Reclaiming wholeness

An unfolding journey of self discovery

Story

Childhood challenges us all in different ways and sometimes it can take a lifetime to make peace with these formative experiences.

My story begins with an adoption at just two-days old. It was an abrupt entrance into the world and in the natural pursuit of safety and love I internalised the grief and shock of this early separation. I buried my emotions and carried a deep fear of abandonment into the relationship with my adoptive parents.

Life with them was less than straightforward especially as their relationship began to break down. So as an emerging, troubled teenager, they could find no way other than to put me into the care of foster parents until the age of 16. At this point all I could see was that only common element in all of these experiences was me. From that point on I carried through life a deep sense of unworthiness, believing I was unlovable and unworthy of love and that these shattered connections were simply a result of me being in the world.

As a child I sought solace in nature and channeled my expression into art, music and poetry. These realms were where my frazzled nervous system felt soothed and I could escape from life for a while. I felt met by the music and the land in a way I never could be with the various caregivers life had offered me so far. Through art and writing I began to express myself in a way that did not feel safe anywhere else.

After a deep depression in my teens I was desperate to leave childhood behind and forged ahead. I felt like life owed me and I was determined to get the life I deserved. I trusted no one and more than anything I wanted to prove I could do it alone.

I worked hard to build a life for myself and to create an identity to hide behind, so I never had to risk feeling vulnerable again. Working as a freelance designer was perfect for me. I got to be creative and earn a good living and at the same time it was a rapid cycle of external validation and approval for my fragile self. All I had to do was to keep being the best and keep being perfect. All the time. It was exhausting but I was addicted to the process. Desperate for the acceptance and love I never had, with no clue how I could even begin to cultivate it for myself. Like all addictions, whatever I got was never enough. I had an amazing reputation, founded two creative agencies, bought expensive clothes, looked great in my gym kit, ate very little, smoked to comfort myself and drank to get drunk. I was the master of self-neglect, perpetually on the run from myself. All the while I was dying inside.

I crashed in my mid 30s and so began a profound journey of unraveling. I sold my business and had to start from scratch. Discovering who I was behind the masks, the armour and to see what was waiting for me all along, underneath the rubble of my life.

This journey took me into an intense phase of psychotherapy and bodywork where, little by little, I claimed the space to begin to feeling what had been locked up inside me all those years. I began my massage training and learned that it was possible to heal. I had a reunion with my birth mother and my search for belonging took me on a pilgrimage back to Croatia and Bosnia, the land of my ancestors, where I met with my sisters and grandmother for the first time. I learned about the trauma in my blood-line and yoga helped me cope as I began to unravel the trauma in my body. I started to write again to help me process my grief and reading ‘The Primal Wound’ by Nancy Verrier was a defining moment in helping me understand the impact of abandonment on both my developing nervous system and psyche. With time, and a lot of space to rest and integrate, I began to reclaim the abandoned parts of myself and learn how to nurture myself towards wholeness.

Reconnecting with my menstrual cycle was an important part of this process. I began to listen to the lost voices speaking through me and with each cycle another layer was lifted as I deepened intimacy with my body and my relationship to life. Of course there were other crashes along the way, but I have come to learn that this path is not linear but cyclical. There is nowhere I need to be, and nothing I need to achieve. I don’t need to be ‘better’ or ‘healed’ to receive love, just journeying through life with eyes wide open and an awareness of what part of me might be activated in the moments when I feel fear, rage, disconnect, hopelessness or longing.

My exploration of wholeness, belonging and connection continues to deepen and there are still moments when the residues of unworthiness rise to the surface. But in these moments, I’ve learned how to tend to my inner child. How to hold her when she’s afraid, lost, confused and troubled, but most of all how to be with her when she feels abandoned and is crying for help. After having felt her speak to me through my embodied experience, I have come to respect my body as a source of wisdom and guidance. And whilst yoga, psychotherapy and bodywork were all crucial elements in this process it was really my explorations with BioDanza which helped me to re-write the story in my cells.

I trust in my body wisdom and I trust in the messages it brings. I have learned what it takes to cultivate personal resilience and what I need to feel supported and held.

These days I have returned to a life with art, poetry, music and time on the land. I’d drifted so far away from these instinctual needs but now live a simple, but deeply nourishing life here in the south of Spain.

I feel very grateful for the life I have had and the many inspiring friends, mentors and teachers I have been fortunate enough to meet along the way. These experiences have made me the woman I am today. Of course there are times when we all feel abandoned by life, but this magnificent mother earth, that we have come to call home, is always there waiting, with open arms to hold us and show us the way.

 

“In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.”

Albert Camus

Sam Lacey