This week I’ve been thinking a great deal about how we move back to authenticity after having lived in a false reality with a sociopath. After all, like so many of us here, when I was in the grips of that particular relationship, I believed that everything was real at the time. More than real in actual fact — it was all my dreams come true! So now, I’m wondering, how do I know — really know — whether I’m living in an authentic way or once again falling in to a contrived existence that is nothing more than imagination or self-deception? Yes it’s true that I am physically free from him (and have been for nearly three years thank goodness) but am I really free from the thought patterns that had me trapped for so long? Can I really trust myself to distinguish the differences between make believe and reality?
Well, I’ve been given the opportunity to find out for sure. Four weeks ago I discovered a rather suspicious lump just under my left arm. Hot and cold shivers shot through my body the second I found it, instantly triggering memories of my mother who died from breast cancer at the age of 44. Luckily, I happened to be on the telephone to a friend when I found it. A friend who witnessed my shock and also recognized the fear in my voice. A friend who let me know that it was real. That I wasn’t imagining it. And that it was something I couldn’t ignore or pass off as being just something I’d made up — I couldn’t kid myself that it was nothing to get excited about. Nothing to worry about. It was a red-flag, and this time (unlike so many other kinds of red-flags I had pushed aside or explained away when I was married to my ex) I was jolly well going to do something about it.
Having a real-time witness to my shock discovery played a huge part in what happened next. Looking back, I believe now that the very fact that another human being heard my instinctive response at the very moment it happened, helped me to stay focused and real and do something about it. Because regardless of whether or not the lump was anything dangerous, the fact that I was scared was enough to prompt action. I went to the doctor the very next day.
This made me think about how different my actions had been when I was living and believing the lie. Each time something shocked or hurt me, I would argue in my head that it was nothing serious — repeating the same old excuses that “He didn’t mean it” “He’s stressed and tired” “This isn’t what he’s really like” and probably the most harmful excuse of all “You’ll be ok, you can handle this — you’re fine, it’s nothing, ignore it”
The thing is though, whenever anything like that happened it would always be in private. Or if in public, the put-down would be so subtle that nobody else would notice, and I would question whether or not it had actually happened in the first place! I became used to rolling with the blows — emotionally and spiritually, I never had to deal with physical abuse — and numbed myself to the shocks.
I believe that for a long time since discovering the truth, I still kept myself numb. It was a useful survival tool. “Comfortably numb” became a way of ”˜being’ that got me through the bad days and gave me the strength to fight the never-ending stream of seemingly impossible battles. Without him in my life, though, the numbness was helpful and directed purely at finding a way through for me and for my son — when I lived with him the numbness was, quite literally, senseless.
Over recent months I’ve sometimes wondered whether I’ve lost some of my fighting spirit. I seem to buckle and smart at the smallest things that in previous years I would never even have noticed. I am much more willing to start a conversation and raise my point when I feel hurt or upset. I am also paying much more attention to the way I respond to situations — and asking whether it is a real or learned reaction. Do I really mean that particular response? Is it a genuine emotion? Or is it just because I’m afraid, or unsure?
What do I mean? Well, for example, I sometimes find myself prickling or bristling at the tiniest innocent comment — only, incidentally, when the comment comes from a close friend. So then I start to wonder whether I’ve become a big softy? Have I become too vulnerable? Have I just lost the plot when it comes to reality”¦? No. I think the answer is something much simpler than that. I think the fact is that in the wake of the sociopath, my inner guidance system is now so highly tuned that I pick up on the tiniest words or gestures that could possibly cause upset. In the ”˜bad old days’ I would have deliberately ignored those signs. These days I’m acutely aware of so much more — and far from being a bad thing, I think it’s a very good thing indeed. I believe it’s another step in the healing process.
Because, if something ”˜prickles’ now, I have choices that I never allowed myself before. These days I can decide whether or not the gesture/comment was deliberate. If it was, then I can choose whether or not to highlight it and talk it through with the other person, or work it through myself. If it wasn’t, I can decide whether I’m actually ”˜upset’ by what happened, or instead perhaps just feeling fearful that another person is so close to me that a tiny thing can cause me to recoil? Does that level of closeness and trust make me once more vulnerable to the deliberate manipulation that my ex used against me? No, of course it doesn’t — because first of all my ex was nothing like any of my friends. They are real, he is a sociopath. And secondly, because now I am so keenly attuned to what helps me grow and what squashes my soul, I’m sure I will never again succumb to the ways of anyone who wishes me harm.
As I’m sure you can imagine, the past four weeks have provided a wonderfully fertile ground for seedlings of doubt and fear to take root. And this time, rather than push them away or ignore them, I decided to share them with people who were around me and who could help. I also chose to share my discovery with my son — thanks to the advice given by a very wise friend. I hadn’t wanted to tell him anything, on the assumption that the lump would turn out to be nothing at all. “And then what?” she questioned gently “Do you want to do the same thing to your son as happened with your mother? She kept it from you until it was too late. I think you’d be wise to trust him and share your concerns”
Share The Truth
So I told him. We hugged. We cried. We said it would all be ok. And we also acknowledged the fact that the truth was out. Nothing was hidden and the trust between us grew even stronger.
I’ve learned that it’s ok to share feelings. It’s ok to share fears. It doesn’t pay to keep things hidden away. I’d done that for far too long. There is far more peace in just being real.
The medical examination was on Friday of last week. Regardless of the results, I’d decided that we would have a celebration in the evening. A delicious meal with family and close friends, to celebrate the next part of this adventure called life — whatever it may mean.
At just gone 16.30hrs I received the news I’d been waiting for. The lump is benign, and I am clear and healthy. Tears of relief rolled down my face, and my shoulders finally relaxed. They, along with my neck, had been held tight over the previous few weeks — more so than I had realised. Now I could let it all go”¦ and I did.
My son? Well, along with the huge bear-hugs and tears, he thanked me for telling him in the first place, and for giving him the opportunity to share and to care.
I’m truly blessed to have such wonderful people around me. I am lucky to have so many opportunities to grow my spirit. And now, now that I have another ”˜all clear’ I feel lighter and clearer than ever before.
Have I lost my fight? No”¦ far from it in actual fact. Now there is no need to fight — in it’s place there is a desire that I now know for sure springs from love and acceptance. It’s a desire to reach out and to share. To join with others who have survived their own battles. To say ”˜enough is enough’ and to slowly and gently move back to authenticity. Slowly and surely shining as each of us reclaim our loving, beautiful, innocent selves. After all — that’s who we all really are, isn’t it?
With extra love, blessings and gratitude. Thank you.