Last week I realised that I didn’t know how to have fun instinctively, in fact I found it hard to acknowledge that I was allowed to have fun. I know these behaviours and thoughts are the result of my past, but it is hard to rebuild a life that is over forty years in the making. The idea I could have fun seemed absurd, it’s a bit of an alien concept to me and so I really wasn’t sure if I was ever going to change this inability to have fun. To do the things most people take for granted, like paddling in the sea or having a picnic, seemed way too far ahead of me and so far out of reach at this time.
But spurred on by my psychologist and his words in therapy about fun being ok, I decided to try and change things. You see I realised that I was afraid to have fun, afraid to do the things I really ought to try and I needed help. So following my last therapy session when it was suggested I ask for help from the other parts of me, I asked my alters openly and honestly.
I spent time explaining to them that for years I really didn’t know if I was allowed to have fun and even though I now knew I was, I was still afraid. I explained that I needed someone to give me a hand to hold, who could offer me reassurance when I tried to back out. I needed that to come from inside of me, I needed one of my alters to act as a buddy. I wasn’t sure if I would get any answer after all it’s a huge task for any part of me to do this and yet my teen alter, that part of me who is now communicating with me she said yes, to the question could she help? So I want to dedicate this blog to my teen part, who acted as a buddy the other day and got me to achieve so much more than I ever thought possible.
I ventured to the beach in the hope I might manage a walk on the sand, possibly even go bare foot. My ultimate goal was to go paddling in the sea but that didn’t feel possible, nor was it my aim on the day. I had this small steps mentality which seemed safer some how and far more achievable, you see even walking bare foot seemed a hard challenge.
My son and I drove to Llandudno in Wales, it’s just over an hours drive from home and we arrived mid morning. We found a really quiet beach and I ventured for a walk on the sand, I didn’t feel comfortable at all, in fact I was doing so much internal talking my son thought I was ignoring him. I was communicating with my teen who was by now tightening the muscles in my arm, it felt surreal and yet somehow reassuring too.
We made it onto the beach, took a stroll and even managed to draw in the sand, but my shoes stayed firmly on my feet. I gathered a few shells and saw them with a new found wonder and beauty, I had never realised before how pretty the beach is. I felt fearful, it felt wrong to be there to be having a good time and I kept finding myself getting very anxious and uncomfortable. But spurred on and with my buddy by my side I ventured on, we walked until I felt I could take no more and yet I felt pleased I had managed to even do this. It had felt fun for the most part and it had felt ok, yes it felt scary and uncomfortable at times but I had managed to do this without constantly thinking when can I get off this beach, this is wrong, which would have been my usual response.
We spent time having lunch away from the beach and after a few hours we drove back into Llandudno for a walk on the pier. As I got out of the car and headed across to the seafront I saw the waves rushing in, onto the beach. Young children were paddling and building sand castles it looked quite idyllic and I felt my arm tense up yet again, I realised my buddy was there. I began asking a random set of questions to my teen, she answered in her now usual way, yes or no responses using my right hand. It felt in truth as if she was in total control of my right arm and I know she was helping me feel stronger and braver than I have for ages. I asked her if the beach was safe, was I allowed to enjoy this, was it fun, would it be ok if I went back onto the beach.
As I felt my arm tensing up and reassured by her presence, I felt braver than I ever have and before I could change my mind, I was there on the sand. My shoes and socks came off quickly and I stood listening to the waves and the sounds as it crashed onto the shore, the sand was clean and somehow quite soft as it engulfed my toes. I felt my arm tensing and I felt my teen right by my side, I asked for her to stay close by me told her I was sacred and yet so excited too. The next second I stepped sideways towards the sea and let the waves slowly lap around my feet. It felt absolutely amazing, I felt exhilarated and so happy, it felt great and as each wave came rushing in I gained more and more confidence.
In the end I was jumping the waves, kicking the water, getting absolutely soaking wet and laughing about it, I didn’t fear anything. I didn’t feel like I wasn’t allowed to do this anymore in fact for the first time it felt safe. I was paddling and this wasn’t me feeling awkward or uncomfortable, this was me having fun and accepting it was ok to do so, my teen was always there and I kept talking to her on and off throughout the whole time. When I started to feel unsure or uncertain my arm would tense up as if to remind me I wasn’t alone and it was ok to do these things.
My son bless him avoided the waves, but he was laughing at me, his mum doing something he has never seen. I’m not sure what other people thought of this grown up women playing in the water, but in truth I don’t care I had a great time and I achieved so much more than I had ever dared to imagine. When I came out of the water I realised just how wet I was, I managed to use the towel I packed for wiping sand off my toes to dry my feet. But it was tempting to get back into that water and carry on having fun, but the tide was fast approaching and the sand disappearing.
I spent more than one hour with wet clothes before they dried on, but it didn’t seem to matter, I had been paddling, me, this person who has avoided this activity for so long. I stopped for a drink and I messaged my Psychologist to tell him, I wanted him to know how grateful I felt in that moment to have been given the confidence and the tools to achieve this. I knew my happiness would soon be overtaken by the pain and hurt of grief, we had discussed it in therapy. I wanted him and my family to know the good side of this day too after all they will help me deal with the grief in time as well.
It was a few hours later when grief finally hit, I began to think of all the times I had missed out on, times when my children had gone paddling and I was a silent frightened observer. Times when I would sit in the car whilst they sat on the grass having a picnic, or they’d rush into the sea on some far distance shore and I would freeze on the spot and wonder why all the fuss. Me and my family have missed out on so many things together because I didn’t feel worthy to have fun, didn’t feel it was safe or allowed.
Yes I cried, I cried bucket loads and some more besides, in fact I still find myself crying intermittently at the loss which feels like a chasm I can’t ever close. But I know in time the grief will subside and fun will become far more instinctive, this is just a part of the healing process. I have to grieve for what has been lost, I have to feel that hurt and pain in order to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of my childhood.
Throughout the past few days I have been mindful to thank my teen alter, whose support as been invaluable and I also am mindful to remind myself of the feelings I felt on that beach as I paddled for the first time and felt all that excitement and enjoyment too.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014