Ever since my brother died I experience periods where I emotionally recede. I turn inward onto myself. I pull back. I spend countless hours alone in the middle of the night watching mind numbing shows or scrolling social media or reading. I am unable or unwilling to connect emotionally. I feel as though I cannot give another piece of myself to any other human being for fear of having nothing left.
At first these periods were triggered by intense emotional pain, grief and loneliness. They existed as a survival strategy. A way for me to continue the day to day, holding it all together, keeping it all afloat. Even surrounded by a wonderful support network I felt utterly alone in my grief. I felt orphaned by two of the people who knew me better than anyone in the world. I felt whole periods of my life had been erased with their deaths. If I tried to articulate these emotions or bare myself I often felt worse. There just aren’t the words. I chose to disconnect. I created a secret self. A self that was mine only. A self who allowed me to be in that terrible dark emotional pit and wade through it until I clamored my way out back into the light. With my secret self I existed raw and real and unashamed. My secret self didn’t persecute for feeling lost and dysfunctional and barely holding onto life. My secret self had no expectations. My secret self let me just be.
I don’t know if this was a healthy coping strategy or if other grieving souls resort to a similar pattern. It seemed at times the only thing I could do to keep functioning. Though I wouldn’t say it was refreshing or recharging. On the contrary, I navigated my world in a semi-zombie state from insomnia. There are parts of the last 4 years I have poor recollection or no memory of. I existed on auto- pilot more times than I care to admit.
As I crawl further out of my grief hole I am able to dive less often into my pit of isolation. With less intensity and frequency. I am present more often. I am beginning to become aware of a cost of shrinking into myself. What once felt necessary for survival is now more a choice. I am recognizing that choice of introversion cascades onto my most valuable intimate relationships.
Most affected, regrettably has been my relationship with Mr. Reinvention. Ever my steadfast support. He watches and waits, pensive and concerned. Never pushing. Never demanding. Never shaming. His unconditional love and unwavering support is incredible. The times I am hiding I twist his support into self shame and degradation. Questioning why I am unable to accept his embrace, his care, his love.
My connection to Baby Reinvention is altered too in the periods of my emotional reclusion. I feel stretched so very thin and empty inside. Often her requests feel overwhelming. I am irritable and impatient from lack of sleep. I am snappy.
I push those most dear to me away.
In both cases I am not who I want to be. I am so very far from my best self. My vision of my best self feels like an impossible goal.
When my brother died, one of the ways I vowed to honor him was by living my best, fullest life. After my mom died that vow became a mantra. Yet, I still falter.
Insight and awareness is a constant gift to me. I am able to see from a different perspective. Recognize my secret self may no longer serve me. Maybe it’s time I let her go. Maybe I can thrust myself into the arms of Mr. Reinvention and never turn away again. Perhaps, I can venture into Baby’s Reinvention’s imaginary worlds with her and lose my secret self there.
I think it’s time my secret self and I say our forever goodbyes as I turn into the light and love that surrounds me and never look back. I feel ready to immerse myself fully into my present and into my most important loves. I feel hopeful. I feel joy. I want to stay connected.
There is a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote so powerful to me that I had it inscribed on my body- “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air”. This is exactly how I hope to thrive.
Do you have a secret self or a coping mechanism that you want to change? Do you have a favorite quote that embodies you? Share with us.