Do you ever something come up so many times in one day that it feels like someone is banging you over the head with a two-by-four? I had that kind of day today.
It started with a book. Recently I met a phenomenal woman named Michele Rosenthal – trust me, you’ll be hearing a lot more about her on the Journal in a few weeks. For the moment, I’ll just tease you by saying she’s written a spectacular book about overcoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) called Before The World Intruded (you can download a couple of sample chapters by clicking here.)
Michele sent me an advance copy of her book. I started reading it last night and I flew through all 230 pages by this morning. I copied out passages that were speaking to me, and ended up with five pages of typed notes.
Here’s one of the passages that stuck for me, in which she describes one of the tricks her PTSD-addled mind plays on her: “When I’m happy and not worrying, things get out of control. It’s not okay for me to be okay. When things seem all right I don’t take good care.”
In the past, as I worked through issues around my father, more than once counselors said to me, “Who would you be without the trauma? Who would you be if you just let yourself be okay?” It’s a question I had a really hard time answering. I didn’t know anything but the pain and craziness of being my father’s daughter. I thought I would lose some essential part of my identity if I didn’t live my life from that core pain.
In fact, I remember the afternoon that I learned my dad had died. My mom and I sat by water tumbling over rocks. She handed me a stone and said, “Do you think you can put your anger at him in this pebble and throw it in? Now that he’s gone, can you let it go?” I turned to her and, with absolute sincerity, I said, “I’m afraid if I let go of the anger I won’t have anything left of him.”
During my time at Inner Visions, I began to see those core beliefs and core identities shifting. I no longer saw myself solely as my father’s daughter. I began to recognize many other facets of myself.
After reading Michele’s book, I spent an hour on the phone with her talking about Trauma and recovery.
Next I had a session with my coach, Ken. We chatted for a while, and nothing really big was surfacing. I started thinking, “Wow, I feel pretty good!” I was marveling in my feeling-good-ness until the moment when we were about to get off the phone.
When I panicked. I started to cry. I couldn’t understand what was going on, because moments before I had felt fine. Ken reminded me to breathe.
It hit me:
I was scared of feeling that okay. These last few months have been so hard that I’d forgotten how good it feels to be okay. I was afraid that if I admitted to feeling good, it would evaporate. Or, even worse, I would sabotage it.
Ken talked me down. I realized – this is just old fear rising up again. It’s habitual behavior that grabbed a toe-hold in the last few months, and now it was taking advantage.
The truth is that I still am the person I was last June when I felt great. I felt strong and happy and confident and free. I still am the woman that a wonderful man fell in love with.
I am her. She is me. And it’s okay to admit it.
It’s okay for me to be okay.
And just to be clear – it’s okay for you, too.