The Umbrella Strap

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By: Amanda Long She walked her usual morning path, for the most part unaware of her surroundings except for the pouring rain. The important thing right now was to stay some type of dry. This current thought overruled any thoughts of food intake or outtake. An occasional change of focus. As the wind blew the rain towards her, she held her umbrella handle close, almost using it as a shield. The handle became damp and started to twist in her hand and as it did the ‘umbrella strap’ (the velcro piece that fasteners it in the closed position) flapped right before her face. It was so annoying and even though she would twist the handle to make the strap move to the side, almost straight away it would be back right in front of her face.

It was SO irritating. Couldn’t she even walk in peace? She just wanted to get some scissors or a knife and ‘cut’ the strap off and get it out of the way. That would fix everything and then not, because the umbrella needed the strap to hold it together for storage. Not that she carried scissors or a knife on her walk but then again the blades of either were not needed when she had the blades of her thoughts cutting & slicing her heart continually. It crossed her mind that it was possible it would have been even more annoying if the umbrella had no fastening strap when it needed to be closed.

As the rain continued and the umbrella twisting happened a few times she realized this was like her long standing life of addiction recovery. Many times she just wanted to ‘cut’ things off. People. Places. Work. Feelings. Emotions. Food. Herself. Breath. She was reminded that seemed to be the easy way out. Just withdraw. No one really cared anyway.

During those long years of binging/purging/repeat life, she had little regard for her feelings unless they were feelings that went hand in hand with her self- hatred. Anger. Unforgiveness. Bitterness. Victim mentality.  Otherwise feelings just got in the way. Peace or recovery seemed to be an elusive concept reserved for others, but never ‘her.' People like ‘her.' Who were people like ‘her’ anyhow? The ones who were looked down on because they couldn’t function in daily life without depression, food comfort, numbers ruling every decision and a lifestyle of counseling and intervention. Society had pretended it cared and offered programs but ‘her’ truth was they didn’t really care, let alone understand. No one understood so it was better to just keep to yourself.

Occasionally someone would cross her path who may have had some understanding but it often turned out to be a competition. This was no help at all. She didn’t need anyone else to compare herself to, the unrelentless voice of self-hatred did an excellent job of that.

As she wandered through puddles, she thought about the nature of umbrellas – they kept to themselves. They came out only when necessary. When it rained or was particularly hot. Otherwise they lived a withdrawn lifestyle, tossed to the side but often readily accessible if the need arose. She often felt like this. Withdrawn. Not needed except in emergency. Or unless she could be of use to someone. To their benefit. And the voices in her head confirmed this. Every time. Every dam time.

An umbrella acted like a shield. She needed a shield. A shield from her thoughts. From the screaming of the self-hatred. From others unhelpful words & stares. They thought she didn’t notice but nothing much in that department escaped her. She would spot those glares, mutterings and quick turns from a mile away. An umbrella didn’t have a heart and that suited her fine – her heart had broken many years before.

An umbrella was designed to open quickly and be pushed into shape, to be shaken backwards and forwards to rid excess water and to be pulled down when its job was done. She had so many things in common with this device called an umbrella – people and voices wanted her pushed into shape, to let her be shaken as much as they liked, her tears as raindrops, then put away quickly, ready to be used again as soon as necessary. Put away – her mind felt like that – shut away in the dark.

She stepped aside and found cover from the downpour of rain. She wondered what someone else thought of an Umbrella – perhaps she needed a different perspective.

An Umbrella-(cr. Vocabulary.com)

An umbrella is the gizmo used to protect yourself from rain or sun.

An umbrella can also be something that groups similar things, like an umbrella organization that protects and serves many smaller organizations.

An umbrella is that lightweight, collapsible cover that's handy on a rainy day.

This part of the definition caught her attention….something that groups similar things… could such a place exist that could group people like ‘her?' No – her meaning of umbrella - just cut the ‘strap’ of people and stay away. But the inquisitive thoughts persisted. An umbrella? Was there more to it?

And then she realized…protects and serves many smaller organizations. She was like a smaller organization and maybe there were places that could serve as an umbrella organization to her. Somewhere she could find protection. Somewhere that would shield her.

She started a very slow journey of reaching out. She was unsure and untrusting. She listened to the voices of others in similar situations, others that didn’t judge her. Over time she slowly started to open her heart. Over more time she shared her heart. Time again listening to her heart in place of the relentless voice of self-hatred. She realized she had never really given these places a chance before, she had pre-judged them the way she had judged herself. With disdain and hatred.

She found much freedom in being grouped as part of this ‘umbrella’ family. This larger organization acted as her shield until she grew stronger.

She had not been able to see this before. She had to shake the mist and rain drops from her eyes and take cover. Change perspective. Her healing story wasn’t to be found in the ‘cutting off’ of the umbrella strap, but started with the ‘changing position’ of the strap which symbolized her heart and mind. For the umbrella to be completely functional it needed the strap to be in place when required, and so it was for her to be functional, she needed to belong to an organization bigger than herself. Part of an organization that would become her other family or even her whole family.

Her story of heart peace was long but continued as ‘she’, someone like ‘her’ brushed the tears and the mist from her eyes and pursued healing and inner strength. She found her hope in the everyday things – like a walk in the rain with ‘her’ umbrella and the ‘strap’ that belonged on it. She too belonged.

About the Author: Amanda Long resides in Cairns, QLD, Australia.  Amanda known as Mandy, is a Coach/ Advocate who works with people to help  them overcome anxiety, disordered eating, depression & losses in life. At Project HEAL, Mandy is dedicated to sharing her lived experience to get the word  out that recovery is available and HOPE is not elusive. Mandy can often be found taking early morning strolls with coffee in hand, enjoying a good film and spending time with family & friends.  Mandy’s favorite ice cream flavor is peanut butter chocolate.