I’ve tried every which way to outrun my trauma.
I’ll bet you have, too.
It’s not a bad instinct, in fairness.
When something feels as painful and dangerous as our memories and feelings seem to us, it’s a very understandable— a very adaptable, even— instinct to run away.
The problem is, what we’re running away from isn’t “out there.”
It’s in here. Inside our head, and our heart.
There’s no running away from what we carry with us.
Not that that ever stopped me from trying.
I’ve done more than most to try to stop feeling— a project that’s led me to consume substances, dive headlong into enormously destructive behaviors, harm my physical body, and attempt to end my life.
Some of those things worked— for a minute.
Sometimes they changed how I felt, either a little or a lot…but they didn’t last.
Some people reading this know I run as a hobby. I’ve run twenty marathons and countless races of shorter duration. I’m a pretty good runner.
But there’s no outrunning our past or our feelings.
There’s no outrunning the regret and grief that can make me unhappy on a perfectly beautiful autumn day.
You know what I’m talking about, right?
How sometimes you’ll step outside, and it’ll be an objectively beautiful day, and you’re tempted to, you know, enjoy it…but then you remember, you’re not “allowed” to enjoy it, for…reasons.
Sometimes the reasons aren’t even explicitly stated or thought— but you know they’re there.
So you reel yourself in from something as simple as enjoying a beautiful day for a minute.
Unfortunately, we end up having to accept the truth: there is no running or hiding from internal experience.
No matter how fast we run, our head and our heart stay with us.
So we have to turn our attention toward what’s going on in there.
What it’s like in there.
As I turn my attention to the inside of my own head and heart, right here, right now, as I write this, I’m aware of feeling…overwhelmingly sad.
I’ve been particularly in touch with the feeing of regret lately.
I’ve been particularly aware of my mistakes.
My missteps. My misunderstandings— willful and otherwise.
I’ve been particularly aware of how I’ve failed in certain ways to be who I “should” have been.
It’s humiliating. And sad. And infuriating.
Here’s the thing: I carry all that around in my head and heart right now.
I can try to avoid it. I can try to duck and dodge it, and pretend it doesn’t exist, pretend I can outrun it, that maybe THIS will be the one time in my life that I’m successful at avoiding internal experience.
But as Jules says in “Pulp Fiction,” “I like that…but that sh*t ain’t the truth.”
The truth is, to quote “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace, sometimes humans just need to sit in one place…and hurt.
There’s another line in “Infinite Jest” that has always resonated with me: “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.”
That’s me letting go of my fantasy that I can get away with not feeling what’s inside my head and heart.
The recovery win here is this: I will do it.
I will hate it, I don’t WANT to do it, I resent having to do it.
But I will do it.
I will not abandon myself like I was abandoned once upon a time.
I will not hate myself for the pain I’m experiencing.
I will be exactly as sad for exactly as long as it takes to convince the kid I once was, and who I still carry around in my head and heart, that he is loved and he is safe.
I am worth facing what’s inside.
My life is worth saving and worth living.
No matter what that voice in the back of my head is trying to whisper right now.