So, help me God …..
Speaking of God, when I was in Grade 5, our teacher was leading a discussion during Catholic catechism class about what we thought God looked like. Several of my classmates described God as being an older white man who wore long flowing robes and sat on a throne made of marble. From this heavenly throne, God watched the goings on here on earth. God was also characterized as having thick white hair with a matching thick white beard. I remember sitting there thinking “Oooooh, I don’t think so” while frantically begging this white robed, white bearded God to do whatever it took to prevent Mrs. Wren from calling on me to participate, a normal experience for me as an anxiety ridden child.
Speaking out in class terrified me. The mere thought of it caused intense stress. What I didn’t know was anxiety at the time, often manifested as sore stomachs, catastrophic thinking, burning red cheeks, shaking hands, pounding heart, profuse sweating, etc. I remember when we would have to read stories out loud in class, I would count ahead to find which paragraph would be mine so I could practice reading it ahead of time. Lord help me if I was to ever make a mistake.
Our homework that evening was to draw a picture of God as we saw him. Naturally, I fretted about it my entire walk home. In my anxious mind, I was doomed to fail this assignment. I remember the torment of wanting to remain true to my beliefs but fearing the repercussions (rejection and ridicule) that would likely follow if I did. Imagine being ten years old and afraid to say that you didn’t see God in the same way as your classmates (why did everyone think God was male anyway?). Imagine being ten years old and wanting to say that you felt God as a source of energy within you. Was that even possible? If so, how does one draw a physical spiritual energy? What would my teacher’s reaction be if I did? How would I go about explaining it if she disagreed with me? I adored my Grade 5 teacher; the last thing I wanted was to disappoint her, or even worse, anger her.
My second dilemma was knowing that I could not discuss God at home. My father, a science loving paranoid schizophrenic, would have loved nothing more than discussing his knowledge of energy with his daughter; however, he would have been quick to anger once I told him that my homework was for catechism class. The mere mention of anything pertaining to religion was to risk sending him into another of his “it’s all hocus pocus, Lin, nothing but hocus pocus” rants, rants which irritated my mother to no end. Immediately, the fight over religion would begin, an argument that had the potential to last for days. No way was I risking that.
As for my mother, I knew better than asking for her help with my homework. Earlier that school year I had made that exact mistake, and goodness gracious, saints preserve us, the tongue lashing I received rings loudly in my head today. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was time “I cut the apron strings.” Cut the apron strings? I was ten years old and didn’t know what that even meant. What I did know for certain was that God and I were on our own.
So, what does this stroll down memory lane have to do with telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Let me begin with why I chose this particular memory:
- This memory is one of the few childhood memories that doesn’t elicit strong emotional and physical triggers in me. I can look back at this ten-year-old girl with empathy and compassion rather than with fear and anxiety.
- To provide a gentler glimpse of what was my fearfully anxious childhood, both at school and at home.
- To provide an example of how my thought processes worked as a child, processes that were always driven by a desire to please and keep the peace for everyone but me.
- To provide an explanation as to why there were long gaps between previously published essays on my blog. Publishing anything I’ve written elicits the same fearful anxiety as my homework assignments did. My cruel inner critic usually talks me out of publishing them. For example, my inner critic says things like: “Nobody wants to read what you have to say. You’re not worthy of anything good. You’re wasting your readers’ time. You’re not good enough. You have no talent,” and so on, and so on.
- To acknowledge that this same fear and anxiety, along with the unpredictability and volatility of my childhood, followed me into adulthood like a dark cloud floating above me, eventually leading me to where I find myself today – emotionally and physically burnt out.
- To create a starting point for documenting my healing journey which I began in December 2021 with a trauma-informed therapist.
- To continue telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth moving forward.
Ah, telling the truth, there’s the rub. I find it comfortingly ironic, in a rather disturbing and head-shaking sort of way, that the very thing I have been running from my entire life, the truth, will be the very thing that sets me free. In addition to being truthful about my traumas, part of my healing will also (ironically) include unlearning the coping mechanisms I developed to survive my childhood but are no longer serving me in adulthood and are, thereby, keeping me stuck in an endless loop of limiting beliefs, fears and flashbacks and occasional night terrors. Clear as mud, right? This is just one of the many reasons why therapy is important. A therapist can provide a safe place for exploration of all the things that brought you to therapy like unwelcome thoughts, uncomfortable feelings, trapped emotions, flashbacks and night terrors, lack of self-worth and lack of confidence, and not knowing just who the hell you are outside of your trauma(s), while helping you develop and implement a plan for the messy, non-linear, and difficult healing journey ahead of you. I kid you not. Healing is messy, non-linear, and flippin hard.
Now that I have totally overwhelmed you, I’d like to thank you for sticking around and reading this (you are still here, right?). I’d also like to share that I will be changing the trajectory of Tales from the Cabbage Patch from what was once a mostly humorous blog masking tremendous emotional pain to one that fully embraces that same emotional pain by writing about it with honesty, dignity, and respect for what it has taught me about life. Sounds like fun, huh?
Kidding aside, it is my sincere hope that, by sharing my story of how complex trauma has affected my relationship with myself, with others, and with how I view the world around me, I will give voice to someone else whispering, “me, too.” That’s the honest to goodness truth.
So, help me God.
P.S: I’ll leave you with one last truth before signing off. For those of you wondering how I completed my homework assignment, I did end up drawing God like most of my classmates did. However, I did change a few details by adding intricate blue trim on the borders of God’s robes, I switched out his marble throne for a magnificent wooden one adorned with brass plates and a plush red-velvet seat cushion, and I drew a few angels around him for company. I never did show my parents my homework, and I cannot remember what mark I earned for aligning with the status quo. I can say with confidence, though, that I would have slept better that night knowing that I had averted an argument between my parents as well as knowing that I would be pleasing my teacher in the morning. As for abandoning my truth about feeling God as energy within me, I chose feeling safe in my environment over the fearful and anxious complexities that would have come from expressing my truth. Somehow, I think He would have understood.