For most of my life I have felt somewhat resilient to most difficult events: the verbal abuse I received as a child, my social anxiety and shyness, my house burning down, the psoriasis that covered my body and, of course, the codependency and alcoholism that followed me everywhere. I seemed to walk away without a scratch. I felt like I was a powerful warrior who could conquer any type of conflict. I felt like I was reflective, insightful, and more intellectually aware of how to heal traumatic events than most. As well as capable of providing protection for those who needed it. Standing up to people, writing their messages, telling them how to set boundaries, was easy and clear for me, when I was doing it for other people.
Sometimes, friends spoke about how messed up they were by past traumas and I felt like I was “stronger” than them because I was seemingly fine by mine. I felt pretty lucky that I walked away from my childhood, and grew up to be a young woman with seemingly no visible or conscious wounds.
In my developmental psychology class I learnt about resilience. That must have been it. I did well in school, had a good group of friends, was active, had hobbies, went to university, was well-travelled, always had and held a job. I was responsible, driven, successful at what I put my mind to and well liked. Perhaps, these were the factors that kept me from sinking. I don’t think many of my friends would know what I saw, or what I heard. They assumed, based on my character, that I was “raised right”.
However, the trauma was there, under the fierce layers I wrapped myself in, that I misinterpreted as strength. I don’t want to dismiss these layers because they were what held me together. They were my survival skills, my toolkit, my resilience to grow despite what came at me.
I came to realize that I cocooned myself. I layered myself with a protective shield every time I was shamed, guilted, lied too, yelled at. Every word, argument, threat, swear, drink, built an armor around me so thick, that I wasn’t even aware I was wearing it. I was oblivious that I was traumatized. What I thought was resilience and strength, was a mask for how weak, hurt and fragile I was.
It took some wildly inappropriate events and toxic relationships but the wounded child I wrapped up so tightly came wailing to the surface.
I began my metamorphosis at 28. I had some significant relationships that brought forward the weakest parts of myself. I finally saw that weak, fragile, hurt girl. I saw the child I was, and all the potential she had. I needed to pick her up, rock her, raise her, teach her and love her. Although I was still cocooned, I knew I had to let go of the old me, let myself dissolve, like a caterpillar, into the shell that once protected her, and start fresh. I had to grow into my new body, and teach my inner child what wasn’t taught to her.
Jessica Jones is a teacher living in the Manitoba prairies. For the past year she has been actively writing and sharing her experiences with co-dependency, alcoholism, and the impact it’s had on her and her relationships. Her interests include psychology, photography, and her brand-new podcast called Mulch. For more stories and articles by Jessica follow her on Instagram @from.mulch, listen to her podcast Mulch or visit her website frommulch.com.
Featured Image by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash