There is a hollow place that finds me. It knows me by name. Its reach can cover any distance I travel. Its strength can multiply, creeping and surrounding me as it wishes.
There is a hollow place that hunts me. It lurks and stalks and waits for the prime moment to pounce. Its jagged grip pierces and swallows upon contact, making it hard to distinguish where my body ends and its darkness begins.
There is a hollow place that seeks my surrender. Its isolating presence, although ominous and layered with pain, is familiar to me. Its constant company tries to convince me that my efforts to evade its grip are insufficient.
There is a hollow place that believes it has already won. It feels rooted inside of me. Can I possibly convince it that there is still fight left in me? Can I convince myself?
The messages she carries try to convince her that her home is in the darkness that surrounds her and seems to know how to steadily lurk just one step ahead of her. It makes it hard for her to maintain traction on where or even who she is. Yet something inside urges her to focus beyond the darkness – beyond the pain and strain of what pulls at her – and fight like hell to somehow reach the light.
It knows where to find me Clinging and gripping Onto something hardly tangible It hovers nearby Waiting and knowing Its presence My reminder That what I grasp for Does not belong to me That what I need Exceeds what I can wish for
We all have memories tied to different sensory experiences. The sight, sound, or smell of something can take us on a ride back to a memory that left a lasting impression. This is a gift when we are reminded of a loved one or of an experience we wish to treasure in our heart forever. Yet it is a curse when these experiences are attached to memories we wish to forget. In these moments we are swept up from safety and thrown back into the grip of despair – all in response to a simple benign sensory experience that enters our awareness.
In my teen years I was routinely sexually abused by my high school coach. The vast majority of these experiences of abuse occurred in his car. It was through his calculating planning of offering me a ride home from practice that he found opportunities to hurt me. He regularly found new secluded places to park his car away from the eyes of bystanders in order to take what he wanted from me. To this day, the sight of a car parked discretely away from others or with the windows blocked in some way elicits a strong feeling within me. When I first started acknowledging and speaking about my abuse these responses overwhelmed me. I could feel my heart pounding and this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that held this toxic concoction of fear, pain, disgust, and shame. I didn’t know what to do with these feelings so I would quietly hold and stuff the panic deep down inside of me. With the help of therapy I have since then learned to safely process and move through these experiences more effectively. Now when I see a parked car that triggers this nervous or panicky feeling I can both acknowledge the triggered parts of me and keep myself grounded in the safety of the present. Quietly to myself I can say words like, “of course that is scary to see”, followed by words like, “but it is just a car and you are safe now.” I don’t know that I will ever be free of these triggering moments, but by learning to safely move through them I can keep myself from being entirely swept away into the horrors of the past.
Recently, while working with my therapist, I have noticed a desire to physically “get small” when difficult feelings arise inside of me. At first this felt like a very natural, comforting, and self protective response for me – to tuck my legs in close and wrap my arms around them squeezing my body into the smallest space it can occupy. I have been expressing myself this way through art for as long as I can remember. It feels like home.
Yet in my therapist’s office, each time I allow my body to move into this position it desires, I feel an immediate sensation of relief and comfort followed by a barrage of memories of where the need for this position first emerged. These memories contain moments immediately after being abused when I would curl up my naked body and weep. So here I am in the present day trying to provide physical comfort to my body in the safe presence of my therapist, but the position I default to is one attached to trauma. It’s no wonder I can’t seem to stay present once I allow myself to move into this curled up position. I am instead swept away to a time of complete powerlessness.
Much like I learned how to safely respond to the sight of parked cars, I need to learn how to offer my body a new feeling of physical comfort. I need to learn to identify when my body wants to get small and begin to learn from it. What am I feeling inside that signals this need? Why does it feel that need right now? How else can I soothe this ache from within? Perhaps through careful curiosity I will uncover new ways to help my body feel safe today.
They filled your mind with promises An array of enticing colors Leading you up a perilous climb Achieving their desired seclusion
They lined your path with shackles Disguised as your own choices Led to a room with no exits, teetering On a place demanding submission
Close enough to rescue that its light Shines like a beacon upon you Yet others cannot see what they do not wish to see Leaving you doused in invisibility
They handed you poison dressed up as a toy An undetectable trap It feels heavy in your arms Yet you dismiss its discomfort Just as you were instructed
You were chosen You were special You stood out to them in some way
You hold their secrets Quiet and steady Not letting them see How it makes you tremble
You were never meant to understand The position they put you in Blind obedience is the Tower they constructed In the labyrinth you now reside
This weight placed upon you Was never your choice Its ensnaring complexity Contrived specifically for you To lure you in and then slowly break You into scattered pieces
I see your pain tucked in deep beneath your Outward strength and courage Far from their grip you stand frozen in time Afraid to step down and see The sight of your suffering Might carry its own weight somehow worse than living in it
How can you know that it is safer below Than the misery you are wrapped in How can I ask more from you Than what you have already given