When this past weekend began I was feeling stressed to my max. The entire week just kept on dragging and I needed a break from my routine. Professionally I was spent – emotionally I was lashing out at my girlfriend. I hate it when I do that – she is easily the best person in my life, but I have been realizing that with stress comes anger and with anger comes explosion. It’s not like I was not aware of these connections, but I think a part of me was just ignoring it. I was ignoring how much everything around me was effecting my emotional response to her and that is just not okay.
I am sure we have all been there –we make excuses, we say sorry, we promise to never blow up like that again, but somehow a week or so later something else just boils inside of you and you look for the place where it is safest to explode – and for me, unfortunately, I have been allowing my work and family frustrations to spill over onto my girlfriend. I really should know better as a therapist – but hey, we are all human, I can’t be expected to keep it together all the time…can I?
The pressure to always have it together has been something that has been a part of my life since my childhood. I was always the one with the stellar academics, I played sports, I volunteered…I mean I did it all essentially, but at what cost? I was also pretty well known in my family to have an attitude and to get feisty from time to time. I am opinionated and often passionate, too passionate it would seem for my parents. I was raised by a 1st generation European and an immigrant from Cuba – my house was ran strictly so these types of opinions were not always welcome. As I grew up I began to squash down the parts of myself that did not fit into the cookie cutter picture that everyone had of me. Whether that be my favorite TV show or actress to my sexuality. I often times never felt like I was enough.
I tried so hard to blend in. I was a follower and I took my sisters examples very seriously. So seriously in fact that I found myself in the apartment of a 17 year-old guy who I didn’t really know well, alone, when I was 16. I thought that this was supposed to be what I was doing at the time. I thought that all girls did these things so when he invited me to watch a movie I thought nothing of it. At first I was okay with making out, but it slowly progressed to places I was really not comfortable with. I had no idea what I was doing and was working off the bits and pieces, the small images that I had of other girls who had more experience than I, and so I went into his room willingly. Now it was in this moment that I remember thinking about how much I really did not want to be there, but I stayed. When the time came to go even further I voiced a no – it was light, weak some would say, he continued to try to make me do things I did not want to do, but I resisted. After about the 3rd attempt he got up and locked the door. I was really scared – I was on his bed, half naked, my clothes on the floor far from me and I began to shake my head no and cry. He just laughed at me and said, “Why are you crying? Now we are gonna have some real fun.” I don’t think I have to go into great detail for you to understand what took place, but when I was finally released from his room I ran out the front door, shoes in hand and raced down the steps. I never spoke to him again, but I never reported it either. In fact, I never told anyone else for years after.
See, I tell this story not because I feel it is an excuse for my actions. It is not because I feel wronged by society and never learned to deal with it or that it is what I blame for my anger, but because when I feel stressed out I have flashbacks and nightmares. It is as if I am in that space again, the smells and sensations are real, and that lurking beneath the surface of being is a lot to handle in conjunction with other stress. I know that I have healed from this experience, but I cannot stop these occasions when extreme stress pushes me back to that space. My anger and frustration grows and it really is like a pot boiling on the stove. I have been thinking about it this in the recent weeks and have been having some really weird dreams. I feel lucky to be able to reflect on the long journey of healing that I have gone through to become the woman I am. I am lucky that I know what healthy coping skills are and I am capable of using them when I am in need. I am lucky for all of these reasons and so much more.
Some may not see the connections between all of the things I just said, but for me, all of these things are linked. We, as humans, are a never ending network of experiences; one connected to the one before it and so on and so forth. When I was younger and dealing with that experience I had that short fuse, I did not trust anyone, I was sad a lot of the time, frustrated, and I even turned to drinking. So when I begin to notice these patterns reemerging in my life I don’t just take note of them – I actively address them with every fiber of my being.
I am writing this down because I have been avoiding it. Although it has been on my mind I have been avoiding sharing it. I think a part of me has felt like if I were truly healed it wouldn’t be coming up, but I know that is not true and I have decided to treat myself with the same respect and non-judgment as I treat my clients because the reality is that these things do come up. What happened back then comes up when I am very stressed, it is a normal thing that happens, and there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in experiencing it. I hope more people can understand that they are not alone and that we all have our battles. I’d be a hypocrite to continue to ignore or omit this part of my story because it is a part of my reality. Although it does not define me it is still significant and I would not be who I am today if I had not fought to become her.
I do not want to become complacent and allow the stress that builds up inside me to control my every day so I find myself trying to infuse my days with something that takes me out of my element. I went out into nature this weekend and just let it all go. It was so refreshing to get out of my day to day and experience something different and to breathe in something different. Writing this has been another way for me to de-stress and just be real with myself.
Find what works for you. Write, draw, sing, paint, go bike riding, run…take a hike. Do whatever it is that helps you connect to yourself again and allows you to take in a calming breath –you deserve that breath and connection that we all so often take for granted.