Saturday, September 8, 2012

Something Majestic

    Last night, I dreamed that I was being apprehended on foot by the police. I had no idea what I'd done wrong, or why they were after me, but I had a vague sense that I was about to be "found out." Even though I knew there wasn't much point in running, I wasn't going to let them catch me if I could help it. When I finally woke up, I was exhausted, nearly out of breath. Spartacus was awake already, still in bed, and as we lay there talking about the dream, he said, clearly interpreting its content at face value, "That means you've done something wrong and you're trying to get away with it." Ironically speaking, though, he's right.

     How in God's name did I end up with the life I have today? I should have been dead a long time ago. Thirty years back, I was a 19 year old shell of a girl I once knew--an annihilated spirit, worn out from years of seeking approval for who I was--hell bent on self-destruction, medicating my crappy self esteem with drugs and sex, wrecking my body, consorting with criminals, stealing from my parents, corrupting my younger brothers, wreaking havoc within our family, asphyxiating from shame and remorse in the quicksand of despair that I alone had created.

There are years of my life that I have no recollection of; perhaps it's better that way. The way it all went down is surreal: standing naked in the middle of my room, admitting all the terrible things I'd done to my father, crying together as he embraced me; escaping from the psych hospital after a week because I was afraid I might really be crazy; voluntarily signing myself into an ultra-confrontational family treatment center which lied to me, holding me against my will when I tried to leave; the nightmarish manipulation of my family and me during those 14 months, the constant and insidious brainwashing; the unbearable social isolation; the food and sleep deprivation; the exercise sessions, used as group punishment, conducted in a windowless space with the heat turned all the way up in mid-summer; the countless dreams of escaping from that building, of being able to take a shit without someone watching me, of no longer being humiliated or led around by the belt loop at the hands of an authority figure half my age, of simply being able to taste birthday cake again; the desperate repetition of David Bowie song lyrics in my head while sitting for hours at a time on hard blue plastic chairs, just so I wouldn't forget who I was; the eventual reformation which occurred the day I finally caved in; the assimilation into recovery from an addiction I never had in the first place, becoming part of a system I hated because I could see no other way out, the regret over which I've never fully forgiven myself for, wondering whose last shreds of dignity or integrity I might have destroyed because I had none left of my own.

     What exactly have I been running from all these years? I'm a fucking physician, for Chrissakes! I've legitimately worked my way to the top of the educational and professional ladders, but I still don't feel integrated. There's always been a part of me that I've felt necessary to conceal in order to get where I wanted to go. I'm finished hiding. I don't have anything to apologize for. I'm who I am today because of all the shit I've been through in my life, not in spite of it. Every single trial and tribulation I've endured has been transformative in some way, and though I haven't always recognized that in the midst of a crisis, somehow I've managed to flourish from this amplitude of misadventures. I'm really not a complicated person. It's taken me decades to recover my original personality, the one Straight, Inc. tried so hard to deconstruct and obliterate, but even when I was Robot Me, my true self clung tenaciously to whatever sparks of Old Me it could find, and held them for safekeeping. It's taken me a good 20-something years to get here, but I'm back, braving my own personal renaissance, the sparkling clarity from which is surging out in torrents. I am in tears. I am intact.

     As I've written this, I've also been engaged in the following parallel e-mail conversation with my friend, Elaine, who's known me since I was twelve:

Elaine: "Helena, the thing is back then, your perception of yourself was so different to what you were in my eyes. You were statuesque with blue eyes the color of polar ice. And so intelligent and creative! And my self perception was one of lacking confidence, but determination was building in me to overcome it. Inwardly we both felt similar, I think."
Me: "Isn't it strange how we see others and ourselves through such different lenses?"
Elaine: "Yes! I think we never see ourselves in 3D, we never know the beauty of the impact of ourselves on each other. You were stunningly beautiful and that just gotten more and more so over the years!"
Me: "Sometimes, Elaine, I felt you believed in me more than I believed in myself."
Elaine: "That is what friends are for!!!  To show us our majesty that we do not recognize."

     I've loved my life, even when I hated it. That's probably why I'm still alive today, the mother of gorgeously kind and talented 22 year old twin sons, the ex-wife of the father of my children, who I consider to be my friend, the wife of my beloved Spartacus, who opens his heart anew to me every day, the daughter-sister-friend-artist-cook-physician-writer who's always been known as Helena, because something in that girl refused to surrender, something infinitely sustaining, something so fragile it could never break, something majestic.
A picture my younger sister took of me when I was 19. I was wearing a sweater  and socks that I knitted myself.





