Waiting to exhale

I felt the pain inside, probably for the first time.
It’s not anger, it’s not fear, but this mountain of pain housed inside my chest.
It pushes on my lungs.  I think that if I can just breathe, it might be released.
So, I wait to exhale.  Exhale the pain and poison that has been building in my body for nearly 40 years.

This image is one that helped me feel the pain…


The look in her eyes hit me… I saw it as innocence and trust.  For a moment, I connected with the pain of the past.  I even shed a few tears.  But the connection was fleeting.  Today I look at the photo and see a totally different scenario… one where someone is holding the girls legs to the left of the camera; and the girl isn’t trusting or innocent, but instead looking at the photographer for help.

I wonder if these two views of the same image are necessary for my healing.  Much of my life feels as if it’s been run in parallel realities – one where I was safe, loved and nurtured; one filled with abuse and pain.  By seeing these two realities within a photo, maybe I can start to bring them together more often.

On Polyvore, I titled this set “K”, as it represents Katie.  The confusion about whether the image shows innocence or fear, fits with my knowledge of Katie.  I was convinced for a long time that Katie had never experienced any abuse, but was silent because there were strong messages from the childhood about children being seen and not heard.  A couple of years ago, there were signs that she was mute for other reasons.

Over the last year, my safety has become more and more questionable.  I don’t think it’s a co-incidence that as my safety levels have lowered, Katie has been less present.  With the absence of her and other younger ones, I also lost a great deal of hope.  I realise that I need to bring myself back to safety in order for the ones such as Katie to be present.  I need to find hope and safety within myself… I can’t continue to compartmentalise such vital aspects of my healing.

I’m also told that it’s a cop out to compartmentalise hope… That by doing so, I’m putting too much pressure and responsibility on ones that need nurturing, not expectations.

Now, to put that knowledge into action.

Now playing: The Fray – How To Save A Life (Accoustic)
via FoxyTunes


35 thoughts on “Waiting to exhale

  1. Hi Castorgirl. I think this is a great and important post.

    It’s a sobering thought to know that our safety, or lack of it, can cause parts of us to not be present. Especially parts of us who are vulnerable and young, like Katie.

    It should provide the motivation to do what it takes to be safe.

    But I also know that it means that we must start to feel the pain. What the lack of safety did was manage that, even if in a dysfunctional way. I think at some point we learn that the risks are too great. At that point, when we turn to safety, we have to confront a lot. The shifts inside mean get to feel pain, but also get to know parts of us who need attention.

    It may feel hard, but it’s all positive.

    Good luck.

    • Hi Paul,

      I’m just at the beginning stages of working on this. I’ve been safe from the destructive coping for a week now, and it’s been rewarding, but difficult. There’s an internal commitment to safety, but also understandable fears about not being able to follow through on that commitment.

      Thank you for your support, I appreciate it.

      Take care,

  2. I already commented of this picture on Polyvore but I wanted to say here how powerful this image is and how proud of you I am. This image means a lot to me and I don’t know all of the reasons but, I’m grateful to you for putting it up.

    • Thank you tai. Your words over at Polyvore and here mean a great deal to me.

      I find myself fascinated by the photo. I don’t have any photos of me at this age, so maybe I’m trying to figure something out through this one. It feels very confusing.

      Take care,

      • I hope the confusion leads somewhere helpful for you. I’m fascinated too, it’s so weird since she doesn’t look anything like me but I can totally understand your reaction. I’d be curious to hear if you find anything interesting as you work through the feelings this picture brings up. I’ll tell you what you tell me: go gently. 🙂

  3. dear castor, this seems like a really important post. i am so glad to hear you’ve been committed to keeping yourself safe recently and have made a connection between the younger ones not being as present while your destructive coping was in place. i hope that you can find ways to cope with whatever motivations were fueling the destruction, in ways that don’t endanger you. because it seems to me, when a person engages in self-destruction, there are so many possible reasons for that, and part of overcoming the urge to self-harm, in my experience, has been finding other ways – safe ways to voice those reasons.

    sending safe hugs and peaceful caring wishes your way~~~

    • Hi katie,

      It was an important post, but I now worry that I’ve set myself up by talking about the self-injury. I shouldn’t have said anything, as it could put pressure on that is not helpful.

      You’re right, finding the motivations are the key. I’m still not able to find a voice for it all yet, but I’m working on it.

      Thank you for the hugs and wishes…

      Take care,

      • hi castor~ i hope i didn’t say anything that contributed to you feeling any pressure. as your friend, i accept you as you are, wherever you are in your healing at this moment. and my wishes for your safety only stem from caring for your well-being, never from any judgement. i have had my own history with self-harm, both physically, and then more than anything emotionally – in struggling with internal self-hatred and shame, so i feel like i understand a little bit how complicated it can be trying to find a way to be safe with ourselves. sending safe hugs and acceptance your way~~~

        • Hi katie,

          No, you didn’t put any pressure on… not at all. I continually get a sense of acceptance and understanding from you – thank you. I however, have a tendency to overthink and put pressure on myself. I became worried when I saw that I’d mentioned the self-injury that I would jinx what I was doing by raising my expectations and therefore cause me to focus on the goal, rather than the process.

          I’m sorry you also struggled with self-injury. It’s difficult to stop, even identify sometimes. I’m so glad that you are moving to a place of healing… but, that you are also honest on the way.

          Sending positive thoughts and warm safe hugs your way,

  4. I can’t see the innocence in her eyes, but I love the photo. She is saying “I’m bad. F*** off.” to me. We are talking about that in therapy, though, so all little girls look bad right now.

