It was already a super stressful day. In fact, it has been a super stressful summer. On top of the busyness of summer, the emotionally-loaded challenges seem to keep piling up. Add to that we had just passed the one year anniversary of my uncle’s death (the man who held a fatherly role in my life), and well, I was emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted, and then the letter arrived.
It was a well-meant letter. It was a letter full of concern…and fear. It was a letter that I would normally read and honor by letting it go, but this one gripped me fiercely. I read it and dropped it on my desk dissolving into a puddle of fear.
My amygdala put me on high alert. Not just high alert,
but batten down the hatches and never trust another soul alert.
It is the amygdala’s job to watch out for potential danger and then urge us to fight, flight, or freeze. However, sometimes that little amygdala takes on too much power and our rational brain leaves the premises. All that is available in those moments is defensive reaction. If something feels similar to another time something bad happened to us, our amygdalas flash the red warning light and sometimes add the siren in too.
This was a full on red light flashing, siren blaring moment.
I went down hard because it felt like the moment I had received a similar letter from my parents and another one from my brother a few years after that. Those letters informed me that I did not fit into their picture of what a family is because of my spiritual and political beliefs so I was no longer welcome in this family.
Families (and other relational systems) will wound, betray, and abandon to preserve the stability and peace of the system.
This letter wasn’t the same message, but it felt the same. This letter was not from my parents or brother, but it brought about the same feelings. This letter was from people I love, who I know love me, who thought they were protecting everyone by telling me how I should behave. My point is, not the same thing, but it felt like the same thing, so I spiraled downward.
For a good two weeks, I fought the desire to fight back, to defend myself, and to lash out angrily. Yes, I am typically a fighter when my amygdala is in charge.
Instead, I took care of myself. I told myself the truth: this is about their fear, not about me. I sought support from friends. I spent time being playful with the boys. I got out in nature. I slept a lot. I prayed a lot. I cried a lot.
I don’t know if I am “over it” and that is okay. Relational wounds go deep and on some level, they never really heal fully. New relationships can tear a wound open. Relational moments can trigger the amygdala. However, WE ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE. We can allow those wounds to turn us into ugly, spiteful, pain-filled people who destroy others that come near to us OR we can embrace the complexity of what it means to be human. Being human means we will wound and be wounded. We will love and be loved. We will grow and learn.
I am not defective. I am a beautifully complex woman on a journey of transformation.