My rite of passage into adulthood

It has been some time since I posted. In fact I recently let the hosting account for my websites expire. This was done partly out of not having a steady income to rely upon and partially out of apathy since I haven’t really been very active online this year. I’ll explain further exactly why I had to take a break from documenting my garden. We are going to get pretty personal in this episode!

Man, it has been a really tough year. I have been challenged on all fronts since December 2014 up until present day and recently discovered that this was the period of my Saturn Return.

For those who do not know what this concept entails, it can be boiled down to a celestial rite of passage. Forces acting upon us through various channels that influence the refinement processes our spirit requires in order to evolve itself. In my case, it was a work situation that incarnated the trappings of my youth, like literally. How the universe manages to create the exact specifications deemed appropriate to challenge us in just the way we need, is totally beyond my comprehension. But it happened. Here is a sneak peak. Go grab a hot chocolate and settle down into a comfortable recliner or love seat. Who are we kidding, just get in bed already- this might take a while.

My boss fired my only co-worker and told me to suck it up as his replacement. Well, my co-worker was in a job that required working 7 days a week in a real time capacity, being that the services we provided were part of an API integration that received data which was time sensitive and required processing within 12 hours of transmittal. Having been in a fear based orientation, mostly revolving around money and dependency on a steady paycheck, I felt incapable of declining and merely let him coerce me into this role. This my friends, is an example of poor boundaries.
I was working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week for 4 months straight, starting December 24, 2014 on Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas and BA HUMBUG!
My saturn return started, you guessed it, December 2014. Coincidental? I think not. If you want to find out when your saturn returned use this calculator

I was trapped. Working these types of hours left little in the way of, um, anything. The job was all consuming and did not permit me to secure a new position. Which not ironically enough, wouldn’t have mattered, anyone within 10 feet of me would have sensed my desperation and immediately bounced in the opposite direction. My social life? Non existent. My relationships? A total shambles. Romance? Hahaha, well, you are a funny one aren’t you? You comedian you!
Not sure if you have ever heard about the theory that stress reduces one’s libido…. It does a whole lot more than that, which I will be getting into shortly.

This situation eventually evolved into what I now refer to as a “triggering event”. Now, this term is thrown around very loosely these days, with articles claiming the content is triggering or providing a disclaimer in the form of a “trigger warning”. Sure, I get it, you are protecting some sensitive people out there, by all means, I can appreciate this compassionate approach.
What I mean when I refer to triggering, is being reminded of a series of memories that were emotionally toxic and abusive. I don’t refer to abuse lightly either. In my case, someone went to prison for 8 years for the abuse I’m referring to, it was all encompassing and not limited to one methodology, or psychopathy.

I know for some people this might be where it gets weird, maybe you are not in a position to read further, perhaps due to your own traumatic experiences or maybe you just aren’t in the mood.
I won’t take it personally and can appreciate that. Feel free to move along, no hard feelings.

The circumstances in which I found myself embedded against my will, brought out a ton of past emotional states of being, that I had never really fully resolved. For people who don’t understand trauma or PTSD, what happens in such situations is that the individual experiencing the memory recall which brings up associated emotions and physiological responses, is operating almost on auto pilot. In the psychology community it is referred to as the limbic system or the part of our brains responsible for the fight or flight response.
So it might look something like this, you are going along minding your own business, but in a situation not unlike one that emotionally reflected a previous trauma. All of a sudden, you experience a wave of emotions and memories that for lack of a better explanation, transport you back into time.
For me, all of a sudden, I was once again a little girl, stuck in a prison within a household, lacking any protection from adults who threatened my very safety. This little girl, had to become an adult, but lacked the intellectual capacity to understand or process the experiences that she encountered, but took on this role because she had younger, more vulnerable sisters to protect.

A person who encounters long term sustained abuse, (in my case it was 8 years of systemic trauma) develops coping mechanisms to deal with their environment, internalizing a safe space since external safety was not an option. This may include forging certain communication and relationship styles like passive aggressiveness, non-confrontation or co-dependancy to name a few. These defense mechanisms served a purpose and were very helpful while in the abusive situation and had a protective function. Later on, when the individual is no longer in a state of fight or flight without an actual threat, they can create extra, “unnecessary” challenges in life.

