“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
When I woke up in the emergency room alone, connected to machines, listening to the electronic sound of my heart beating from a monitor, the tears that stemmed from my belly began to pour out of my eyes. I had been here before.
Within a few hours of waking, I was escorted to a room with no windows. It felt like an icebox, frigid, stale and empty. I thought to myself, “Be Linda Hamilton…” I pictured her in Terminator 2, doing pushups in the hospital just to get through it. So, of course, I practiced yoga, did pushups and burpees and told myself, “Stay alive, you will get through this.” I prayed and recited Bible verses in my head and listened to my breath, focusing on slowing down my heart racing inside my chest.
When they explained to me that I was required to stay in the hospital due to attempted suicide, I was in shock. I felt my entire body freeze over and my eyes bulged in disbelief. I lied in my intake so that they wouldn’t put me on the floor with all of the crazies. You have to protect yourself when you’re in the hospital. For three days I remained stone-faced, wide awake no matter how many medications they fed me. I practiced yoga and prayed and advocated for my freedom.
When you create a mess like I did, it’s up to you to get yourself out of it. Surrounded by individuals who blame their depression and circumstances, I made a decision.
I am no longer going to be a victim.
I saw it coming this time around. After too much introspection and digging into my past in order to heal, I dug up a little too much dirt on myself. Memories that I never knew existed began to surface. Feelings of betrayal and anger welled up in my body, and I became less and less connected to the outer world. “How the hell can I even begin to share what’s going on with me?” I thought to myself.
It seems that after traumatic events, individuals fall into two categories: “Victim” and “Survivor.” As I have been working to strip away my identity from my experiences, I haven’t wanted to identify with either. Yes, I have survived some radically challenging life experiences, but those are not my identity. They were, but they’re not anymore.
Doctors and practitioners have labeled me with PTSD. I definitely express a lot of the symptoms, but that is not who I am. Sure I deal with bad memories and triggers that cause anxiety and sleeplessness, but that’s just what I’m dealing with. The goal of healing is to address the causes of my symptoms so that I can move forward. A big part of that is identifying the truth about who you are so that you can tear yourself away from the past.
Many of my life choices, conscious and unconscious, have been based around shame. I gravitated towards people and situations that affirmed that I was a bad person, unworthy, unloved and undeserving. I allowed men to shame me in relationships. I don’t blame them, because I allowed it. I didn’t have the courage or the skills to set healthy boundaries. I also allowed my negative thoughts to control my decisions. When I was in a good place, surrounded by positive people, I was okay. I was strong. But when I was listening to lies, I became a helpless puddle.
I became a yoga teacher partly because I felt like I needed to work on myself. I wanted to fix myself and become a better person. Yoga taught me how to reconnect with my body after being fragmented by trauma and numbed by medication. I placed my identity in yoga, how my body looked and felt, and I obsessed over my practice. Unfortunately, over the years I began to notice that when I couldn’t do yoga, I couldn’t hold myself together. Although yoga is a valuable tool, it couldn’t save me.
I’m learning what it means to “Take every thought captive.” When you have believed lies about yourself for long enough, they become ingrained, well-worn pathways that are easier to travel than the truth about your identity. I use to believe the story of my trauma: bad things happen to me and I am a victim. I need to protect myself from other people so that I can be safe.
I’m not a victim anymore.
I’m not my experiences.
I’m not ashamed.
Forgiveness has allowed me to accept my past and recognize that I was a co-creator in every circumstance. Sure I didn’t choose my sexual assault, but in a way I gravitated towards it. And even though I realize now that I didn’t deserve it, I also can’t sit here and blame the person on the other side. As long as I am a victim, I will continue to attract situations that will make me a victim. That’s just how it works. And even as I share my story of survival, I have to be careful not to identify too closely with my past.
So what is my identity now?
I’m learning. I’m stripping away the layers that told me I wasn’t good enough. And underneath I am beginning to experience that I am lovable, deserving, capable and strong. Through the power of community and my relationship with God, I have begun to hear the truth. So many aspects of my old identity have fallen off in the past 6 weeks. The helpless little girl who wanted to be rescued is no longer who I am. Rather than cutting myself off from that person I use to be, I am learning to comfort and show compassion for those aspects of myself that need healing. And experiencing God’s comfort, listening to what He says about me has become my anchor.
It is up to me to create the life that I want. In order to not be blown and tossed by the wind, I have to stay on guard, recognizing when I am listening to lies that shame me versus hearing the truth about who God created me to be and the power I have, whether or not I feel strong.
My body is a temple.
My mind is nourished by the truth.
My heart is free.
Forgiveness has taught me what freedom truly is. Forgiveness is a greater healer than any practitioner I have ever met with. This year I worked with an acupuncturist, a cranial sacral therapist, an herbalist, a counselor, a massage therapist and an EFT practitioner… I wanted to be fixed. When I finally realized it was up to me to heal myself, that’s when the healing began.
Cheers to a new path and a new life.