A chameleon, an actress, disguises, masks, armor. These are a few of my tools to survive each day. I can’t go out in the world with my feelings and thoughts on my sleeves, my heart bare for the world to see. Random strangers, acquaintances, even those close to me could not handle my storms.
I pretend. Oh, look at the happy smiling woman at work and in the grocery store. Strangers don’t want to see your storms. They want happy, smiling faces. No one likes troubled people. Face it, people like happy people. Unless they are miserable themselves, then they like other miserable people.
Surrounding yourself with miserable people only makes you more miserable. Everyone likes the funny girl. The silly and sarcastic person that makes everyone laugh. They like her, but she’s not always able to pretend. Sometimes the storms surge so ferociously that the masks shatter, the jokes disappear and only despair is left.
I can only pretend for so long before the mask falls away. Then I hide and try to pull myself together. I cling to the life raft and try to wait out the storm. Then I pull my mask back on and go out into the world again.
Growing up I survived by numbing out. Fading into a fantasy world where parents did not beat their children. Where there was fun, playtime and sports. I always wanted to play soccer growing up. I wasn’t allowed to participate in such things because I was always being punished. But in my fantasy world I could play soccer, and I was darn good at it.
At some point a numbed out fantasy is the only way to survive. I was hit when I cried or spoke out of turn. I learned very quickly that crying is bad. Talking is bad. But the feelings still boil beneath the surface like hot lava. Pressure builds and builds with no release. I couldn’t let it out, so I pushed it down further, to the core.
The core filled, the many layers above that filled, until I was only lava. Hot boiling lava, feelings left unexpressed. Feelings don’t go away. They don’t disappear in the night. They demand to be expressed, dealt with. I could ignore them, numb them, shove them in every nook and cranny that I could find deep inside myself, but they DEMANDED my attention.
For many years I successfully numbed out those feelings, until I was filled completely with them. Only my skin was exempt from the lava that flowed inside. Lava that burned my core at every turn. Poker hot and painful. It had to come out. I had to let it flow.
When I was a teen I started cutting. One of my daily chores was to do the dishes, so I had access to knives. Maybe it was a cry for help to the world since my voice would not be heard. Maybe someone would notice cuts on my arms and investigate, figure out my hell and save me from it. Maybe they would look into my family and realize that all was not well. Maybe I would be delivered from hell, from the lava that boiled up inside me daily without release.
When you have no release for your emotions, when you have been beaten to the ground and below; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, it always finds a way out. The storm inside never goes away until it is unleashed and dealt with.
Regular kitchen knives were not sufficient. They did not inflict enough pain to appropriately deal with the white hot lava inside. Serrated knives. Knives you had to use to saw at your skin for awhile before seeing the lava were the only way. Each pass of the knife was a cry for help. A ripping of the shell that contained the lava boiling beneath. One pass, two, three, four. Then relief, blood flowing.
I never went deeper, seeing the blood flow was enough for me. The lava; the hateful things they said to me, the abuse, the neglect, the damage flowed from me with the blood. Sometimes one cut wasn’t enough, so two or three would help. Blood would free me from being burned alive from inside.
Soon cutting wasn’t enough to hold the lava back. Something happened and I was able to open up to a friend. At 15 I finally was able to tell them about the things that happened at home. They told the counselor at school (for the complete story please see my posting called Start). I went into foster care. My mom gave full custody of me to the state, saying she never wanted to see me again. The lava boiled on, barely contained below the surface.
At 34 years old it is shocking to me that no one noticed these cuts on my arms. I would hide them, or say a cat scratched me even though we did not own a cat. They weren’t cat scratches, they were perfectly parallel lines on my forearms. Proof that I was not ok. Everything was not normal, not ok.
I don’t remember the last time I cut. The date, that is. I do remember the circumstance of the last significant cut. I’m ashamed to say I remember each scar and what lava was released from it. I often look at my scars, not in shame or despair. Rather with hope. I remember each time that I cut because I did not have any other outlet for the pain. I did not have a voice, an outlet. Only the release of blood and lava to dull the burning pain inside of me.
I have a voice now. I am in counseling and have been for close to a year. It took me this long to realize that I couldn’t just numb out the lava and keep pushing it down below the surface, into the pits of my stomach. It always returns to the surface. Lava doesn’t belong under your skin, in your veins, in your arteries and organs. It will always come to the surface.
Cutting doesn’t work for me anymore because I have better ways to release the lava. I’ve found that releasing it in other ways actually gets more of it out at a time. And I’m healing the wounds caused by my mother at the same time. When I’m really in a bad place, taking an ice bath is a good way to feel that pain I need so much without actually hurting myself. Taking that anger and hatred that I often feel and ripping paper, or punching a pillow is more effective.
I still numb out often, I think maybe it is a part of who I am. I learned it from a young age and it is difficult to let go of. It was my only friend for 15 years. But I’ve learned that writing, talking, and most of all letting those storms flow are the best ways to deal with that lava. It has to come out. It will come out.