don’t tell anyone, how can anyone be there for me? How can the problem ever get resolved if we don’t let people know there was a problem to begin with?
This past week, I was hurting way more than I care to admit. I was feeling so rejected and unloved. Running/hiding from everything that was going on felt so much safer to me. If I run and hide, then no one will know I am upset, and therefore, I won’t give anyone the opportunity to further hurt or reject me, right? Right! BUT (and this is a big BUT): When you close yourself off from the world, you also shut yourself off from opportunities to allow others to prove that they are there for you.
Intellectually, I know this, yet emotionally, I still have a hard time. So this week I fought with every ounce of strength I had to shut down the urges to isolate. I reached out to my mentor, to my treatment team, to one of my dearest friends, and to my colleagues. I cried to my husband, I held my dogs, I sought help from wherever I thought I could find it. I was not shy about it, nor did I apologize for needing help, nor did I try to mask how distraught I was.
I showed up as my vulnerable self and asked for help despite being deathly afraid of seeking support. And I got what I needed. I had been so convinced of this idea that no one cared, that no one would help me if I asked for it. And it’s not true! Every single person that I reached out to made space to be there for me in one way or another. Did I ask/expect people to drop everything they were doing to help me? No, that would be inappropriate and disrespectful of the boundaries of others.
But people made time for me. They listened to me, validated me, helped me to shift my ways of thinking, and ultimately helped me to feel supported. I even had a few people reach out to me who had no clue how badly I was hurting, but they reached out just to connect, or tell me something funny/nice that someone had said about my podcast. Even small moments like this made me feel like I was so loved. I went from feeling alone to feeling like people were wrapping their arms around me.
The pain didn’t disappear. The grief and frustration didn’t go away; and the problems that arose last week which I ultimately have no control over still have not been resolved. But it feels more manageable when I let others in and give people the opportunity to show me that not everyone in this world is bad. There are good people – people that stick to their word and can be there for you if you let them.
For those of us that have been so hurt, it seems easier to shut the world out, especially when life feels so chaotic. But it is in those moments that we need to lean on others the most. This week was a huge lesson for me in learning to have faith in others. Yes, there are people in this life that will always disappoint and hurt us, but don’t allow this to keep you from ever getting the help and support that you need. It’s dark and lonely when we live in a constant state of defensiveness to avoid further pain; but when we allow ourselves to be open to the light that others have to offer, it can be so very beautiful.