I have a confession to make. Last Wednesday was my birthday and I woke up feeling more lonesome than I can ever recall. It was a weighty, crushing loneliness that made me want to just stay in bed and pull the covers over my head. I’ve never had a sensation like this. No amount of coffee, morning meditation, or birthday wishes were helping, it just refused to go away. Now, I don’t say any of this for pity, and I’ve even hesitated putting it out here, but I’m starting to see that the experiences I hesitate on the most are probably the ones that should be told. Even as an “intentional optimist” I have bad days, as I’m quite certain we all do. I suppose some of us just might not blog to the world about it.
The prior afternoon, I had my usual therapy visit, and something she’s been addressing off and on is that I might want to consider branching out and spending more time with people. On this particular visit, she brought this up again, but this time the point was really driven home. Connection with others, not just online and text connections, but being in the physical presence of other people can be very helpful when healing from traumas. (I’ll talk another time about my struggle to accept the word trauma as it relates to me.) It seems that this concept was especially important given my history of being alone. I have always spent a good deal of time by myself and have even been a little proud of how comfortable I am with it. I draw energy from my alone time, often having lunch or movie dates with myself, or mostly just spending quiet time in my home. But we do tend to find comfort in the familiar, and until taking a hard look at my history, I never recognized just how familiar being alone is to me. Before I knew what was happening, I was smacked in the face with a hefty dose of realization that maybe I’ve just been fooling myself.
As a child, I didn’t grow up with any siblings, which wasn’t bothersome, but add the number of moves into it and I was even more alone for not being able to form any lasting friendships. Then came the first marriage that left me isolated, confused and afraid for almost 9 years. These days, I am blessed with an incredible marriage to the best man I’ve ever known, but sadly we spend more days apart than we do together given the work circumstances. It has been this way for many years, with only the occasional reprieve, and while some people might call that a perfect relationship, I can tell you that we definitely do not. Of course there are friendships, but beyond the weekends, I just don’t tend to interact with others outside of work.
When I considered how limited physical connections might be impacting my healing, it’s as though a crack started forming in the wall that I’ve had built up as protection from the pain for so many years. This has been a strong wall that has guarded me my whole life, one that hasn’t easily budged, and what broke through that day was the loneliness. Growing up in a dysfunctional household, I quickly learned to shove the tough feelings away, as I now understand that most adult children of alcoholics do. This tendency then sticks with us through adulthood and until we really allow the pain to come, to experience it and expel it from our systems, it can be difficult to fully heal. This is not an easy journey for me. In fact, it’s my biggest struggle and probably the hardest challenge that I’ve ever experienced in my life. Even as I write this, I know that I’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to what I still have buried behind that wall, and it’s scary as hell.
Beyond the fear and the hurt, what I’m proud of, and why I feel compelled to write about this, is not only that I now admit to myself that I’ve been lonely, but more importantly it’s how I dealt with the pain of it that broke through that day. As I faced it for hours early that Wednesday morning, I at least had the sense of mind to pay attention to all that I’ve learned in this past year. As tormenting as it was, and as much as I wanted to push it all away and just move on, I instead gave myself time to sit with it. No one likes pain, and letting it just stick with me basically sucked (for lack of a better term), but I knew I had to if I was going to get better. After some time passed, I had no choice but to prepare for the long day of driving and work ahead of me. With the discomfort of loneliness still clinging, I loaded up on some inspirational podcasts, spent a few minutes journaling about what I had to be grateful for, and headed on my way. I genuinely thought the day was going to be impossible to get through as I walked out the door, but after about an hour of hearing the voices and stories of some women who inspire me, my entire outlook shifted. The shell of the terrible feelings fell away from my shoulders and I was suddenly lighter. My day became clear and that night, the focus was all about self-care. (Self-care is essential when facing the tough stuff.) There is nothing that a little sweat on the cycle, a great record on the turntable, and a hot bath won’t cure. I went to bed feeling like an entirely different person than when I awoke, but with gratitude for taking the time to experience the pain instead of shoving it back behind the wall.
What I learned last week is that, although the pain was hard as hell to get through, it eventually moved on. I know this doesn’t mean that it will never return and that everything is magically better, but now that my mind and body have seen its temporary nature, maybe next time will be a little bit easier. I also acknowledge that I am the only one who can make a change in the aloneness, and guess what I found? A local ACOA meeting. It’s at least a good first step in fostering supportive connections. That wall is going to come down one day, even if it takes just one crack at a time to get there.