Ride the Wave
Several years ago, when I decided I was ready to work on my trauma, I enlisted the help of my older sister because she had gone through similar work herself. I’m sure all kinds of things she said were helpful, but the most important thing she shared with me was about the waves.
What does it mean to ride the wave? Well, I’ll speak for myself, living with trauma, living with unprocessed pain, anger, sadness… feels very much like swimming in the ocean during a big storm with huge waves that keep pulling you under, and just when you reach the surface and take a deep breath, you’re pulled back under again. And so it goes.
No, I have never had that actual experience, but in my mind it’s horrible like trauma! In my experience there came a time where I finally felt like I was swimming in calm water. Of course, I had no idea how to live my life in calm water, so I knew that was the next thing I had to learn.
Just as I was learning how to navigate life in more calmness, out of nowhere comes a huge wave. The wave takes me down and before I know it I feel like I’m back in the same struggle. There can be danger with that because it feels just like the storm at first. Anyone who knows trauma can tell you, once you don’t feel like you’re living in it, you never want to go there again.
I don’t know if trauma understands that, but I understood after a while, that it was only a wave. And that made all the difference, because I knew I would be in calm waters again soon. And this was normal, even if it sucked. And it happened just like that.
Eventually I got really good at riding the waves, and then they even died down. I would find myself in a nice long spell without a wave. It was during those times that I really began to have hope that I would feel better one day for good. It was also during those times that I could process, integrate and eventually learn I had it in me to thrive!
The entire unfolding process clearly never stops. And that is where I see myself on the spectrum having an especially hard time with life. I learned that the waves are normal. For everyone. But it made no sense to me. How could I have survived a storm, learned to ride waves, and then made it on the other side only to learn that this is life. Riding waves.
Waves don’t stop. They are part of nature and part of life. So many things don’t make sense to me that make perfect sense to most everyone else. And likewise, what seems perfectly normal to me, I’ve learned, is very unusual to others.
I think, like a lot of people I know, I desire to be understood and accepted. It wasn’t until I stopped living in my storm that I was able to see and accept these other parts of myself. I didn’t know they existed, but they made perfect sense once I saw it. In fact, knowing these parts of myself has actually allowed me to feel more understood and accepted than I have ever felt.
It’s a two way process because I have to acknowledge and understand the difference in me, but I have no other choice than to advocate for myself and strategically go about most things. Sometimes this looks like explaining to people in advance that I am on the spectrum. And I would have never imagined that just telling people this could make communication easier.
It freed people from something they’d been carrying around about me, and it freed me from feeling trapped. I guess that means most people understand what being on the spectrum means, and that’s phenomenal. Because all it really means is that you are correct. I am different. I am unusual. And that’s okay, because it’s explainable, and I can work with it.
I can learn and grow how to communicate with people who inherently know things that I don’t, because now people can teach me. It’s true I came to earth missing some parts, but once that was identified I could do something different. And that difference was to embrace who I am and share it with others.
Why it matters
Over the past few days I now see I was caught in a wave, and I couldn't see it. I’m so grateful that so many people reached out to me because it was only then that I could see it.
A couple things are different today. Our family is trying a new arrangement where the kids don’t move homes during the school week throughout the semester. It makes perfect sense for them to be in only one household with two adults and extended family always around to help. With me, they get just me. And the dog and the cat!
Another major change is that the anger I carried from the storm died down. Honestly, I don’t know what to do with myself sometimes because I find the lack of anger strange. It is especially notable to me in my eyes, my expressions. Now here again I should have known that sadness lurks under anger, but I didn’t see this coming either.
After a nice long while of calm with none of that anger, it appears that I’m in a bit of a sad wave. I’m not used to sadness. I was familiar with anger, and although I hated having so much of it, at least I knew what it was. Sadness is another thing altogether, and living in it is new and very uncomfortable for me.
I should say living through it. After many phone calls and conversations I got it. I have a lot of sadness to process now. And that’s okay too. Especially now that I see it.
So what happened with all the posts?
Well, in my best spectrum performances I go on without notice or context. The people closest to me know that and understand that. It has come to my attention that they are the only ones, especially in this context, who understand that. Big whoops!
When I decided to use social media to journal my process, I did so without explanation. And because they are public platforms, other people may or may not come across my journals, and now I see clearly how confusing it can all seem to everyone.
I chose to be public with my journal for two reasons. Number one, I would have LOVED to have had access to anyone who had personal experience with trauma work who is also on the spectrum while I was going through it. I also believe I would have benefited from just knowing that other people like me existed.
And secondly, I knew it would be the best way to hold myself accountable for my words and actions knowing that I always mean well, but have to work hard to be more relatable and digestible.
So, I’m sorry I alarmed people, but I’m glad I did too, because I didn’t know how sad I was and that I needed some people in my life to talk to. And this is why I do this publicly. Because I know it’s hard to spot. I know it’s hard to talk about. I know it’s hard to exist sometimes. And as I say to my closest and dearest, I’m already always embarrassing myself, why not do it publicly if it could help even just one other person know they aren’t alone in their struggle.