Emily was six when it happened. Her parents told her they were getting a divorce. They told her it’ll all be fine. They told her it wasn’t her fault. But her six year old brain couldn’t absorb it. It was her fault.
All she knew in that instant was that she was no longer safe. Her little life was turned upside down. What would happen to her? Her parents loved her - she knew that. She was used to the fighting... But now watching her dad pack his things while trying to console her, there was no fighting... no arguing. Just silence. It was even worse.
She spent weekends with her father. Somewhere else. In a different house. In a different room. She had two bedrooms now, but somehow she felt like she didn’t have a room at all. No safe place.
She was an appendage. A burden to the new lives her parents were building. To be shuffled around between here and there. And they were still arguing. Now they were arguing about her. About who would pick her up after school. About which parent would attend her school concert, with her.
Now she was at the center of their arguments. That was new too. And it made her even more scared. Maybe it was her fault. Maybe just the fact that she existed was her fault.
Many of the other kids had divorced parents. In fact, almost half of them. They didn’t seem to mind. They got more presents. But for Emily it was different. Though she didn’t know why.
What she did know was that she was easily scared, always felt nervous. She was always fearful. She wanted people to like her. She wanted to please everyone. Just so that she could feel safe and loved. Everyone liked her, she knew, but she never felt important to them.
She was never invited to the best parties, or to go on holidays with her friends. Like the other girls did when their parents took them to Disneyland.
Over the following years, both her father and her mother remarried. Now she had more brothers and sisters. People she now had breakfast with and shared the television with. People she never even knew before.
She was now even less important. Sure, they were all nice enough, but she was an outsider in the new world that her mom and dad each had built for themselves. She did all the chores around the house that no one wanted to do. Over time, they just became her job.
She was afraid and shy because she didn’t feel safe. Not with her mother’s new family, or her father’s.
As the years went by, she became more introverted and focused on her schoolwork. At least with that, she could occupy her time, blocking out thoughts of fear and deep sadness.
She had always loved animals and envied their simple, often short lives. They didn’t seem to have a care in the world. She nurtured and loved them at every opportunity. They seemed to sense her deep loneliness and gravitated toward her.
A sparrow flew into her window one day, breaking its wing. She nursed it back and let the little bird practice flying in her room.
The day she opened the window and let the little bird fly away was a day she knew her life changed again.
Emily decided that she needed to help the creatures that gave her unconditional love - it was not people who offered unconditional love. She decided to become a vet.
Her school grades were good enough and she was accepted to college. Emily focused on her studies, blocking out the sadness and the fear that would be triggered by memories of past events.
The smell of cinnamon always brought on a wave of sadness. Her mom had always baked cinnamon rolls.
The sound of a phone ringing brought on a wave of anger that always flushed her face and raised her pulse. For years as a child, before her parents got divorced, her dad used to call home to say he was working late, and her mom always yelled at him.
But these things happened years ago... and Emily couldn’t understand why they were haunting her today - now.
And there were more triggers. Many more.
Emily was afraid to allow people to get too close to her. Boyfriends were limited to weekend relationships. She didn’t trust men. She didn’t trust women either. She just didn’t trust people. She only trusted animals. They were true and predictable to their nature.
They didn’t love, didn’t hate, and didn’t try to manipulate their environment. Only people did.
Once she graduated from college as a vet, she was faced with what she realized was her biggest nightmare.
She had to speak to people, to engage them in the practice she joined. She had to trust them to believe in her skills, trust them to respect her and she wanted them to like her.
For her first six months as a vet she woke up precisely at 3 am every morning drenched in sweat. She didn’t even remember her nightmares, but she knew that they were there.
At her home, she would keep her blinds and drapes closed all day, wore dark sunglasses when she went out and avoided looking clients in the eye.
All this hiding was debilitating, and finally came to a head when the owner of the clinic told her she needed to get some help.
Hearing that was almost like being physically beaten. She may have even preferred that. The owner, though a kind man, was concerned about his business. He saw Emily as a risk, but wanted to help her.
Emily spent the next two weeks crying. Trying to understand what’s wrong with her. She agreed to seek help. She agreed to start seeing a counsellor. A psychologist.
After hours and hours of therapy... of just talking... and thousands of dollars later, nothing changed. Her life really wasn’t that much different.
Emily was then referred to a Psychiatrist. To a medical doctor who took a different approach. She relied on prescribing drugs.
These made Emily feel better, for a while it seemed to balance the chemicals in her brain.
For the next three months Emily felt level. She was less scared, less paranoid - yes. She was definitely more stable. She didn’t feel high she didn’t feel low. She just was level... all the time.
But she also felt like she had died inside, and was just going through the motions of life.
Ironically, through all of this she finally put two and two together and realized it was the fear that had made her feel alive. She realized that it was the feelings of pain, sorrow, anger that made her soul alive.
She felt like the drugs just took her soul away. And she wanted it back. Just not the same way as before.
Emily wondered "Could I be addicted to these emotions?"
It was by way of pure accident that she met a fellow called Zack who seemed to sense her darkness. He was a client who owned a beautiful dog. A super friendly Golden Retriver.
He didn’t even ask a lot of questions. He just knew... he told her that she needed to open the door to her soul, and to reconnect with all the lives she’s had before.
Emily was fascinated.
Zack knew that the darkness within cannot be helped by anyone or anything outside because no one can understand the darkness within our own souls. No matter the cause... or what we think is the cause.
He said that only we can heal our own selves. But how? Emily asked.
His answer was simple. Let nature heal you, since you’re part of nature. He didn’t speak of his own darkness, because it was now a distant memory. Today, he’s living in the now.
It was no longer his life, it was his past. He said it felt like a long, awful story he read about someone else’s life. It no longer mattered to him.
He told Emily how he had attended a week long iboga healing retreat where he met his own soul, and unified his existence and future with the path he was meant to take.
Zack now lives in the peace of light and tranquillity. Without the fear, without the anxiety and without the darkness of isolation.
Today, Zach told Emily, he loves his life, every minute of it. Now he lives his life as he knows he’s meant to live it.
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