The Thing Which Made Us Sick Cannot Make Us Better

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We cannot expect the thing which made us sick to make us better; the antidote is never found in the bottle of poison.

I recently listened to Viola Davis' masterful memoir Finding Me; I was not disappointed because she truly is the inspiration she appears to be.

Someone who can grow up in the circumstances she did and rise up to the level that she has - to have that ability to see herself differently and to reach for dreams that in her situation seemed totally improbable - that to me is a hero. Someone with vision and faith and a spirit that cannot be crushed. (All that to say: well worth the read / listen.)

In her book, she re-counted a story about a conversation she had with Will Smith, where he asked her: "Who are you?"

The question: "Who are you?" - in the context of the book - was asking "In what moment of your life are living from?"

Viola said she realized she was still living from the perspective of that little girl who grew up in poverty, who peed the bed until she was 14, and who was looking for love.

I thought about that question.

I would guess that for many of us, the answer is that we aren't living from the perspective of the person we are right now, but rather from the perspective of someone we used to be but haven't fully realized we aren't anymore.

When I answered that question for myself, the answer was hard to stomach; I'm still living from my 23 year-old self.

The 23 year-old self lying on the kitchen floor as my father beat me and my mother and brother sat at the table and turned a blind eye, once again, as we all waited for my father's rage to be spent on me. That's what we were all taught to do in my family; don't try to stop it, just wait until it's over and hope that it's over soon. We normalized this behaviour. My family normalized my father's abuse of me.

I don't know why it was this time, of all the times, that I remember most. 

Maybe it was because it was the last time he hit me.

Maybe because my mother and brother were both sitting there pointedly ignoring what was happening and for the first time I realized how much their lack of action contributed to my trauma.

Maybe because I had let that my guard down at that point in my life; that I trusted that because I was now a grown adult, he would never hit me again. I had allowed myself to feel safe.

But when he beat me that day, it made me feel as though I would never feel safe in this world, that I could never, ever, afford to let my guard down. That I could not trust people.

I've still been living from this place; a place of deep anger, mistrust, and unworthiness because the people who were my family, who were supposed to protect and love me, turned away from me. I've been living from a place of being afraid of the world, sure that it was just waiting for an opportunity to hurt me.

The pain of being surrounded by people but feeling so profoundly alone is a very deep pain.

I've lived life feeling alone and abandoned, and realize I've abandoned myself many times; given up on myself, given in to the darkness.

In the same way they turned away from me and my pain, I've turned away from myself. I abandoned myself, punished myself, ignored my needs, silenced my own voice.

Where they left off, I took up the baton.

It's time to stop that.

It's time to re-invent myself, it's time to decide to be different - to be more than what they told me I could be. To let go of the self-limiting beliefs that were theirs and that they put onto me; it doesn't have to be my truth anymore.

It's time to live my life from the perspective of the person I am now; that amazing person I became in spite of the adversity I was put through so early in life.

It's time to learn to trust the right people.

You can't expect the thing which made you sick to make you better.

I've been emotionally sick because of my family.

I've been waiting for them to change their behaviour so that I could get better.

Stop waiting for the thing that made you sick to heal you.

Now I realize that the cure cannot be found in the thing that caused the ailment.

The antidote is never found in the bottle of poison.

I have to let go.

I am finally ready to let go of the idea that the past could have been any different.

It couldn't have been any different than it was because they were who they were. They are who they are.

I couldn't walk away then, but I can walk away now.

Waiting and hoping that I could scavenge the remedy from the poison has drained the life out of me. I haven't allowed myself to be ALIVE. I haven't allowed myself to feel joy.

That's how I've felt my whole life; as though I wasn't fully inhabiting my body.

I realize that was out of necessity; when you're physically hurt as a child and into adulthood, the kindest thing you can do for yourself is to remove yourself from the awareness of being in your body because the body is the place where the pain lives and the last thing you want to do is feel the pain.

So it's easier not to inhabit the body, not to be aware of it and live a completely disconnected experience.

But living this way means that you don't get to feel much either. The experience of being alive just passes you by.

I've been living checked out of my own life; checked out of existence. Thinking that someday, maybe, when I become beyond reproach in the eyes of my family, that I could then begin to live.

Now I realize that I've missed out on so much life. I'm turning 42 this month and I haven't been here; not really.

But I want to be.

The journey I'm embarking on now is that of becoming aware of all of the things, people, and habits in my life which are hindering my ability to be fully present in my life and in my body.

Anything that prevents the flow of life, anything that hinders my joy, it has to go.

"I really wanted to show that it wasn’t all bad in my family. I tried so hard to think of happy times we all had together, times when we had fun, when we laughed. In the interests of balance, I even wanted to be able to describe some instances of kindness and tenderness involving us all. But I just couldn’t.’s not that every second of my childhood was filled with doom. But every second was filled with the possibility that in an instant my father’s mood would plunge into irrationality, rage, and ultimately violence. This very feeling, this possibility, is what darkens the part of my mind where my childhood stories live.

It’s hard to explain how much that feeling of the bottom potentially falling out at any moment takes its toll. It makes you anxious, of course, and constant anxiety is impossible for the body to handle. So you develop a coping mechanism, and for us that meant shutting down.

Everything we liked or wanted or felt joy in had to be hidden or suppressed. I’m sad to say that this method works. If you don’t give as much credence or value to whatever it is that you love, it hurts less when it is inevitably taken from you.

I had to pretend I had no joy. It will come as a shock to people who know me now, but being able to express joy was something it took me a long time to be confident enough to do."

"My biggest discovery was that you can literally re-create your life. You can redefine it. You don’t have to live in the past. I found that not only did I have fight in me, I had love... I didn’t want to dwell on little Viola running away anymore. I wanted to run toward joy... I wanted to feel alive. I wanted to become . . . me."

Image Credit: Hard Knox Talks


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