The following is a post that I wrote for a friends blog on February 17th.
I walked into the store, my heart beating a hundred miles a minute. ” It’s just goal coaching, Elle. You’ve got this. You love goals, and yours look great.”
I thought back to the first goal coaching session I had, and I left crying. And this was with someone that I a)didn’t know, and b) wouldn’t be able to see right through me.
The little voice was talking so loud, I thought that the people I passed might be able to hear it. You are stupid, why do you want to work on yourself? “Nobody wants you to truly succeed, she’ll probably just sabotage you. You’re stupid for even setting up a goal coaching session. You’re going to sit there for an hour, and Paula is going to judge you every second your sitting there. It’s not going to help. You’re surviving just fine the way you are. She knows too much, Elle, cut all ties. She’s out to hurt you.”
The voice had been saying things like this since I had woken up that morning. On my way into the store, I thought about the first time we had a conversation like this.
“I’m fine,” I responded without missing a beat. The smile I ad pasted on from ear to ear would make her believe me without a doubt.
Truth is, I wasn’t okay. For such a long time, I thought I was doing great.
When I was eleven, my whole world had fallen apart. My mom picked up her five children and moved them into a women’s shelter, and kept us there for two months. Being the oldest, I was constantly told “Big Girls don’t cry.” “Take Care of your siblings. They need you. They need someone to be strong”. And I took it to heart. I held crying siblings, and pretended nothing was wrong. I convinced myself that nothing hurt me. I took comfort in the fact that she promised that she would never leave us.
“I’m fine,” I responded when asked by teachers. It’s December 17th, and we’re moving into our new home. Four bedrooms-I didn’t have to share. Maybe things would turn out okay. They were. That was, at least for the first two weeks. After we all started our new schools, things started to go down again. I had my own room, but didn’t get to spend time in it. “Everything’s fine,” I repeated to myself, when strange men would come to our house at night and leave before the morning. I’d make sure to find out when we’d be having this visitors show up, so that the little one’s didn’t have to see them.
It’s February 10th. I’m half way through my grade 8 year. Things had calmed down for the past month or so. That’s what I thought, at least. She had her things packed at the door. She took everything that she might ever need. I didn’t want to believe that she was really leaving. My dad had been staying with us for the past week and about noon, a car pulls into a driveway and picks her up with all her things. She broke her promise. She left us. “Everything’s fine,” I repeated over and over again, as I snuggled up to my younger siblings, as they cried.
Fast forward a few weeks. The house is trashed. A half eaten birthday cake on the floor. Beer bottles, vodka bottles, bottles full or rum. He’d relapsed. “We must be really bad,” I thought to myself. I took my siblings, and went for a nice walk, reassuring them that they did nothing wrong. It’s Tuesday now, and I show up at home from lunch. There’s a police car, the pastor’s van and a car I didn’t recognize. We all got scooped up, and removed from the home. “Everything’s fine,” I told them. We were going to be okay. And we were. We spent eight months, split up in Foster homes. Mom never tried to get us to come stay with her. She never considered moving back. But we were still okay. We had families who took care of us, who made us believe in love again. Who came to my grade 8 graduation, and took my sister and I on our first vacation. Who saw me off to my first day of high school.
Two years exactly after moving into the new house, we got to come home for good. Just in time for Christmas. And everything was fine. Everything was calm for a record month. And then my dad got angry. I got blamed for everything. I drove him to drink, I drove her to leave, and I drove him to yell at me. And so I left. I knew it would be the hardest thing I’d ever have to do to leave my friends that kept me sane through it all, but I knew it was the best thing. My brother was already with my mom, and I knew that my dad was much nicer when I wasn’t around. I knew that the babies would be okay without me. The house would be calmer, there would be enough to eat, they would be happy. I promised them I’d be home in a second if they needed me, and I left to go to my mom’s that weekend, and never went back to that place.
I was past it all. All the hard stuff. Everything was okay. I still resented my mom for everything she did, and would do everything I could to keep control. I ate if and when I wanted to eat. I worked full-time. I did what I wanted to do, with whom I wanted to do it. I was in control, and was way past what had happened.
It’s September, 2007. It’s my 3rd day of University, and I am home for the day. I am going to be the first one in my family to graduate University. I’m exhausted and have a bad feeling in my gut, so I ignore it and take two gravol. The phone rang an hour later, and it was the babysitter, saying that nobody had picked up the youngest of my siblings. I was so angry. “Can’t she do anything?” I asked out loud. That night I found out she was in the hospital, but nobody would tell me why. “Everything’s fine,” I repeated to myself. It wasn’t until a few days later when I showed up at the hospital that I had found out that she had tried to kill herself. I immediately went into the mode where I was the protector, and made sure I was helping take care of the baby, that I was making everyone’s life as easy as possible.
