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pain

I'm Cayla. This is my Story. Chapter 3.

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I'm Cayla. This is my Story. Chapter 3.


I am driving through back country. Dusk is falling, but there is still sun peeking above the horizon and it casts a soft glow around the entrance of the parking lot I begin to pull into. As I slow to a stop in front of the church, the stones underneath the tires ricochet off the bottom of the car. Clink clink. clink clink.

I round my back and peer through the windshield and I see her running towards me, waving. She stops on the way to say goodbye to someone, turns, laughs, continues running.
Wait- I think I should re-phrase that. She's actually not 'running'. She can't keep her composure when she runs and she gets too embarrassed so she just sort of quickly shuffles her feet with her arms pinned to her sides instead.

As I'm waiting for her to shuffle to the car, I am reminded that we were just in this parking lot a few months ago when she grabbed my hand, concerned.

"I have squishy sides", she said.

"Feel them".

She took my finger and poked it right above her pant line and in hindsight it's all so ridiculous because she's tall and blond and beautiful and we can't go anywhere without someone being completely enamoured by her.

She's excited to see me. She's just returned from three weeks in Europe and she says she has photos and stories. She opens the door, throws her overnight bag in the back, turns to face me.

"How was Europe?", I say.

Her eyes sparkle, then widen right before she smiles mischieviously. She lowers her voice.

"You're going to have to burn my journal if I die", She giggles.

My left arm is draped over the wheel so I push her leg, hard, with my right.

"Don't joke about stuff like that", I say.

I switch gears, she buckles up, I turn the car back onto the road.


Months have passed. It's 4am. I am lying on my back in complete darkness, immobilized.
I feel both everything, and nothing.

Earlier that evening I frantically search through my dresser for a medicine called Rescue Remedy.
Six drops under the tongue are supposed to help calm panic.
I finally find it underneath a bundle of socks. I unscrew the lid and throw it on the floor.

I drink the entire bottle.


The next night everyone in the house is crowded around a tiny tv to watch the evening news.
I feel a flash of anger wash over me as the reporter starts talking. He reads out the news of her
accident like a grocery list; two sentences on a flashcard.
I grab the blanket strewn across my legs and clench my fist into it until my knuckles turn white.

She is more than just two sentences on a Goddamn flashcard.

I blackout.
I come to.
I blink.

The only other thing I process from the newscast is a photo of her car with the driver side splayed open.
There is blood running down the window.
 

 

7 years later I finally call Andrew to ask for the intricate details of what happened that day.

I hear him exhale heavily into the phone. "Are you sure?" he hesitates.


The sun is shining, she leaves the house first. She is going home to study for our Psychology final.
The sun is so strong the rays block the bus that is coming, so she turns right in front of it.
They are only minutes down the road so when they see the accident in the distance, it takes a moment to register.
It's her.
They pull up and run over to help.
Tim is so overwhelmed by what he sees he leans over and vomits in the ditch.

This is the part I make Andrew tell me.
What did she look like?
Was she conscious.
How much blood was there?
How bad was it.

When my brain recounts this part of the story, it is never able to land on the actual horridity of it.
I instead, always seem to focus on two mundane details.
I sometimes wonder if this is the only way I am able to process what happened as a whole.

She is wearing sparkly lotion on her legs. That's the first one.
They see it underneath her hospital gown when she is hooked up to life support.

That morning she eats toast for breakfast. That's two.
Her Mom find the crusts on a plate when she returns home to her empty room the next day.

Sparkly lotion. Toast. Accident. Blood.

Tim is vomiting in the ditch. Andrew is holding her in his arms. They are waiting for the medics.

"Do you think she was gone at that point?"
I am holding wine in one hand, driving my fingernails into my knee with the other.
My eyes well over.
My breath hitches in my throat.
There is a long pause on the other end of the phone.

"I'd like to hope so", Andrew says.

She was wearing sparkly lotion, she ate toast, she made one wrong turn, and if I think about it too long it overtakes me.

I drive out to visit her grave and I kneel in the dew covered grass in front of it, alone with my head in my hands.
I scream out a one-sided conversation. I am angry at her for so many things.
I hate the way you run.
Your shoes are in my closet.
How could you not see a bus?
Who eats chocolate in the morning?
My chest heaves up and down when the memory appears and as the dew begins to dampen my feet, my knees, my elbows,
I close my eyes and see her smiling, holding her mittened hand towards me with a mars bar nestled into the center.


