by Naomi Rozak
Two years ago, in March 2021, I took the most uncomfortable step forward into healing of my life, as I chose to communicate pieces of me that I had kept hidden. Nervousness plagued my thoughts so that I was low on sleep, but I was also proud of my courage to speak instead of avoiding the situation. It was the following week that destabilized me, as though a rug had been pulled from under my feet. My birthday was on the Tuesday, and so many people called, texted, and visited that I felt like a celebrity. After the Monday, which was a long slog, and after a year of isolation in a world-wide pandemic, that much social interaction felt euphoric. Wednesday, though, was a day fresh out of hell. Navigating one or two slightly trying things might have been possible, but I felt as if I had woken up under water, and the distance between me and the surface, where I could catch a breath, only increased throughout the day.
Image credit: Christina Deravedisian on Unsplash
The whole week was tough. Uncomfortable emotions like anger and sadness spilled over often and at odd moments. I cried many times. I felt exposed, vulnerable, like my skin was being flayed off my back. Not once, but continually, I crawled into bed, pulled up the covers, and stayed there. I know I did it to myself. The healing part of me had recognized that it was time to take a step into deep vulnerability. The extra pressure of a pandemic squeezed my marriage, highlighting the disconnection between my husband and me. Emphasizing our areas of weakness. Spotlighting
what my healing self could no longer accept as the way things had to be. I examined what was not working for me, identified what I needed going forward, and expressed that to my husband.
While I was sure it would bring results over time, being seen in this way destabilized my childhood patterns of attachment. To feel secure and loved, said my belief, one must stay small. One must never ask for something one needs. One must take care of oneself, and one must never, ever do anything to rock the boat. Since the divorce of my parents when I was seven, I had never expressed my needs this honestly to anyone. Consequently, there were moments when the emotion of childlike panic was so strong, I felt like vomiting.
Still, while I was uncomfortable for most of that week, I had grown enough to recognize what I was feeling while I laid there in my bed. It was not avoidance. It was not depression, and it was not procrastination or lack of motivation. I felt a genuine need to be safe for myself and to bear witness to my private experience: the radical discomfort of breaking free from an unhealthy pattern, one that my healing self no longer needed. Cocooning in the comfort of my soft, warm blankets, I could process the discomfort of growth. I knew that expressing my needs to my husband could upend life as I knew it, but it was a necessary step made with faith that all would be well. This death of what we have been, to see what we might become, is a fundamental step of healing. During that time, I spoke gently to myself: “You moved forward. You chose to be honest, to express your feelings and your needs. You have never taken up this much space in your life with the people who mean the most to you. You will feel uncomfortable. You will feel exposed. And the rush of feelings coming up is normal because they have been shoved down for too long. It was time. You did what was necessary for you. So just let the feelings be there.”
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Those feelings of vulnerability were not the only ones which arose into awareness. The week before, as I had prepared for the risky conversation, twice I felt a new emotion well up within me, imprinting words onto my consciousness. My body, my core self, saying: “Thank you for loving me at last. Thank you for allowing me to be fully seen.” This inner gratitude gave me the encouragement I needed to show my true self.
Sometimes the deepest care we can give ourselves is to do what is necessary to honour who we are becoming. Self-love is rarely pretty words and cliché ribbons tied in a bow. It is both the brave step forward into growth and the cradling of the resulting discomfort. It is looking within to that scared, vulnerable self, and gently saying, “I see and honour this experience. I am uncomfortable, and that is okay.”