The heroic inversion

More about me and PTSD, and being a Buddhist.

I’ve just started some very intense therapy. At some point soon, we’ll be doing EMDR therapy – this stands for “eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing”, and is one of those mystery treatments that really works for a lot of people, whilst no-one exactly knows why. In essence, it seems that making the eyes move in a certain way whilst recalling traumatic experiences jolts the brain out of fear-loops it has got stuck in. Sometimes. This therapy has a pretty high success rate in helping people with PTSD.

Right now, though, we’re still getting used to each other (as I mentioned in my last post here), and doing something I cringe to call “Inner Child” work, but it’s an apt name for it. The problem that I need help with is exactly that: the adult me is trying to get through life whilst sharing this body with a scared and angry little kid. I’ve tried so many approaches to changing this, including, finally, at last, no longer trying to “get rid of” the kid when things are difficult, but keeping company with my fear instead. But in the end, none of it can prevent me from suddenly finding myself being that kid, especially in situations of sexual intimacy. Which is why I’m recently single again, because no-one in their right mind wants to be in a sexual relationship with a scared and angry child.

So here I am, beginning this journey of unbinding, and it’s really, really frightening. And I’m reminded at this point in the journey of something that came to my mind some years ago, when my life as a Buddhist transformed dramatically. It was this phrase that rose in my mind out of nowhere: Moving from an outer to an inner heroism.

The kind of Buddhist I used to be was the “grand gestures” kind. Do all the right things, say all the right things, be ready (and especially be seen to be ready) to go out into the world and take on the challenge of teaching people the Dharma. I almost moved to Paris a decade ago to do that. But then this sentence rose in my mind, and as it rose, I fell apart, gracefully and fully. I realised all the outer heroism had been a shield against my inner terror, and the sense of the inherent pointlessness of me that had been carefully instilled in me by my abusers.

So ever since then, I’ve been fighting a losing battle (until recently) with my habitual tendency to be seen to be Doing The Right Thing™. And now, here I am. I can’t work. I’m not even sure I’m reliable enough to volunteer – though I’m about to find out, as I’ve agreed to go back to supporting a local LGBT café on an occasional basis. I have no pretensions towards being anyone’s “teacher”, thanks very much. Pretty much all I can do at the moment is take care of myself the best I can.

And that’s the challenge, isn’t it? When no-one can see how “brave” you’re being except you. When you’ve no activity to “validate” you. All I’ve got is the knowledge that I’m taking the best care of myself I can, in the face of scary reality.

Well, yes, me writing about this here is suspect, in a way – because I know a little bit of me is trying to get some approval for the invisible effort I’m making, by making it visible to anyone reading this. But actually, I don’t care – what’s more important to me is that in writing this, I’m combating the force of silence my abusers imposed on me.

Get out of bed. Eat properly. Keep yourself clean. Talk to people. Listen to people. Talk and listen to yourself (though probably not out loud, is best :)). Do not punish yourself for needing distraction. Be kind. Be kind.

That line from an e.e.cummings poem: and may myself do nothing usefully

Okay, then. Doing nothing, usefully. Excelsior!!

*****

Envoi: looking at what I just wrote, it has occurred to me that the whole inversion/outer-to-inner-heroism image is, in a very freaky way, a metaphor for the gender confirmation surgery I’ll be having. A big aspect of my “outer heroism” has been my pretence that I was a man. It has taken a huge shift in perspective to be heroic enough to give up that disguise and allow my woman self to wake up and take rightful place. To surrender to myself is heroic.

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