I had an experience yesterday. One of those moments of clarity where suddenly you understand it all and you don’t know how you could have missed it. Those moments are beautiful and wonderful and an essential part of growth. They also come with a challenge – you can not experience truth without acting on it. At least, if you want to continue to be healthy and grow you must act on it.
I’ve known for years that I’m messed up – my history left me broken and crippled and I’ve got a list of maladaptive behaviours and destructive coping mechanisms. These were things I needed to survive and adopted because I didn’t see any other option. Slowly, painfully, with the support of people who love me I’ve been untangling them, healing, learning, growing. Over the last few years I’ve become more than just a result of my past. It’s been exciting and difficult and frightening and exhausting.
One of the lingering things has been my difficulty with vulnerability. This can be seen in a lot of ways, but the one that is relevant here is my difficulty being vulnerable, being authentic. I can give information – even information about me, about my experiences, about what happened, how I felt in the past – but it’s so much more difficult for me to give myself. It’s hard for me to share how I am feeling right now, to admit my needs, to accept help, to show my weak points. It comes because in my experience, feeling “safe” is just another opportunity to be hurt, to be taken advantage of. Safety is another sort of vulnerability.
This has made friendships and relationships really difficult for me – I tend to either keep people out or get too close. I’m awkward and needy or I’m stand-offish and superior. If something is wrong I wall myself in or I lean on one person so hard I’m shocked they don’t break. I was vaguely aware that this was a problem and wasn’t good and was probably something I should work on, but yesterday in that moment of clarity, I understood.
I was scared of authentic intimacy, so I was content with creating false intimacy. I was happy living with counterfeit closeness – situations where I was in control and felt people didn’t know me as well as they thought they did, or at least not well enough to hurt me (not that it actually kept me from being hurt in relationships). I needed intimacy – closeness and friendships and to share like that – but I was getting a tainted version of it. Poisoned medicine in place of what my soul really needed.
So last night with a group of friends I confessed. I confessed how hard it is for me to be honest, how hard it was for me to feel comfortable and safe with them – even though I’ve known them and respected them and been “close” with them for years. I cried. They understood. On the outside I’m sure it was no big deal at all – what person hasn’t been insecure or had difficulty opening up – but on the inside, I am changed. That’s one more piece of my soul that’s been set right, put back together, made whole.