I didn’t want to leave Baltimore. I wanted to never go back to my home state. I had a full-on, raucous panic attack right there at the first rest area barely outside the city limits. Sobs, Chaos, SO MUCH UGLY CRYING!, Fear. And I was very proud of me (in that moment and later) because I have been fragmented from my feelings and my body doesn’t always engage even when I need to. This panic was a deeply personal and deeply felt storm; an earthquake in my subconscious but, instead of running away or avoiding or trying to convince myself I am just too “girly”, I felt all of it. This is a big deal for me. I experienced a very scary set of moments and I didn’t shy away, I called my partner and we talked (more like, my partner listened while I sobbed out sentences in anguish) and I let my partner see the scary thoughts; I let my frightening feelings run outside of my head and unspooled many words that I hadn’t quite planned to say.
I discovered through this that I couldn’t live in the midwest any more in a land-locked town that’s segregated and heavily biased; something I had been trying to bury inside my subconscious while simultaneously trying to unearth it. So confusing! So much cognitive dissonance! I had been trying SO HARD to learn to love where I lived even though it felt like it was killing me.
Of course, my friend saw this from the beginning back when she was able to leave but I didn’t. Couldn’t? Whenever I brought it up she would tell me that she felt strongly that staying in this town was not healthy for me but she would be supportive if I wanted to stay. These conversations usually left me in the fetal position rocking back and forth because I didn’t want to stay but admitting it to myself was a very threatening prospect. I saw no way out.
But now I’m recovering. I have been practicing having, and recognizing, my own preferences. It’s difficult to change all the neural pathways laid down when I was younger. Some of them are not within my control yet. I’ve been practicing that too: forming realistic expectations and noticing when something is outside of my control either due to other people or things I can’t change.
I was finally able to see that I needed to leave my little town. It was painful.
I accepted that I felt this way.
I need to leave for my recovery to continue moving forward. I do mourn the years and energy that I spent trying to fit in and make it work but I’m trying to accept that as well. I need to learn who I am and heal, only then will I be able to return.
Maybe not willing, but possibly able. The future is still under construction.