Strength training for the soul

Do you ever have a thought, and then that little voice in your head starts telling you all the reasons why that is a terrible idea?

“That is crazy. You are crazy, Autumn. You don’t have time for that. You will hate it. It will be way too hard. You’ll just end up quitting. YOU CAN’T.”

That last one always pisses me off now. Fuck you, brain, don’t tell me what I can and cannot do!!!

I don’t know about yours, but the voice in MY head tries it’s damndest to keep me small. My little voice (I named her Patricia) would be extremely satisfied if I spent every night on the couch, watching tv and eating snacks and convincing myself that this version of life was “good enough”. It’s safe. It’s boring. Mediocrity for the win… do nothing and you can’t get hurt or be disappointed.

GO AWAY, PATRICIA.

***

I’ve been wrestling with a thought for a couple months now. It’s a persistent little bastard.

“Maybe I should join a CrossFit gym…”

What the eff?? Why?!

It’s really not something I want to do. For all the reasons above. It’s a time commitment, a financial commitment, a PAIN commitment… I would like to be in better shape, but I was quite content with my yoga and pilates and occasional run. No need to get crazy!

But still, the thought persists. It feels like something I NEED to do. And I thought I had figured out why. I’ve always struggled with body image issues and have always preferred to work out alone. So I thought, “Ok, maybe this is a way to work on my fear of being seen. Have a community for support. Accountability. And prove to myself that I can do hard things…” Sounds reasonable enough. *shrug*

***

I was listening to a podcast the other night (you should listen to it too, and then other episodes after that cause Jeremy Goldberg is FIRE) and the guest was talking about the emotional healing that can happen through yoga. How training his physical body to open up through the various poses created a ripple effect, opening up his emotional life as well.

I already knew this, so it was not the information itself that struck me. But I had a definite epiphany. A very clear OH SHIT moment.

As I listened to him talk about his own healing, my thoughts went something like this: “I don’t have that problem. I’m pretty damn open! I wonder if that’s why I’ve never emotionally connected to yoga? I wonder why I am feeling this need to do CrossFit? What is the issue that *I* need to heal?”

And as soon as I asked myself that, I knew the answer. I FELT the answer. It hit me like an arrow straight to the heart, splitting me open and letting truth pour out. I heard one word… STRENGTH.

OH SHIT.

My pull towards strength training and CrossFit is tied to a WAY deeper need. It has nothing to do with my body image issues or accountability. It’s about healing my oldest, deepest wounds.

Feeling small.

Being powerless.

Having no sense of agency or autonomy.

Cowering in the face of conflict & aggression.

Lacking safety and a protective figure in my life.

***

I have never been good at standing up for myself. When I was a little girl, I learned very early on (so early that I don’t remember any other way of living) that when faced with conflict, it ends faster if I say nothing.

Be still, be quiet. Shut down.

I have severely dissociated childhood memories. I can remember a couple very specific incidents when my dad was yelling at me. I remember exactly where I was standing, I remember the surroundings, the colors of the walls and doors, the feel of my feet on the carpet… these are incredibly vivid memories from around age 7-9. (Trauma creates somatic memories… heightened senses & bodily sensations.)

I can see his red, angry face. The scowl. The clenched jaw. I can feel the aggression, how big he felt and how SMALL I felt. I can feel my fear, and everything inside me scrambling to stay calm, tell myself I’m ok, it’ll be over soon, just let him finish yelling…

However, those memories have no sound. As if listening to it was just TOO much, so that part is blocked out. Muted. They also feel like out-of-body memories… I am not the one being yelled at. I am my present self, standing next to the little girl in pigtails getting yelled at. And there’s nothing I can do to save her from it.

***

Shutting down is how I survived. I tried to teach my little sister this method, because she usually fought back and got it way worse than I did. It would last longer, she’d get in more trouble, and as we got older and less “fragile”, physical violence became more of a factor.

I remember once as a teen, I DID stand up for myself. Teenagers, right?!? The gall… I was not being compliant, I did not want to go where I was told I had to go, the situation escalated and got blown way out of proportion… it turned into a battle of wills. I locked myself in the bathroom in an attempt to exert control and escape the conflict.

The response to my defiance? Increased force.

It was a very terrifying few minutes, sitting in the bathroom, listening to my dad remove the hinges from the door so he could get to me. And then the door opening, and then getting dragged out…

I got hurt that day. Emotionally and physically. I had a few pretty bad bruises for a week or so. I was sixteen. 5’5, all of 115 lbs… no match for an angry and determined 6’2 dad.

***

Yes, my heart is pounding as I write all this.

But I need to say it.

It’s my truth. My story. And I spent most of my life trying to keep these things hidden from the world because I was still that same, scared little girl who knew silence = safety.

But when you bravely tell your story, when you decide that your story is YOURS and your truth is YOURS and your pain is YOURS… you find strength.

I lived through that. I survived. I’m still here. I’m okay.

The story loses its power over you. And the power that it held? Well that’s your power now.

And the truth is, it always was. That power was always inside you, it was just misplaced for a while. Hidden.

Because that little girl in pigtails? She didn’t realize it at the time, but she’s strong as fuck. She was absorbing the pain of someone else. She took it, she held it, she sure as shit didn’t pass it on to anyone else because she knew that no one deserves that. SHE KNEW. And deep down, she knew she didn’t deserve it either. But she took it anyways.

What a goddamn badass she was.

***

Shutting down and building walls was how I tried to contain the fire that was in me. But now I’m cracked open and that energy needs a place to go.

So it appears that the next major stage of my healing is going to involve a lot of sweat. Because in order to heal those deep, core wounds, I need to give myself new experiences that will show me some new truths.

I am strong.

I am powerful.

I have full control over my life.

I can stand up and face what scares me.

I create my own safety and am my own protector.

***

So. CrossFit.

I am equal parts terrified and excited. I put a purple speed rope and Nike Metcon’s on an Amazon wish list. I’m researching gyms. (Or do I have to call them boxes??)

I am fully committed to my healing work, wherever that takes me. And sometimes it requires more than just reading books and meditating. Sometimes you need to dig deep and get your hands dirty. Sometimes you need to sweat. Sometimes you need to kick some ass.

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