Kathleen Hoy Foley
“Oh my god!” the young woman, a stranger, exclaimed. “You’re a billboard of gorgeousness!” Apparently she was impressed by my bling. I love my bling. And I wear it…a lot of it. Her reaction was not all that unusual. Strangers often shout out compliments to me. I love your shoes! Where did you get that coat--can I touch it? Your necklaces are amazing!
What these strangers don’t understand, though, is that I am invisible. So when out of the blue they indicate that they actually see me, I am always startled. This is a strange phenomenon, some kind of disassociation with reality, I suppose, since obviously I know that I adorn myself with loads of sparkle and embrace the wild fields color. Are eight bracelets enough? Hardly! Turquoise and orange? Love it! And if I actually stop and think about it, in the era of hip casual Friday fallen dreary and unkempt and spinning viral into a daily norm of sad and sloppy, color and sparkle attract attention. Plus, in my world of energy work, I know the power of light and color…it makes people happy. It makes me happy. But evidently, not invisible. And this is a shock.
Oh, right… Then I remember: I wrote Woman In Hiding. Which is about an “invisible” woman. And that woman is me. The story—my story—deals head on with disassociation from the reality of engulfing emotional agony. About my disassociation. Oh right…
Evidently the remnants of my honed survival skill of disassociation are still hanging on for dear life to this day, long after the threats are gone and all the dark places have been illuminated with the transformative light of understanding. Oh right… It’s beginning to sink in… Disassociation—the ultimate solution to danger when escape is impossible—is a learned behavior; an entrenched survival skill prepared at all times to rescue, even if it is from compliments. Somewhere along the way, disassociation changed from personal rescuer into personal suppressor. Kind of like whipping out a pillow and smothering yourself at the first sign of something nice happening to you. A very unhealthy habit if you’re looking to thrive. Oh, I see… So, I’m not invisible after all. That’s both a question and a statement.
Trauma renders you—who you truly are—invisible. An enormous chunk of precious, creative, intelligent energy is spent on basic survival. And what tattered energy is leftover is consumed by self hatred and various acts of punishment towards yourself and others while you’re frantically trying to live a happy life. Survival is a desperate act that requires you to do something. Survival required me to make myself invisible. It takes copious amounts of ingenuity, however misguided and potentially dangerous, to stay hidden beneath the imaginary cloak of invisibility. Ingenuity, creativity and intelligence that could have been used to thrive, instead spent on the strain of hiding…years upon years of emotional—and sometimes physical—hiding. It exhausts me just to think about it.
Yet I celebrate that I kept myself as protected as I possibly could manage all those years while taking direction from the profound trauma buried deeply within, unseen but very much in control. But I tell you, there is something so fine about emotional integration: a soothing of the ragged edges with the balm of understanding. Experience and time have proven that when understanding becomes established, transformation happens. And when transformation happens, the light glowing within radiates outward. And that light begins to connect with your deepest passion and your longed-for, profound purpose, and you—who you truly are—emerge. You become visible.
Which brings me back to my bling. And how light and color possess the power to motivate absolute strangers to join the celebration of all things colorful and sparkly. Perhaps they don’t know, but they are seeing much more than gems and crystals and gold threads woven into vibrant fabric. They are observing the manifestation of trauma transformed into light. I’m not invisible. How amazing.