I was about 4 years old when I remember the first cup of water being splashed in my face as the sun was just beginning to rise.
“Get up sleepy head. Daylight is burning,” I heard my grandfather say as he roused me and the room full of my sleeping cousins. It was time to get up and get to work. The only day work wasn’t being done in my family was on Sunday because this was The Lord’s Day and that meant a day of rest, according to my grandfather. There was always work to be done on a 2000-acre cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma. I grew up being told things like:
“There is nothing wrong with you that a little hard work won’t cure.”
“Stop complaining, or I will give you something to complain about.”
“Money doesn’t grow on trees so be grateful for what you have.”
“You will be working if you have to move rocks from one pile to the next. And you will work from sunup to sundown.”
These daily expressions by my parents, grandparents, and aunts quickly became the belief in me that I needed to toughen up and stop wallowing in my problems. As well as the belief that my feelings didn’t matter and if I expressed my feelings, I was being a complainer. Feelings weren’t talked about in my family and, as a result, many times they were suppressed and catalogued as things that just don’t matter.
From my Stepping Post #3 the definition of a trauma is any event that triggers a reaction in the nervous system that isn’t dealt with. As I began this journey of healing, I realized just how many events hadn’t been dealt with and how much had been suppressed because I made Get up, Get Out and Get Over it a way of life for me and unfortunately, carried that belief on to my children.
In that same post, I shared that the first plant medicine that had been a major part of my healing was MDMA. I talked about the reasons why I selected this medicine and how it works on the brain. MDMA allowed me to be able to look at painful events of my past from an observer’s perspective instead of as a victim. The medicine also allowed me to be in a place of love and understanding instead of fear and resentment. During my MDMA journey, I received the most enlightenment on how events from the past and generational beliefs had contributed to so many suppressed feelings of my childhood.
One of the greatest childhood memories that had been the most deeply suppressed was being assaulted by my next-door neighbor when I was sixteen years old. I had grown up with him being my next-door neighbor for my whole life. I had spent many hours with him alone as a young child. We often sat together on his front porch swing, and he would play the banjo or harmonica and sing to me. He always drove big trucks including a dump truck. As a little girl, I felt so big riding around town with him in those big trucks. He was my friend.
As I got older and moved into my teenage years, it wasn’t “cool” to have a middle-aged man as a friend. Now his trucks just seemed big and dirty and his songs and banjo playing seemed lame. I was stuck up teenager, who didn’t have time for my friend anymore. One day, I noticed he wasn’t around very much. He and his wife were rarely ever together at the house. It was rumored that they were separated because he was drinking too much and had become abusive due to mixing pain medications and alcohol.
Both of my parents worked, and it was routine for me to come home to an empty house after school. Our home had a detached garage that set back from the house. The common thing to do was to drive my car into the garage and walk into the house through the backdoor. My neighbor’s house had a bird’s eye view of our backyard from his detached garage where he liked to spend most of his time tinkering with his truck.
As I drove into the garage and began gathering my things from the car, I could hear him yelling my name in a very angry sounding voice. He had always been kind to me, so I didn’t think anything about it as I walked from the garage to the house.
“Why are you ignoring me?” he yelled
I turned to look over my shoulder at him as I continued into the house and laughed,
“Ignoring you? What are you talking about?” I stepped inside the backdoor of the house and threw my bag down.
I picked up the phone to call my mom. It was the same routine I followed daily to let my mom know I was home from school and tell her about my day. The phone was an old rotary phone attached to the wall by the back door. I was standing in front of the glass door that faced the backyard. My mom had barely said hello, when the glass door was flung open and I turned to see my neighbor’s angry face before he shoved me to the ground on the kitchen floor, face down.
My mom was still on the phone and heard the whole thing. I don’t remember any of the other details past that point. I know that it happened. It was never discussed. There were no police called. No investigation. And until a few months ago, no memory. Life went on as usual with two exceptions. My dad became very angry with me, and my neighbor was not around anymore. His trucks were gone, and his wife lived at the house alone.
Questions that immediately came up for me after getting over the sheer shock of this memory were:
Why did my mom not call the police?
