Note: I wrote this post on December 11th but haven’t had the courage to publish it until now. This was an epiphany I had right after moving into my new house, when I was unpacking and had decisions to make on how to arrange furniture and decorate walls. A casual derisive comment I received brought my blood to a boil, and for the first time in years, I actually expressed my anger. For the first time in years, I didn’t bury the feeling and just keep smiling. It felt like the first time I’d truly been myself in ages. The next day, I wrote this. And then kept it sitting in my drafts because I didn’t have the courage to publish it. Until now.
July 2nd, 2013 – My world cracked open, the foundation splitting just enough to cause tremors. To deal with this, I threw myself into the things that I loved. I began training to run a half-marathon. When a foot injury derailed that, I began a weight training program. I pinpointed a nutritional issue I was having and worked religiously to fix it. I finally took the financial hit to have a surgery I’d needed for a decade. For a year, I fought against those cracks and tremors by embodying myself 100%.
Then in mid-2014, the foundation stopped splitting, and simply crumbled into dust. I was left flailing with no support to stand on, lean on, rely on. Everything in my world was gone. my home was no longer a safe place. My body wasn’t safe. My family wasn’t safe. Nothing was safe. I had no choice but to keep going, to keep taking care of my kids, to use whatever means necessary to bandaid the wounds as best as possible. This was not a recoverable injury. I lost everything that made me me. I stopped running, and my attempts at exercise were sporadic at best. I began experimenting with fad diets like Whole30, which in the long run destroyed my metabolism. I began binge-eating and drinking too much, things I’d never done before. I got rid of all the artwork in the house that I’d loved, all the bits and pieces of my household that were mine alone. I stifled every emotion as best as possible and became a bland, inoffensive version of Amanda. It was the only thing I could do.
It has been almost five years since I underwent that transformation, and yet I still had to stop typing while writing that out because I couldn’t see through my tears. This is still very raw, undiluted grief, because these things take so very long to sort through, and because I spent so long squashing the grief away so that it wouldn’t mar my bland, inoffensive exterior. In the early days, I had breakdowns of deferred grief, and those at least have gotten better over time. A few years ago, I had the realization that I was tired of “Becoming Someone Else To Make Everyone Else Happy,” and that I needed to be myself instead. It’s been 2.5 years since then, though, and nothing has changed.
Post-2014 me began crocheting and gardening. She took up yoga. She never yells or expresses anger. She bought a showpiece house instead of one she felt comfortable in because it seemed the proper thing to do. She owns a lot of scented wax and painted her kitchen apricot even though (deep down) she hates that color. She gives up easily because trying takes passion, and she doesn’t have passion. What she doesn’t do: run, write, dance, express her feelings honestly, strive for goals, decorate with art and items she likes, express opinions, believe in herself or her abilities.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the things I acquired during those years of earthquake and survival, and there’s nothing that says I must discard them and/or return to being the person that I was before that trauma. What I don’t want is to continue being a person who chooses her habits, hobbies, words, and environment based on being as invisible, crowd-pleasing, inoffensive, and unmemorable as possible. I’ve spent so many years hiding myself so far in the dark until even I couldn’t see me anymore. Nothing around me is going to change until I change. And that means letting go of (or fighting through) the fear that if I am truly ME again, the trauma will re-descend.
Y’all, this is classic PTSD sh*t. I’m so, so, so sick of it. I’m so sick of living it, I’m so sick of writing it, and I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about it. I’ve basically spent the last five years living on quicksand, moving as little as possible so I don’t sink. I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO RELY ON THAT OLD FOUNDATION AGAIN. That foundation is gone. The world is not the same place as it used to be, and it never will be again. That is fact, plain and simple. I will never be the person I was before the trauma. But I’m not going to be a trapped animal any longer. I’m building a new foundation, because I am strong. I’m strong enough to have survived five years of living on quicksand, strong enough to keep myself alive all that time, and I’m DONE spending my strength on survival. I will claw my way out of this pit. I will speak when I need to speak, yell when I need to yell, and turn my new house into a home that I actually exist in. And if things break apart this time, I’ll be the one doing the breaking, because this is MY choice: I’m not going to be the broken thing hiding in the corner anymore.