I know this seems like such an odd topic to talk about but trust me here – coming out of hiding has been such a huge part of my healing journey so I wanted to share a bit about it, in hopes it helps you to see where you may be unconsciously hiding in your own life.
When I hear the word hiding, it brings me back to playing hide and seek with my sister as a young girl running around in our tiny New Jersey backyard trying to hide behind the one lonely, yet mighty oak tree in hopes she wouldn’t see me.
It’s interesting how familiar the feeling of hiding (and not wanting to be seen) felt throughout my healing journey. The irony is that I was often too “busy” and moving at the speed of light so I couldn’t actually feel any of this inside of me, but you get the picture. These feelings were more disguised as procrastination, isolation, over responsibility for others, overanalyzing, making excuses for not wanting to go out and be social, and telling myself repeatedly that I was a “good girl” for staying in and working hard.
Many of my healing years were spent sitting with myself trying to digest what was going on inside my mind and why it was so terrified to get out into life and live.
Like anything, it all stemmed back to childhood but it took me so long to be able to fully see this not-so-obvious connection. I blamed my tendency to hide on an awful college breakup because that’s when I noticed I really couldn’t handle going outside and being seen from such deep shame and it’s also right around the time when I started to become unwell and unable to eat the foods I was so easily able to eat for years.
While it felt safer to blame the old boyfriend, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened inside of my brain that senior year in college when I literally shut down.
I don’t remember much.
I was rail thin.
Unable to think or eat or do anything but stare blankly into space.
Scared to literally step out my door, to eat certain foods, walk down certain streets in daylight, talk to people, make eye contact, sit still, try a yoga class and the list went on and on.
Now, from where I stand looking back on that period of my life, I can see how frozen I was. My energy healers still to this day tell me my body went into such a state of shock that I couldn’t cope with this man’s actions and behaviors. I realize this all sounds ridiculous from just a “breakup” but as I dug deeper into my healing and began to thaw out from such a deep stress response, the terms narcissistic abuse and trauma checked all the boxes I had experienced for much of my life from many men and also from my childhood – it just so happened that this college breakup was the catalyst to my complete shut down (including hiding).
I realize I’m not alone here – so many of us have unresolved pain inside of us and it just takes one little blip like a breakup to knock us completely out of homeostasis for years, often decades, desperate to find our way back to ourselves.
I actually hid the fact that I was hiding from life, people, fun, pleasure, joy, etc. from myself. We’re sneaky creatures, we humans, aren’t we? I told a lot of white lies to friends because I didn’t want to engage in life and that felt safer than actually being in life. I isolated myself because the shame was so deep – I couldn’t handle being looked at or seen or spoken to. All I could do was be alone. That’s all I could handle. That’s the only way I felt safe.
My entire senior year of college in 2004, I ate my meals at a small table in the corner of the cafeteria facing a wall where no one could see me or talk to me. That was safe for me. That was all I could handle. It’s also the complete opposite of who I am. I’ve felt like in the last two decades since graduating college, I’ve been living my life facing a wall, not letting anyone in, pushing people away for fear of being seen, and completely avoiding others and myself. Heavy stuff to admit to myself, unpack and heal. Very heavy.
To unpack it and heal it, I moved through layers of PTSD, shame, overwhelm, panic, paranoia and agoraphobia with very skilled healers in order to actually feel what was underneath the hiding and to be able to look right at it and start to break free from it.
I’m sharing all of this in hopes that it helps you see how sneaky the mind can be and the subtle yet profound impact trauma and emotional pain have on the mind and body – often taking years to even be able to see what we’ve been doing to ourselves.
The key, in my experience has been to look back on my life knowing I was doing the best I could with the tools I had at the time. To have compassion for the 20-something and 30-something woman who was utterly lost trying so desperately to use conventional methods to heal and “fix” what I was repeatedly told was a broken mind and body.
It’s taken me awhile to heal – eighteen years since the catalyst incident in college and I’m happy to say that I’ve moved through all of the hiding. I’m starting to feel safe out in life, dating, dining out, and learning how to live the life I couldn’t live for so long. It feels so beautiful and glorious. I’m all giddy about it.
If you find yourself resonating with any of the hiding behaviors I’ve mentioned, be compassionate with yourself and know the brain is always trying to protect us – that’s its job. I hope by sharing a bit about my experience with hiding gives you proof that you, too, can rewire your brain and body out of an anxious survival state, heal yourself from past emotional pain that feels too overwhelming to feel, and come out of hiding.
I didn’t fully feel safe enough to stop hiding until just a few weeks before my 40th birthday and I never gave up. It’s never too late. Be patient with yourself. You can do this.
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