In the Pain Rehabilitation Clinic (PRC) we learned that we should not call our more painful days “Bad” days. Instead, we should label them as difficult days, which implies less negativity, and has more of an emphasis on soldiering through. This, however, been a difficult week. A very difficult week, both physically with more pain then I have had in a few months, and feeling emotionally raw as if the bitter February wind was blistering my heart.
This week, I struggled with internal battles. I have been dealing with deep revelations in my counseling that left me shattered, to being so overwhelmed at work that a sharp comment from my boss left me in tears. So when I attended a Women’s Empowerment Breakfast this morning, I felt anything but empowered. More accurately, I felt hollow, vulnerable, insecure. Fragile. The speakers at this event were engaging, and the purpose was fantastic, but I viewed the event through the bleak, colored lenses of insecurity.
Trying to eat my scrambled eggs while grappling with these feelings of fear, something really spoke to what I was feeling. Someone, specifically. This person I consider my mentor, my inspiration, and my friend. In Sarah’s speech, she revealed her first memory of insecurity and need for validation in vivid clarity. In this memory, she confesses that she had asked her dad a question that scared him, and in that moment, instead of protecting her with his response, he had the unfortunate effect of shutting her down. Closing her in. Making her feel she should hide these less than acceptable thoughts from being seen.
Perhaps it was due to my raw and exposed heart, but this memory hit me right in the feels. I can feel emotions from my past with such stark clarity and true to PTSD, experience these emotions in real time. Having recently examined a memory from when I was just 5 years old, of how my mother tried to protect me from the dangers of the world, and how her words of caution instilled fear and shame in place of the protection she so desperately wanted for me. That fear caused me to build up my walls when I was hurt. To take the blame back on myself for the malicious actions of others. To squash myself into a small, unobtrusive shape so I wouldn’t become a target again. So shielded that even through people knew me, I was still a stranger. Disconnected. Alone.
Sarah made a point of how fear can cause those who love us to unknowingly hurt us in the most minute of fractures, and sometimes in ways that may have lasting marks. But she also shared how an act of courage from one person to another, to reach out and encourage us to face our fears, can in turn inspire us. She shared how she had found her empowerment when someone “saw” her, even though she had spent years trying to become invisible. How this nudge of encouragement has given her the fuel she needed to step out of the shadows. Whether it could be do to her enlightenment, or to being a kindred soul plagued by fear, or simply from years of being a watcher, she also sees people with an intense clarity.
I still have my walls up. I still beat against them every day, wishing I could escape yet terrified to be unprotected. But through all of the layers I have built to insulate me from my fear, Sarah saw through them, and reached towards me. It only takes one person to show courage and inspire others to follow. So when she finished her speech, even though I was sitting in the front in a room of 600 people, even through all I felt like doing was crawling in a hole and crying my exhausted mind to sleep, I stood up to clap. Regardless of what others felt, she had reached me. And I was not alone, as 600 more women rose to applaud my friend.