It’s strange how we are with ourselves all the time and yet we don’t pay attention to our needs and wants. We aren’t aware of the line that we cross each day. Our body is giving us warning signs but we assign symptoms and emotions to ‘unnecessary’ (but very important) alarms that we turn off. The alarms, like a planned fire drill are an annoyance, they get in the way of our busyness. They are an inconvenience. And yet these alarms can save our lives.
In late January 2021, in the third and hopefully final lockdown, I broke into a thousand pieces. I ended up in hospital because I wasn’t paying attention. It’s as if the universe had decided to floor me and the only way to get me to listen was to physically bring me to a stern halt. I’d turned 30 a few months prior and it felt like an early life crisis. I still cannot comprehend the tears that I cried – throughout the love lost, grief and disappointments in my life – the buckets I could have filled with those tears are tenfold. The crying went on for weeks, every day, morning and night. I couldn’t believe how they just kept coming when I thought I was done.
I was discharged from hospital feeling just as confused before I went in. They couldn’t tell me why I was experiencing this pain. Bloods tests and scans revealed nothing. I felt grateful that there wasn’t anything of any real concern but this did not explain my symptoms. Perhaps a gastric infection? Take the antibiotics anyway they said. My body was riddled with pain. Every muscle in my body was stiff, tense beyond comprehension – my jaw felt like it had been clenched for years. I’d rest my head on the best pillow you can buy and yet I felt like I was laying on bricks. The insomnia was nothing I have ever experienced before. I was scared to be alone with myself. The racing thoughts would stir and nothing would let up. I would try sleep meditation after meditation, listen to the sound of rainfall, listen to a sleep story, focus on my breath – and nothing would work. My body was in overdrive and my brakes weren’t working.
For months I had been enduring crippling migraines, sensitivity to light, IBS, fatigue, unexplainable shaking. How could I expect my body, that resembled a smoking frying pan to not have the smoke alarm go off? If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream.
I felt so far behind in what I wanted to achieve in my life and I was looking at myself through such a negative, sabotaging lens. It was the first time I had encountered a dark hole that I couldn’t climb out of and thoughts of ending my life were floating in and out regularly. I had everything to live for but I didn’t want to live.
Throughout all of this, when I managed to get to sleep, I would experience the most vivid dreams about the past. It was as if my dreams were reminding me of the things I had suppressed, living in my subconscious that I had to deal with in order to move on. I’d been living in a numb state.
I was very lucky to have people around me who could see the bigger picture. I didn’t want to end my life, I wanted to end these feelings. There is a huge difference and when you are in that dark hole you can’t separate these differences. I needed to review my past trauma that I didn’t know I had. I needed to assess my lifestyle and once I’d done those things, begin to look at my life purpose. What does Charlotte want? What does she need? So please ask yourself, what do YOU want and what do YOU need?
I’d always been quite open about being bullied at school but I never actually dealt with the pain that it caused. I couldn’t wait to leave school to start a new life around people who inspired me. I’d always been a free spirit, relatively care-free, driven – wanting to make something of myself. When I hit bumps in the road I’d pull my socks up and focus on moving on and not dwelling on the difficult times. The trauma of bullying and the death of loved ones was still very much in my subconscious and it fascinates me how it reared its head all these years later.
I realised that trauma is different for everybody. You don’t have to experience the worst things on earth in order to warrant or justify suffering. I’d always compare myself to others in that I was lucky and others have it worse. Yet I’d never taken the time to deal with what made ME feel unsafe, upset and angry. I needed to be vulnerable and it takes strength and courage to do so. I was done being a super human – sometimes things are shit and it’s ok to stop, say it out loud, feel it, sit with it for a while and move on when you are ready to.
But where do we draw the line between moving on and actually taking time to process and accept what has happened to us? This is a question I have asked myself many times over the years but the truth is the line needs to be drawn when we FEEL ready to draw it. I have since realised and been told that I take time to process events that happen and that I am deep down quite a sensitive person. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve, not taken myself too seriously and love a good joke but deep down I am overly empathetic and need to implement healthier boundaries to protect my emotions.
I decided to review my timeline of events over the last 10 years. After drawing out the highs and lows of my twenties and seeing the upheaval and change I’d experienced both in environments, jobs and relationships… it was no wonder I was f***** exhausted. I had moved 9 times in 5 years. Experienced 3 toxic relationships, one that was physically abusive and each one I had every hope it was one I had dreamed of. Trying to heal grief, find forgiveness and let go of anger with the stress of modern life is a challenge but it can be done and all the physical symptoms I listed are now gone and I am pain free. I was lucky enough to have the most supportive, wise and loving partner, friends and family around me to help get me through.
The healing can hurt more than the wound. The healing process isn’t bubble baths and lavender oil, it’s accountability which brings guilt and stirs all the emotions. Getting to the root of your issues are triggering and intense but it is worth it. Dark times are our rite of passage. They can be our wake-up call and give us a new found awareness of how we want to live our lives. This new awareness doesn’t protect us from difficult times but it helps us deal with them. This realisation comes in time and back when I was in the dark hole I would disregard this view with frustration and anger. I recently received one of the biggest compliments of my life – I was told I have a rod of steel running through my centre. I agreed… yes I do- because I am strong, I have overcome and I am enough.
Thank you to Charlotte for sharing this beautiful blog post. She writes under 'The Sass Writer' at the Sassy Pearls of Wisdom.