My journey through trauma

CW: trauma, self harm, substance use

I was meditating in the tub when I began to find myself drawn to imagining my chakras. I’m going to make the assumption that everyone has a vague understanding of what the chakras are thanks to its westernization by the white women of America (trust me, the irony is not lost on me right now; I’m going to stray from giving you my white washed explanation on it and just recommend this article if you’d like to familiarize yourself further with the concept of chakras as Sadhguru has surely done a better job than I ever could on the topic).

Red: Escapism

Something interesting that I once read about the seven chakras that we’ve come to think of whenever referring to this system is that each corresponds with a different phase in our life. Apologies, I would link to where I read this if I could remember. But for some reason, during this bath, I was engulfed in memories about my childhood and how for so, so long, my favorite color was very dramatically and vehemently the color red. I had wanted to paint my room red, and when denied this color, I settled with a lemonade pink. But everything else for the first sixteen years of my life was red, red, red. My velvet comforter, my Pokemon game, my glasses, everything. Red is the first fashion color I put in my hair.

Red is often the color associated with the muladhrara or root chakra. And in the metaphor I read which compared the chakras to life stages, it spoke of us putting down our roots and laying a foundation for our life as the epitome of a balanced root chakra. Those with “unbalanced” (I cringe at this verbiage but bear with me), root chakras are theorized to have frequently undergone childhood trauma. The lack of stability in early life ends up causing a lack of stability later on. This was certainly the case for me at the very least.

As a child growing up in a very unstable household, my go-to coping strategy was escapism. This is pretty common for most traumatized kids, I think. Copious amounts of reading, playing Gameboy late into the night, putting my absolute all into school and not wanting to come home (at this stage in my life, I had more or less straight A’s and was placed in a “Gifted” program, which is why to this day I have a weird soft spot for architecture). Another interesting parallel that could be drawn, I think, is to the five stages of grief as conceptualized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. I was 100% in denial about what I was experiencing and since I had no idea of how to react to it, I simply pretended it wasn’t happening.

Orange: Attention-Seeking

Wearing a prayer wheel, too! My first foray into Buddhism.

Adolescence is funny. It’s the bridge between childhood and adulthood. In the chakra system, the muladhara chakra and the swadhisthana, or sacral, chakra are closely related. Both reside around the genital region, so perhaps it’s appropriate that right at the beginning of my sexual awakening, I suddenly declared my favorite color was now orange. If I’m totally transparent with you, the real reason why I decided this was because a boy I liked said his favorite color was orange but it stuck around way past our relationship.

Suddenly aware of my budding womanhood and the power I wielded over those attracted to female anatomy, I waffled between weaponizing my sexuality and emotionally manipulating those around me into giving me as much attention as I could possibly drain out of them. The primary purpose of self-harm was to give me a sense of calm in response to my emotions and a feeling of control, but as vehemently as I denied it, I loved the attention I got from my scars. The “oh no, poor you”s fed my emotionally starved soul. When that wasn’t enough, fishnet tights and plaid pleated skirts usually filled the gap.

It was much harder to find orange dye over the counter at my local drug store, however. It’s cool, I’m rocking orange acrylic nails in an attempt to be as obnoxious as humanly possible.

The specific topic of feeling the need to be sexually irresistible to everyone with a pulse is actually a subject I’m in the process of writing about on my Patreon. It will be published by the end of this month. But the short version of it is that if I couldn’t seduce someone who was traditionally attracted to women, I felt utterly worthless. I collected virginities, claiming that it was just a coincidence. Thinking back on how I used to pressure people sexually for the sake of my ego is beyond repulsive to me. But that’s for the Patreon.

Yellow: Inebriation

Poor Nicholas, I’ve dragged this man through some shit.

I’ve mentioned my recent journey through sobriety on this blog before. I should have made this move long, long before I actually did. The worst of my drinking actually wasn’t when I decided to stop drinking, that was just the point at which I became aware of it and willing to admit I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

In the chakra system, traditionally the color yellow is associated with the manipura chakra, known by us overseas as the solar plexus chakra. Interesting sidenote – traditional tantric yoga places the manipura chakra in a slightly different location than the one I initially learned. Something to research if you’re curious about that sort of thing. For the sake of my metaphor, this isn’t super relevant. Especially since traditionally, this energy center has nothing to do with inebriation.

