DOMINICA APPLEGATE SHADOW WORK

There is a kind of sandpaper love that rubs you raw.

I’d had it. The pain had settled deeply and there I was on the bathroom floor gushing the first wave of tears from a lifetime of wounds. My picture-perfect life shattering right before my eyes.

I rise to adjust my mask. My fingers slowly trace the outline of my face in the reflection of the mirror. I notice each curve, wrinkle, and the way my eyes look hollow.

I feel dead. I tighten my brows and look deeper into my eyes, thinking just maybe I’d see something worth salvaging in my matted soul. Something to signal that there’s hope.

Please, God. I need a sign.

I close my eyes gently and for a split second I feel a sense of hope. A glimpse of redemption. Then, the memories return.

After all, unattended wounds don’t always heal. Love starved little girls don’t always grow up. Traumatized children may detach from emotion, but the pain?

It harbors.

It seeps.

It grazes in the heart pasture year after year.

I never thought divorce and claiming a stake in my authentic identity would be so damn hard.

I left my husband for what I thought would be a better life.

I thought I made my escape unscathed, but it was incredibly difficult for my teens to handle.

It was then my secure life ended.

I (temporarily) lost my kids.
I lost myself.
I lost my mind.

One of my teenage daughters text me:

“You’re dating a woman? We’re moving out of your house and in with Dad. We can’t live with you. You are disgusting. How could you do this? How could you do this to our family?”

I’m speechless. Breathless. Moving out? No. Oh my God, NOOO! Nauseated and dizzy, I crumble to the floor, and the cool tiles meet my fragile frame. I draw my knees tightly to my chest and heave monstrous moanings of brokenness.

It’s not supposed to turn out this way! I can’t be alone! 

I can’t be apart from my kids! I can’t live like this! Deep sobs convulse my body and I regress into a helpless, traumatized little girl. I keep babbling, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” until my throat is raw and my lips burn red.

Ironic how one moment can shift momentum. One rejection can trigger a lifetime of shame. One final crack and the mask shatters into a hundred fragments that I’m frantically trying to put back together to feel some sense of control.

I know one thing for sure.

Masks conceal. Masks distract. Masks make it easier to get up and face the world when your inner world feels broken.

But dear reader, there’s something else.

There’s something greater. Deeper.

The sacred spirit.

Oh, the forgotten spirit and how it yearns for attention day after day. Year after year.

“Tend to me. Please. Just get quiet for a moment, I have so much to say. Slow down. Stop resisting.

I need you. I want you. Please come back to me. Together, we can begin healing.”

Everyone has a story.

We all encounter pain through the years and though we may run from it, disconnect from it, or try to numb it out – that pain serves a purpose.

It seeks our undivided attention.

That pain lives in what Carl Jung called “the shadow” part of our psyche – comprised of a lifetime of thoughts, beliefs, memories, trauma, and more.

I didn’t consciously discover my shadow-side.

It came barging through my door in my mid-30’s just after I ended a marriage.

I thought I was entering a season of newfound freedom to authentically be “me”.

Except it’s hard to feel free and happy when you’re lugging around what Robert Bly calls, “the long bag we drag behind us”.

A shadow bag that’s jam packed with the parts of ourselves that we’ve repressed, rejected, denied, and disowned throughout our life.

My emotional balloon had popped, and I had no idea how face, feel, deal, or heal the devastating emotions.

Feelings like insecurity, unworthiness, shame, fear, and abandonment bombarded me. It was just too painful to face them, so I did what many people do when they’re emotionally hurting.

I reached for my drug of choice: A partner. You know. The kind that intoxifies and you’re so woozy your knees go weak. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. You can hardly breathe!

But my fairy tale was an epic fail. Enter love addiction and toxic relationship –

Aka, Codependency.

Over five years I holed myself up in my own prison of fear and shame, causing myself and others so much pain.

Keep in mind this is coming from a woman who had two degrees in mental health.  I guess this goes to show you intellectual knowledge isn’t enough to dig up and heal those deep wounds or know how to cope with trauma, loss, grief, etc.

The pain felt unbearable. My emotional self was splattered all over the walls, and I knew I needed to do something different.

So, I determined to buck up. Hard. I began a serious journey within, praying and meditating regularly – determined to discover what was really going on under the surface.

I’ve spent the last decade “doing the inner healing work”. I got out of the toxic relationship for good. I journeyed inside. I faced my pain. I faced my terrifying fear of abandonment and being alone. I battled for my life. I cried. I got help. I took my power back and vowed to never again give it away. Never again use a person to fill my void.

Today, I tell a new story.

I’m no longer a love-starved, fearful little girl. I’m no longer afraid to be who I really am. I’ve dug beneath the superficial, and God’s grace has allowed me to see underneath my ego-identity – to see the beautiful, radiant spirit that I truly am.

The loving, compassionate, gentle spirit that God created me to be.

Today, I view life differently – with sacredness at the core.  God, this infinite energy that resonates at the frequency of DIVINE LOVE, has helped me stand up as a powerful woman in God, sharing my story in the hopes that others will be inspired and make changes in their own lives for the better.

My breakdown was hard, but it was also the springboard for the beginning of a beautiful spiritual awakening and transformation that is still in process.

Today, I truly have a blessed life.

My teens came around within a year of the divorce and we’ve been building a strong, beautiful relationship ever since. They are now nearing 30 and admit that the challenges of that time have made them stronger, wiser, and more loving and accepting.

I have family and friends who love me unconditionally. Most days, life is pretty darn good.

Do I still have struggles? Sure, I do. But I’ve learned how to work through them with a repertoire of tools and supportive people.

Giving Back

My story is uniquely mine, and I enjoy sharing my lows and highs with others who may be inspired to do their own inner healing work. And, create a life that they truly desire.

So, my call to you is to stick around. Smash the labels. Sit with your grief for a moment and let God burn you beautiful. Sit with your emptiness for the time being and refuse to numb it or run. Stare at your raw nakedness at your sacred core, and let God (however you define God) teach you how to love self and others!

Allow Christ consciousness to be your aim – truly living in the light and love of God’s kingdom.

Laugh and dance in a garden of freedom, because you know you want to.

We all do.

Much love,

Dominica