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  • Sherise Schlaht

SEEKING SALVATION

This week, I gratefully return to #thoughtfultuesday reconnected to my own existence. Although last week’s post was relevant and accurately reflected my state, there was a gnawing sense of detachment from my essence. With emergent clarity, it is evident that I allowed the bustle of life take charge. I am not certain if others resonate with this, but I recognize that I easily slip into autopilot, meaning that life takes command of the ship and I blindly flounder in its wake. In this passive approach, I go through the motions of existing, with an overwhelming sense of numbness and disorientation. It is hard to believe that a short time ago, this detached void was my resting place; an entirely hollow home. Moving forward, there exists a deeper understanding of the difference between an authentic surrender and a passive detachment to the flow of existence. What is ever present is the awareness that without connected space, there is extremely limited capacity for creativity. With you as my witness, my note to self is to remember why I have created a quiet and simple life.

I was rather unexpectedly brought back to reality as I was editing a novel, which happens to be another side gig. Although a different language was being used, the portion I was editing pertained to the pattern of codependence. Of course, there was a sense of annoyance and resistance, as I have known this pattern to show up a time or two. Okay, okay… maybe a time or two is an understatement; infinite may be a more accurate representation. As is often expressed with other concepts, there exists a spectrum of codependency. I do believe that as humans we are wired for connection, however I am beginning to discover holes in this type of blanket-statement logic. Historically, our ability to co-exist in tribes played a vital role in our survival. But, given the state of the highly evolved world that we now co-habit, I question the necessity of our survival instincts. Seemingly, the story I once believed to be true is shifting. What dawned on me as I was hyper-focusing on where to place the next comma, is that I haven’t once stopped to untangle where the codependency began. Over the past five years, I have been wrestling with the denial of its existence by creating terms to smooth over the fact that I feel this gaping need to be seen by another. I will share with you my favourite explanation, which I cunningly developed to make myself feel better: “I don’t appreciate the term ‘co-dependency’ because it is a ‘loaded’ term. I prefer to refer to myself as a highly extroverted being who thrives on deep connection.” Yes, aspects of this explanation are true, but nonetheless the fact that I actively seek deep connection to confirm I am visible and worthy is the epitome of co-dependency. You may be entertained to know that this explanation served me for nearly four years.

So, lucky you, get a wild ride in the passenger’s seat as I take you down the winding road that is my memory. I created a theory in the untangling of my life: we all enter this world through the birth canal with a fragility for a certain attachment style. Many factors contribute to the development of this attachment style, which requires more research and another post to delve into. To refocus, my parents both report that as a child, I had an easy-going, bubbly, and joyful disposition. The lens of privilege would entirely agree. I was born into a loving family with a myriad of opportunities. Yet, my memory, which consists mostly of my internal reality, paints a different picture. What presented on the outside was in contrast to how I felt on the inside.

I am unable to recall what age this awareness of self-disdain presented, but its existence magnified in my pre-teens. In the presence of my internal wound, I began to believe that I was less than; I felt different, but not in a celebrated quirky manner. This manifested itself in critique of my appearance. It began with wishing I would develop a severe illness, like cancer, so that I could be thin. Thankfully, the universe wasn’t listening. When I realized cancer wasn’t my fate, I next decided to fasten all of my belts as tightly as possible around my waist. I was keen enough to know that this would be difficult to pull off in the presence of others, but it was easy to hide beneath a hoodie or work clothing on the farm. It was during this phase that I discovered the “high” and sense of satisfaction I received from inflicting pain upon myself. Subtly, this evolved into “accidentally” hurting myself when I was outside. I never spoke of these incidences to my family, nor did I show any indication of struggle. But, I would sadistically smirk when I “bumped” into a piece of equipment. Pain felt familiar and invigorating. Of course, this was not enough for my perfectionistic self and there was another elusive extreme. Enjoyment from the infliction of pain was transferred to feeling hungry and physically pushing myself while in this state. I chuckle at myself when I look back, as I felt starvation was my best kept secret. I fully believed that I had everyone fooled, despite the fact that I was skeletal. I likely indulged in this illusion because I was unable to accurately perceive myself. Regardless of my weight, I was convinced I was “fat”. Although I physically recovered from anorexia nervosa over eight years ago, this remains the lingering challenge.

The paradox of these anorexic pursuits is present in the fact that part of me wanted to fade away unnoticed, while another part of me was screaming to be noticed. In the early stages, the fading voice was louder. At sixteen, everything came to a head and I was confronted. I began outpatient treatment at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. My status as an outpatient was short-lived due to the critical state of my condition and thus began a series of hospitalizations, which were met with significant resistance on my part. One fond occasion involves my father carrying me into the hospital over his shoulder, amidst my kicking and screaming. Over the course of a year, I was hospitalized with no intention of making changes upon discharge. Eventually I was held in a psychiatric ward until there was availability in an inpatient program in Edmonton. The reason for sharing these details is not purely for entertainment sake. Rather, it became apparent today that my co-dependency pattern is rooted in these collective experiences.

Undoubtedly, the mental health system saved my life. Nonetheless, I did not emerge unscathed. A combination of interpretations and messages received from various members of the system and the system itself resulted in a belief that, “I am unwell and incapable of taking care of myself.” This was internalized as, “I cannot trust myself.” Voila! Co-dependency justified. For the system to operate, a surrender of individual freedom and control is required. Accordingly, I learned to seek salvation through other, as the very system that I relied on reinforced that I can only be saved by another.

Although my striving for acknowledgement has gradually subsided over the years with a great deal of personal work, I am not in the clear. When I feel misunderstood, disliked, judged, or rejected, I am transported by rocket back into the wound. However, the wound feels different than it used to. The pit isn’t as deep and possesses a hint of softness. At times, I am able to light a match to provide comfort and warmth in the darkness of the pit. These are all indications that pain can evolve and transform.

I have been single for quite a few years, which is not an easy feat for an “extrovert who thrives on deep connection.” Little by little, I am learning to embrace a life of independence. It is easy to go through the motions of the daily grind, to tackle responsibilities. The true challenge exists in finding fulfillment and enjoyment in aloneness. Despite getting caught in the mind and this notion that life is better shared, I recognize that on a soul level we are in constant connection. The message I part you with today is this: Wherever you are on your personal journey, regardless of your pain, know that my soul acknowledges and honours your soul.


You is kind, You is smart, You is important (Aibileen Clark),


Sherise

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