    I love the pictures you make and/or work together. They are often in-your-face or I’m-dealing-with-this-now-got-a-problem? That’s great. You are so daring, creative, and honest artistically. I know it’s not easy, but it’s really active and proactive, and I’m insanely jealous.

    I’m going to be so corny and say that there is hope inside of you, and those little ones inside who are a part of you will happily share it and help you work with it. Do you feel you need to be completely safe to feel that hope?


    • Hi Lisa,

      I’m sorry you’re seeing all little girls as bad right now.

      This is just for me, but I need to be safer than I have been over the last year in order to consistently feel a sense of hope. The hope that I feel at the moment is very transient, and I need to be able to feel that more consistently. I can’t expect others in the system to contribute to healing, when the body is so unsafe. I realise that I may not be able to stop all self-injury, but the more destructive forms need to stop. Then I can work on all forms of self-injury from a safer base.

      So, I’m not free of self-injury, but it’s a step in the right direction.

      Take care,

  5. I see her beauty and her innocence. I also see the plea for help, but perhaps that’s coz she doesn’t like the swing? (I used to get motion sick on swings … yea, I KNOW!!)

    I agree with Paul – this is a really important post, a watershed moment. It’s as hard as hell, but I know it’s a sign of good progress.

    Hang in there. 🙂

    • Thanks Kerro… 🙂

      My niece also used to get motion sickness on swings. Thing is, she loved them! So the poor thing would be begging us to swing her higher, while being sick.

      It was an important post. The need to try and stop the self-injury, and the reasons for doing so, had to be said in some form.

      Allison basically gave me an “A” for effort and progress today. It was good to get the validation that I might not be a hopeless case after all.

      Take care,

  6. I wonder … does looking at pictures of you as a small child ever cause that mountain to rumble? I’m just thinking about feeling for self by feelings for others. I had a similar experience once when a little girl walked up to me and with trust and exuberance said, “Hi!” I was stunned to find myself in pain and holding back tears. But I assumed it was because I don’t have any pictures of me as a child (I have a vague idea of what I looked like though). So I thought she was like a stand-in.

    Do you have pictures of yourself as a child? I wonder if the dissociation would allow you to feel anything even if you looked at them.

    I really love what you said about finding hope and safety within yourself. That’s really inspiring. Thank you for saying it.

    • Hi Holly,

      I only have one very blurry photo of myself as a 6 year old left, I’ve destroyed all the others over the years. I guess at what I looked like based on my nieces and vague memories of photos. So I can’t look at any photos of myself as a child and make any connections. But, I have had similar reactions to you… mainly when I was working as a nanny. At times I can sense myself looking at children, almost like I’m trying to work something out… but I’m not sure what. It’s possibly, as you say, seeing the child as a stand-in; or maybe a reminder of what I didn’t experience, so therefore there is grief. I’m not really sure.

      Thank you… 🙂

      Please take care of you and yours,

  7. Wow. Feels like you’ve written this for me. Almost identical is my reaction to the photo. You express it so well, “It’s not anger, it’s not fear, but this mountain of pain housed inside my chest. It pushes on my lungs.” I am so sorry you feel this too but, I so appreciate your expression of it.

    • Hi chandra,

      I’m sorry that this is your pain too. Sometimes there is comfort in knowing that we’re not alone with the feelings.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

      Take care,

  8. CG…I can so connect to what your saying about compartmentalizing…But it sounds to me like you are making huge progress and are able to get a clearer picture and then see within the picture. I get pictures in my head alot but I have trouble seeing into them. You sound like such a pro at this. I have been so lost in anger lately that I can’t even write on my blog. I know this is a phase of recovery but I think ppl are noticing this in me and I have never been an angry person. I feel guilty when I get angry like I have no right to be angry about being treated badly. UGH. Right now I am lost in this and wonder if I will get to the next place I need to be in healing. I enjoyed sharing in your progress though and admire your hard work and ability to sort thru it and organize it. HUGS!

    • Hi Nansie,

      You’ve have a lot to be angry about, so it’s good to be in touch with that anger in safe ways. Anger is a cleansing and positive emotion when it is felt in appropriate ways. You’ll get through this, you’re incredibly strong and have come so far in the last year.

      I’m definitely not a pro at this, but thanks for the compliment 🙂

      Take care,

  9. I am not sure what to write. This is such a powerful post and a very moving photo. I saw this post some time ago, but felt unable to write. That photo stirs up so much emotion within me. I am glad that you shared it. Her eyes pierce my soul.

    I am glad that you can see the connection between your safety and her presence. I pray that you can move toward safety and stay there so that she can be helped.

    • Hi OneSurvivor,

      Her eyes are incredible, aren’t they? I’m continually told that emotions are good, so I hope that the emotions this post stirred help you, rather than sweep you away.

      I’m seeing more and more the connection between those who are present within the system, and my safety. It’s the start of semester here, and the effects of that internally have been huge. The stress alone has caused shifts and changes. In some ways it feels good, but in others, I know it’s the pathway to more compartmentalisation and therefore self-injury. Paul from Mind Parts often talks about balance in healing… I’ve transferred that thought into a metaphorical seesaw, and at the moment there are parts of the system jumping up and down on one end of the seesaw, while others are trying to find ways to balance the actions out. It’s like they’re so busy doing their own thing, that they’ve forgotten that they can just stop, turn to each other and talk.

      Take care of yourself,

      • “It’s like they’re so busy doing their own thing, that they’ve forgotten that they can just stop, turn to each other and talk.”

        Wow! Well put! I think that happens a lot more often than we might think. Communication is sooooooo key to healing.

Please leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s