*WARNING (PLEASE READ THIS FIRST): This article dives into topics relative to my own personal experience with depression, anxiety and using them as a source of comfort. I do not want to invalidate anyone’s experience with mental illness or put forward the notion that everyone uses their problems with mental health in this manner. If you are struggling, please seek professional help immediately. This article is also not a permission slip to blame abuse victims for what they experienced by the hand of their abuser/abusers, or to refute the difficulty and real challenges that come about with mental health issues….Also GoT spoilers ahead!!!
We all like to think of ourselves as ‘Good’ people. I mean, that one time you may have said something less than endearing to that guy in the car next to you, but, generally, you’re a good person, right? You care for your family right? You choose not to drink from plastic straws …Right?
Well, in the past few months, having come out of a relationship and really, for the first time in my life, finding the means, the strength and non- judgmental support, that I will forever be grateful for, I have found that to a certain extent I am NOT such a good person, especially when it comes to using my ‘pain’ or, to be more specific, ‘numbness’ as a source of comfort, irresponsibility and refusing to step into personal power, which I had been running away from for years, and still sometimes do.
For a long time, following an amalgamation of traumas and one specifically abusive relationship, I developed a codependency on men and long-term relationships. I knew this was wrong but no matter how much will power I summoned up, no matter how many Ayahuasca ceremonies I went to and no matter how many friends I spoke to, I could not seem to leave. I became a prisoner of my own trauma, in a sense, unwillingly punishing other people for the hurt someone else had inflicted on me.
Eventually, I realised I needed REAL help. I needed a mentor to walk me step by step through the whole process of breaking this pattern as I could not do this by my self. This was difficult for me to accept. I had overcome everything in my life with will power but for some reason I could not overcome this simply through the force of my mind and determination. I thought I was weak, but as any addict eventually learns, this is a battle you can not fight on your own.
When I finally admitted that to myself, it was the first step towards becoming free and redeeming myself, but once I really began this incredibly difficult journey of individuation and was single for a good while, I realised, that I was my own captor and simply leaving these relationships, which had been my main focus throughout the years, had not taken away this underlying addiction to being numb.
I use the word ‘numbness’ over ‘pain’ for a particular reason. When you step out of your comfort zone, when you work towards goals that truly fulfill you, you will definitely come up against some challenges and pain along the way. Nothing changes if you don’t step out of your comfort zone, you can not find TRUE happiness and for all the adventurous free-spirited nature I embody as well as my ambivalence towards mediocrity, I found it quite astounding that I had built a cage of comfort around myself in order to avoid facing the world.
You see, I’ve always been an incredibly sensitive person with my head in the clouds. Since I was younger I could not stand seeing others in pain or dealing with difficult situations; it hurt me to the core of my being. This led me to being labelled and labeling myself an ’empath’.
Now I am not too clued up whether this generalisation has an plausible grounding in reality, but either way, it helped me understand myself and my sensitive nature.
Being sensitive in and of itself it not a weakness. In fact, if used properly, it can be my greatest strength; it has given me courage to stand up for those in vulnerable positions, it has led me to being a friend that is non-judgmental and, with the exception of manipulation, tends to stick with my people through the darkest of times, it has been given to me in order to follow my purpose as an up-and-coming life coach and it has allowed me to experience the incredibly beautiful depths of this life; the lows but also the exhilarating highs.
Seeing someone happy, seeing someone growing, seeing someone realise how valuable they are and stepping into their full and glorious power are all genuinely my favourite experiences in the world. Beyond this, music, emotional moments of ecstasy, food, art, adventure and yes, sex, touch me on a deep and beautiful level.
However, this sensitivity can be used in the wrong way, and unless you’e very discerning about when and where you use it, many can take advantage of this delicate awareness.
I have allowed my sensitivity to enable me to ignore red flags, helping individuals that were simply trying to manipulate me. I have hidden in the comfort of my past relationships, depression, anxiety, past traumas, my ‘New Cage’ spirituality (thanks Jeff Brown for that term) and many other aspects of life, hurting myself and others along the way, in order to avoid the searing pain that comes with this hyper-receptivity of the deeper emotions of those around me.
The problem was, not only was I hurting people, but I was avoiding true happiness by using these dark aspects of my life to swirl me around in a pattern that was harder and harder to get out of the more I kept doing it. It was if I had been walking in a circle on the ground for six years (or maybe my whole life-I’m not sure at this point) and I had consequently dug a never-ending looping hole, forgetting to look up at the light.
