The walk

Got to run… Got to get away… Got to escape…

This is how my need to runaway always starts… those words, repeated over and over.  Sometimes they creep up on me slowly; but sometimes, they hit like the freight train.  On Sunday, they hit suddenly; although I should have been expecting them…  Last week, an inundation of triggers, meant that by Friday, I was a dissociated mess.  Through my own actions, and decisions, I set myself up on the road to self-destruction, and despite some last-minute reality checks, things became very messy…

On Sunday, I got that last little push that tipped me over the edge into a flip-book of flashbacks…  So, the chant began… Got to run… Got to get away… Got to escape…

This has often been the beginnings of an incident of self-injury, which I know just causes pain to be piled on top of existing pain.  I know the pull of self-injury well… it can be hypnotic and alluring… there’s a cold comfort in its familiarity.  But, instead of following that path, I took the words literally and escaped by going for a walk.

Considering my social anxieties, I’m not quite sure why I decided to do this… and initially, it seemed a huge mistake.  I walked past families preparing BBQ’s, causing flashbacks to summers of watching my father cooking at the family BBQ… past the barking dogs, which brought up images of the scars on my friends back from an attack by a stray Alsatian… It went on, with each new sight, smell and noise triggering a new flashback.

I walked faster, and faster… trying to outpace the thoughts and images in my head.  But the chanting in my head got louder and louder… Got to run… Got to get away… Got to escape…

Negative talk started to drown out the chant… I shouldn’t have eaten so much over the past week… I didn’t do enough at work… I’m just an attention seeking nightmare…

It went on and on… until, the words of WPT cut through all the noise.  He told me the story of a woman who heard some rattling behind her as she walked; so she walked faster, scared of the noise… She walked faster and faster, until she was running… all the while, the rattling noise became louder and louder.  As she scrambled up a hill, she met someone who told her to turn around… The noise was that of the skeleton of her past, tied to her ankle.  Until she turned, faced it, and cut it free; it would always be with her. **

This rather butchered part of a story, brought me back to reality…  I realised that this is what I was so desperately trying to do… I was trying to outrun the skeletons in my closet.  But, they were making their presence felt through flashbacks and anxiety.  Because they exist within me, I’m never going to outrun them… or inflict enough damage through self-injury to drown them out for long.  Until I turn to face them, and work through what happens in the present as a consequence of those skeletons; I’m never going to ease their hold over me…

The kicker is, that I know this.  I know that my self-injury is just another way to try to run… but turning around to face those skeletons is terrifying.  I’ve been able to do it at times, but never for long.  I get scared, confused and overwhelmed.  I can never seem to do it they way they say in the books, or even in the other blogs I read… It seems such an unobtainable goal.  How can something summarised in one chapter of a book, be so difficult, and take so long to do?

Of course, my annoyance with not being able to achieve this thing called “healing” is yet another sign of my need to distract and have control…

So, the skeletons of my past keep rattling…

** As a note: I know my recounting of the story isn’t accurate, and I’m not sure of its title; but I think it might be one of the short stories in the book Women who run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

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14 thoughts on “The walk

  1. Yes a similar story of “The Skeleton Woman” is in the book “Women Who Run with the Wolvesm,” but it’s such an apt metaphor for those of us trying to figure out how we cope with our past without doing it at the expense of the present and possibly the future. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Healing is a process, and it doesn’t ever really end… at least in my experiences so far. I move through periods where I feel like I’m over it and I’m free, and then some anniversary creeps up on me unawares, and says, “Hello there, I’m still waiting for you to acknowledge the scar I left there. Make me some tea, we need to talk.” It’s about quality of life improvement, and making progress. You made so much progress right here in what you described. You didn’t resort to old harmful coping mechanisms. You picked something else instead. And it frightened you. But one of you was loud enough to drown out the clamor, and to give you what you needed to ground yourself. That’s IMMENSE. Thank that part of you for remembering and offering that story, and celebrate that victory. It may seem a small thing to you, but those victories add up to that immense goal called healing.

    • Hi Storm Dweller,

      I thought that was the title of the story, but when I read the outlines online, it didn’t quite match what WPT told me. I do remember him holding up that book though… so, it could be that I’ve altered the story to fit what I wanted, or he altered it.

      I realise that healing is a process, but it feels as if I’ve been stuck in this place for so long… it’s a little frustrating! I’m glad that I didn’t resort to a more dysfunctional form of coping, and that is progress. The walk was frightening… it was scary to experience all the flashbacks in such a public place. It also forced me to cope with those flashbacks in a contained way.

      I understand what you mean by anniversaries… next week is the anniversary of the last attack by my ex-husband; and while I thought I was distant enough from it, that it wouldn’t bother me… it obviously is.

      Thank you for your support, encouragement, and sharing some of your own story… I appreciate it.

      Take care,
      CG

  2. As I was reading, I felt your anxiety CG. I’m really glad you went for a walk. I’m going to tell you that taking that action is a big deal. I know that, because I know how hard it can to make yourself get up instead of just staying and following through with what your mind wants you to do.

    It doesn’t matter if you can’t always do it, and of course I don’t mean that self-injury doesn’t matter. What I mean is that we try and sometimes we fall down but it’s great to keep trying and sometimes we make progress. Even if we feel we’ve taken a step back, it doesn’t erase the progress. My therapist says that people who are healing are still heading up the mountain, they’re just taking a different path instead of going straight up. It may be sideways but it still goes to the same place and it’s still moving up.

    There are many times that I wish I could be there for you in person. I’m sorry I can’t be, but I’m here in whatever way is possible.

    *safe hugs if that’s ok*

    • Hi CI,

      It was a big deal to go for a walk… but, I’m also not totally oblivious that there was a push to do so as part of the food issues that are happening at the moment. So, it wasn’t totally positive; but better than some of the alternatives…

      There’s that saying – it’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up… and I think that’s apt for the struggle with self-injury. It’s a slow process to change those old dysfunctional ways, and find new ways of coping. But it can be done…

      Thanks for the support CI, I really appreciate it. There are many times that I wish I lived in another country, and could support others more…

      Take care, and with (((warm safe hugs))) if wanted,
      CG

  3. Hi CG, I’m really sorry you got so triggered, but as someone else said, it is definite progress and healing that you found another way to deal with it.

    I’m also interested that your negative self talk kicks in so quickly after the instinct to run. Perhaps mine does too, although I’m still too caught up in the “run, run away, run now” to hear it.

    Please take gentle care. ((hugs)) if wanted.

    • Hi Kerro,

      Thanks…

      I should say that the walk was long enough that I got totally lost in an area of town I’d never been in before… So while it may sound quick within the post, it probably was about an hour of fast walking before the negative self-talk came into play.

      It’s an awful experience, isn’t it?

      Take care, and with (((warm safe hugs))) if wanted,
      CG

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