In my body there lives a Trump. A bully who pushes me like a resistant mule. Get up. Hurry up. Lazy. Worthless. I might see myself as a liberal, promoting equal rights and voting democratic. However, there is a hardcore opinion that my body is constantly delivering. No matter what ideas and thoughts I might have about myself and my place in the world, my final vote, inside, is reactionary.
“Lock her up!”
When I speak up, I feel my body sink through the floor. The floor opens, sucks me in. Eyes on me have never proved to be safe. The voice inside of me makes sure I stay out of sight, for safety. I staunchly live by this. I catch myself hiding several moments in the day. Hide for safety. Then why doesn’t it feel safe?
My grandfather believed women were quite useless in the professional world. They belonged in the kitchen and the bedroom, to make babies. Ten babies my grandmother birthed, then she died of breast cancer. The trigger for my mother to leave the house, at the age of seventeen, into the wide wild world, but her heart remained locked. No matter how much rebellion, no matter how far she lived from her father, no matter how ambitious she was, making it into a successful, financially independent woman; no matter how much she yelled back inside her head, fought off the bully inside her head. The bully kept her isolated and her heart locked.
So is mine. No matter how much I fight or deny the bully, he makes the final vote.
Keep out of sight. Don’t make mistakes. If you stay invisible, you can’t fuck up.
Only, you fuck up big time. You miss out on life.
What my mother couldn’t live, and neither can I, is the fact that yelling back at the internalized bully perpetuates the suffering. Stretches it to the unbearable. But people who suffer this kind of family illness can survive high levels of cortisol in the blood, severe tension, sleeping problems and depression. They have been trained from childhood and the mechanism is denial. Denial of all the signs that torture doesn’t work.
“Build a wall along the border!”
There is a wall between me and the rest of the world. Isolation is my default. This was passed on to me from both my parents who suffered extreme anxiety throughout life. A chronic suffering from a deep sense of isolation. Like my parents, I have the belief I need a bully to keep me safe. A wall to keep me safe, is the vote inside. And I’m not alone. The majority vote in the US originates from this place. A wall for safety. While the truth is, the wall isolates. I live this contradiction.
To live life to the fullest is beyond my reach. I can observe others thrive, but never go there.
It’ll do, the bully has taught me.
Living on a very small square, it’ll do.
Don’t make too much noise.
Don’t take in too much air.
Limit yourself into safety. Boundaries protect.
“Crippled America. I’m a really nice guy, believe me, I pride myself on being a nice guy but I’m also passionate and determined to make our country great again.”
There is a hard belief that I’m broken, crippled, and need fixing. And the bully promises to do so. I fear the bully, but I live this truth: I need him.
This crippled woman needs an authority to keep her sane and safe. A bully to keep order. To keep her small.
I watch myself in situations where I shrink. But no one can keep living so shrunken and squeezed in this ‘it’ll do’-way. It shows in spurts of anger. When a woman from the other direction cycles towards me and almost rides me off the road, I yell: excuse me, can I have some space too?!
No. Not until I believe I deserve it. When a man on the road tells me ‘another makak” (the racist word for Moroccans), I shrink in shame. Because I agree. I agree with everyone who wants to kick me off. Shut me out. Lock me up.
Getting right sized
A friend of mine who lives from common sense, not from an internalized bully, tells me: when you really want something, the whole world conspires with you to get that thing. I politely nod. Because first you need to believe you deserve that thing.
I’m coming out of denial by being scared in plane sight. Instead of hiding, be vulnerable. I’m afraid. I’m afraid for my safety, but isolation as protection does not keep its promise. I will still be living with the danger, with the bully inside me. Walling oneself in is the victory of the bully-mind. I’m trying to release by unhiding.
Unhiding by speaking up,
uhiding by writing,
unhiding by stepping into the public,
unhiding by reaching out.
To the bully.
When I was a little girl, some danger required a bully to keep me safe; eyes on my back 24 hours. Now as a 35-year old woman, that survival mechanism doesn’t serve me; the opposite.
However, meeting the bully with resistance and hostility wont work. It will only perpetuate the suffering. The only way to change is openness. Being curious rather than defiant. Because how I treat the internal bully, is how I treat the world. Gratefulness is the victory over the bully-mind.
I’m gaining voice. Getting right sized. Not the exaggerated voice of the bully neither the fearful voice of the little girl. Not too big not to small. Just right, for me. Although I’m still attracted to the old movement of shame, I’m reaching out to the world, becoming more visible every day. The wall is coming down.
Chloé Cela is a facilitator, translator and dialysis patient.
She lives in Belgium, writes in English, and swears in Italian.
You can find her sketches on https://www.instagram.com/bedmonk/