There is a Wedding Dress in my Bathroom

I’m procrastinating on a paper right now. Adult coloring books are pretty much the best thing ever invented. And Monday is sneaking up on me.

This last week was heavy. So heavy that even the yoga I did this morning hasn’t eased the tension in my shoulders. (Might have something to do with the freezing temperatures and the fact that I can’t get warm even inside my house.)

I spent a lot of years of my life avoiding feeling. I became a master of it. I remember so clearly the moment when I was a senior in one of the teachers who I was talking to about some things that were going on in my life looked at me and said to me, “CRY!” Wasn’t happening. There were floodgates there that I wasn’t ready to open.

Later in life as I began the process of facing, recognizing, feeling, and accepting, my therapist looked at me and told me, “It is impossible for you to keep doing this without letting yourself cry.” That was after the session when I arrived and she told me I had the whole session just to talk. She wasn’t going to interrupt me or say anything – she just wanted me to talk. It took me a few minutes to get going – but I wasn’t going to waste the money of the session. So I talked for an hour – about my mom, about her bipolar… about it all. But I wouldn’t cry.

I cried on Friday. I cried about my mom. Because I came to the sudden realization that I have a really hard time with unresolved conflict because of how conflict was handled in my home growing up – and particularly because of my fear of conflict with my mom. I haven’t dared write much about my mom and her bipolar depression here on this blog. For one reason, I know it is something that I’m still working through. (That means raw emotion on the blog and I’m not sure I’ve quite reached that level of vulnerability.) For another, I know my perspective is that – my perspective – and I don’t pretend to be an expert on bipolar. I know my experience is precisely that – my experience. It is the view of a girl who lived in a house with a bipolar parent, unaware of what was going on around me for many years, and then, once aware, met a situation that is denied.

But there it was on Friday that raw emotion… buried deep within… hurt that has gone unexpressed… and it came tumbling out… My therapist always used to tell me that I shouldn’t be afraid to let the emotion out because it is inside anyways. But the truth is that in letting it out, it burns, it chokes you, it threatens to suffocate you. It was a big step forward for me to let it out. (Because it is a choice to let it out – it is always a choice.) It is the first time I’ve let emotion like that out without my former therapist at my side.

And that emotion – that pain – is there. It needs to heal. But letting it out, looking at it, and giving it to God is the best way to heal.

In the meantime, my appetite is gone. It is to be expected. It will come back as I accept and move on.

It is funny how it works, this eating disorder thing – in which we find it is easier to feel hunger than emotional pain. It is easier to hurt ourselves than to feel ourselves hurt. It is easier to feel a void in our stomachs than in our hearts.

For me, it is restricting (or picking at my face… or running… or staying up late… or even (in the past) throwing up). For the girl I talked to on the phone this evening, it is cutting.

Over the past week, I’ve carried the anxiety and weight of the responsibility of hearing a girl who could no longer carry her emotional pain and so she turned back to the habit of cutting. A girl, a young mother, who was raped when she was a teen – and now is healing… But in the process of healing, of letting herself experience that same tumbling out of emotions, she has gotten to a point she feels she can no longer carry it.

It is scary to be on the receiving end of the texts I’ve received this week (especially after previous experiences of close friends struggling with depression). What do you do for a friend who is hundreds of miles away who sends you a text that “there is no hope for me”, “I am damaged goods”, “this has to end”… I am lucky to have the contact number for someone who is there close to her who got in touch with her immediately. I talked to her tonight and she is set up with a new therapist and will be getting the help she needs.

I’m relieved for her. But the weight hasn’t gone away yet. I ache inside. It has been a challenge. The whole situation is a little triggering for me. I was that girl who needed to feel physical pain because I couldn’t handle the emotional pain. And now, I am different. I am not yet completely healed but I am recovering. Day by day I am stronger. But how is it possible that somehow looking back it seems attractive? How is it that the life I fought so hard to overcome can still catch my attention from time to time?

I don’t have the answers. I’m sure I’ll discover more with time, but tonight I could at least tell her I understood her – that I knew what it feels like to prefer to hurt than to feel. And that temptation to look back is worth overcoming to be there for her. Because I’ve asked God that if I went through all this, to at least let me help others through it. And because I know that tonight I choose to feel rather than to hurt.

I feel for the little girl I was/am who was/is afraid of upsetting her mother and not knowing how long until she will be in good graces again… I feel for that young mother who is scared and nervous about taking the next step to find healing… I feel for this young professional at her kitchen table whose heart aches with the pain of it all and knowing she will be too tired tomorrow morning…

And I ache for the young single mom who broke off the wedding a year ago… who summoned up the courage to pick up her wedding dress… who looked at it one last time today and left it with me to sell… Hence, the wedding dress in my bathroom.

“To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves – these are fundamental elements of humanity.” -Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

And so I find meaning to the ache within… And I find hope… Hope for the beautiful family of my friend and her young family, hope for my own future, hope for my friend who is a single mother and her prince charming and her future family… and even hope for the bride who will one day wear that wedding dress… And dare I say it, hope for a day when I will wear a dress of my own.

“We have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.” -Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

And, yes, Canon in D is playing on my computer right now… Because it seemed appropriate.

 

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