• Cate

Learning To Be Vulnerable

I was talking to my cousin the other day. She and I have been close for a long time. We were talking about a crush I have at dance class. I told her that I never get crushes. She suggested that maybe I’m learning to be vulnerable and so things are affecting me in a different way.

It hit me hard, of course! Maybe that’s why I’m having such a hard time lately. I’m learning to be vulnerable and it’s really uncomfortable. I’m getting attention. Maybe it’s because I’ve changed. I know I’ve changed, so am I attracting different kinds of attention?

I think so. I really do. I struggle a lot at dance. But I’ve won most of my partners over anyway, despite their sore toes. I am a pastor’s kid, after all. I’ve learned to talk to anyone and be polite.

My mother would be proud of who I am. I’m not sure if she’d tell me so. In fact, I’m pretty sure if she felt it, it would come with a good side helping of jealousy. She would do her best to bring me to my knees.

But the pride would still be there. It would have shined through in the moments she couldn’t help herself. I am becoming something now that not one of my parents could be. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but I’m finding my own way now. I am no longer being led.

It was bold of me to go the the zen center to begin with. After all I’d been going through, it was amazing I managed to get there and keep going and ask for a teacher. That accomplishment is really quite significant.

It marked a turning point in the way I saw myself. The knowledge I was after was so all consuming that I couldn’t leave it be. I had to push forward, outside of my comfort zone. It was the first time I’d ever done that. It set a precedent.

Those of us that set out on our own are brave. Those of us that go without someone else’s support become trail blazers. I ventured forth into the unknown, bravely, with determination. It changed me forever.

And maybe it’s because I’ve been to an unknown that was too scary to handle. Maybe I can keep going because this unknown is paltry in comparison. I’m made of some pretty tough stuff. The broken bits are healing to be stronger than they’ve ever been. It’s going to be hard to break me down again. I pity the fool also, Mr. T.

Because I took those first steps, I inspired others to take first steps too. I’ve been told my work ethic is infectious. Give me a problem and I will break it apart and turn it into a job. This is no different. My friends could see what these steps did for me and it helped them find the courage to take their own first steps.

I’m working my way out of trauma. I just received another load of memories. I realize now that when I’m really spiraling, there’s something going on subconsciously. It’s unbearable to go through. I am physically affected as it happens. My body trembles, my stomach turns, I’m emotional, and I just want it to stop. I wish I could kill myself to make it stop. But then a vehement “NO!”

I won’t let them win. I won’t let those monsters take my life the way they took my innocence. They don’t deserve to win. They should be squirming.

It’s going to take some time to assimilate it all. At first it’s just horror. It’s waking up in the middle of the night being unable to breathe, in the middle of a panic attack. The walls are closing in and I’m not safe.

Then the fatigue sets in. After days of restlessness, I am keyed up and triggered. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I feel sick to my stomach. Chronic pain in my belly and my pelvic floor breaks through. There are memories to match the pain now. It’s no longer a mystery.

I crumble. I start to fall. There’s no floor, there’s just falling. I call it The Hole. Once I slip into it, it’s so hard to get out. I start to forget my medication, did I take it today? I lose my hunger impulse, when was the last time I ate? I have to willfully push through my day.

But I have determination like fire. I see my kids. I hear my kids. I remember being a kid who no one saw or heard. And so I claw my way out of the hole. I force myself back to life. My Buddhist teacher says I should think about it as allowing myself do this, not forcing myself. But at first, I do have to force myself.

Because there is a bottom of that hole. It’s untimely the end of my life. I don’t ever want to get there. Ever. Because my kids need me. Because my kids deserve a better life than I had. Because I won’t be jealous if they get everything they wish for and enjoy happiness, because then my wishes will have come true too. I will be happy. I am happy now.

How could that be?! How could I be happy in the middle of all of this turmoil? This fight for freedom, this rollercoaster of trauma, this path of darkness? It should pull me under, shouldn’t it? It’s too much to bear, isn’t it?

I am happy because my spirit is free. I am happy because I am alive. I am happy because I do have choices. I am happy because the future is bright. The unknown isn’t so scary anymore.

Though I fall into the hole from time to time, I will always claw my way out. Because my happiness throws in a rope. I do that for myself. That’s all me. I choose to be happy.

It takes effort. The effort feels better than sinking. It feels like quicksand at first, and then you grab hold of your hope. Even if that hope is manufactured, you will it into existence. Another of my teachers said once that she found it amazing that I could manifest things the way I do.

It’s because I am left with two options: my death or my life. I will choose my life every time. I am so grateful for that. I am someone I can count on. I have always fought for a better way. I have never given up on my children. I have fought fiercely for their best chance.

I am the mother my mother couldn’t be. My kids love me and they know that they can trust me. I have succeeded. No matter what, we will see each other through to the other side. We will make it out. We will thrive. No one can stop us.

I’m sharing my story for the ones who can’t make it out. I’m sharing my story for the ones who have lost sight of hope. I’m sharing my story for the ones trapped in the hole.

In many ways, I am already on the other side of it. I fell into my power. I didn’t know it was there. But now that it’s mine, I’m going to use it to blaze the trail for my brothers and sisters in the hole. I’m throwing them a line of hope now.

I’m learning to be vulnerable. It’s not easy to share my story. It’s not as though anyone who goes through this wants attention. I would just as soon rather you looked over there, in the other direction. That’s why I have to break through it.

I want to change the way we talk about these things. I’m not ashamed of having once been a victim. My body did what it had to do to get through some horrible things. My body couldn’t break free of the trauma. It attracted the wrong kind of attention. It took healing to start to find freedom from this cycle of abuse.

I’m tired of abuse being brushed under the rug. We owe it to these children to do better. It starts with talking about it plainly and openly. It takes being uncomfortable. It should make you feel uncomfortable. It should make you feel so uncomfortable that you just can’t stand for it anymore.

I want to hold my abusers accountable. I want them to be stopped. The law is not on my side. If I expose them, they could sue me for defamation. How can I prove what happened to me when I was a child when my memories were dissociated all of this time? Do you see the paradox?

It’s going to be about society changing how we do things. We should side with the victim, not the accused. It’s going to take changing laws. It’s going to take education. It’s going to take trail blazers.

I was talking to another cousin the same day. I told her that I’d be unstoppable once I spring this trap. She said, “Oh honey, you’re already unstoppable.” I think she may be right.

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