I had been through a lot. Each event went into the little boxes of things that were not okay in my head. These things I had hidden for so long, and now it seemed as though they were unavoidable. I had survived for so long without having to deal with them, and I had made it so that people thought I was okay. I ran marathons, I was passionate about things, I made it seem as though I was excited about life. There’s no way that these things were going to stop me now.
“Why didn’t you sleep?” she asked, inquiring more than anyone had ever bothered to before.”Just a busy brain,” I lied again. I had spent the night awake in bed, crying and shaking. I was trying so hard to avoid everything that was coming up.
She mentioned something about the little voice in my head, and told me to listen to what it was saying and write it down. I was intrigued, until the moment I started hearing it. “You’re stupid. Unlovable. Ugly. Unwanted. Not worth it. Not good enough,” it screamed. And so I immersed myself in the goings on around me, trying desperately to ignore the voice that screamed all these negative, hurtful things. She could see right through me and wrote her number down before she left.
I don’t remember exactly how it went from there, but I know we had an msn conversation, as I refused phone contact, and from there we became “bbm” buddies. I was so resistant. “Why do you think you’re head is saying that,” she’d ask. Whenever I said I didn’t know, she would push more. I knew it wasn’t supposed to be easy, but I didn’t think that it was going to be that hard.
“I can see that you’re not here,” Paula said right off the bat. “What are you thinking?”
“Nothing,” I insisted. “I’m not thinking anything. We’re just here to do goals. Why would I be thinking anything?”
“NO, What’s the voice saying? I can see it on your face that you’re talking to yourself and that you don’t want to do this. What’s really going on?”
And so I started listing off the things. I would say there were no more, but she kept pushing and pushing. I fought back tears. She took a look at my goals, and zeroed right in on the personal goals.
“Elle, what’s really up? I can tell that this is uncomfortable, but there’s never going to be any progress if you don’t talk to me about it.”
And through much coaxing and talking, she got it out of me. I didn’t go into any specifics, and spoke of the past in a very broad sense. I spoke of the far back past.
She told me to write it down like it was happening, and read it until all the tears were gone. The process started easily enough, but after a paragraph, I was crying so hard I was in panic mode. The voice inside my head was not willing to see what was there. I left that goal coaching session holding back tears, and took a few minutes to compose myself before spending the day at work.
Through working through this stuff, I got to a place that was really dark. That voice inside my head was not going to let me deal with this. It wanted to live through all the things that I was hiding from. It got to a point where I thought a lot about how nice it would be if my car crashed, and how nice it would be if I accidently took a few too many of the sleeping pills in my mom’s medicine cabinet.
Every day I survived I considered a success. I wasn’t doing anything amazing. I had stopped running. I continued to not sleep. I was constantly in my head worrying about going home and finding my mom on the floor, or in the hospital again. I was trying to find a way to hide everything that was going on in my house, everything that was going on with me from everyone around me. I wasn’t present, and it was affecting so many areas of my life. It was affecting my work performance, but I was enveloped in this darkness, and couldn’t see it. It was putting a strain on all of my relationships.
I loved my job. It was safe, and secure. I loved everyone I worked with. The thought of losing it with the downsizing of my location was the worst thing that could happen. I had a goal coaching session with Paula, and she ripped my goals apart. “These look so good,” she said, “But they’re bullshit. I can see right through them.”
Aren’t you sick of this yet? Are you so sick of the voice inside your head that you’re willing to do anything to get rid of it? Are you ready to take the next steps and finally get complete?
And I was.
When it came time for them to let people go, it ended up that I was one of the ones that wasn’t performing up to their standards, but had the option to take some time off before a final decision was made. That was the last straw. That voice wasn’t going to win anymore. The real Elle was in there, and she was about to make her debut into the world.
I signed up for the Landmark Advanced Course, and started work on myself. Setting boundaries, setting real goals, creating real possibilities. The advanced course was incredible. I sat there for 2 days with what I thought was an open mind, but didn’t see how closed minded I was until the last day. I opened up new possibilities for the relationships I had ruined. I was going to show off my true, authentic self. I got that I am whole, complete and perfect, and that the only thing that is real is right now. I got that I am nothing and everything and I can create myself every moment.
I started seeing the world as it actually was, not as I made it up to be. I saw snow for the first time. I connected with the people in my life. I figured out what it is like to actually be present. I figured out that the feelings that normally would overwhelm me are just feelings, that they’re always going to be there but they don’t have to define me.
Elle was there. She was happy and free. The world was empty and ready to be filled with things that she wanted to do.
Just recently, another thing happened in my life, that threw my back into the voice in my head. I thought that Elle was always going to be there, that I wouldn’t have to worry about falling back into the old me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. Phone conversations with Paula helped me see the light-that this is just me getting kicked in the ass to leave the safe and move into the unknown. To make my life what I want it to be.
Nobody said it was going to be easy, the just promised it would be worth.