35 comments:

  1. Very powerful post. I relate to many parts of it. I also love both your bluntness and your way with language. Oh! and I can't forget to say, we are not professionals in our own lives! I'm a therapist, for fuck's sake, and crazy as a bedbug. And give examples weekly on the world wide web. Physician heal thy self -- I think it's pretty much bullshit.

    By the way, (I hope this isn't a stupid question) what do you like to be called?

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    1. I completely agree, June...I think I'm much more empathetic because of the experiences I've had in life. I've discovered I'm much greater than the sum of my parts. Maybe that's part of what drew me toward a helping profession.

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  2. Really powerful piece, Helena. It sounds like life has given you a few good jabs and a right hook, but here you are...thriving. A testimony to your resilience and love of life. I agree...people always tend to see you different than you see yourself. Sometimes that's a blessing. I loved reading this.

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    1. Annie, So glad you enjoyed it, and happy to have met you on BC. It's been a blessing for me to have lifelong friends and family who've seen me through a different lens than the one I use on myself.

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  3. One word that immediately came to mind when I read this post, is resilience. You appear to be a very strong woman. Many would have crashed and burned and faded into oblivion.

    The fact that you are still here and doing as well as you are, is a true testament to your indomitable spirit.

    Your story, should be a story for all to read. Most would be encouraged and would lift themselves up by their boot straps and walk with their heads held high, as you so bravely demonstrated.

    Keep looking within, keep finding you, and let the rest take care of itself.

    May God keep you wrapped in His arms.

    ~Paul Worthington

    www.Cop-A-Squat.com

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Paul. I finally decided to write this, with the hope that others who can relate may find encouragement.

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  4. Somewhere in all that reflection of your past self and acknowledgement of your present self needs to be the word "brave". It belongs in the beginning of your story, in the middle and in the end. If the challenges in our lives really do make us stronger, you must surely be Hercules.

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  5. We are kindred spirits. I feel every word and hear the gaps between the lines. Ready for your interview?

    "The veils of longing, self-esteem, discovery, self-knowledge are more swiftly understood when they re pulled away one at a time. In the end we understand what we know and know what we feel might become and it's just beyond our grasp."

    "me"

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    1. Theresa, What you've written here is lovely, and yes, I am ready for my interview :-)

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  6. Ah, at last the running stops - and the Truth seeps out. Along with the Truth, the true beauty shines, too. Well done, Helena. You survived -and now, you thrive! Your strength cloaks you in something stunning - the beauty of your spirit, which you have set free!

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    1. Thanks, Melody...so good to hear from you. I very much enjoy living life as a free spirit.

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  7. Great post, you always write with such emotion and it comes straight from the heart. I have also had loads of mental health problems too (I'm still going through quite a few!) and I understand that feeling of guilt and shame so much. I hope one day I'll forgive myself like you have now :)

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    1. Jade, Keep writing your beautiful poetry and being yourself; you are already well on your way. :-)

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  8. Thank you for being so candid!

    It's amazing how deep the impact of seemingly simple dreams can be.

    Frederik from blogcatalog.com

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  9. Kris, immediately from your first appearance at BC I pegged you as a free spirit. We all begin as rebels, saying the big No to the world around us, making a big mess, until we discover the big Yes-which is Life itself. But first we have to pass through that mess of anger, confusion, remorse and self-doubt. All is forgiven and forgotten when we forgive ourselves.

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    1. Spot on, NP. And yes, once we forgive ourselves, we can finally let go.

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  10. Suffering is the prerequiste for discovery our core identity. The most beautiful, free, loving people seem to be the ones who hit borrom first, shattering all false masks, dumping gernerational baggage and guilt and shame.
    Hello, sister

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    1. Melanie, thanks for your comment. Yes, I think we tend to hit bottom because we take ourselves too seriously, and we ascend when we begin to "lighten up."

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  11. powerful- I have a similar story minus the 'rehab' and 'rebellion'. I was a 'good' victimn
    we will have much to share and teach each other
    from a new sister
    melanie

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  12. Self acceptance comes with age and experience. We wake up one morning and realize we like who we are and we can't change the past. It is my faith in God that pulled me through my terrible years. He was with me even in the darkest moments. His presence brought me to where I am today. I think self discovery is God discovery.

