Last week was a dark one. Ana’s voice was back and felt strong. I slipped back in to the dark habits of months ago. Despite knowing better, I felt safe indulging in them. I wanted to be empty again.
I woke up in the middle of the night one day last week with griping stomach pains. I lay there and for the first time, I realised I’d hurt my body. I was feeling this pain because of something I had done to myself. Why would I want to hurt myself like that? I realised that although I’d never felt physical pain as such over the last few months, what I had been doing was still harming myself.
The next day I didn’t feel quite myself but I got on with my day until the afternoon when I went to lie down.
I’d tried a guided meditation a couple of weeks ago where we were encouraged to imagine a room filled with light. We would walk into that room and leave behind in the darkness our worries and stresses and feel the peace and joy of the brightly lit room.
In my imagination I stood at the threshold of that door but I could not cross it. My feet were fixed to the ground in the darkness that I had come to know as my safe place. I questioned myself. Why couldn’t I walk forward? I was creating my own world, I was supposed to be in control of it, why couldn’t I put one foot in front of the other and move myself forward?
Only when I stopped questioning my inability to move did I become aware in my mind’s eye of somebody by my side: myself. I took hold of my hand and we stood looking into the light. We knew I wasn’t ready to cross into it, but my other self was happy to hold my hand and wait until I was ready. I felt some comfort from that. When I stood at the threshold on my own, I was scared about crossing the line and confused as to why I didn’t feel strong enough to do it. But, imagining myself standing there with a stronger and more content version of myself by my side I felt safer and calmer.
That afternoon last week, I let myself relax in the silence. I began to feel the still weight of my body but I felt that my body was separate from my mind. As if my body were only a shell for my soul, now all bruised and exhausted from the months of constant conflict and deprivation.
It’s in such quiet times when I’m most susceptible to Ana’s voice, when I start to think about what I want, where I’m going, what I deserve, what I’ve done….
This time, however, another voice spoke so clearly to me and I could do nothing but listen. The other voice speaking was me.
Afterwards I wrote down what I’d heard. I won’t share everything here as some things are just for me, but here’s a small excerpt:
“Nobody should stop your heart from shining. Nobody should quieten or quash your enthusiastic spirit. I know you thought you were being strong and finding a way to protect yourself but instead you forgot yourself. You let me go because you thought I’d got you into those painful situations. Those situations are going to happen. But everything around you comes and goes. Live it, appreciate it and learn from it but please, don’t become it.
You and I can walk together though this and out the other side and I’ll hold your hand so very tightly all the way. I won’t let you go again, I promise.”
Ana always used to contradict such thoughts but this time, she wasn’t there. I only felt that I had somebody different to rely on now, myself. My strong self had come back to me.
Over the last few days I haven’t heard Ana’s voice. I haven’t questioned what I’ve been eating, I enjoyed the family dinner we had to celebrate my Granny’s birthday and I even enjoyed pudding and a piece of chocolate!
There have been so many ‘ups’ over the last few months that have then been followed by a crashing low that I’m cautious of declaring this to be a definitive change. But, my gut is telling me this time it’s different. I don’t feel scared of the changes that are to come. I don’t feel alone. I feel that I can rely on myself and trust myself. I feel like I can go easy on myself, let myself go, let myself be happy, let myself indulge in an extra slice of toast, a piece of cake or a hot chocolate just because I want to! I feel that I can let myself not be perfect.
Somebody I hold so dearly in my heart asked me recently when she was visiting, why can’t I just settle for something less than what I deem to be perfect? So what if the cake doesn’t turn out exactly how I want it to, it’s still delicious isn’t it?! I’m starting to see the benefits of accepting a little less. That doesn’t mean not striving to achieve, it just means accepting the result for what it is. Of course, the challenge for me now is to practice this acceptance, not only in the good times but in stressful situations as well.
I’m struggling to adequately convey the significance and the depth of the experience of that afternoon last week. I wouldn’t describe myself as a spiritual person but, to me, the feeling of being separate from my body and my mind, of hearing a voice I recognised as my own talking to ‘me’ is something I consider to be more than me just thinking. It was a moment of reconnection.
I now feel that I can begin to walk forward as my whole self. I’m not made up of a crushed, scared soul occupied by a twisted and powerful minx.
I am aware, however, that Ana came into my life for a reason and she could very well do so again. I know my triggers and so now I need to learn to manage my reactions to them differently. I need to make sure that when I’m dealt a blow that I come to my rescue and not Ana.
I think the way for me to start to bring this about is for me to learn to open myself up to others. This will be one of the most difficult things for me to do because I fear vulnerability and being hurt so much that I have not just closed myself off but I have built Fort Knox around myself. But that, in part, contributed to me finding myself in this situation.
I must learn to allow myself to turn to other people and accept their love and support.
One of my truest friends will recognise the sentiment behind those words as it comes from her, she has said it to me on so many occasions over the last few years and most recently, only last week. She is right.
For the first time whilst writing a post here I feel calm. I don’t feel conflicted, confused or restless. I don’t feel an inflated sense of determination. I just feel collected. I know what I need to do. I know that there will be stressful points ahead which will test me. But, I have myself, my family and my wonderful wonderful friends. I can see that now.