Facing Facts: Swimming Toward Shore

Posted on April 12, 2021


I’ve just arrived at the beach, and even though the water isn’t warm, I MUST swim. For years, I’ve known that this lake existed, and I’ve waded in its shallows, but now, a new reality awaits on the opposite shore, and the only way to get there is to let go of the familiar, immerse myself, swim out beyond the sloping sand to the deep water, where there’s nothing to hold onto–and keep going.

I don’t know what’s ahead or how long it will take, but I know I have to go. The water’s cold; goosebumps rise; I push off and start to swim…

The words above come from my post of 19 March, Facing Facts my second post focusing on using Good Grief Network‘s 10-Steps to Personal Resilience & Empowerment in a Chaotic Climate as a tool to process, feel, and heal my personal (not climate) grief.

Step 1 is “Accept the severity of the predicament,” aka “face the facts.”

I started swimming in waters that were so cold and turbulent that I have felt like I’m dying at times. At others, I’ve felt like I wanted to die. It has been an endurance challenge that has brought with it intense physical, mental, and emotional reactions: severe pain flares, headaches, back pain, exhaustion, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, over-eating, lethargy, nausea, rumination, flashbacks, difficulty thinking and speaking, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, despair…

but I’ve kept swimming, and now I can see the shore.

I have swum through the most significant relationships and events of my fifty-seven years of life, and I’ve faced facts that I have denied for decades. The most painful truth, the wave that threatened to drown me, is the fact that the relationships I’ve dreamed of, hoped for, and ignored painful truths for–in order to be ready to engage in authentic relationship with loved ones–will probably never be reality.

More painful facts: the relationships I desire will not happen because loved ones do not share my desire for authentic connection, they are not healthy/capable of authentic connection, or they are dead. Some of the pain I experience is caused by the fact that loved ones have chosen to knowingly do things that hurt me; they are not concerned about the harm they have caused; they will probably never apologize to me, because they do not desire an authentic connection with me.

I realize that my connections to the natural world, the written word, and the healing power of music developed as self-care practices in childhood, because I never felt safe in my home if my angry, violent father was around. Fortunately, he was a long-haul trucker, so he was mostly home on weekends. I tried to spend as many weekends as possible with my grandparents in early childhood, and as soon as I was old enough, I arranged to spend weekends in the homes of friends, where I would witness the miracle of fatherly love and enjoyment of family life that I would never see at home. By the summer of my senior year of high school, my doctor advised me to move out of my parents’ home, because living in constant fear was harming my health. I spent five weeks of my senior year of high school in the hospital; my immune system was unable to fight illness, and I developed chronic infections. They didn’t label my condition anything in particular; I just called it “family.” Now, doctors recognize my array of symptoms as CPTSD.

I am thankful my doctor recognized my situation, because I didn’t. I blamed myself; I believed I was “depressed,” which, to me, meant that I had something wrong with me, NOT that there was something unhealthy about my situation and the treatment I received that left me in a state of constant fear and anxiety.

For the 40 years since then, I’ve sought to create a home for myself where I am safe, but, unfortunately, I lacked the ability to recognize threats to my safety posed by men who claimed to love me, and I’ve had to rescue myself, again and again, from men whose anger, selfishness, greed, addictions, and infidelities have made my home a place of danger and chaos. The pattern of running from home to find peace has played out too many times in my life. Fortunately, finally, I know I will never again let anyone make me feel unsafe in my own home.

As I’ve been working on facing the facts of the sources of my grief, I have turned to several helpers, and I am grateful for them and the work they do:

Dr. Ramani, licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, media expert, and author.

Dr. Vo, MD, FAAP, pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at British Columbia Children’s Hospital, and clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, Vancouver, Canada. His medical practice, teaching, and research emphasize promoting resilience in young people to help them thrive in the face of stress and adversity.

Emma McAdam, licensed marriage and family therapist

I swim slowly toward shore, I am practicing awareness of my body, mind, and emotions as I come to terms with the reality of my situation.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know more about my past and how it affects my present. Soon I will reach the shore, where I will begin the work of Step 2: Practice Being In Uncertainty.

lisa eddy is a writer and editor for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy
On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com

Posted in: Mindfulness, Wellness