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  13. Very powerful words and emotion. Well done!
    I related to this in many ways. Yes, what didn't destroy us make us stronger. Or, we were strong by nature. Whatever, we survived, and thrived. I wonder sometime, are there something more beautiful/powerful than an easy smile on a face that has been through the darkest misery? My answer is "NO".

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    1. "I wonder sometime, are there something more beautiful/powerful than an easy smile on a face that has been through the darkest misery?" An astonishingly beautiful sentiment, YunYi!

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  14. Such a powerful, candid and very moving personal piece! You endured some truly tough experiences and I could feel the pain of those experiences in your writing. I totally understand about feeling like you never really fit it because of your past, even when you have accomplishments. Yes, you are who you are today because of the shit you went through, not in spite of it! Straight Inc could not break your spirit because you a strong individual! A free spirit and a kindred spirit! Your friend Elaine saw your beauty and majesty early on...and we see it here in your blog. I can’t imagine it was easy to write this and thank you for sharing. Your life has come together beautifully and I love the way you write about your boys and your husband (not getting to be a mom is the one truly painful thing in my adult life). I have a feeling that after everything you went through, you are a very good mother! Btw, I played a lot of David Bowie songs in my youth, got me through a lot of stuff! Should we call you Helena now and not Kris?

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    1. Madilyn, From what you've said about your experiences growing up, we have many "themes" in common. Crazy about the comfort David Bowie afforded; Elaine actually met him in NYC once and says that he straightened himself out, back in the '80s, by using a shaman. This was very difficult to write, but I am so glad I finally did it. I think that what I went through all those years ago has given me a different perspective on mothering.

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  15. Now, this is what I call one hell of a strong woman. I can just imagine the countless times you must have been swimming against the tide and walking up the escalators that were going down. I feel that our past experiences are very similar, too similar.

    I know those years have moulded you into the person you are today, no doubt about that and it takes a woman with balls to talk about it, without being fearful of what others may say. I Just love the frankness and no nonsense approach you have.

    Never allow anyone to take your free spirit and place you in a box, whilst they live your life for you or through you. The time to live is NOW as you may not be here tomorrow.

    Brilliant brilliant post, I loved every word of it. You need to write a book helena.

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    1. Thanks so much, RPD. I completely agree: the time to live is NOW...it's the only way to live!

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  16. Wow, what a post! You've clearly gone through a lot to get to where you are today and you're right, it has made you who you are. Though I never experienced anything remotely like it I must say there is a small part of me that feels like an fraud and that someone will eventually find me out. The funny thing is, I don't know what makes me feel like a fraud. I'm a pretty open person. I guess there are certain insecurities that never quite release themselves.

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  17. Your posts always seem to pack a punch when I read them. I look back at my youth and most times I wished I knew then what I know now. It is good Spartacus listens to you when you are discussing things that usually don't have an answer, like a dream. Maybe your conscious is tormenting you for something you are thinking about trying to get away with but haven't yet.

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  18. Like similar to what IYAAYS said, your post packed a punch... wow! Powerful. Inspiring.

    A very close, dear friend of mine went through Straight, Inc., although I am not personally familiar; I've heard so many stories that were quite frightening.

    Thank you for sharing so openly...

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  19. Knowing you only in your adult life, I cannot see a mear glimpse of fragility in you. I have admired your kindness, acceptance, and determination since we met, and was aware of these qualities from the beginning. Now that I have seen into your past, I understand what I was drawn to in you...depth. No one can become half of the person you are without defying all livable odds in their history. I truly appreciate the way you have put yourself out for all to see in this piece. You truly are the epitome of strength. I do not believe that your rise to the top of the ladder is complete. I look forward to the day when you earn the title author which you so readily deserve, and I look forward to reading your work 1000 times over.

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  20. Helena, this is precisely the kind of post I call a twister. Maybe it is much more than that! You have packed so much of a lifetime in so few words, and a river of torments, regrets, self-flagellation and then return of the belief in yourself.

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    1. Uma, this was a very difficult post for me to write. It's been half a lifetime now since the events I spoke of, but I remember it all like yesterday.

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  21. It sounds like you've had one helluva journey and come out in pretty great place, but I don't think you're "getting away" with anything. You struggled to be where you're at. Inspiring!

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