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Coming to know and name my emotional shut down response... (Wednesday Adams)

I used to think that I was unable to feel emotions. I would be right in the middle of a fight with a loved one and be counting the squares on the rug, or my mind would empty completely and I would lose the ability to engage, I would be making love and my mind would be wandering, not able to stay engaged with the deep emotional connection required at that time, I have been guided through loving kindness meditations and felt completely incapable of connecting to my heart space or to any of the sensations or visualisations being offered.

Through therapy and self-study it became clear that this was a coping and defence strategy developed in the

most violent and chaotic times of life that was once incredibly helpful but these days mostly hinders my ability to experience life to the full and my capacity to really feel and connect. This emotional shut down response is not always present and I have the capacity to feel, understand and embody my emotions more than ever before but when I am challenged emotionally, feel sad or as though there are strong emotions bubbling beneath the surface then there it is. We call her Wednesday Adams (I bloody love Wednesday Adams but it’s a light hearted way for me to break through the wall). Her voice is cold, flat and lifeless and her mannerisms are slow, rigid and tense. I feel tetchy and stern and there's no talking me around. Nothing is enjoyable, nothing can shift my mood. When I get trapped in there there's no easy way out. Her exit fee is tears and those are not easy to come by in here.

My work over the years has been trying to predict her arrival and intercept before she completely takes over so when I felt her grip yesterday, I tried to take urgent action. First port of call name it; so I tell Josh that she's here. Wednesday can't ask for help so I have to break through for a moment and say, she's here and I'm struggling. What I actually need is a cuddle but all she can do is bicker, withdraw and isolate. Emoting publicly is not an option. She has learned that is not safe. Once upon a time this response helped me hold my nerve when in danger, now it’s a crazy and destructive mode of being that I could really do without. It never ceases to amaze how deeply engrained these patterns can be and how hard it can be to break free. It truly feels like I am two people at times like these.

I tried everything I could think of... talking it through, playing music together, playing music alone, being in nature. I managed to force out three painful tears alone but she was still gripping at me so tightly that my throat hurt as they came through. So afraid of what might happen if I were to truly let go. What I am so afraid of? What will happen if I lose my shit? What will happen if the tears don’t stop? Has that ever happened before? Breaking habitual behaviours is so damn hard because the alternative is generally an unknown. And we don’t generally like unknowns.

I was really lucky yesterday that I had a place to be that evening that I knew would crack something. And so finally as I walked out the doors and got back in the car with Josh I let rip. Wednesday Adams flushed out by endless snotting, wailing, choking tears. And after a day of tension, withheld sadness, anxiety and pain I touched joy again. A soothing, calming, balm of release washed over me and as always I wondered what I had been so afraid of.

And then I wake up this morning and she's back. Vulnerability is a hard thing to hold on to and to commit to living this way is a lifetime of work. But I choose this work and I commit to the work required. So today I start over but the chains of the drawbridge have lost one more link. Each journey round this pattern of numbness, destruction and isolation another opportunity to choose a new path. Each cycle around I find myself one step closer to freedom.

I share this not for sympathy or advice but because I know I am not alone in this particular habitual pattern and I feel it important to share these experiences to shine a light on the long lasting effects of the traumas SO many of us experience.

Carly (Wednesday) x

(Photo of me above by: Lisa Chapman ~

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