I am a long-sufferer.
I know how to tolerate the intolerable.
As a child I was powerless in relieving my own suffering. I cried myself to sleep a lot.
There was no way out. As I grew older I tried to run. I was sent back by my father, back to the angry grip of my mother time and time again. I learned "helplessness". ("Learned helplessness is behavior typical of an organism (human or animal) that has endured repeated painful or otherwise aversive stimuli which it was unable to escape or avoid.")
As an adult, I continued to tolerate the intolerable in my marriage and taught my daughter to be a long sufferer too. That part is even more painful. I stayed for far too long and did not protect my daughter. I suffered and made her suffer for a long time. It wasn't okay but I truly did not think I could leave. Like the elephant chained to the post for years, who when unchained doesn't leave his confined area, I also didn't know I could go. I knew I should, but I didn't know I could.
I left my mother's home, and then my father's home and then married never truly understanding that I had power.
After I finally left my marriage, the body conflicts became stronger. Swapping one situation of helplessness it seemed for another.
I often went long periods with physical symptoms that were unbearable at times until I couldn't take it any more. I know how to take pain, I know how to be with pain and on some level I learned early on that I deserved pain, that I should just take it. In fact the frequent beatings directly taught me how to tolerate pain. You have to do something when someone is hitting or slapping you and when you can't run, you learn how to dissociate from your body. I learned how to tolerate by checking out and it became the way I lived.
It is a habitual way of being, I have to work on daily. And it isn't until something reaches a threshold of of intolerability which is much higher than that of other people, that I seem to wake up and realize what's happening and that I need to do something. After that comes the shame at not having known sooner, at not being awake. How could I not know, why didn't I do anything sooner, what was a thinking? It is a deep shame at being "not normal", "broken" somehow.
I am awake to it now and still it happens even if it's on a smaller scale.
Today as I sat on my kitchen floor trying to plug up a hole with steel wool so the mice don't get into my apartment, I just sat and sobbed. Why am I tolerating this? Every fall I have to deal with this, every fall I catch them, set them free until there are no more. I hate it, I hate that I am living in this lovely apartment in a beautiful town and dealing with this. I hate that I stay and don't see any other way. That I shut down possibilities in my head because of my learned helplessness. And the sobbing isn't just about this pest issue, it's about the shame, and the guilt of not believing I deserve more or better. That's the part that gets me every single time.
Even though I've come a long way, there are still remnants of this in me and the shame is strong around this. But to heal shame one must shine a light on it and this is what I'm doing here today.
What helps is to see how far I've come:
These days, I go pretty soon after developing any symptom that feels off. I'm learning to trust my body more. I've learned the hard way not to ignore my body.
I do not tolerate the intolerable in my friendships.
I am no longer in a toxic partnership.
I am able to communicate and articulate how I feel when I feel the need to stand up for myself.
I still have work to do around boundaries in my familial relationships and to be more grounded in my environment and more aware.
If we are long sufferers I think it's important to examine the areas in our lives were we have high thresholds for pain. Where do you tolerate the intolerable? What are we believing about life and ourselves that keeps us in situations that are painful?
Perhaps you we are believing we can't get any better than what we have. Perhaps we are afraid of failing, of being disappointed, of not being supported.
Some long held beliefs keep us in these situations and I believe we can heal those old stories and create a new story.
It's how I have lived my life, piece by piece reclaiming my right to love, to safety, to joy, to power, to abundance, to all that was denied me as a child. I believe we can all do it. And it will not happen all at once, there are layers, and life so clearly shows them to us even when we don't want to see, especially when we don't want to see. Leading us to that core wound of unworthiness and unlovability back to the truth of who we are, getting us closer to the truth if we can just stay awake enough feel it and see it.