Compartmentalized… How do I heal?

It’s come up recently that I compartmentalize my life. And that I’m really good at it. But the way it was said wasn’t really a compliment – more of a “wow, you should be studied” amazement. Yeah, I’ve always kinda known this thing I do isn’t normal or healthy.

Then a couple of days ago someone said to me,” Some women are able to function with unresolved trauma, others can’t process it enough and spiral downwards mentally.” She’d been taught to compartmentalize. Huh.

And then today happened.

One minute I was sending some tweets about a woman I’m worried about. Open box. In the next, I’m talking to my boss about something work related. Close one box, open another box.  Daughter calls and needs to be picked up.  Open mom box.

I left my office and walked through the locked door. There was my ex-husband who I have not see in over a year. Right there. He smiled. Open TRAUMA. Open PANIC. I spun around back through the locked door and walked as far away as I could. Where to go? My office is close too close to the front door. Open need to RUN. I went down the back stairs and out.

I drove 5 minutes to my daughter’s school. Shaking, nauseous, not OK. And then I stuffed it all down closed those boxes and re-opened mom. A polite hello and chat with the school secretary and hellos with my daughter ensured.

I dropped her at home and went back to work. I was scared of running into my ex again. I sat for a long time staring at my work building with trauma, panic, fear all open. I could go home and explain tomorrow. Everyone would understand. Heart racing, hands shaking, nausea returns. I should go home, I’m not OK. Any normal person would go home.

But NO!! HE WILL NOT TAKE MY SPACE! Work is MY space. I need to reclaim it. If I could make it to the second floor, I could take the back stairs, but at this point where was he? I’m sure he’s there to see an advisor. If the meeting didn’t go well, he might be angry. Where should I go? My office isn’t safe. I have a meeting soon on third floor. Advisors are now on third floor. I duck into an office on the third floor – shaking. “Hi, how are you? I thought I’d wait here to meeting.” Close ex box. Open to work box. Easy, right?

My many, many boxes have served me very well over the years. I took various forms of abuse and packed them away. And then I made a career out of those skills. Difficult client? Unruly customer? Project on fire? Give them to me, I’ll handle them. And I can. Just need to build a new box. It’s what I do. I’m glad to help others and it’s nice to see things being achieved. But I’ve absorbed a lot of ugly and I’m carrying a lot of boxes. I’m starting to understand there’s a reason I take on the things others avoid – they aren’t healthy.

Not only are all those boxes heavy, but my feelings, experiences and memories are split across them all. I’m not whole. There’s no “me”. How do you heal when the fragments of you are stored away in so many dusty boxes?



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