Last week, I faced the biggest monster in my closet. I’m going to share that experience, because I believe we all have to face our monsters at one time or another and I believe that process basically is the same for everyone. At the same time, this is an extremely personal experience and I hope that you will treat it that way. You’re standing on holy ground, this is my soul at its barest, please tread gently.
I was watching a comedy drama film with my husband. Or better said, my husband was watching the comedy, and I the drama. The pain in this film resonated so deeply with me that I couldn’t stop crying. The monster in my closet was roaring. Because my pain was out of proportion to what was actually going on, I recognized it as old, unresolved pain. I was terrified for what was in the closet, but at the same time I could not pretend it wasn’t there anymore. I could sense the presence of my monster and I knew it would come out again and again if I did not face it. So I decided to put the door ajar and simply wait for my monster to come out one last time. The pain already being active, I figured it would just be a matter of time.
Although I had braced myself for impact, I was not ready for the pain that engulfed me when that door opened. The pain and fear were so real, so raw, it felt almost unbearable. I had met my monster of aloneness. I felt as if I had this hole in my chest, so big that it almost didn’t fit. I could see right through me. Out of it poored the deep knowing that I am alone, all alone. It felt as if I was cut off from everyone, as if there was no one who loves me. I was all by myself, an outcast. The hurt was overwhelming. This monster in the closet represented the pain of my baby self. This pain was born at almost the same time I was born. After I was born, I was put directly in an incubator. For six weeks, I lived in that incubator and my parents were only allowed to view me from behind a window. I did not hear my mother’s voice, I was not rocked, not consoled, not anything except handled functionally and mechanically through the openings of the incubator.
Being aware that this pain was out of context and untrue at this time in my life, helped me remain anchored. Being aware that in my mind it was happening now and that it felt just as real now as it did then, helped me be gentle and patient with myself. I held this pain as I would a crying newborn baby, with nothing than kindness and love. I breathed my way through the pain. With every breath, I would simply explore the pain, feel it without judging, without interpreting. I explored every corner of the hole in my chest. I felt the nausea where it touched my stomach, and the choking sensation near my throat. I felt the sharp and uneven edges, constantly cringing. And in the days and nights that followed, I relived every conscious memory of feeling an outcast, alone and unloved. With every conscious breath, the hole got smaller. And with the help of a therapist, I was able to close it. That was the strangest feeling, because how do you feel the absence of pain? You don’t. Zooming in on it, it actually felt like a severe wound that has just healed, when the reddish pink skin still feels new, not quite part yet of its surroundings and touching it feels at the same time somewhat scary and slightly surreal.
For the past 39 years, this pain has always been a part of me. It was my ‘normal’, I didn’t know any better. Although, I come from a loving family and have gathered a group of wonderful friends around me, I always felt immensely alone, as if I were standing behind a glass wall, not part of what was going on, wanting to play along, but unable to break through the glass. It has impacted my life in every way imaginable, from the simplest things like not even considering asking for help if I could really use some to being depressed for years and getting physically ill two years ago. Having finally been able to see it and feel it for what it was, is a testimony to my growth. I feel deeply blessed to have lived it.
Everyone’s pain is unique, as is its expression. Our bodies are not designed to store pain for long periods of time. Pain will come to the surface when it is activated, when something we live resonates with it. If we learn to deal with it in a conscious way, non-judging and loving, we will be able to face our fears as they come up, without having to accumulate extra pain. And we will be happier and healthier.
If you want to learn more about the monsters in our closet, I suggest you read We scare because we care.