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day 7: my body afraid of love

“You need to get more sleep. I know there’s a sense that you will have anxiety no matter what, but your body needs everything it can get to do the work it needs to do.”

My therapist sent me that email today, after I told her that I’ve only been sleeping about five or six hours a night. And I suppose she’s right.

I swear last night I was going to go to sleep early, but then I was reading a book about an alcoholic and right about the time I was ready to close the book and turn out the light, he relapsed and I couldn’t stop turning pages.

Finally at 1:00 a.m. I closed my eyes and fell asleep. Five minutes later I woke up to the sound of someone playing scales on the old piano stashed in my mudroom. At first I thought it was a squirrel, and I was about to open the door to look when I heard the garage door open. Squirrels don’t do that. Terrified, I realized there must be somebody in the house. I woke up again, in my bed this time, my heart racing as I realized it was just a scary dream.

But if sleeping for five minutes meant dreaming of creepy squirrels who might actually be home invaders, I didn’t want to close my eyes again.

So I caught up with the alcoholic and followed as he fell in love with a crack addict, watched his best friend die of AIDS, and skipped AA meetings to drink himself to death instead.

At 2 o’clock I tried sleeping again, and this time dreamed that I was driving in the dark and couldn’t get the headlights to come on and couldn’t keep my eyes open and I had to get home but knew I wasn’t going to make it because it was too dark and I was too tired.

My therapist talked about trauma today, and how the traumas we experience in our early years are stored in our nervous systems for decades, triggering physical responses when we least expect it. I told her that sometimes I can feel my ribs shrinking, feel a ball of fear and anger crashing through my sternum and lodging itself in my neck, that my shoulders curve inward to protect my heart and I have to consciously remind myself to breathe, breathe, breathe.

She said it’s a thing that happens to people who have experienced what I have experienced, and how it will keep happening as I encounter scary things like Love and Intimacy and Trust because my body remembers that those things are not safe and that those things will hurt me unless I fight them off and run away.

In the car on the way home I thought about that, about how the shit that I’ve experienced makes my body afraid of love, and how experiencing trauma can make me unwilling or unable to give and receive Love and Intimacy and Trust until I’ve found some healing.

Then I thought about the people who have hurt me, and the people who hurt them before that, and how there was probably an unbroken chain back to the beginning of time — people causing trauma in other people, nobody understanding how their nervous systems trigger physiological responses because of unhealed memories, all of us just passing the trauma along to our lovers and our children and our grandchildren until the whole world is one great web of broken-hearted children desperate to be loved but also desperately afraid of Love.

This blog post is part of #write31days. This year I’m skipping out on a theme and going with ten minutes of unedited free-writing every day (unless I don’t feel like it, let’s be honest). You can read more posts from my #write31days by clicking here.


published October 7, 2016

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