The night after I drink the rescue remedy my brain repeats like a broken record.
I just want to see you one last time
I just want to see you one last time
I just want to see you one last time

It is a plead that comes from the bottom of my soul, from the centre of my grief.

She visits me in a dream, she is surrounded by beaming white light. We hug and I feel her squishy sides and it is the last moment I have with her that feels real.

In an effort to frantically search for closure, I print off every email she's ever written me, every msn conversation. I paste them hastily into a scrapbook and when I put them in chornological order I realize something, drop the notebook, stare at the wall in angst. She always told me she loved me whenever she signed off, except for the last email she wrote me one month before she died. In that one, she said "Bye".

I don't think there is a word in the english language that exeplifies the feeling of wanting to Crawl out of your own skin.
If there was, I'd use it.
But that feeling is there, and it's real, and nothing makes sense and if I could run away from the pain, I would.
But I can't.
And I don't know what I'm doing.
And I don't know where she is.


She visits me in my dreams still, only now there is no talking.
Just her.
Strong wind.
Bright light.


That's it.

 

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Jumping into Your Fire

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Jumping into Your Fire

 

I don't know about you- but I spend a lot of time wondering if I am 'too much' for people.

It's not like I walk around broadcasting my story, but if you have met me and spent a little bit of time with me, you probably do know a bit of my personal history- and it's not easy to digest. In fact, there are only a tiny handful of people that actually know everything cover to cover- even though I stand confident in who I am and what I'm about, I do hold back on sharing because I don't want to overwhelm people with what has happened to me- And it is also quite vulnerable for me to share as well.

Here's the thing that I have come to accept. I will be too much for some people. My story will be too much for some people. And that is not about me- that is about them. People who cannot handle their own emotional vulnerability and pain are not going to be able to tolerate anyone else's. Period. 

Realizing this has freed me in so many ways. I have held back on digging deep in my own life because of this fear of being too much. But I have come to realize over and over again that it is not my job to manage other peoples emotions. It is my job to manage my own. That's it.

Recognizing this, in turn led me to a choice that I make on a daily basis, over and over again: 
Do I want to avoid the fire or do I want to jump in and face It? And by fire I mean Pain. Heartache. Challenge. Hurt. Loss. Grief. Obstacles. The Like.

I avoided for many years. But the thing about avoidance is that it breeds stagnancy. It's so comfy being stagnate, in a way. But that's the question you need to begin to ask yourself:

Do I want to live a stagnate life? Do I want to be comfortable?

I finally got to this place where I realized that I don't. I want to live in uncomfortability. I want to be pushed. I want to feel my hurt and feel it deep and learn how to claw my way through it because this is what builds strength. This is what builds character. This is how we grow. This is where we find our feet. Because the only way out is through. And let me tell you. It hurts like HELL. I was telling someone a few months ago that I live in as much hurt as I do joy. This is true. My life is fucking painful. But through facing my intense pain I have also found joy so deep- a joy I have never quite known before.

Because I continually face my deepest fears and challenges I have also grown quite fond of myself. I have learned how to become my biggest cheerleader. I have learned to lean in to self-love. I have also learned how to continually shift my perspective- the hurt is there but can I focus on the joy instead? How?

So I want to turn the tables around to you today:

Where are you holding back in your life?

What feelings or situations are you avoiding to stay comfortable?

Try taking a leap. Try jumping in. You are supported- Trust in who you are- if something painful happened to you, you have already survived the worst because You are still standing. You are still here. You got this- Keep Moving Forward. 

Jump into your fire today. Keep fighting your fight.

 

xx.

 

 

 

 

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On Grief

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On Grief

I've been sitting staring at this computer screen for a good hour now. I have so many words floating around in my head but I'm not sure how to get them out-what to start with, or where to go from here.

I tell people that I started the Move to Heal Project because I wanted to write about real things. The stuff that no one wants to talk about, but that everyone is feeling. This is true. But there is a reason as to why no one talks about certain things- because its really hard. Today in fact, it is extra hard. Part of me doesn't want to share; another part of me feels compelled to. I feel compelled because if we don't start talking about the hard things, who will? It's important for me to say that if you are reading this, you never walk alone. 

So on that note, I want to tell you about my friend Katharine. I want to talk to you about Grief.

