“More broken than me” is a judgement but it’s also a real thought I had today. Even those of us who strive not to be judgmental have judgement. It’s a human tendency to compare and contrast. I believe we all do it, but I also think it’s important that we catch ourselves and recognize the moment, that we recognize and question our thoughts instead of believing them to be true.
I really felt myself today, such a surreal feeling of aliveness pervaded my being. I wasn’t rushed. I was intentional and it reminded me that this is the way life is supposed to be. Not all of my days have been like this; in fact, most haven’t been, but lately I get glimpses, hints of the beautiful life that is before me. My embodiment practices have invited these moments more often and for that, I’m thankful.
It’s funny how one thought or feeling leads to the next and how we connect ideas and concepts to one another. The feeling of aliveness, of being embodied, reminded me of many years of disembodied living––the pulling out, up and away from experience, simply because I couldn’t be here. I didn’t feel safe so being anywhere else but here was my standard operating mode.
These thoughts led to thoughts about trauma, to my story, and ultimately to the “more broken than me” thought. I pictured a girl I know: her life, the trauma she’s endured, how much worse her life has been compared to mine. This, of course, led to the thought, ‘comparison isn’t helpful.’ More thoughts still … will she ever be able to move through her trauma? Will she ever feel whole? What evolution will be necessary for her to feel whole? How can I help? What words and experiences can I offer? It’s why I write today.
But let me back up and tell you a story––my story, part of it anyway.
I didn’t realize the depth of my pain, my past trauma, until my mom died. Literally, I had no idea. I could see my mistakes but I wasn’t connecting them to the trauma that I endured as a child. It was a revelation.
When we talk about trauma, the tales are often unspeakable. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that trauma is any situation in which we are unable to cope, any situation that causes stress and pulls us away from ourselves.
Unraveling––the word I’ll use to describe my process after my mom’s death––the thread connecting me to her and the rest of my family of origin simply unraveled as she moved to the other side.
My mother was kind, loving, selfless, compliant, and she loved me the way most mothers love their children, but in her passing, I was confronted with a lot of unmet trauma from childhood I didn’t know existed. It wasn’t trauma that my mother inflicted upon me. No, the trauma was rooted in relational patterns. It stemmed from an inability to be myself within my family environment.
My therapist called it ‘low level trauma,’ the hardest to treat. I wasn’t physically or sexually abused. I don’t have unspeakable tales to tell you. My trauma was minor but it was real and it led me down some pretty destructive paths throughout early, and even middle adulthood. The upside to ‘low level trauma,’ for me, is that it made me resilient and curious. It led me to writing as a healing art; it provides insight every day.
The result was a dis-regulated nervous system. I best describe it as a cognitive knowing of who I am versus an emotional feeling I relate to myself. They don’t match which causes dissonance, leads to questioning and has luckily allowed me to put the puzzle pieces together over the years. It manifests as ‘not enough-ness.’
Just a few months ago, my brother commented: “you’ve grown, Heather. You’ve gotten better. Some people never learn from their mistakes.” It made me look back and reflect on our shared upbringing. He wasn’t affected in the same way I was. He still doesn’t understand me and couldn’t understand the mistakes I made as a young adult.
My parents never understood me either. How could they? I didn’t understand myself. I didn’t KNOW myself; couldn’t know myself. Hindsight is 20/20 though. I get it. I get why I behaved the way I did as a young adult. My character isn’t (and wasn’t) defective. My actions were a direct result of a number of childhood inconsistencies and traumas that kept me stuck in repetitive negative behaviors; oh, and my nervous system was completely imbalanced. But let me be clear: this is not a blame story. I am responsible for my actions past and present. I’m simply telling my story as I know it to be true. I also know I’m not unique.
I feel for those who are ‘more broken than me,’ and I say that with compassion, not judgement. I say it with deep love, empathy, wishes for healing and a deeper capacity for self love. Words do not fully describe the felt-sense of my own broken heart when I think of those struggling with deep wounds it seems may never heal. I would like to say that I understand the work necessary to move past the hurt but it feels shallow and not entirely true.
I don’t have the answers, not even close, but I can say this with conviction: if you’re struggling, hurt, in pain, unsure, please know that these feelings ARE NOT YOU. Yes, they are IN you; they are real, but they want to move out too. They are not YOU and they do not define you.
There is something so beautiful and whole and peaceful here underlying all of the shame and guilt and hurt and trauma, and only a thin veil separates us from this beauty. When we’re able to awaken to the true nature of all, we can see it. The trouble is we get caught up in the matters of the world, so we forget.
Find safety, first and foremost. Find support. Find ways to nourish yourself. I know these words will never be enough, but I hope they are a start.
The pain, trauma, guilt, shame and any other human feeling you feel is not you, at your core, and you are not more broken than me, or anyone else for that matter. It’s a judgement and I use it to illustrate a point of comparison in the hopes that it helpful. It’s an illustration of what we humans do, yet the inherent beauty here is deeper than the places our cognitive minds allow us to go. I hope you’ll consider that as a place to begin.