2018 was the most difficult year of my life.
Pain and heartbreak were the biggest motifs of the year. I never knew that this much brokenness could reside in the heart of one individual human. Before this year, I had experienced hurt. In 2018, I experienced pain- raw, unbelievably bitter, stomach dropping, chest numbing pain. Although 2019 is here, is goin’, and is rockin’… my body is far from dispelling completely the built up trauma and aching residing amongst my flesh and bones.
A lot of blogs write poetically about their ability to move on from such events, to crawl out from the hole with grace and beauty, to seamlessly transition into a beautiful butterfly after rolling out of bed and having all the answers to their questions finally resolved. That ain’t me sis! My stubborn personality, my resilience, my resistance to help… all this and more attributed to my prolonged and messy suffering.
How do we just let go of the past? How can anyone feel better after losing people or parts of their life that once encompassed such a huge fraction of their happiness? I truly don’t have solid answers to any of this, but I wanted to share some of the key components of my own personal healing thus far.
First of all, you should let yourself grieve. You absolutely need to fucking grieve. Feel sorry as hell for yourself. Cry like a baby. Take a 2 hour long shower. Forget to text people back. Take time off work. Let yourself feel sad. Allow yourself to feel an emotion that is very uncomfortable.
This is a really big part of recovery. When I was admitted inpatient after being hospitalized last summer, I was struggling to find hope of ever feeling “better”. I would cry to the nurses, to my medical staff, to the peers around me. In times of great loss, I find that people often do not know what to say to be of comfort. Finally, a family therapist on staff sat me down one evening and braced me with the truth.
“Natalie,” he told me. “You have been through a lot. You have lost a tremendous amount in a short period of time. Have you ever thought about giving yourself some time to grieve?”
I was surprised. Never, even in years of therapy past, had I been challenged with this offer. I always associated grief around death of a loved one, not stopping to think that perhaps the biggest source of loss in life is in fact from the people and things taken from us but not from this earth. All the things I so dearly missed were, for the most part, merely a plane ride or a phone call away- and this was driving me absolutely insane.
The therapist placed a seed in my mind. I did not have to be “okay” at the end of all this. I did not have to walk out of my therapy session or even my inpatient stay happily. I was allowed to be upset. The only thing I needed to focus on was surviving.
So, the first thing I can advise is to allow grief into your psyche. Allow yourself to mourn over your loss, to cry, and to be held- even if it is you that holds yourself.
Secondly, you must begin ridding yourself of toxic people and things still in your life. What does this look like? Well, to begin…
- No one deserves your tears, especially if they caused you enough pain to cry. Forget about being the bigger person. Fuck off anyone who does not bring you positivity, encouragement, and love. Even if this means cutting off some family for the time being, then DO IT. FOR YOU!
- With this being said, you should cleanse your social media. Delete pictures. Delete (or even block!) people who need to go. I actually went an entire six months completely offline, which was amazing, and something I highly recommend.
- Throw away or donate clothes and items you do not need, or that do not fit. This is especially important for someone struggling with an eating disorder, or someone who places a lot of sentiment and memories onto items.
- Challenge unhealthy habits. Drug use, smoking, self-harm, isolation… all of these habits tend to be coping mechanisms for bigger issues. More on this later, but changing a toxic lifestyle is very important.
Third. Now that you have rid yourself of shit people and shit things, you may find yourself pretty lonely. You can not heal alone, however, and a support network is incredibly necessary for recovery. As hard as it may be, you really need to find people that are “in your corner” and will help you through the hardship.
I met a lot of great people through therapy and outpatient programs. Even if I did not stay in touch with them long-term, they provided the support I needed at the time. I also became very close to my immediate family, as well as long time friends who have loved me and supported me since childhood. As time went on, I met some absolutely amazing friends through working at Southwest Airlines. These are the people who I still rely on today. I would also like to point out that there are many online resources for support groups. I have discovered great, closed (or ‘private’) groups on Facebook for women, feminism, and even mental health.
Part 2 coming later this week. Please let me know what you think of these things that helped me.