Katharine died 12 years ago today. Twelve years. It seems surreal to actually write that out. The way she died and the story around it is tragic, and contains details I still have difficulty wrapping my mind around. The aftermath of her death; the same. I swung into a deep atheism after she passed away, not understanding how something so tragic could happen to someone so young, and so beautiful. And by beautiful I mean pure. Amidst all the struggles that one naturally moves through when they are 19 and 20 years old, she was actually still a radiating beam of light. I don't think she had a mean bone in her body.

After she died, the only way I knew how to process it all was through writing. I was too shut off emotionally in my life in general to actually feel anything outwardly. In the piece I wrote one month after she died, I talked about how I didn't have any desire to wash my clothes, to brush my hair, or to buy new things. But I did write about how I began to feel an intense compulsion to strengthen my relationships; to find meaning in my every day activities.

Every year now I use April 3rd as a time to reflect on my life- and when I actually sit still to think about it so far I want to say that I still feel that way. When someone you love dies, everything you think matters, doesn't matter anymore. It all begins to shift. At least- that's the way it felt for me.

I think that in some cases, death can completely harden people or break them open. I would say with 100% certainty that part of the reason I am not hardened over is because of Katharine's Mom. Over the past 12 years I have seen that light that Katharine possessed shine so brightly through the actions of her Mother, which doesn't even really make sense. She lost her daughter. Yet she has taken her grief and her sadness and continually pours kindness and compassion into the lives of everyone around her. It's actually remarkable. I also think that this takes a tremendous amount of strength- in order to cultivate joy from pain I think you have to stare your pain deep in the eyes; you have to learn to sit with it. 

I think, with many things in life- but especially in the aftermath of grief- you are always left with a choice: Is this going to harden me or open me? Not to be confused with feeling your feelings. Like- death SUCKS. It's excruciating. I spent a good few years just being angry AF, throwing stuff, binge drinking, sabotaging friendships, acting out in relationships (for fear if I got too close I would lose them), you name it. Feel your feelings. Get it out. But this is why I say aftermath.

One of the most important things I have learned over the past two years is that, while we can't control what happens to us, we always have a choice as to how we are going to react to it.

 So every year on April 3rd, I think about this. I loved Katharine's kindness, her spirit, her heart. And what a gift she has given me because I now choose to fill my life with people who are light-hearted, and caring, and compassionate. 

I am inspired by the strength of her Mother- who, over the past 12 years has, many times completely out of the blue sent me something in the mail, or dropped a present off on my doorstep, or sent me the sweetest message. She has reminded me that this is how I want to live my life. I want my life to be meaningful. I want to cultivate meaningful relationships. I want to sit with the hollowness of my pain and use that space to cultivate joy- and I want to pour that joy into the lives of everyone around me. I want to create community. I want to be a voice for change.

A few years ago, Katharine's Mom sent me a blown glass ornament. In order to make a blown glass ornament you have to take a bunch of glass and smash it all into tiny pieces. Then you take all the pieces and hold them in the fire. She told me that this is how our lives can feel sometimes- something excruciating happens- and we are left in a million pieces. And then you think the worse is over, but it's not- because things heat up and you're thrown in the fire. But the thing is- when the glass is in the fire- this is where the magic happens. This is where all the random pieces that didn't make sense before begin to meld together- this is where the shift happens. A beautiful blown glass ornament is proof that all those tiny shards of glass- all those painful situations and experiences in our lives- can actually bind together to make something extraordinary.

By no means am I one of those people that say things happen for a reason. I actually don't believe that. But I do think that it is natural for humanity to search for meaning in the things that break us open. And I think that if you can find that meaning, and hold on to it, and learn to find beauty in it, it can catapult you into a new way of seeing your world; a new way of living your life.

So today, while I am sitting with my own pain, I want to turn the table around and ask you all the things I am asking myself. 

What are you allowing to harden you? What are you allowing to open you?

Who are you surrounding yourself with? How do they add value to your life?

What about your pain? Are you learning how to sit with it? The pain will hollow you, but it will not end you. The deeper your pain, the greater your capacity to love bigger, harder, stronger. This sound so cliché but it's not- I'm telling you with every fibre of my being THIS IS TRUE.

Where is your focus? Do you want to live meaningfully? If so- How?

 

I want to thank you so much for reading what has been on my heart, for allowing me to share my story freely. If you too are moving through grief, or remembering the anniversary of something that is painful I want you to know that you are supported and loved and strong.

