I have been focusing on feelings and emotions in reference to my ADHD. Many years ago I learned I was different from society; I felt every emotion strongly, and my skin felt like someone had taken sandpaper and rubbed my body raw. I had an issue with intimacy and touch.
In 2005, I was a newly divorced single mother raising two young daughters. I was bar-tending at a pizza joint, and felt wholly unfulfilled. I needed a career that would support me supporting my kids. We went on a trip to Seaside Oregon, and on the way back I got a call from the local Cosmetology program asking if I was still interested in attending. I was, but to be honest, I’m not a girl. I never braided anyone’s hair. I do remember brushing my friend’s hair once, she yelled at me for pulling it, and I threw the hairbrush across the room… I’ll give it a try. Maybe I will learn how to be a girl. Classes started in 3 days, and I was signed up and attending.
The hair school I attended was ridiculous in theory. We sat in a back room for 6 weeks, 3 of us ladies who already knew one another from high school. For 8 hours we sat in an empty classroom with textbooks. We tried to learn, but without instruction, it was so boring…An instructor would come in and administer our tests. That was it. We played games, tried to engage in hair conversation, talk about our relationships. This was more an entry into how to successfully and consistently have a “sisterhood” than it was about text.
After that, we were placed on the floor where we learned how to do all things cosmetology. The science and physical learning was tough, but touching people was even harder for me. I did not learn touching in appropriate manners as a young person, so the concept of touching someone’s head, and shampooing them, was enough to give me a panic attack. In fact, I hid in that school bathroom quite a bit, avoiding potential clients because I did not want to touch them. This touch was the first catalyst.
I couldn’t even be shampooed, it hurt. I am so highly sensitive that the over stimulation of a stranger rubbing my head with my neck WIDE OPEN to the potential dangers of the world created a fight or flight reaction. This was my first obstacle, and I can honestly tell you now that I am happy I had to wrap around the issue. Shampooing someone gives the person in the shampoo bowl the gift of relaxation and a tiny bond of trust. The client is being vulnerable with the stylist as much as the stylist is with the client. There is an exchange of happiness. The soft touch on a person’s shoulder can be reassuring and calming. There is an energy transference that happens when the stylist touches the client’s shoulders, making the client aware of any tension. Sometimes, I even take deep breaths because I know the tendency to mimic. Breathing sets us free. This touch I finally understand. I walked away from hair because I was overwhelmed in emotion, and could not control the energy balance I needed. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to save the world, this world that I have taken so much from. I went to college, got a degree, and got a fancy new job in social work.
I say “fancy” with laughter. Anyone who has ever worked in Social Services knows the cycle of what every day looks like. These Social Workers (Men and Women alike) practice altruism through a combination of guidance and law. This job is thankless, and in order to have this type of career long term, you have to have solid grounding and know your identity. I lost my house 1 year into having a job in Social Services, after a sewer pipe exploded under our rental, tacking 7 months of homelessness and graciousness from our family and friends. I lost my job because I reported to CPS and my supervisor did not agree with my legal decision of court mandated reporting, and the excuse was I did not have stable housing. I joined the Food Bank line with my clients, right back where I was.
When CPS called for an interview, I was so empty I passed on the opportunity. I do not know if it was the right choice, but I think maybe it was. I went to work at a seaside camping and RV park, and I had to tell people to leave the private beach if they did not pay. I absolutely understood why I was collecting the funds, and really cared and respected the management and other camp hosts. One day my manager and I were talking about defensive behavior and she said (I cannot remember why she said it) touching someone’s arm constitutes in legal Assault. Whoa. I had never even thought about that perspective. I touched shoulders, scalps, hands and feet. I waxed body parts, smeared clay on clients..legal assault? What a different world I stepped into. This job at the beach taught me my next lessons in value; Boundaries.
I work on patience every day and created a scheduled for myself to keep me accountable. I have done my best to run from being vulnerable, and I am realizing vulnerable may be exactly where I need to be. To be vulnerable is one of my fears, as historically learned from bad relationships and sexual assault. I want to be better. I need boundaries that make sense for my paradigm now. I also need to relax and enjoy the sunny moments. I can do that with my people.
I have been looking and talking about strong community for a long time. I worked at the idea, and now I look around and see that I have a great support system, the best it has ever been, and it was due to being vulnerable. I am now recharged and ready to serve.
Thank you for letting me be vulnerable.