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Letting Real Love In

Healing and loving yourself can also mean admitting to yourself that you don’t want to do this alone.

portrait drawing in charcoal on paper by artist Nicole Sylvia Javorsky with text, tell me what do you see tangled tied ip in knots just trying to break free I promise

Dearest Doodle Soupsters, 

Have you ever felt out of sync with the world around you?

You turn on the car radio and no matter how many times you switch the channel, you keep hearing upbeat dance anthems when you just need a song to bring you to your knees so you can finally let those stuck sobs ring out?

Everyone’s talking fast about how far they want to go and how quickly they want to get there while you’re just trying to put your right foot in front of your left to take just one baby step? 

Then, you have a burst of something, call it joy, and you want to dance but it’s like you’ve forgotten how. You dance anyway. It feels so out of place and precious at the same time …

This month, I went to the gynecologist to get my IUD removed and replaced. The IUD was about to expire and I figured if I was going to have to get it removed, I might as well endure the extra 10 minutes or so and get another one in. 

My husband came with me to the appointment. The doctor’s office wouldn’t let him go in the room with me. I asked him to tell the doctor the situation — even if he couldn’t come in with me, it’d help to not have to be the one to say it. He explained to the doctor how I have a history of sexual abuse, that I have PTSD, and that these appointments are very sensitive for me.

Every ounce of my flesh just wanted to run out that door. I stayed. I didn’t want to follow my fear. I’m so tired of feeling afraid. Part of me just wants to act like the feeling isn’t there. 

I could have forced myself not to cry, like I used to? Could have went to the appointment by myself … to prove what? Why is it so hard to accept that I’m not alone in this anymore and that’s a good thing? That I don’t have to prove how “strong” I am? Especially when there is strength in letting yourself feel, in letting yourself receive love and support?

Sometimes, I think to myself that before I started healing from my past, it was like I didn’t feel fear. But that’s not true. I was scared. I just didn’t have the luxury of naming it, dealing with it, noticing it? 

Luxury is a strange word to use, I know. How could feeling your feelings be a luxury? It shouldn’t be a luxury. 

Back when I was in survival mode, I had panic attacks. I would push through, push through, push through and then the fear would just overpower me. It felt like it came out of nowhere. Except it didn’t. It didn’t really come out of nowhere. I was just too busy trying to get through the day. Too busy to feel? That was the point, wasn’t it? To be too busy to feel?

Back when I was in survival mode, I had waves of intense sadness, shame, self-loathing … I wanted to be dead, I said, but that’s not what I meant. I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted to get through a day or even part of a day without trying so hard just to breathe in and out.

When I was able to get through my life without crying or hyperventilating or asking for help from anyone or telling anyone about my feelings, it made me feel strong. It made me feel strong to be numb. 

I was never the teenage girl-perfectionist-anorexic that all these people kept on telling me I was. I was just a kid trying to be brave and survive and do what I thought strong people did, which was deal with it all on my own (“don’t bother anyone!”).

Without realizing it or being able to put it into words this way, I copied the fears I saw around me. I didn’t have words for my pain, my fear, my trauma, what really happened. And when I tried to know my real story and put words to how I really felt, it felt like no one wanted to hear that part. 

I started eating less and less and less because it made me feel numb. After I was hospitalized, I learned the language of body shaming from my doctors and other patients so eventually, I learned to repeat this language because I didn’t have my own language. And when I tried to find my own language, I learned I wasn’t allowed to have my own language. Or, rather, that’s how I was made to feel.

The truth is harder to hear. 

The truth exposes people who did wrong. 

The truth is the only way that I could get free, be free, know myself, ever heal for real.

Without realizing it, I copied the perfectionistic language from other students who worried about their grades. It felt discordant with my values and priorities. Yet, I was feeling intense fear so often and when I was asked to explain my state of mind, no one seemed to have the patience. 

I knew what was expected of me. I was expected to answer quickly … and the truth is there was no one I trusted enough that the real story could come out. When I tried to speak something true, how I really felt, the words just wouldn’t come out. It was like my voice ran away somewhere and I couldn’t chase after it. Frozen then numb then hollow …

Why did I begin with the part about feeling out of sync with the world around me? (I know that at first, I used the word “you.” Sometimes, it’s easier to write “have you ever felt …” than “I feel …”)

There’s this idea out there — sometimes it feels like I’m seeing it everywhere I look, everywhere I go — that healing and loving yourself is all about independence, doing things for yourself and on your own.

And sure, for some, that can be healing. Yet, healing and loving yourself can also mean admitting to yourself that you don’t want to do this alone. 

To heal, I had to leave behind relationships with friends and family members who kept showing me just how much they didn’t get “it” and thus me. 

To heal, I’ve had to learn that not everyone wants me to hide my truth and go into survival mode all the time. To heal, I am learning to let real love in. 

To heal, I am learning to accept:

  • Generosity toward myself

  • Kindness toward myself

  • Rides to the train station, to work, to my shows

  • Homemade tiramisu 

  • Gifts 

  • That I am worthy of love and support

  • That I was always worthy of love and support, even when I didn’t receive it

  • That it’s not a luxury to feel my feelings, even if surviving meant that I had to numb a lot

  • That I am valued and enough, as I am and for who I am

  • That I don’t need to pretend I’m okay when I’m not

It’s vulnerable to connect with others, to rely on someone. And relying on people doesn’t mean I’m too dependent. It means there are people I trust to help me out when I need that. 

In a lot of ways, this is still new to me. And I’m trying really hard to give myself some grace when healing feels so messy and confusing.

Trying my best, 

Nicole Sylvia Javorsky


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