Denial

I was born old.  I am the youngest girl of 6 children and was I born with a strong will. My family used to say I was 5 going on 40.  At a young age I tried to understand my family dynamics but the only thing I ever felt was utterly confused.  Why was my father silent and withdrawn, why was my mom so angry, why were my brothers and sisters scared to speak up?  What happened?  I felt different and disconnected from all my family members. I used to pretend that our house was a  hotel, and that my family members were other guests in the hotel.  And so this is how my denial started.  I would  make up stories in my mind to fill in the blanks of things I didn’t understand and wasn’t old enough to comprehend.  I am so grateful for my imagination because it kept me from a lot of hurt.   I would make up my own interpretation of the events around me in order to excuse bad behavior.  Also in my mind,  I was always the outside visitor or observer so it kept my emotions at a distance.  This is how I grew up.   When I was moving  out of my childhood home at 22 years old my mom followed me around and yelled at me.  My dad sat passively watching TV as my boyfriend and I moved my belongings into his truck.  I don’t  remember what my mom was saying to me as I had learned to tune her out years before.  She was mad that I was escaping, that much I knew.  She was mad I was getting away from the chaos and confusion.  My boyfriend and I drove away in separate cars so that we could fit all of my things in one trip as we didn’t want to go back to that house. I got lost on the way to my new apartment in San Francisco and we got in a fight.  All this was happening around me but I had learned to put up a wall to the chaos and keep focussed on my goal, and my goal at that time was  moving out.  I tuned everything else out.  This is how I learned to move forward in life.  Just keep moving to where I wanted to go, and tune out everything else.  It worked for me for a long time.  Some people labeled me as cold and not empathetic, and looking back I agree.  I had little patience for people that felt sorry for themselves and gave themselves excuses.  But, as I grew older and wanted to be more intimate in my relationships,  my coping mechanism did not work so well because I didn’t have the skills to verbalize my needs.  So, I had many short lived romances as I would break it off when they did something I didn’t like rather than talk it out.  That was the way I was built though, my emotions would completely shut down if I encountered a negative emotion and I would no longer have interest in continuing the relationship.  I never had a problem walking away . But I was lonely, and I honestly didn’t know why.  I had survived my childhood, I had gotten out of my parents house and I was calling my own shots.   That was success to me, so why did I feel so bad?  So, I turned to alcohol and going out to bars, and men and entertainment to keep me distracted from my bad feelings.  And this worked for me for a long time.  I was in my 20’s and living in San Francisco and there is no end to the distractions I found.   But deep in my core I knew there was something missing.  I felt it when I was quiet with myself.  I tried a yoga class during this time and I felt like I was going to explode when I was trying to sit with myself.  Motion was the answer for me.  Moving in any form; working out, dancing, hiking, walking with friends.  All of this motion led me  in the opposite direction of healing myself.  I needed to stop and look at my past and feel all the emotions I didn’t allow myself to feel as a child in order to heal.  So,  I tried to look back into my childhood and get answers from my mom.  My mom grew up in England in World War II, she married at 19 and moved to America in her early 20’s.  She was a fighter, she was a strong woman who spent her life raising her children, and never worked outside the home.  And she was also a master of denial.   When I tried to talk to her about my childhood she would change the subject, or start crying, or blame things on me.  I  wanted some explanation to the confusion and hurt I felt, but she couldn’t give it to me.  And it wasn’t her fault, she had built her own stories to protect herself and my questions were shooting holes in her wall of defense.  I understand now, as I had built the same walls in order to move on with my life.  I learned it from her.  But, I also knew that I didn’t want to be like her.  I didn’t want to use all my energy to deny my past anymore.  Such a simple sentence to write but so incredibly hard to do.   I am grateful every single day that I was born with the ability to deny reality and  put up emotional walls,  because otherwise I would not have survived.  I know that.  I don’t mean physically survived, I mean emotionally I would have been broken down beyond repair.   The single hardest thing to accept in opening up to reality is that I was alone as a child.  No one was looking out for my emotional well being.  That is scary and gives me  chills just writing it.    But I had to go all the way back there and accept that in order to heal myself.   All my need for motion was moving me away from my past,  so to stop cold and turn around and go towards my past was the hardest thing I have ever done.  I felt like I was walking towards a raging fire instead of running away from it.  Every part of my body was telling me not to go there.   It was very hard to walk head on into something that I knew was going to hurt me.  But I had to do it.    I had to face it so I could realize that it can’t hurt me anymore.  The things that could have destroyed me as a child  have lost their power.  I had to go back so I could see that.  So I could realize that my past is just that , my past.  It is over.  It no longer has power over me, and I can slowly move forward and heal on my terms.  I don’t need to run for my life anymore.  And all that energy I used to keep my walls up and deny my past I can now use  to go deeper in my current  intimate relationships and also use this energy to bring out my creative side of drawing and writing.   I realize now that in  running away from my past I was also running away from that sad, lonely little girl in me.  In my denial of my past, I was also denying her existence. So, in walking into the raging fire of my past I found her, and miraculously she wasn’t burned as she had found a place to hide. But she was very scared,  so I hugged her and picked her up.  And I carried her out to reality.

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    1. Thank you for your input during this journey, Paula. It is very liberating to be able to talk and write about my past. There is no judgement or blame, it is just my life. Love, Peta.

    1. Thank you Frank, it is hard to look at my past because it involves talking about something I know is going to cause me pain, and I want to avoid pain. Plus there is anger there that I have to deal with it at all because it was inflicted upon me without reason and now I am left to clean up the mess. But once I got through the anger and my defenses, I could see that none of that can hurt me anymore. So it was worth the pain. Thanks for reading and commenting! Peta

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