When I was in group therapy for women recovering from domestic violence, our counsellor showed us a series of paintings made by women in a previous recovery group she facilitated. Each painting represented a stage in the journey from domestic violence to life.
I saw her presentation of these twice and both times I was struck by how clearly each painting resonated with my own journey. To this day, those paintings stay with me and help me make sense of what I have, and still am, going through.
There are two, the last two in the series of 6, that have been with me for the past two years. I seem to be going in and out of them regularly.
The first is the quiet recovery space, represented by a clean white room with a high window letting in the light. It is the quiet room we need once we’ve left the abusive relationship. A space for us to heal, lick our wounds and feel safe again. A space to just be.
The next, and last, is a textured tree with branches representing the different interests and activities pursued by the women who created the painting, once they have put themselves back together again. The tree has thick strong roots, grounding our life firmly in the earth – our connection to instinct and intuition.
In the last two years, I’ve noticed that every time I leave my quiet white room behind and venture out into the big wide world, inevitably there comes an event that pulls me back into safety, that reminds me I’m not quite ready to be out there in the hustle and bustle of life.
I’ve been lucky to have had the means to give myself this space. I’ve been lucky to have found a place to live where I’ve been able to both nurture and extend myself as I heal and grow. I’ve built a safe environment for myself without excluding the world and, indeed, interacting with it more than I have in years.
I’ve met the world on my own terms, engaging where I want, how I want and with whom I want.
Over the weekend, an opportunity came up, which while possibly very positive in a lot of ways, would have also seen me lose control of my environment and my interactions with it. It would have put me on somebody else’s schedule.
My high levels of anxiety as I looked at this opportunity this way and that way, upside down and sideways, could just have been growing pains, a natural reaction to any change. Yet, today, when I made the decision to not pursue it, I immediately felt myself safely back in the white recovery space, with no distractions, only the high white light of hope. And I felt relief.
There are some things I am not ready for. I’m afraid my coping skills are not ready for conflict, negativity or high levels of stress. Maybe if I didn’t expect them they wouldn’t be there, but I’m too scared to take the chance. My mental health is not as robust as I thought it was.
I’ve given myself a timeline and I will hold myself to it, but this was just too soon.
This chrysalis has some more work to do before it can reveal and release its growing butterfly to the big wide world.Image by Kathy from here.
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