A Journey to The Rock Bottom of Trauma

“The wound is the place 
where the Light enters you.”  - Rumi 

As someone who has recovered from what we now call Complex PTSD, I want to share my most important discovery, the one principle and insight that saved my life, altered my destiny, and ultimately led to profound healing.

The discovery? Awakening to my own indestructible Presence. Discovering who I really am, that calm, surrendered place in the midst of the somatic, emotional and psychological storm of the body-mind. The holy light in the darkness.

No matter how intense and terrifying my feelings got over the years; no matter how tense and contracted the muscles in my body became; no matter how my mind raced and spun and catastrophized over every tiny little thing; no matter how loud and violent the inner voices of fear and shame became; no matter how much I spaced out, dissociated from my body, went numb, lost myself in nightmares; no matter how hard it was to breathe sometimes in the midst of fear, crippling social anxiety and that crushing sense of unworthiness at the core of all trauma; no matter how many times I escaped into my addictions – binge eating, computer games, codependency and people-pleasing, fantasy, overworking, self-hatred, desperately attempting to control others; no matter how bad things got, there was a safe place I could always return to, a sanctuary of Self. 

Many times I forgot this safe place of course. Many times I lost myself in the whirlwind of trauma again.

But then I would remember…

“Trust. Breathe. You are safe. Thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations have never hurt anyone.

You are here. It is now. You are not in the past. You are not in the future. 

You are here. Now. You are breathing. You are safe...”

Sometimes the work of recovery felt impossible to do by myself. Many times I sobbed in the arms of my partner, or a dear friend. Once or twice I sobbed in the arms of a stranger. Sometimes I had to write out my pain, splurge it all on paper, let the paper hold me and ground me and give me hope. 

Sometimes I felt I was about to die or go mad. Probably thousands of times I imagined myself being carted away in a straight-jacket, or a coffin. 

And then, I would drop out of the mind again, come out of thought and its myriad futures, and fall back into the fucking earth. Into the ground. Into the couch, the bed, the grass, the living day, the reality. And then, spontaneous tears would come. Or spontaneous shaking. Or spontaneous fire, the sense of my own animal power. 

“Here, Jeff. Come back here…”

Healing is messy. Healing is terrifying sometimes. Healing can also be blissful of course, some days. There is no “right way” to heal. We learn to expect the ups and the downs. We learn to expect the despair and the joy and the confusion. 

Sometimes healing can come unexpectedly through a scene in a movie you’re watching, through a piece of music, a passage in a book, or a moment of stillness in a shopping mall. Sometimes a work of art, or a poem, or a conversation with a friend, healed and inspired and soothed me and brought me to Presence more deeply and quickly than any therapist or healing technique ever could.

Sometimes, feeling unable to go on, unable to escape myself, the only place I could go was the core of my deepest pain, into the abandonment wound itself, into the heart of the dissociation and the numbness. I took the risk of letting the numbness kill me (as my mind feared it would). 

And every time, as I turned towards the abandonment depression, the cosmic tiredness, the searing sense of isolation, the voided void, the howling trauma core, every single fucking time it didn’t kill me, and every single fucking time I found that it was the safest place to be, and every single fucking time I found relief, relaxation, even sweet healing tears there, in the place I thought I would breathe my last breath.  In the darkest place, I found new creativity, new love, new life.  

I learned to bless my sweet body, in its full-on fight-or-flight mode, or its full-on “get me out of the moment” mode, bless the racing heart and the trembling limbs and the sweat and the nausea and that awful sinking feeling in the belly and that terrible sense of urgency to escape. 

I learned to trust it all although I hated it all so badly sometimes!

I leaned to trust it all although it felt so very hard to trust sometimes.  

I started to become the parent - the mother and the father - I never had. The one that stayed with me in the pits of hell, who held me close and whispered, “I am here. You are safe. This is just the passing intensity of the mind and body and nothing bad is happening, and you just need to remember to breathe, and it will all pass as it always has, and I am here with you through every breath you take...”

I learned how to be with the abandoned one inside, that terrible, lonely, searing depression at the rock bottom of all trauma. I learned to see that it was just a feeling calling for love, and it didn’t define me, and it wasn’t a threat, but an exquisite part of existence itself, that didn’t have to be cured or defeated, but loved. 

Yes, I learned how to befriend the lonely one within, the abandoned one, the one who wanted to die, I learned to breathe with it and see it as a frightened part of me desperately needing my love. I learned to take care of the lost child. 

I found that I was bigger than my frightened mind, bigger than any feeling, however intense, bigger than grief, bigger than trauma itself, bigger than my own limited notion of myself. Layers of shame and fear began to melt away, layers of addiction, layers of mind, layers that were only trying to ‘protect’ me from raw life, and my raw self, and my raw feelings and bodily sensations, and my raw truth. 

As all these outdated coping mechanisms fell away, I learned to see and love my imperfections again. To rejoice at my wonderful mistakes. To laugh at the absurdity of my moments. To let myself break down sometimes, to give up sometimes, to surrender, to not know. To let myself be seen by others. To stop repressing my authenticity and weirdness. To stop trying to be a carbon copy of other people. To pursue my own wonderful, scary, original path. 

To let myself forget, and remember, and forget again. 

To let myself be humbled, often.

To begin again, each day.

There are a hundred other things I could tell you about my healing journey.

But if I only leave you with one thing right now, let it be this...

There is a place in you of utter safety, innocence, stillness, purity. It is ancient and wise and has survived a billion nightmares. It is unnameable and crystal clear, as soft as the finest cashmere, tougher than diamond, and more loving than anything you could possibly imagine. It is fearless yet it holds the most overwhelming terror like a newborn baby. 

It is not a destination. It is not a place you get to one day. It is not some far-off utopia. 

It cannot abandon you. It is God before God.

It is you, your deepest self, prior to any trauma. 

Obscured sometimes, yes, but never truly lost.

It is the eye of the storm. Utterly unmoving. Utterly still. Utterly powerful. 

I am grateful to my deepest psychological pain. It showed me the way Home. It cracked me open to my holy vulnerability and the preciousness of this human existence. It taught me things that joy and bliss and all kinds of worldly success could never, ever teach. 

My trauma took me close to death, yes, but then it woke me up to more life. 

There is so much hope, friend. There is so much hope. 

~ Jeff Foster

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