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Photo by Mika Baumeister / Unsplash

The last minutes of a recent dream changed everything

Last weekend I woke up different. Not differently, different. Here's why.

From adolescence, when my brother began sneaking in my window, to the rapes in the military, I've been dealing with nightmares. They usually involve some version of being held down, controlled, and having things done to me that hurt or terrify me because I was helpless.

That night, I was at the end of a dream when someone grabbed me, held me tightly and insisted on kissing me. I forcefully wriggled out of their embrace and said NO.

Then I woke up.


I was stunned.

In the first moments of the morning I realized what had just happened. Something fundamental had been rewritten.

Dream interpretation is way over my head. What I do know is that for all the years I can recall, my nightmares have been about being unable to get away from aggression and pain. Unable to escape something coming for me, to inflict pain.

Bet you can relate.

My friend Melissa and I spoke about this today. She had also had a brother who committed incest against her, and her keen observations and kind ways to help me process this were key. She too has had a lifetime of nightmares, as do billions of people who have been brutalized by others.

I've never imagined being free of such nightmares. Yet....I said NO.

And got out of that unwanted embrace.

I've been working on this for untold years. Every so often, the work pays off.

This morning, on another platform, I read a story about hateful comments. The woman is a recovering alcoholic, and in a helping profession. I read her piece, felt deep empathy, and wrote a caring, thoughtful (at least I thought so) comment.

She liked the comment and asked me for more.

So I responded, with every single possible intent of being of service. Then I got castigated for not having read a line buried in her long, long, LONG ramble that said no unsolicited advice. What I wrote wasn't intended as advice because I wrote about how I was able to stop my eating disorders.

So I removed my offending comment on the thread and asked, if you didn't want me to respond, why did you ask?

That set off a mini-bomb. The writer reposted the comment in order to be right, disregarding MY boundary of having removed it to be respectful, and others piled on.

It got ugly. The people who piled on were also in the helping professions.

That's their shit. Not mine.

Here's my point: I got out of that unwanted embrace. I did NOT take it personally. I blocked the people involved and spent time today with Melissa processing the behavior, and taking responsibility for mine. Melissa said that "addicts are angry."

That hit me square in the solar plexus because it's so true. Those years I spent in the grip of terrible eating disorders I felt rage at my helplessness.

I don't mind one bit looking at this. But what processing this with Melissa did was reveal that my guard rails are a lot better, my sense of self a lot stronger, and my ability to call shit out while it's happening and set clear boundaries has improved massively just in the last few years.

Just like my dream. I said NO.

NO means NO.

I am sorry that such people are so angry that even when someone does their level best to be caring, it is perceived as invasive and as advice. I am sorry that my best efforts, the time I took out of my day to read a piece and respond to it with genuine care suddenly became the target of ire.

I am sorry that clearly, I didn't do my PhD work to pore over every single tiny detail of a singularly messy page and find the ONE LINE that said DON'T YOU DARE OFFER ME ADVICE.

That is their hair shirt. Not mine. What's even funnier, and this is where it gets comical, is that the original article was all about hateful comments.

That's just funny.

If you pointed this out to the original poster and the people who piled on, you would get more anger and retribution.

The gift of this entire silly exchange is that I got to watch what happened, set a boundary and walk away without feeling as though it was all my fault.

We all do things which are misinterpreted by others. When other people are in that much pain, they are, sadly, and I have bloody well done it, waiting for a chance to pounce on someone else to release some of theirs.

Not my problem. I grew up in a family where I carried the blame for all the family's woes. This little exchange, as minor as it was, was a huge gift. Like the dream sequence, I said NO.

I'm tired of being caught doing something wrong.

Most especially when every fiber of my being was all about being kind and compassionate.

That's toxic. I do it to myself plenty enough, and it's taken me decades to catch myself doing things right. So when I see this kind of thing, I get to say NO.

What I'm really saying NO to is the looming image of my alcoholic father getting ready to backhand me into next Sunday for daring to speak up.


That's your shit, not mine. And I am not wearing it.

That's growth. I don't care that it's taken decades. I only care that I'm getting there.

The work does work. It does pay off. And when you and I can see it, it's cause for celebration.

I'm celebrating.

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Photo by Zachary Nelson / Unsplash

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