The Tree

This woodland of mine.
A perplexing mystery of knowing and not knowing.
For so long, couldn’t see the wood for the trees…
Or the trauma.

Tiny incremental changes, in their almost invisible way
Appear to me, every day.
New shoots, push eagerly through the thick carpet of leaves,
Past decaying fallen trunks.
For every one shoot that journeys up to drink the fresh air and sunlight,
there are five dozen others that are drowned in darkness.
Not all that is planted will take root. Some lay dormant, not dead.

Deep in the shadows, obscured and dangerously easy to overlook
stand the oldest trees.
These trees, planted before this woodland belonged to me,
they steal the light.
Twisted, knotted giants, weaving and overshadowing,
threaten to cast darkness over the entire grove…
Swallowing whole
any new growth.

Nature – don’t let it fool you with it’s butterfly wings and easily bruised petals,
It is anything but delicate!
It bursts forth and crushes,
It consumes and overpowers.
Vines threaten to strangle the life out of the trees they climb.
Mother arachnids eat their lovers and babies,
Survival of the most ruthless and cunning.

Nurture – not always given freely and without cost…
Resentment and generational debt,
Handed down in the form of inherited shame. Given with one hand and taken with another.
For the crumbs of kindness – forced gratitude’s.
Nothing like a mother’s love…
and other platitudes.

In this woodland of mine – One tree, ignored for so long…
Sits syphoning oxygen from it’s young neighbours,
It’s offspring.
Silently tearing at their new roots beneath the ground. I always knew it was there. And also, I didn’t know.

When it’s foreboding presence became inescapable, I set about to tend to it’s poisoned leaves… accompanied by a guide. Turning over each leaf carefully, We painted over the dark spots. Until they were all undetectable.
And thinking I’d succeeded in eradicating the dis-ease, I wandered far enough away to take a breath.
To reflect on the healing work I’d done.

Only to notice, from a distance…
Whole branches decaying.
Threatening to reach out and throttle anything living nearby.

And so, I returned to hack and strip bark,
With a new companion I removed the dead and broken shards,
Break the brittle shell.
Heart pounding,
Digging fingernails into the soft rotten flesh until it was all gone.
But this work ended prematurely, Once again alone and facing my greatest loss yet.

I turned my back on the stump to find new support.

His calming presence came to shine a light and hold a mirror to what was there. To ensure I would not have to do this on my own.

Together we looked at the woodland, the stump and her surrounding beaten land. From this new vantage, it appeared, Like an invisible web – a thread connecting everything…

It was all being starved.

Underground we went,
Heaving lungs and crawling skin…
Amongst the grotesque and wretched.
I dug at the diseased heart,
the roots…
Uprooting, wrenching the tightly gripping crippled fingers of trauma from the ground.

It all must go
And it does seem to go,
One piece at a time.
Slowly.
Slowly.
As we move gently around the fog.

And the earth feels the agony of it being dragged and exposed into the light,
The gaping hole where it once was,
Empty.

And I am not alone in the agony.

And the other trees move in to grieve,
And bow their heads at what should have grown there.

And through the tears and hurting heart,
I hear my trusted witness offer a kindly reminder…
The forest is not the tree.
The forest did not ask for the tree to be planted there, it was there before it even became a forest.

I am not my mother,
And her pain was passed on to me before I had the chance to refuse it.
I tear at her legacy and rip the layers of her wounding from my soil.

And now the whispers of green leaves all around…
With room to move and grow
They utter with gratitude,
‘Here we are…
with all of this space,
to spread tentative fingertips of branches and
the softly outstretched relaxing of roots…
here we are…
and now we can breathe.’

(After another insanely intense session delving deeper into my core wounding and the rage and anger and grief I feel towards the abuse I suffered at my mothers hands, I found myself describing the work of healing this wounding in therapy to a diseased tree… a tree that I tried to heal by first treating it’s symptomatic diseased leaves with my first therapist Paul… then with my second therapist Anna I noticed all of the branches needed to be torn down. Finally with Mark I am digging at the roots. And it is pure agony and also the most healing thing I’ve ever done.)

10 thoughts on “The Tree

    1. Just starting the journey is brave S, just facing what happened to us is brave… keeping on going is brave… you are brave! This poem represents nearly 9 years since I first started ‘acknowledging the tree’ and went to my first therapist. And it’s only in the past year, with Mark, that I’ve felt safe enough and in the right space to really open to the gravity of it all. It doesn’t feel like a choice, it feels like I just kept showing up and now I’m here. Sending you so much support ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  1. “And it is pure agony and also the most healing thing I’ve ever done.” Is so true. And then I’ve lovingly STUPID friends. Who think therapy is like a paid friend. I don’t hate them, they don’t fucking know. But it does anger me that it took 3 years… over and over and over… to fucking get the main culprit (family of choice, knows I’ve DID) to just STOP saying therapy is like a paid friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And your friends/family of choice… they don’t know what they’re talking about! Their comments show their privilege – that they’ve never needed trauma therapy… I’m glad they finally stopped saying that because it’s so hurtful.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hugs. I think what bugs me is it took 3 years of repeatedly telling them and maybe it’s too late. Our mutual friends (who privately confided to me about their own complex trauma and their journey in therapy and their shame about long term therapy) stopped trying to be even slightly vulnerable. And I’m left as the only one educating / debunking myths and so now am in the box of “the abused friend with DID.”

        Sorry that I’m rambling, I think you and WP friends would understand. I haven’t been able to write about it mostly because it’s just… even if I write about it on my blog… it’s not going to change things significantly in my offline life. My privileged friends still aren’t going to seek help that they do need, and their “only slightly modified” ignorance is still going to hurt who knows how many people who stay silent. I of course am a supportive friend, whether or not my friends have trauma or more ordinary struggles… it’s just very tiring when I’m struggling with very real CPTSD symptoms of unrelenting flashbacks and privileged friends call every little thing trauma and flashbacks… and then be like “oh you need therapy for your abuse. But I don’t, I just talk to friends!”

        Might not make sense, because it sure as heck doesn’t for me. 😭😭😭

        Liked by 1 person

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