What I was finding was that any perceived threat I encountered, no matter how big or how small, took on the magnitude of what I grew accustomed to as a kid. My communication started to break down, I began to shrink into my head where I had always managed to find some solace and escape my reality. I started to notice a sort of immaturity about me, that was hard to logically explain, with an acute hypersensitivity and tendency to start crying at the slightest provocation. My world really started to spiral out of control, and I even struggled with suicidal ideations at that time. I felt unloved, abandoned, exploited, misunderstood, neglected, abused, undervalued and expendable. But what I felt most, was pain, a dull and pervasive ache that hovered just inside of my abdomen and lived in my gut. You know, some people describe this as an emptiness, or a hole in their stomach, mine was not like that, it was a very dense immaterial sensation that refused to leave the space where it had found it’s new home.

During this time period, the favorite part of my day was sadly, when I was going to bed, because it meant that I could take a break from the pain I was feeling. I realized that my situation was not changing and that I needed help. I guess you can say that Saturn Return is a humbling type of experience. I’ve never really asked anyone for help in my life, mostly because, it wasn’t readily available to me. After the physical abuse ended when I was 12 years old (The remaining parent was still very emotionally abusive following the incarceration of their partner) I never really dealt with what I had gone through.

Instead I ignored it and did my best to move forward without looking back. You know, there just weren’t resources for me to learn about, make sense of and process these extremely intense and volatile emotions. I had no idea how to create healthy boundaries as I was essentially operating in a sort of scarcity mode that had me relying upon the very poor skill set I had developed during my formative years. These were base level, primal and somewhat reptilian responses. There are a lot of studies now, with the rising interest in PTSD and Trauma research that confirms extended stress causes the frontal cortex to shrink inhibiting and impairing a persons judgement. Sustained defense physiology has various implications from a health perspective. For over 15 years I’ve suffered from chronic upper neck and back pain, and for the last 7 years I’ve struggled with digestive issues. When in fight or flight mode, the posture taken, is that of pulling all the limbs inwards in order to protect ones internal organs since they are so vulnerable. I wasn’t surprised to find out, when I started to research this topic looking for answers, that a common pain pattern among those who have PTSD is upper neck and back pain as well as digestive pain and issues as a result of the hip flexors tightening in response to a threat allowing the torso to “cave in” on itself which in turn shortens the iliopsoas and restricts blood flow to the outer limbs and vital organs. Try saying that 10 times fast!

So just to break it down into laymens terms, a person “stuck” within this iteration, is operating from a purely needs based hierarchy and limited locus of control. I’ve managed to survive in this state for years and in fact do relatively well, but I’ve never been able to truly THRIVE and reach my full potential. I would see others who appeared to tread upon a much easier life path where things just magically fell into place for them. This left me scratching my head, unable to comprehend how such a life was even possible. Knowing what I do now, I realize that most of these well rounded individuals had something in common. Do you want to take a gander at what that was? You guessed it! A stable home environment where they were nurtured as children. There are obviously exceptions to the rule, but having support, even at the minimum level of a safe space where there was love, seems to be a common denominator and indicator of emotionally healthy development.

Oh man, I lost the people who can’t handle the mushy stuff. Don’t worry, it makes me uncomfortable to even write the word Love. We all have such a unique and individual experiences of that word and it’s deeper connotations. A person who was abused as a child, was taught that their abuse was a form of love, so later in life, they seek out the same model in their adult relationships not knowing that they are perpetuating their own destruction. And it sometimes takes a triggering event to learn this about yourself. Everyone has that one friend who just seems to only date assholes and at some point, you just get sick of being the shoulder to cry on. You start to wonder, what the hell is wrong with this person, they just want attention, they are doing this to themselves, why don’t they just smarten up and get on with their life. Why can’t they SEE the pattern?!

Well, I will give you the answer right now. It is because they don’t know any better and it is as simple as that. You don’t know, what you don’t know, and unless you are able to develop the self awareness it takes to learn how to control your limbic system and temporarily suspend the shrinking of your frontal cortex, you are basically stuck looking for love in all the wrong places and being none the wiser.

So, with all the crazy emotions that surfaced and all the dreadful memories I’d avoided for the last 20 years of my life, I was finally at the apex of my discord. My inner child was begging to be heard and begging to be loved, so I set out on a journey to be the one adult who would fulfill her needs and wants. I started to study, when able, and learn about trauma, PTSD, healing, somatic therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, Trauma Release Exercise, Emotional Freedom Technique, Spinal Network Analysis, Holographic Reprogramming and various other cognitive psychotherapies. I learned why talking therapy had never worked for me, and why I hated most therapists I’d ever encountered. I realized that my emotions had a voice and needed a channel for expression. I didn’t even know what the hell that meant. You stifle your emotions for long enough, you forget how to let them run their course, or maybe you just never learned that skill as a human being. So I started to explore these areas and find new ways to let myself experience a catharsis.

