“Stop… Fuck! Stop!!! Fuuuck!!! Stop, breathe… FUCK!” That was my internal self-talk asking me to detach from my auto-responses to my sensitive and willful 3 year old daughter, Olivia, on a difficult morning. I had spilled coffee down my shirt as Olivia began her 2nd or 3rd meltdown of the morning and our sweet and loving family cat wailed from the room next door. I immediately and accurately assessed his cries as cries of pain and illness. “What the fuck else can go wrong today?!” is what flashed through my brain and then came my biochemical responses flooding through my whole system. Externally, I was responding with impatience and threats to Olivia to eat her breakfast and stop whining and I observed her spirit take in each awful response. Internally, I could feel a part of me, my observer, asking me to notice my pain and to notice Olivia’s needs grow into desperation for unconditional love and security. I so badly felt the need to disconnect and not be a part of what was happening. Then it hit me and I felt the tears well and for a moment, I could feel the want to collapse into my own pain. I felt overwhelmed. I needed support. I needed to acknowledge what was happening within me. I needed unconditional self-love and internal connection. I needed to notice that I had developed no template for love and presence from my own childhood, which is why I had never allowed myself to have a “meltdown” as a child like Olivia was having at that moment and it was why it felt so intolerable to me. My templates that I use internally on myself are abandonment and abuse, but I have always been very clear that I would never use those on my daughter, and here I was rejecting her, abandoning her. I took a few deep breaths and let myself briefly grieve just enough to send my own motherly love internally and reconnect to Olivia. I invited her to eat breakfast on my lap and our morning moved forward imperfectly, though much more smoothly as Olivia began to feel loved, connection and secure again. And so did I.
“Research shows that genetics may determine if your destiny is to become a felon.” I heard this on the radio today said with such excitement. Come on world, that’s nuts. I sure as hell don’t accept that I am a product of the crappy mistakes that my parents made and genetics/ epigenetics. No one determines our destiny but us. If genetics and childhood trauma controlled my destiny, at the very least I wouldn’t have been able to choose how to respond to Olivia and I’d be destined to be a pretty terrible mother. It’s hard as hell to choose. It felt like with every breath I took in that moment I was breathing just a little more space between my programming and actually showing up and being present. It was so hard, but every time I choose it gets a little easier. We can start to heal our past and re-pattern our present and future when we choose to be aware, own it and learn the lessons from it.
Olivia has been asking me to stop running away since the moment she showed up in my life. I tried to leave my childhood trauma behind by running and disconnecting, both internally and externally. I moved away from home during high school and unconsciously invited people into my life who tended to reinforce that I couldn’t feel because I was too much, or weird, or crazy… so I’d disconnect even more. I graduated college early to move forward quickly and learn all about how to fix people in grad school. This was actually more about making the world safe for me and I had no idea at the time. Ultimately, I threw myself into a profession that involved deep emotion and where I could survive without really needing to be authentic, because counseling was supposed to be about the client, not me. But counseling is actually about both. I’ve learned painfully recently that if I do not show up with deep connection to myself, I cannot guide my clients toward that and I cannot manifest those personal relationships.
Then, Olivia came into my life. I set the intention to give her security and love, so I have to choose to stop running. I do so imperfectly, but I choose every day. And all because I care and love so deeply and I finally showed up and accepted what I was asking for: a mother. Before I got to a place of peace about all of this, it got frickin’ ugly and painful. I found myself in a “perfect” life, but internally disconnected after my 7th pregnancy loss in less than 2 years. I was collapsed in a prison of helplessness and conviction that I was in fact a horrible mother and was being punished. At the same time, I was struggling in my career and maintaining an “I’m good, it’s all good” outer shell out of terror that someone would see the truth and confirm what I knew: I deserved this. Then, I began to look outside of my terror and notice the kindness in my life, not because it came easy or I am stronger than anyone else, but because I had to. I couldn’t bear the pain of disconnection and the impact it was having on the child I already had. I chose to wake up to people around me who were doing everything they could to either convince me of my worth (but of course those people would leave because they’d exhaust themselves fighting a battle they’d never win and never should’ve been fighting in the first place) or just stay the course with me and show up when I was ready. So I chose to be ready. Because of the love that I opened up to and because of my fire and will, I am becoming an embodied, good-enough mother. A seriously imperfect, but courageous mother and woman who chooses everyday to fight her brain wiring and genetics and to not abandon herself or loved ones. And like a couple of wise women in my life say, we can all pay for our kids’ therapy one day.
I choose to define myself not as what my trauma taught me, but to live and self-identify as the sensitive, powerful and intuitive soul that I am.
Aimee Solis is the Founder of and a practicing psychotherapist at Mindful Springs Counseling, a private group practice in Colorado Springs, CO that supports integration of body, mind and spirit through advanced mindfulness psychotherapy and deep trauma resolution.