This scene is the aftermath of deep emotional work. Where all the lights… and eyes, were on me. An experience unparalleled except for in ceremonies where all my people showed up just for me – like our wedding or my beautiful blessingways.
I have shared a fair bit on Facebook about how I have recently been going through an intensely emotional time. I have had to face several really hard things this year, culminating in an excruciating situation which triggered two core hurts from childhood. This pain I had spent my whole life avoiding finally found a way out in the shape of a breakdown where I spent four months unable to do much beyond feeling, shaking, crying, raging. I was deeply distressed most of the time, waking each night for several hours distraught, frozen in angst and horror. I was exhausted and out of my mind. My capacity to think has been very much inhibited, as well as my ability to parent or hold space. I have leaned on my community a lot. My listening partners have held me through this with such presence, patience, love and dedication. And somehow through the shame of being so needy, broken and unable to give back and feeling that this was all my own fault and I deserved it, I knew I needed to ask for even more.
So I rallied my listening partners and asked if they would be willing to perform what Patty Wipfler has developed as a ‘Parent Rescue Squad’. This is where a parent in crisis summons support through one way extensive listening time. An intervention that indigenous people have long used when a member of the tribe gets off track. I love this return to a shamanic way of being that is now underpinned by current neuroscience. It felt uncomfortable to ask. I already felt a burden, that I had been trying all of their patience and I questioned if I were just making a ‘drama’, if I should save this measure for when something really goes wrong. Yet here they all were delighted to help, so we set a date. I knew that the truth underneath these feelings was that I deserved this attention and support and that through receiving help I would be able to serve my children and community far more profoundly than if I were to keep pushing on.
I also knew that it would be helpful to counter the feelings of inadequacy and isolation that were being triggered by this upset. I was finding it hard to remember that I was loved and a good person and I wanted to make use of the ‘sweet spot’ for emotional release; that a greater sense of love and safety allows us to bring up deeper pain to be healed. So I messaged 25 close friends and asked them if they would send me affirmations of my goodness. Again it felt hard to ask but as I pressed send I felt I was treading a radical and essential path. Asking for this level of support and receiving it in a clean way felt like something I had never done or even seen modelled by anyone else.
When I shared the same request for affirmation publicly, I wanted to model this new found method of self care in case it helped others. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of love-bombing through text, calls, voice messages, cards, gifts. Many people, some I don’t even know, sent messages about how profoundly I had touched their lives. Those close to me, who had already been giving so much, found yet more to give. People sent sweet memories or funny in-jokes. I received beautiful meals, massage, cuddles. I remembered how well loved I am.
I felt nervous about the rescue squad. What if I didn’t make good enough use of their time? What if I was really just making a big fuss and had got them all here under false pretenses? I had five people with me. One friend came to my house and the others joined on Zoom from three different countries. Just seeing the shining faces of my cherished listeners in front of me was such a counter to the hurt. I must be OK if these beautiful folk loved me enough to show up. We started with half an hour of the whole group listening to me and then different pairs broke off to exchange listening in rotation but generally there were at least two people with me throughout. I got to rant and ramble and weep for 2.5 hours. My biggest man friend was with me so I could push against him and rage and scream. The house was empty so I could pace around it, sitting in different places with imaginary ghosts which brought up feelings. As advised by Patty I kept coming back to a fundamental, unhurt statement, which for me was “I am worthy of your full attention and deepest respect.” I repeated this over and over and cried as the hurt bubbled up.
As the time drew to a close, my eyes were swollen, my throat raw from shouting, my head pounding. I ended up in a heap on the floor with my big friend. That night for the first time in three months, I was able to sleep through the night and I have done so ever since. A cloud had lifted. People close to me remarked how different I looked and asked what I had done.
I’m not completely free of this hurt yet. When it hits me the devastation stings raw as ever, but I am not consumed by it anymore. My thinking capacity is coming back online. When we don’t move the feelings, they make us sick or mentally off track. This primal wounding being activated could easily have sunk me for a year or ten and that would have affected my children’s lives profoundly. I believe reaching out to this extent has fast tracked the process. It feels powerful to explore a new level of self care and responsibility. Yes, it required leaning on others, but how much more leaning would have been required if I had let my mental or physical health deteriorate instead? I am grateful every day to Patty Wipfler for this new paradigm of inter-relational support, emotional hygiene, resilience and leadership. Our ancestors knew this level of community, emotional release and intimacy is fundamental to our wellbeing. It is the way to a healthy humanity and a sustainable, peaceful world.
Thank you to my rescuers and the dear friends and listeners who have been there for me through all this.