The OTD Map
Today I’m gonna go a little Oprah on you. Forgive me.
I was talking to a friend who just recently left the religious community. My heart hurt so much for what she was going through. Although her experiences are different than mine were when I left thirteen years ago, I recognized so many of her feelings. I wished I could help her some way, inject her with some hope and faith in the gorgeous future that lies at the end of her journey.
One of the things we learned as we prepare for the birth of our daughter, is that in childbirth, there are clear physical milestones: effacement, dilation, breaking of the bag of waters, contractions that increase in intensity, the urge to push, the crowning of the baby’s head, the expulsion of the baby’s body, the expulsion of the placenta. For couples going through the process without medication, there are also clear emotional milestones: excitement, serious focus, despair, post-birth joy.
Not everyone has every one of these stages, and the length of time spent on each one can vary greatly, but most people have most of them.
I love learning about these components of birth. It feels like a precious map on a blindfolded journey, that as I prepare to depart on, makes me a little calmer, leaves me feeling a little more in control.
As I reflect on this map, I wonder: are there common stages of going OTD? Is it possible to map out major milestones you might expect to encounter along the way? Of course, every person has their own journey, and our experiences can differ wildly from pleasant and easy to deeply traumatic – but still – can we identify any common stages that might be helpful for people just starting out?
I feel like I could write a megilla on this (and I’d love to hear what you have to say), but here are some first thoughts on what I might put down in such a map:
Possible Emotional Stages of OTD:
- Excitement: As awareness grows that life might unfold in a way that is very different than I always expected, there is excitement about the new possibilities. Things and ideas I couldn’t even consider are suddenly tantalizingly within reach.
- Fear: Fear of God. Fear of family. Fear of “reputation.” Fear of the “permanence” of my actions.
- Loneliness: As distance widens betweens me and my origins, a deep, saturating loneliness sets in. No one understands me, no one knows what I’m going through, no one cares.
- Terror: Floating half-way in the ocean, with land disappearing behind me and no shoreline yet visible ahead, panic rises. What the fuck have I done??? I can’t do this!!! I’m going to drown!!!
- Pride: As I begin to prove to myself, in small ways and little victories, I am in control, I begin to establish a sense of self-sufficiency and pride. I realize that I am making it on my own.
- Self-direction: With increased strength and clarity, I start rowing in the direction I want to go, bringing myself closer to my end goals.
- Steps 4,5,6,7, repeated frequently.