There’s a Monster in My Mirror
Fighting monsters is tricky business. As we get older, it becomes a bit easier to reckon the truth and falsehoods of warped childhood realities, but underneath, the fears lay dormant. The impenatrable threads of trauma weave themselves throughout our bodies and recalculate the detours of our minds and memories.
We attempt to mask them with whatever might be handy, but they inevitably find their way to the surface; perhaps in their own desire to be processed. But trauma is a patient beast.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
I didn’t realize how much trauma had changed me until I became a mother. Suddenly angered by some benign act or movement, and filled with a kind of rage I struggled to explain or justify. I found distractions and temporary solutions to blame and find comfort in — however temporary. I was over-tired, hungover, or just an innately horrible person. Belief in my powerlessness against the feelings only fueled more self-loathing and the cycle of abuse turned outside-in.
I couldn’t drink it away so I ate. I couldn’t eat it away so I starved. Every bottom seemed to chip away at the root, but not long enough before my desire for relief had me stranded in another.
It has taken me years to process all the shattered pieces from my youth – to reconcile and name them. The monsters of my childhood have been reduced to the weakness and fear of others incapable of processing their own shattered past. I have forgiven what I have not forgotten, then confusing that freedom with an end, I convinced myself that I was cured. The monsters were gone, after all, and I was mature enough to reject their demands.
But there’s no way around trauma — there’s only through it, and I had stared too long into the abyss for it to simply fade away when the sun came up.
Only when I saw that look in my son’s eyes did I fully understand that I had become the monster of his childhood. That rage had waited, ever so patiently, attaching itself to the walls of my desperate attempts to do better than my mother did. And while I scrambled so desperately to remain safe from the monsters of my past, I overlooked the jagged edges of the gate I had built.
“We make our own monsters, then fear them for what they show us about ourselves.”― Mike Carey
So I went back to the pieces, to reconfigure the grooves — the what, where and how the shattered parts of this masterpiece had been reconstructed. I examined the rotted roots of the tree that had grown out of and in spite of the monsters, and I started to weed the garden so that love might grow there.
My children deserve more than I was prepared to give them, and I had to admit my limitations and accept help. I had to look at the monster in my own mirror and love her enough, to honor the protection she provided me, and then let her go.
The cycle ends here.