My Journey From Abuse Towards Wholeness.
After making a conscious decision to renounce a lifetime of abusive relationships in order to heal, here I am five years later, finally being able to disinfect the pus from the gash that infested my life.
Now that I see it, and have befriended this gouge in my being, it all seems obvious, but unlike physical wounds that are clearly visible, emotional injuries change form, hide or disguise themselves like viruses, in order to stay undetectable… for years!
I felt something was wrong from when I was about 14 — yes, puberty awoke the hungry serpent. I metamorphosed from a quiet girl living in a world of her own to a drug-taking angry adolescent determined to break free.
I thought I was a rebel liberating myself from society’s grasp. I was drawn to the New Age movement, believing my anger and I could change the world.
By 18, I was synergizing A-level studies with brown powder… I was daring, I was crazy, and you couldn’t catch me. I wanted to live, and thought that taking whatever I could lay my hands on was living.
I didn’t realize at the time that escaping from myself wasn’t being alive, but its contrary accelerated disassociation from my innermost feelings kept me running.
Running from society, my middle class upbringing, and the expectations that go with it… and most of all, myself!
I scraped through university to become a drama teacher, but the drama in my own life and the rebel in me that said No to anything with the name tag Security or Routine led me away from that path.
I was pulled magnetically to what was happening under the surface, the world we didn’t see, the conversations we didn’t hear, the magic of the unrecognized… I lived in squats and collected furniture out of skips.
I felt alive, near the edge. With drugs and damaged people, my wound and I were at home.
From the heart of that context, I saw him coming towards me along the road — tall, blond dreadlocks and a parka coat he had transformed into an urban warrior uniform by attaching cricket batting pads to the shoulders.
I knew from afar it was him… together we were going to conquer the world… he stopped me and asked with a French accent if I had any change for food…
Three children and a police section order later, I saw his hospital notes spell out schizophrenia and took a deep breath.
There were 14 years from that day until the day I managed to say No and mean it.
I had grown up, my sons had too, we had survived beatings, hunger, delusions, homelessness, a stabbing, police interventions and most of all, a severe lack of self-esteem.
The running and rebelling had brought me to this… and it still wasn’t over. A wound won’t give up until you love it. I was far from loving it as I still didn’t recognize its existence, I just knew something was eating me from the inside.
I became a single mum. In many ways I had always been, a single mum with an attitude and a deep need to get away from myself in every second that passed.
I tried all sorts of ways of freeing myself from the constraints of three kids and a sedentary routine.
We spent a year in India backpacking, a couple of years on the road with a horse and wagon, homeschooling, working at festivals, living in people’s fields, anything to fly away… and yet I still hurt.
The years went by and I managed to pull it together, so to speak. I created more grown-up jobs for myself, including English teacher and wine broker.
A sudden need to belong somewhere, anywhere, led me into marrying not just the son, but his father the Mayor, the family, and the small, French village where my husband prided himself in being a seventh generation wine-maker.
I transformed myself into the perfect French farmer’s wife. I had a home, my rightful place… but at what cost? The price for trying to fit in to hide from my aching soul was numbness.
I would have stayed there forever. Having made my bed, I should have lain in it. But someone came into my life and showed me through her eyes where I was. I wasn’t at home, I was an alien in a forgotten world and I needed to get out.
I spent four years learning kinesiology with Caroline, peeling away the layers until the choice became clear, live or die? I chose to live.
I left the farm, and the community that went with it, with one kid more than I arrived with… and once again found myself in that familiar survival mode that I had become an expert in over the years.
But this time it was different, I had made the decision to stop running and to turn to face myself.
With the help of the social services and divine intervention, I obtained a small, light-filled house in a nearby village, and continued to lift off the layers that separated me from myself. I gave myself time, healthy aloneness.
I became softer, happier, more stable, slowly healing. I was more present for myself and my kids.
Hermit-like, I studied, wrote, cried, bathed, made altars, formulated affirmations and most of all — went back to the place of childhood.
The dwelling place of that little girl with the flowers and plants, trees and animals is what I turned to once again.
A deep connection reawakened in my cells, my heart.
I felt at one, pure and free, the hurting calmed by the loving resonance of the trees that became my teachers, and the fields and woods my resting places… no need to run, to search outside myself, for they led me inwards.
Nature mirrored my connection with the whole. I was no longer alone, I belonged.
As I developed a gentle strength like the oak, I discovered an inner river, and knew that the only way to dive in and continue to heal was to immerse myself in relation.
I had reached a point where myself as an island was no longer fruitful. A conscious relationship with someone big enough to hold that space, and love me as I plunged into the darkest waters, was the only way forward.
Terrified… I had no map for love or healthy relating. I had convinced myself that I was best alone, no need to trust, or risk opening my heart to another.
The idea, however, had been planted in the humus of my consciousness, and one day, unexpectedly, I felt our souls recognize each other from lifetimes of knowing.
And now we have connected on this earthly plane, and I understand the sacredness of consciously relating.
As if it recognized this sanctuary of trust, the pain I had been running from forever began to surge from inside my belly with a force that could destroy all in its path, except that love won’t let it.
Heads or tails? I am no longer subjected to the rolling of a dice, only the truth for me now. I tried to tame it, accept it, talk to it, and it just kept roaring, until one day the grasps of its lion-like jaws were too strong for me.
I could no longer resist its clench. I let go, and like a balloon losing its air, I deflated. In the closing death throes, I intuitively felt there was one last thing to do as I perished… and that was to hold it and love it.
I lay there and scooped up the burning pyre nestled deep in my womb, and with tenderness and devotion, cradled it gently like a newborn baby throughout the night.
To my surprise, with the dawn, the scorching flames had turned to embers, a restful peace purveyed, a doorway had opened to another world. I had finally lovingly confronted my biggest fear and survived. No more running.
No more burning desires to flee from myself… I have embraced my entirety.
I am under no illusions, love’s road ahead is a path unto itself. There is no winning post. Each day we will be born and die again, however, having loved the beast, I now love myself, and from that, all else is possible.
I take the first step into a world of possibilities!
Cathy Skipper is English, and has been living and working in France for the last 25 years. After many years farming the land in rural France, she now teaches herbalism and aromatic medicine both in France and abroad. A large part of her teaching is at the ‘Ecole Lyonnaise de Plantes Médicinales’, where she herself trained to be a herbalist. Cathy is also the principal coordinator of the international, bilingual network Herbalists sans Frontières. You could read more about her here.