I can understand how the concept of hiding yourself in your depression, traumas, anxiety and unfulfilling relationships doesn’t sound very legitimate. Why the hell would anyone want to lay around there?
Well, because, no matter how bad it was, it’s what I was used to. It helped me numb and escape from this reality, instead of taking the challenges on and walking through the pain that needed to be felt in order for me to heal and to step into my own power, which, through a few Aya ceremonies, I realised was what I was really scared of.
“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost
I want to make it clear that this is not an attack on anyone. Some people with anxiety and depression simply and really can NOT get out bed, just as someone with a broken legs can’t walk, some people who have suffered from trauma struggle with PTSD and/or C-PTSD and even if it does not impact them on that level, it is incredibly difficult to function when your brain has been bludgeoned by these past experiences and lastly, abuse victims are NOT and NEVER to blame for what they went through. If you have never experienced these things, I implore you to educate yourself and withhold judgment.
However, in my case, the broken leg became my comfort zone. In a non-literal sense, I could lie in bed all day, eat junk and have my mother bring me food while i lay around watching Adventure Time; mmmmmm a perfect cocoon of comfort and escapism. In other words, because I identified with these apparent aspects of myself, I could not recognize that I was able to buy a wheelchair and maybe get a job.
(That being said, I have been fortunate enough to have the privilege of access to mental health resources and I am planning on writing an article at some point in the future on this heinous accessibility gap.)
At the end of day though, beating myself up, refusing to accept my weaknesses and ask for professional help just encouraged the pattern; leading to more hurt for me and many around me. What I actually needed to do was learn how to forgive myself, get the help I needed, ask for forgiveness with no expectations and be gentle with myself and others.
This journey of redemption isn’t over. Everyday I struggle with my ‘comfort-compulsion’, but at the same time and funnily enough, my sensitivity is the aspect of myself which has opened my eyes up to my purpose, has led me to find the strength to take on this compulsion on one step at a time and hopefully, one day, become a much better person in this area of my life as well as assist in building a better world for myself and others.
One of my most favourite aspects of George RR Martin’s writing is that, his characters, (Well until D&D took over), were never really Simpy good or bad. I think Jaime is the first person that springs to mind when we think of a very in depth, grey character with a supposed redemption arc (Although they completely blew up his arc in the end – just saying) but, even though I projected my own trauma’s onto the character Sansa, she eventually ended up being one of my all-time favourites.
This is not because I think she needed a redemption arc or to be redeemed for what she went through. She did nothing wrong, She was a sensitive and naive child trying to survive tormenting levels of grief and abuse.
Rather I relate to her because, in many ways, she reminds me so much of myself – especially when I was younger; shy, sensitive, head in the clouds – with a slightly bitchy and arrogant undertone. I was unable to see that not everyone has the best intentions, hiding through my spirituality and dreams of – well okay I don’t want to marry a prince and have golden-haired Lannister children, but you get what I’m saying.
I know Sansa is not everyone’s favourite GoT character and to be honest, I think a lot of that has to do with victim-blaming, but that is for another time.
From my point of view, her ability to take her traumas and rather then eventually becoming someone who hides their head in the clouds and runs away from the world, she used what these experiences had taught her for her and the North’s benefit. I have learnt many lessons from my own negative experiences, that, for me personally, have been the greatest and most unexpected gifts I couldn’t have ever dreamed of asking for.
Sansa became a leader, one that cares about the people on the ground, wondering where they would get food for the winter with all of Deanery’s troops and dragons coming along for the White-Walker escapade. She claimed that the troops needed to rest before they run back into battle. In essence, she learnt to use her sensitivity in a positive and empowering way.
On the other hand, from those who abused and betrayed her, she quietly took on their lessons and she used those abhorrent experiences to become a leader that is not only honourable and cares for the people but, on top of that, and unfortunately unlike her father, had the ability to understand how the game works. Her distrust in Deanery’s proved to be spot on and I think we would all be lying if we didn’t at least have a bit of a YASS QUEEN! moment when she had Little Finger killed.
Now I have not experienced the level of atrocities this character went through in the books and movies but I can relate to her journey and how she became able to find her purpose as a leader by keeping her sensitivity when needed, but also putting down the God damn law when the time was right.
Instead of allowing her past traumas to defeat her and running away from the world through fantasies, as she did when she was younger, she made the choice to rather learn from these terrible events and as a result, she, and I, are no longer little birds anymore.