 

xo C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fuck Panic Attacks

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Fuck Panic Attacks

 

A lot of my posts are filled with positivity, light and love because that is how I choose to live my life. I'll never apologize for that.

However, amidst positivity, light and love I also believe in experiencing the full range of human emotion. I believe in being angry, in throwing crap when you want to, in putting boxing gloves on and going hard as a motherfucker, in crying, in raging, in saying shit and fuck, and in having complete and utter breakdowns. I want my life to be beautiful, open, and honest and allowing myself to feel my feelings and let it out is part of it.

I've also been reflecting on how important it is to continuously find your voice and use it; to be honest with yourself and the people around you. To surround yourself with people that bring out your best qualities. To lean in to those supports and stand in what you believe. To find those parts of yourself that need nourishment, and to love them hard.

So I'm using my voice today to shine a light on something that I'm sure a lot of people struggle with, but never talk about: 

Three hours ago I had an enormous panic attack

I have panic attacks resulting from something called Complex PTSD. If you don't know what it is, Google it

If you do know what it is, Thank you for educating yourself

If you have it- you're a complete badass, lets talk.


I've worked hard enough on myself to the point that I don't meet all the symptoms for CPTSD anymore- but I do (often) still have panic attacks. Quick background on the panic attacks I have- they are completely debilitating. I have them because I experienced violating, horrific, coercive things at the hands of multiple people I trusted, in private and public places I thought were safe across a span of 20 years.

You wanna know what happens when that happens?

Emotional and Physical Fuckery.


When trauma happens across a span that wide, as means of survival the person will sometimes naturally learn to disassociate- this is what happened with me. This isn't necessarily a bad thing- Disassociation can be immensely adaptive for a period of time because it allows that person to endure the unthinkable and unimaginable (which I did).
But-it can also pave the way for panic attacks (and a lot of other wondrous things) later on in life.
The nature of trauma and its effect on the body is so intricately layered that I won't begin to get into it right now, but- for a quick example:

Under extreme stress/trauma the hippocampus in the brain can fail to process what is happening as an integrative whole.
As a result, the sensory elements of this experience are left unintegrated and are therefore prone to return during flashbacks when some sensory elements of the trauma are activated.

So- for example- just say someone sexually assaulted you over and over again for twenty years in a damp parking garage that smelled like gasoline.
Ten years later if you walk through a parking garage or smell gasoline that could send your body into a panic attack even when you're safe and nothing is happening because those sensory elements are re-activated

Are you still with me?

Anyways. If you have panic attacks, you know what I'm talking about.
If you don't- Be thankful because no amount of swear words stacked together will even begin to cover how much they suck.

So in the aftermath of this panic attack, I want to say that I am pissed off.
I'm pissed off because today- right now- it feels like I am so different than everyone else.

Scratch that- I actually feel different than everyone else all the time. True story.

I feel like I'm living in a bubble, and even though I can see people and interact with them I can never truly connect with them or let them in. It's a very painful, heartbreaking feeling that is hard to put into words. And let me say that this is a feeling I have- its not necessarily my reality. It just feels this way sometimes. But this is a thought my brain goes back to often. Knowing the stats on trauma survivors, I know that I am not alone in feeling this way.

However, at the same time I am determined to not live my life in this bubble. How can I view things differently? How can I push back. How can I keep fighting? I get knocked down every day and I always choose to get back up and I'll never stop doing it because I'm stubborn. 

So in lieu of this I want to say to you: Instead of continuing to wish that you weren't different- trauma or not (because we all have our shit)-what if you embraced it?

You are who you are and the difficult experiences you have gone through have given you a lot of pain.

But I truly think that surviving that pain and learning how to rise above it is what turns people into extraordinary humans.

The things I have gone through have been excruciating- but living through them and learning how to speak to them and navigate them has been life changing and empowering on a cellular level.
For example, I don't live my life on the surface anymore. My painful experiences have given me an immense amount of depth.
My scope of empathy and understanding is so much larger than the average persons.
Because I have seen and felt immense pain I also now have the space to experience an otherworldly type of Joy (which I actually have). What I have endured has given me an inner fight that can't be taught or learned- which I am so, so thankful for.

The list goes on. And on the hard days I have to write this list out to remind myself.

This is how I choose to embrace my different.

I want to encourage you to do the same.

Let me tell you that I whole-heartedly believe that your Pain is your Power. What we survive, shapes us.

Step into that. 

Step into it and keep moving forward.

 

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