Girls gotta do what she's gotta do to get through. I mean that's always what I’ve told myself when trying to get through my teenage years and early 20s. For me that meant dodging any possible conversation about my losses.
After awhile I became really good at foreseeing where a conversation was going to lead to and if this was dangerous territory aka family talk. I became a master of redirection and no one would catch on for years. After all, I was a teen who went through a lot of trauma that I couldn’t process fast enough for the next incident to come my way. It was survival. This ability that we’re all born with but never gets trained or tapped into until the very moment that it’s needed. That’s how it seemed anyhow and it was easier to keep to myself then potentially get close to someone or have conversations around what was going on in my life. I think of my young self as the avoidance girl ninja.
I’ve spent many nights, parties, dinners, good opportunities being closed off and learning how to put the attention back to the person who was talking to me when I felt it was getting too close to home. For some it was easier than others. There is always that person in the group or at the party who loves talking about all things them and their dog and that terrible must tell “funny story” where they laugh more than say words. There were times where people found that part of me intriguing and would pry or do their very best to figure out what was this big block in between me and them. Some of those people were the guys who pursued me or eventually I dated during my early 20s. Some people love that mysterious shit - wanting someone who could be anything. As a 27 year old I def do not see the appeal in that like I once used to when seeking out males or them seeing that quality in me as intriguing . At this point in my life, I wanna know a list of all of your traumatic experiences, what you do to take care of yourself physically and mentally, who you’re close to in your family, if you have a good group of friends and if you’re employed - hello! Jeez Carm why did it take this long.
Avoiding talking about my losses, traumatic experiences and mental health became instinctual as the years went on. I knew what it was early on. Just because you’re aware of something, it doesn't always make it easier to go through and navigate. I was a Psychology Major for goodness sake and naturally an intuitive and empathetic girl at a young age. Knowing what I was doing and why I was doing it did not speed up my healing process. For the time being it was my coping style that I developed. I wanted to protect myself at all costs. It was something that I recognized and took initiative in my life to lead- even though it wasn’t healthy. For so many years I didn’t have control over that because of the tragedies and losses that I faced. Survive somehow right? In retrospect I was actually missing out on opportunities to connect further with new friends that entered my life during university, college and at the start of my career. It was always there and always going to be a part of me no matter how long I was running from it. I was glad to see how things changes for me when I started to open up that part of myself because it strengthened the friendships I already had and opened up new beginnings.
Trust the process. Meet yourself where you’re at. Take chances with your healing. For so long I was uncomfortable with my journey - I could not accept it. Not accepting it held me back. Slowly beginning to share parts of my story and knowing that I had control over how much I wanted to share and that I was going to keep moving no matter what response I would get empowered me. This wasn't something that I could have known until I had dipped my foot in the water. I was scared of judgement, having to comfort someone else who would feel uncomfortable by hearing about my trauma, and was worried about the impact on my relationship with them. As a young adult you’re still learning, testing your limits and collecting experience data on what your standards and expectations are while also learning to love yourself and really know your worth. Messy times - but I’m so proud of younger me looking back. Sometimes it's hard to remember the details of certain moments but you never forget those feelings. I remember becoming increasingly comfortable in my skin, sharing my journey and openly discussing how I supported myself through those times.
What started off as me wanting to protect myself turned into me projecting encouragement and hope for others through openly sharing my journey on the platform I created that I had dreamed about for years.
Photography credit: Alessandra Bruzzese circa 2016