learning to ride the waves
On the third day, G‑d put the earth into good shape. At His command the waters of the earth gathered together at certain places. The waters formed seas and oceans, lakes and rivers, so that in other parts, the dry land became visible.
At G‑d’s further command, the earth was made to produce all kinds of plants, grass, and trees, shrubs and flowers. Each contained its own seed for further growth and reproduction.
I feel like I’m drowning.
The waves are coming one after another and I can’t break free. My chest hurts from trying to breathe. Wait, am I even breathing? I’m too busy trying to escape the feeling, the chaos, the fear.
But I’m not at the beach. I’m in my home, surrounded by the humans in my life.
I leave the room and sit for a minute. I am safe.
I take a deep breath.
There’s nothing that really needs to be done at the moment.
So I care for myself. I sit at the keyboard and write. I drink some coffee with sweet cream.
I hoped since I had discovered the path to healing and recovery, that everything would consistently be on the upswing. This feeling snuck up on me, caught me off guard.
Generations of pain and trauma seeped into my cells… so of course, the process takes time, and patience. I understand this once my mind slows and my body relaxes.
In technical terms, our brains are like supercomputers.
When I (like any human) experienced trauma, whether emotional or phsyical, my brain switched to a different method of recording signals.
It transfered those traumatic memories into images and body sensations.
This is called dissociation: memories split into fragments.
It also means a disconnection — lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions, and identity.
These distorted memory fragments remain embedded in the mind like shrapnel of sorts.
When something in life triggers one of those fragments, we suddenly feel afraid. Our brains switch to a different mode. We must fight to or flee to survive.
My doctor called it Complex-PTSD, which typically refers to ongoing and prolongued emotional trauma, often by those closest to us.
The three parts of the brain responsible for processing stress change when people suffer from trauma:
· The hippocampus shrinks — this is the center for emotion and memory
· The amygdala function increases — the center for creativity and rumination (no wonder so many of us become artists and writers)
· The prefrontal function decreases — the center for more complex functions like planning
But I beleive that this shrapnel, these memory fragments gone awry, can be used for good.
In fact, I think that was their original purpose.
It’s darkness coming down to earth, trapped within us, to be transformed into goodness.
The principles of Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, say that we all have a true self, a higher power, or part of G-d within us.
Developing a relationship with all of my fragmented parts — anger, addiction, or an eating disorder — helps the healing process.
All our parts have positive intentions, but, sometimes those parts react to triggers in the outside world in a less-than-helpful way.
Our past can invade our present. It can feel like waves crashing down upon us, like harm is coming our way and we need to protect ourselves.
And this pattern, these fragments of fear and chaos and darkness, are passed on with each generation.
So now I’m trying to gather and harness my fragments and turn them into light. And then I can share that light with others.
It’s a painful, messy process.
But, I suppose, that’s why I am here.
Please G-d, help guide me… one wave at a time.