Why was the event never talked about?
Why could I not remember the details past that one point?
Did I need hypnosis therapy to try and recreate the full memory of that day?
Over the next month of integration work the answers began to come.
I didn’t need hypnosis. I didn’t need to remember the gory details. I needed to understand and to heal. The message that came through so clearly in a later plant medicine session was
“You don’t remember because you weren’t there that day. You were with us.”
My angels had protected me. My body may have gone through the trauma, but my soul did not.
Why was it never talked about?
There was shame and guilt involved in the situation for my family. Even though those feelings were from my parents, they were projected on to me. Many traumatic events occur in our lives as children that we don’t understand. We must give the experience some sort of meaning so that our brains can make sense of it. When my parents couldn’t handle their own shame and grief, it was easier to make it my fault. What would people say? How would they explain what happened to family and friends? The thought of having to talk about it was more painful than to just pretend it didn’t happen. According to my dad, I had caused this by the way I dressed, acted, and looked.
Before this remembering, I had only known that my dad was somewhat happy with me when I was little and then one day he wasn’t. It felt as though almost everything I did or said angered him and that I wasn’t good enough. I felt very unloved and abandoned by him in most of my adult life.
MDMA allowed me to process the memory of the assault without the power of the shame and guilt that I had given it. It also allowed my brain to process the why. I was able to see my parents from a place of love and understanding. I was no longer the victim. I was the observer. What I observed was the huge amount of fear that my parents felt. With that was also the guilt that my dad felt for not being there to protect me. His projected anger at me was actually the fear of his own feelings of weakness.
Seeing the situation from the other person’s eyes is sometimes the most revealing in trying to understand and process the event. Not only was I able to remember the event while being able to feel into what happened, I was able to understand my parent’s heart that day and the trauma they incurred which influenced their reactions. I could see my dad’s anger no longer as being against me, but for me. He truly loved me, but in terms of his maturity level, he was still very much a child in his ability to cope and deal with pain in his own life. His reactions towards me for so many years were not of hate and disgust that I had caused, but more about the anger he felt toward himself.
I could finally love him for just who he was, my dad, with all his flaws and humanness, just like me. In doing this I was able to love myself a little more too. There was a huge healing that occurred in our relationship. Not because he changed, but because I had grown. I was able to make connections in beliefs and feelings I had from a teenager about being touched and “seen” by men. In knowing where those insecurities and fears were coming from, I was able to let them go and no longer hold them in my body. Through this “letting go” a greater presence and knowing has come forward in me.
In looking back at my childhood, I am very proud of the work ethic that was instilled in me from my days on that cattle ranch. I am proud of the strength that was passed down to me and taught me to be a survivor.
“A long line of strong women, that’s what you come from,” I was told by my mother and aunts. I am proud of that lineage. But I also can now see multiple generations of flaws with some of those beliefs.
It’s important to talk about your feelings because they do matter. We don’t always have to be nice and kind. It’s okay to be angry and to cry when we are in pain. Sharing our pain and feelings makes us stronger, not weaker. One of my favorite mantras now is, You have to feel it to heal it. That is so true.
Most of the time we are taught by Western medicine to take a pill so we don’t feel. We hide and suppress our pain with drugs, alcohol, food, work, and just the business of everyday life. Until we are able to step back and unpack that pain and all the power we have given it, we are stuck by it. Plain and simple. Our suppressed pain can control our thoughts, influence our relationships, our career, and even create disease states in our bodies.
In looking at our pain and feeling it, we can move it out of the body. This is where awareness begins to expand, and we become truly present. Through awareness and presence, we gain freedom.
In Boyd Varty’s book The Lion’s Tracker Guide to Life, he talks about how our pain can be a gift to share with others. How magnificent to not feel chained to our past and negative belief systems, but truly be free to live a life of joy and peace? This is where we are all meant to live and be.
Thank you once again for joining me on this journey of healing mind-body- and spirit.
With Much Love,
Dr JoQueta Handy
“As you work with your trauma it will
render a gift you can pass on to others.”
- Tags: MDMA