Today is my first day in a neck brace, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s one of those little foam ones – I’ll post a picture on Instagram later – and I’m going to try to wear it at least 50% of my waking hours until I get closer to full mobility in my neck. I’m determined to make the absolute best of this opportunity to work with the compassionate therapists at the migraine clinic, and am really throwing myself into the homework. So far, I’ve improved both my mobility and pain at each appointment, and I want to continue this trend as long as I can!
In other news, I’ve committed to corresponding with my support network on a more regular basis, which so far has consisted of good old-fashioned letter-writing. I have received an overwhelmingly warm and loving response from my pen pals, and I’m sure I don’t need to explain the thrill of receiving something that isn’t junk mail (or a bill!) in the mailbox. It’s an absolute delight to feel more connected to my lovely friends, and I continue to be amazed at my own capacity for vulnerability and self-discovery in letter-writing. I almost feel as though I do my best work when I’m writing to someone. There’s a sense of safety and trust in a letter, and I think perhaps my friends are better at creating a safe space for my emotional expression than I do for myself. (I suppose the truism that one needs to be one’s own best friend applies here, grumble grumble.)
I’ve been feeling particularly grateful for my boyfriend lately. He has a way of quietly providing for my needs before I express them, without demanding repayment or grumbling or fussing. It’s remarkable, really. I feel quite fortunate to have a partner who is both patient and thoughtful, even when I am difficult to live with, as I have been lately. It stands in stark contrast to how I’ve been treated by others in the past – with impatience, disrespect, and a refusal to understand the challenges I face. I wish that I could go back in time and tell my younger self that someone, someday would treat me kindly and lovingly, and that I didn’t have to put up with bad behavior from partners and friends. I feel sad when I think about the way I’ve allowed people to treat me and speak to me, and how I’ve allowed my self-worth to be damaged by their maltreatment.
Nevertheless, I am where I am today because of my past, and for that reason, I wouldn’t change a thing. I had to learn, as so many people have to learn, by living through bad relationships, scary experiences, and terrible decisions. I’m lucky to have escaped my youth relatively unscathed, lucky to have had parents who loved me and a brother who respected and protected me. One of the most terrifying, depressing, humbling, sobering realizations I’ve had as I enter my mid-twenties is this: we all experience trauma of one kind or another at some point in our lives. Abuse, neglect, harassment, stalking, self-abuse, rape, disordered thinking, disordered eating, bullying, etc etc etc. The world is filled with violence, and it touches us all.
This can be deeply depressing to acknowledge, or it can be empowering. I’ve learned to treat it as a gift. We are all connected by our humanity: our capacity for violence, yes, but also for vulnerability. I try to look at everyone I meet and remind myself that they are battling their demons, just as I am battling mine. This perspective opens me up to a new world of compassion and empathy, and challenges me to be honest and vulnerable whenever possible.
There are still people who are deeply problematic for me, who I haven’t forgiven for the damage they’ve done to people I love. There is still a lot of growth I need to do. Still, I try to practice compassion every day. I have an exercise that helps me to move out of my compassion comfort zone:
Every day, try to have compassion for 5 kinds of people:
1. Someone you are grateful to or a benefactor
2. A loved one or friend
3. A neutral person
4. Someone who is difficult for you
As you can see, it gets harder the further you go. Try it if you dare.