It’s true that the body never forgets. Even those memories you just push and push and push and push down, the body just doesn’t forget. This week has given me my own example of watching my body feel what my brain just wants to go away.
I’ve been off all week. Something just hasn’t felt right. So my counselor brain begins to diagnose herself and go through my internal list:
- What emotions are you noticing within yourself? Sadness, wanting to be isolated from others, loneliness, tired.
- How often have you been feeling this way? Just this past week, a sudden shift from last week.
- Has anything happened recently that has triggered you into feeling this way? Nothing I can think of.
Then my therapist brain takes a break to write down all these notes while my girlfriend brain takes center stage and goes through her own list:
- When was your last period? (Is this just another monthly experience I can blame on the hormone invaders) No, can’t blame it on that this time.
- Any drama going on this week? No drama on the calendar yet.
I mentally check “no” to all my girlfriend checklist questions and try and dig a bit further with the therapist in my mind:
- What are you feeling in this exact moment? I feel like something is about to happen, it’s as if I feel an abundant amount of sorrow for the news I haven’t been told yet. I’m almost waiting for the phone to ring to hear bad news but I am emotionally responding as if I know the news already. It just feels weird.
I’ve been living in this body long enough to know that something feels off, but I just can’t put my finger on it.
Until this morning, when I woke up from one of my childhood repetitive dreams and everything began to make terrible sense.
This is the dream where I am at a circus, it starts out with joy, with a smile, with exploration. It always starts out so happy and then in comes the emotion of shock while my eyelids are still in the middle of their REM work. My Dad makes a surprise appearance in the middle of the circus. My Dad! I get to see his face and we are in the same room together. This moment in the dream resembles one of those videos where the kid sees the soldier in their life returned home and they embrace one another with the tightest surprise hug. Those videos get me every time, I dreamed he would return when I was little. It seems my tiny body needed closure so I would box it up in a dream and for that moment my world made sense, he had returned.
I wish I would just wake up at that part of the dream, the part where he comes back. The part where I see his face and I witness his smile happening at the same time as he looks into my eyes. But I never wake up there. I never wake up until after the lions. I wonder if it’s my minds way of preparing me for the real world I’m about to wake up to.
The lions get loose from their cages, and havoc and crisis happen everywhere. We all run! There is screaming, and I lose him again. I find a place to hide and I sit trembling in fear of the lions and the sadness of losing my Father again. This is where I wake up. This is where I get out of my bed and have to start my day. It’s been a long time since I’ve woken up to this dream but I’m learning that the body never forgets.
I couldn’t put my finger on my feelings this week until I woke up sobbing from this dream. This dream of the little girl who when I check my timeline went through her real-world events at this time 28-years-ago and mentally created a fictional dream that she connected with her trauma.
For many, May is just #mentalhealthawareness month. It’s a cool hashtag and we create awareness about issues that most people haven’t fully felt the weight of. For others of us, #mentalhealthawareness is a close reality that we learned on a month that we were forced to learn it, or a day on the calendar where we had no choice but be aware of it, or a season that we walked through when mental health became a personal battle more than just a hashtag. Some of us gain awareness by hearing others tell their stories, and others of us gained awareness during the times in our lives we wished we didn’t have to know. Trust me that you would rather read an article than learn first-hand the weight that mental health plays in your life.
Becoming aware of mental health became important to me the day the lions came. The day that happened this week in 1991 when my Father ended his life. The day the voices in his head spoke with sharp teeth and loud roars telling him a list of lies that just weren’t true. I want a new story. I wish this had a different ending. I don’t like this one. And my body just won’t forget.
- My body remembers squeezing him tightly when he got back from the mental health facility as if he was a soldier returning home from war.
- My body remembers how things got worse.
- My body remembers watching a police officer who was known for his strength begin to wither in his body to merely skin and bones.
- My body remembers the suffering, it remembers the sorrow that is beyond words to describe.
- My body remembers the confusion, the doubting of the world, and the wishing the world was the real dream I needed to wake up from.
- My body remembers touching a body that had no life left inside him.
- My body remembers it all, even though this week I’ve been trying so hard to mentally forget.
This week I have felt off, something just hasn’t felt right, and it’s because my body remembers this week. My body anticipates even when my brain tries to shut it down, that this was his trauma week in 1991 which spiraled into a trauma week for all those who loved him. Bad news happened, and for some reason my body emotionally still goes into mourning before I even know what the date is on the calendar.
It’s time for us to continue talking about Mental Health Awareness, to tell our stories, to give hope to people in the middle of their traumas right now, and to extend compassion to the stories that haven’t yet been told. I’m sharing my story hoping that someone in pain will be reminded that they aren’t alone even when they wake up from dreams where they are shaking in fear and isolation.
This week has been off for me, but this week is not the end. The sun will rise tomorrow, and a new week will bring rebirth to my soul. New dreams will come, and embraces with new faces that I love are right around the corner. Some weeks are just tough, may we get through them together.
Emily Rose Funderburk, LPC
#mentalhealthawareness #innerfreedominitiative #findingfreedom