We are all carrying way too many bags of crap around in our hearts and souls. This is an analogy that I always liked because I felt so heavy for so long because I was carrying the weight of the world in my bags. I have always been an intense thinker and sometimes anxiety-ridden worrier and so I carry so much more than I should. Things like wanting to be perfect for my daughter and wanting to never, ever make a mistake at work controlled my mind and made me fearful and decision-averse. It was an intensity that was harming me and my self esteem. There was no room for learning anything new or being myself because I have to be perfect girl parent and perfect employee.
I carried around a lot of trauma too. I still do, but I am learning to let it go. It doesn’t define me; all it did was help build me into the person I am now. It taught me a lot about trusting too much and assuming everyone cares as much as I do. Processing all of this trauma is so hard and sometimes more painful than it was the first time around. Childhood trauma looks so different from my adult perspective. I do think my parents did the best they could with the information they had at the time (which wasn’t much.) But at the same time, I didn’t have the words to explain the secrets in my soul from watching overwhelming domestic violence and anger at the babysitter’s house. It was there that I learned secrets are meant to be kept. I watched my babysitter explain away bruises I had with stories she knew I knew weren’t true. I watched her lie to her husband about who was over during the day to prevent him from hitting her and screaming at her. I watched her lie to her kids about what had happened the day before when her husband got home and the house wasn’t perfectly clean and dinner wasn’t quite ready. She was always lying and I didn’t understand why she demanded that we tell her the truth about anything when she was always lying. She taught me that lies are necessary to survive, to protect yourself, and to avoid bad things. I became a very skilled liar. I opened my mouth and I was always lying. It was always harmless lies for the most part, but lies nonetheless. I have had to undo the tendency to lie because there is no trouble I need to worm my way out of. There’s no job depending on me to get things done in time. I was never flaky at work. If I could get something done, I got it done, and it was done correctly. But on the days after dealing with emotional abuse and being put in my place, I was unable to concentrate on anything. I couldn’t wrap my mind around work when I wasn’t sure I wanted to go home after work. All I could think about was how I was paying for everything and still didn’t want to go home to the house I was paying for, with the food I bought, with the children I supported 100% alone.
Those bags are on the ground now. I don’t need to carry all of that around anymore. I feel so much lighter. And the bags full of lies, I don’t care those around either. I tell the truth now, even if I don’t want to. Even if the truth hurts. Even if I don’t like the truth, especially when it relates to how I reacted badly to something because I am still learning how to control my emotions and not letting my traumas choose my reaction for me.
There are bags I can’t put down yet. I need them close to my heart because they still define me. They still feel important, even though I don’t know why. It’s important to me that I remember that I lived with suicidal thoughts for 22 years. It’s important to remember how easy it was to fall back into that when things were hard and life looked bleak. Life doesn’t look bleak at all anymore, but I feel like I need to be prepared to survive it if it does come back. That’s going to take me a little longer to put down.
I also can’t let go of some of what I saw in the military. The moral injuries I suffered doing things that felt wrong and against what I believed in but weren’t legally wrong in the definitions we were operating under. Some of what happened will haunt me forever, I fear. The people we lost on our side and the innocents who suffered through the fighting on their land. It all feels so far away and so long ago, but the memories feel fresh and they still hurt the same way they always have, right from the beginning. I feel like letting go means forgetting about them and forgetting what they endured. I can’t wrap my mind around how to let go of the pain and still remember them at the same time. Maybe one day I will find the answer. But that day is not today.
I carry this bag of pain for Boy #1, who endured so much with his alphabet soup of ADHD, OCD, ASD, TS, etc etc etc. Add in bullying and the same emotional abuse I was enduring, and he’s always suffering. He’s learning to find his own way in life but he questions every decision he makes. He feels like he’s done nothing but take wrong paths in his short 19.5 years. He will find the way eventually, I know this. But I can’t help but think about how he could be different if I had gotten out sooner and gotten him away from what we were dealing with.
Some days it feels like I am still carrying the weight of the world. But most days I feel much lighter now. Therapy with skilled, kind therapists has saved me and helped me figure out so much of my past. My wife…she literally saved my life when I was so low that the pandemic would’ve killed me if I wasn’t with her. Her understanding that some days I can’t do anything and that my big planned day of cleaning fell apart because something spooked me and I can’t stop crying in fear. Her support that some days my brain just doesn’t want to do anything and adderall is as useful as a sugar pill those days. I wouldn’t be where I am without her. I don’t think I appreciate that enough sometimes. I have a hard time seeing how far I’ve come and I get down about how little progress I’m making. I feel like giving up. She’s the one who keeps from giving up, the one who reminds me what I used to be, and the one who never lets go when the crying won’t stop.
If only it was as easy as putting bags down, we would all do it. We wouldn’t be so weighed down by all that we carry in our souls. But one thing at a time; one bag at a time, we can work to lighten our load. Maybe we just carry someone else’s bags for a bit so they can rest. Or we just collapse with our own bags to catch a breath. And then we get back up, pick up what we an carry and keep moving forward, however slow that is.
Leave a Reply