Some days the pain was great enough that I would just lie in bed after work and sob heartily for hours. Other days, the rage would confront me with an appalling hot slap to the face. I would find a safe space for myself out of the reach of other people and I would take my rage and shred my throat with blood curling screams, gut wrenching and magnificent shows of display that would come in waves until I felt the heat reduced to a light boil, and then to that of a simmer before it merely passed as steam out of my throat chakra. I would growl and moan in safety when the anger reared it’s head. I was getting used to all these strange sensations in my body, known as the language of feeling. At times, I would hear the still small voice of my inner child whimpering for affection, so I would walk to her, put my hand on her head, cup her chin in my hand, pick her up and just give her the most loving, attentive hug I could muster. We both felt better after that. I took an interest, when the energy was there, in cultivating joy where possible, coloring when I could, riding my bike, trying to soak up the sun when possible, realizing that it was important to have some balance throughout this process.

I started going to a support group for Adult Survivors of Sexual abuse specific to Colorado called Wings Foundation. There I started to learn that I was not alone, and that I was not to blame for what had happened to me as a child, but that I was now responsible for my adult life and learning the necessary skills to thrive where I had only survived before. I’ve started to learn about co-dependency, people pleasing behaviors, passive aggressiveness, controlling behavior, victimhood states, martyrdom, non-confrontational behavior, poor boundaries, self care, healthy communication, support, family of origin vs. family of choice, having a voice, self valuation, learning to love myself, positive vs. negative inner dialogue and a whole range of other concepts that I didn’t know I struggled with, until I absolutely knew I struggled with them. I let go of beliefs that were hurting me, and the guilt and shame that accompanied them. My views on God and grace evolved and changed into something I had not encountered before. As I did the internal work, the external world started to subtly conform in accordance with my new perspectives on reality, my place within it and defining my identity within this new framework of understanding.

What a relief, to find out that I wasn’t the weirdo everyone thought I was throughout my life, that I even thought I was- some abnormal mutant freak of modernity. To learn that I am in fact, as much a product of my environment as I am a product of my genetics, and even more so (as the field of epigenetics will reveal, more on that during another episode) than ever thought before. Today I have realized that my coping mechanisms are advanced survival traits, that have rendered themselves in a format that is no longer current, but rather obsolete. I also learned that I am an HSP, or a Highly Sensitive Person who in the proper circumstances, would have been very gifted had my potential been nurtured and supported. For a long time, I resented the fact that I felt my potential had been stolen from me, but I have to keep reminding myself that this is the path I’m on and there is not a competition on what potential is better. I have discovered, that I’m very much a healer and if money were not an issue, I would be on the healers path, helping other women who have been through what I went through and worse. Maybe that will happen after my second Saturn Return.

The process of healing is going to be a lengthy one. It could potentially take a lifetime, but that is ok, because I have a lifetime to offer. Furthermore, the insight I’ve gained into this area has filled me with a newfound sense of forgiveness towards myself that is still in it’s infantile stages but hopeful nonetheless. Lastly, I finally quit my job a couple months ago. Despite the fear that still surrounds me regarding money and security, it is the first time I’ve made a decision of this magnitude, with such implications and am not operating in fight or flight mode. It is the most wonderful experience, to sustain a certain level of cognition and calm, while in the face of potential adversity, I cannot tell you how delightful it is to know that I am enough and I will figure it out.
This type of confidence has eluded me my entire life and I’ve finally started to grow into myself, realizing that the only person I need to worry about pleasing anymore, is myself. If a situation is not serving me, well, by golly, I can make my grand exit. If someone rubs me the wrong way, or is infringing upon my autonomy and my sense of value, they don’t have to be a part of my life. There is choice in every decision and there is accountability in each fork in the road and to be able to recognize now, that I am the one creating the path is so invaluable.

So I guess, I am officially an adult, and the rite of passage that Saturn imposed upon me, despite my lack of understanding and unwillingness to cooperate was exactly what I needed to move forward in my life. I’m just so grateful to have this knowledge and am looking forward to viewing my life as the adventure that it really is. A chance to grow and to evolve in a way that allows me to bring my gifts into this space that we call life. To co-create and relate to others in a way that is authentic, meaningful and serves a purpose.

That’s all for this episode.

Monica

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