I remember when I woke up, that sensation of feeling like I was falling down into my skin. For me, it happened not long after sobriety, and it was like a veil was simultaneously lifting as my body expanded outward in a way that allowed me to feel my skin for the first time.
It tingled and I think my feet touched the ground for the first time in my life. I don’t remember if I laughed or if I cried, and most likely it was both. I do know that it was overwhelming in the sweetest way imaginable. I actually liked the way it felt, even and in spite of the fact that I didn’t know what to do with it.
It was like a long intermission was finally over. There had been this limbo state for me that lasted a few decades, in which I was separated from myself, dueling it out with this silent demon in my mind.
This Voice had gotten so good at cursing me and cutting me down that I had come to think of it as me. I had come to believe that the Voice I heard in my head was telling me the truth, and I allowed it to treat me far worse that any other person ever had.
It was crueler than my rapists, sharper in tongue than any high school girl, more vicious than any person that had attacked or robbed me. It was out to get me. And I was handing myself over to it without even a fight, head bowed in silent, frustrated submission.
The truth is I didn’t know that I was even in there anymore. I was a shell, bouncing around in a seemingly empty and echoing container. Even the happiness I experienced was overshadowed by fear and a sense of complete and utter isolation. I had so little faith in me that I couldn’t even believe in the sincerity of others’ feelings towards me. The Voice told me I didn’t deserve them, and so I kept an emotional distance from everyone for fear that their love would be taken away.
Finding myself again was a slow process that began unfolding a little over a decade ago and that has since found a rhythm that supports an often difficult but beautiful, constant and expansive growth. It was the love affair that I’d never had with anyone else, and the relationship that needed to be established before any other liason could ever take root.
First I had to get honest with myself. The reason I believed the Voice was because I didn’t believe in me. Gazing steadily at myself in the mirror, I had to acknowledge the fact that I didn’t really know anything about me. Who was beneath that reflection, and why had I been running from her? I’d kept myself at a superficial level of understanding because the thought of what I might uncover if I went deeper scared the hell out of me. But all of that stuff that I’d pushed down contained clues about me, and it was begging to be addressed.
I had to back up and open my arms wide so that I could open to the possibility of me. I had to give myself a break (sometimes even in tiny five minute increments), and I had to accept myself exactly where I was – all of it, even the self-hatred and fear. I had to acknowledge that I felt blemished and overlooked. I had to allow myself the space to accept every little bit of me that so that I could start exactly where I was.
As I started to notice and to actually feel my feelings, I began to witness a wonderful, albeit strange, occurrence. Initially, I spent a lot of time questioning my relationship with God and that led me right back to myself. I got angry and yelled. I got sad and cried. I got frustrated and acted out. But I followed each and every little thread to see where it landed within me, and as I did so, I began to finally understand myself. And as I worked within this new framework, and handled everything that came up instead of stuffing or hiding from it, I began to trust myself. It came in morsels initially, but the trail of crumbs eventually led me to a beautiful, delicious (gluten-free) cake.
I took little steps to work through my fear. Jen Pastiloff’s workshop showed me how to say, “Fuck it!” and give my fears a big, fat kick to the curb. I began to have more faith in the Universe and I began to understand my value. I started to fill up from the inside out rather than trying to do it from the outside in.
Actively engaging in my healing process has shown me that I can and do love myself. It has allowed me to create a bridge of understanding and connection to myself that has grown into a network of support and love, a wheel of light radiating from a center point, which is a (usually) fairly empowered me. As I learned to value myself, I started to attract others that honor me as well.
This has not always been easy and I’ve also called in a few folks and situations that I thought had my best interest at heart that in the end didn’t. Working through those circumstances has been difficult, but empowering. I’ve learned to trust myself even more and to recognize that when I give my power away, I don’t have solid ground to stand on. And so I have built an even stronger foundation based on self-trust blended with community. Most importantly, I know that regardless of how another treats me or how a relationship ends, I am still here, still standing, still the same person that I was only stronger and wiser.
No one can take from me what I’m not willing to give away.
The more I learn to honor myself the less I’m willing to part with. That doesn’t mean that I can’t give to others – I do and it now comes from an authentic space of not needing anything in return. It means that I’m more discerning about how I give of myself and with whom. I’ve learned that I can share more when I’m standing strong.
Silencing the Voice is an on-going process, one that I expect will never completely end. But it doesn’t control me anymore and I’m not afraid to tell it to shut the hell up these days. Standing up to it is standing up for me. And that feels pretty damn good.
When not running around with her 11-year-old son or chasing after a member of their menagerie, Janet Raftis plays as an energy healer and intuitive coach. She focuses on helping women to break through fear and trauma that is holding them back from expressing their true selves and from finding their authentic and empowered voice. Writing is one of the tools that she has used to heal herself and to reach others. She has been featured on The Manifest-Station a few times and elephant journal and she maintains a personal blog through her website.