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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Ann

terror as a lighthouse

Content warning: details of trauma and mental illness shared in this piece.

The fear that homelessness is inevitable tucked me into bed last night. Racing thoughts of my children and I reduced to sleeping rough as consequence of eviction without notice, or a natural disaster I am not prepared for meant drifting to sleep was not relaxing. Finding sustainable living in this economy? Terror. My failing at mothering. Inevitable.

Behind that fear was the certainty that a sexual predator lurked outside my bedroom window waiting for his moment to break in. This happened to a girlfriend's neighbor when I was a young mom, and the terror of that has never left me. That I will be attacked in the middle of the night left incapacitated to care for my children spins, at times, chaotically on a loop.

Not exactly lullabies.

I do this thing when I’m home for an extended period of time - I figure I don’t need my meds, and that I should save them for days I’m at the office. Forget shaping our jobs to fit within our lives, I recklessly allow functioning at work to be my number one priority - something to add to my list of behaviors to unlearn. I haven't taken my meds in over a week because I’ve been home recovering from Covid, completely disregarding all my regular self-care routines and regular care practices, which explains the tendrils of terror tucking me in last night.

My obsessions tendril around me quite reliably when I do not remain diligent with self-care. Not the trendy self-care either:

I’m talking about Meds. Yoga. Body Movement. Journaling. Prayer. Music. Routine. Therapy. Immersion in Nature. Rinse and Repeat.

When I don't engage my daily routine, or the capacity I have is focused on another aspect of care (looking at you, Covid), I hyper-vigilantly wait for the other shoe to drop. I obsess about all the worst things that could happen to me, which then cultivates behaviors that harm my wellbeing.

I do this because I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Having OCD isn’t something I talk about much. The reality of my situation is that I possess the insight, skills and grit necessary to pull myself back on track when terror becomes a regular player. Additionally, my landlords are lovely, I am blessed with employment that allows me to pay my bills, nobody can truly be prepared for natural disasters, I have a network of gracious people that would take us in should we have that need, I have been given many challenging experiences that God(dess) has always seen me through. I am cared for, and I am supported in caring for my children. I know that reminding myself of my realities calms the terror.

I also know that I am a product of my environment, and the environment I was in while my young brain created initial connections and networks terrified me. I believe the consequence of that to be OCD.

Often I consider what I believe to be true about healing from trauma - is healing about becoming a version of ourselves untouched by trauma, or about management of symptoms? Are we in all the therapies to become someone whose first reaction isn’t a trauma response? Or do the therapies instill grit necessary for stillness through the charred crust of our being, until the event is filtered through our True Selves; our Souls; the source of our Love; our Essence; our Divine Center.

What do you think?

I know that my true self doesn't act from terror. I know that terror is a lighthouse, reminding me to utilize caring practices. My true self is gracious, wise, patient, deeply funny, loving, compassionate, light-hearted, trusting.

I think healing from trauma is about unlearning harmful behaviors, finding courage to share our story, becoming intimately acquainted with ourselves through stillness, whiteknuckling ourselves back on track when needed, forgiveness, grace, acceptance, & love. Therapy cultivates opportunity for expression, validation, connection, & education.

If this resonates because you too are managing something, I think we should all take our meds, move our bodies, and prioritize our care routines & practices. I think we should use our voices however we can, and when necessary, lovingly bring ourselves back, bring ourselves back, bring ourselves back.

I took my meds today. Tonight I will be singing an actual lullaby, E

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