But in my case, in the yellow phase of my life, I began drinking. And smoking. Smoking anything I was given, really – cigarettes, weed, opium. I would have done harder things had they been presented to me most likely. I tried LSD, MDMA, and 2C-B. I dabbled briefly with Adderall after receiving an ADHD diagnosis and subsequent prescription but stopped when my stash kept getting pinched from. I used to tell people I had gotten down to 135 lbs because I ran every day. Which, I did. But the real reason why I was so skinny is because I took 30 mg of Adderall XR a day.

Weird how being on the pharmaceutical version of speed gives you boundless energy.

Truth be told, my struggle with substances lasted well beyond my “early” adulthood. I put early in quotes because, mentally, I do not feel as if I am in that stage any longer. I didn’t stop smoking weed every single day until the summer of 2018 when my brain did what it so often loves to do, flipped a switch, and declared to me, “Hi! You can’t smoke weed anymore. It makes you feel like you’re dying every time without fail.” And I replied, “Oh, word?” and tried to keep smoking for a few months before I (mostly) gave up. Last month I took one very tiny hit off of Nicholas’ joint for giggles and sure as shit, I felt that same creeping dread and muscle tension trickle down my body. I have truly given up on ever smoking again.

Last summer, when I went to therapy for the fourth time in my life thanks to being wracked with anxiety and nearly daily panic attacks, my therapist asked me how long I had been coping without substances. She pointed out that compared to how long I spent covering up my mental problems with substances, the experience of dealing with life sober was still relatively new to me. I hadn’t really thought about it before she said it but I realized afterwards that she was right. It’s easy to be sober when life is stable. Well, easier. But suddenly I was taking college courses again (how funny that I didn’t see at the time how stressful and triggering that was to me), without any weed to dull my anxiety. After all, I dropped out of community college after being incessantly bullied for going to a stupid fucking dance (that my club organized, oops), shitfaced wasted and getting an MIP. Walking back through those exact doors even though I knew the odds of the people who knew about that situation seeing me was so low took every ounce of courage I had. Ironically, I started drinking more last summer but it made me nervous mostly because I didn’t want to drink, have a panic attack, and want to take Xanax but not be able to because of my fear of mixing the two and experiencing respiratory depression. If you read my blog, you already know why I decided to stop drinking. Fun fact, in the two months since I wrote about that, I still haven’t drank. The only time I’ve actually gotten an urge to drink was when I was having an awful day and I wanted to erase my ability to function. Which I recognized as unhealthy so I made the impulse decision to pour the wine down the sink. I’m genuinely not trying to plug my Patreon again, but I did write about it in a post called “well, that was a waste of wine.” if you want the full story on that particularly delightful day.

Green: ???

So how do I cope with trauma now that I’m entering my middle adulthood? What does the anahata, or heart chakra, hold for me? It’s interesting that ancient philosophy sees this chakra as the meeting place between the lower and higher chakras. This is exactly how I feel. I feel as if I’ve been reaching for my voice, my intuition, my ability to ascend, without spending the time necessary in this space.

I’m not going to lie to you, I haven’t been doing as well as I would like. The pandemic is kind of like global trauma we’re all experiencing. Isolation is wearing on me. Usually, Nicholas and I would be planning our trip back home for the holidays right about now. A week and a half with our loved ones to recharge our batteries and get us through the rest of the winter. I do not function well during the winter, especially since I left my HappyLight in Michigan. It’s going to take a lot of conscious energy and very intentional maintenance to get through the next six months with my mental health intact.

I am attempting to do the necessary preventative care: exercise, meditate, eat well, create, communicate. Anyone who has ever been depressed or anxious knows how hard it is to make these things happen when you’re already totally zapped of energy. Today, I tried to power through my anxiety but ended up on the couch with a hot sock and cup of tea. My partner asked me what happened to my plans to clean. I admitted I was too shaky and physically uncomfortable to force myself to do anything.

At the end of the day, that’s the only choice I really have. To either force myself to plow through my anxiety/depression (which I will do if I’m capable), or admit that I don’t have it in me to force it. Today I had to admit I didn’t have it. And when I do that, as much as I want to beat myself up, I try not to because it’s not my fault. Being gentle with myself is the best possible response so that’s what I tried to do.

If I were to guess, I think the green period of my life is about manifesting this energy consistently. Being forgiving, gracious, and patient with myself. Nursing my inner child. I keep trying to suck my thumb. I literally can’t sleep without my stuffed elephant. When I want to unwind, I watch animated shows and color in my coloring book. I drink a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows every night. I don’t care. I’m done fighting it. If I do these things for the rest of my life, I accept my future as a weird grandma. If I grow out of them, I will be glad I didn’t fight against these infantile behaviors.

I can’t wait to see what vishuddhi, ajna, and sahasrar have in store for me.

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