The problem with healing is its inconsistency.
Sometimes I can’t see past myself. When I started my healing process, I thought it would be this steady state progression, but in reality, that’s not the case. There’s some progress for a while, years even, and then stillness. Eventually, I can shift myself forward but it’s not a graceful experience by any means. I go through long, dark periods of depression and heavy anxiety, always hoping I make it out ok in the end. Over the years, the harshness of this has softened considerably, but, the intensity remains as strong as a wave pool pulling me back to where I started from and away from the life I have desperately tried to build for myself.
I work very hard so I don’t get overwhelmed. I know that may sound strange but I can’t know when my Depression, when my Complex PTSD, or when my Anxiety will take over my decision making and push me backwards, so everyday, I try to make small healthy choices so they add up to a better tomorrow. There are many times when my Depression and Trauma wins and paralyzes me for weeks, sometimes months. When these episodes happen, I know I just need time to get through it. So, I’ll meal prep and freeze food or sign up for apps that keep me motivated so I stay focused on my goals. I’ll schedule things out in advance so I don’t isolate myself for long periods, and I make regular therapy appointments. I’m also very open and honest with my therapist. I don’t want to stay down when I am down and I don’t want to develop a disorder as a result of my depression; I’ll do all I can to manage it as best as I can.
Healing isn’t just saying ‘Ok I’m out of this bad situation and now I just have to stop dwelling and move on from it.’ Healing is saying, ‘Ok. I have moved on from this but how do I learn to live in a whole new way while reacting and seeing things using a different perspective all while not having an unnecessary and unwarranted emotional reaction?’ It’s as though you have to learn a new language to thrive after you’ve survived. When something good happens I cry because my brain still registers emotion as bad and not bad or good since I’ve had so few positive experiences for so long. Learning to not push people away is just as hard as not over indulging. Learning to stop people pleasing is just as hard as learning to stop self-shaming. Regardless, they are all things from trauma that require healing that aren’t ‘dwelling.’ These bad traits become our new personalities without our permission. Sometimes in our lives those traits serve us, but once we’re in a safe space, it’s time to learn how to overcome them, and realize they are damage. Not only that, we have to realize that the longer we deny them the more damage we cause the other people in our lives, the worse our decision making is, and the more closed-off and empty we become.
There have been several points in my life, when I was down on my luck wondering how I had gotten to that point. It’s amazing how unmanaged mental strife can make us feel like time stands still. The slow, long, slippery slope of withdrawing myself out of comfort, poor financial choices, poor diet choices, disassociation, addiction to social media, poor use of time, etc. made me think I could manage my sadness, but really, I was miserable and just thinking I was functional. I think sometimes people mistake Depression as just feeling a little down and that’s unfortunately not the case. Or we mistake being numb as ‘feeling better’. I had disassociated for so long I still have a hard time checking into my own body’s needs.
The point is, if you’re healing, and I mean really doing the work, and feel as though for every five steps forward, you’re taking three steps back, you’re doing it right. That’s a good thing. You spent your entire life trying to fit someone else’s needs or ideals that it is very hard to come into your own with that. For instance, I grew up taking care of my mother. She wasn’t ill or anything when I was a kid, she just expected me to make her breakfast and do her hair in the morning. She expected me to cook, clean, cut the grass, take care of the pets, etc. when I was seven years old, by myself, until I moved out at 18. I was raised to be a care-taker and it made me feel valuable to be someone who cares for others so I thought that’s what I had to do for everyone around me all the time. When I would do care-taking duties my mother saw me and praised me. But I don’t want to be a care-taker, I do, however, want to be valued. Caretaking for everyone’s problems was ridiculous and honestly selfish. While it seems like I was selfless by caring for others, I was really doing it to get love and be a ‘good person,’ but I was exhausted and felt constantly taken advantage of. Because it was so ingrained in me, it took me a long time to heal and realize my value wasn’t wrapped in caring for everyone else. On top of that, my mother was very emotionally neglectful and abusive. As a result, I would try to be a ‘better’ child in hopes of getting more love and acceptance. When I didn’t get that, I took it out on myself and my own worth and became an over-achiever. In reality, she was a Narcissist who had low self-esteem, and didn’t know how to love me well. Now, should I avoid learning how to love myself and others because that would mean admitting I have a hard time learning to do that or that I have an issue with self-acceptance? Of course not. If I didn’t get the help or improve, then I’d be no better than her, and likely continue the cycle upon someone else. Your path and where you see yourself will be different, but seeing yourself is the same end goal.
I think to be successful in healing, you have to understand every part of it is a cycle and that cycle is inconsistent as hell. As you use hindsight and see yourself more clearly, allowing that cycle to end, you move onto the next area in your life to become who you were meant to be, not who you were forced into being. Don’t give up on finding yourself, no matter how hard or how inconsistent it seems, you are always worth pushing for and it is an incredibly powerful feeling once you really get it and get to own your power. It’s just not a straight line to get there and if you have mental health issues, as long as you are getting treatment for them and doing work to try to better the rest of your situation, you will improve, it just won’t be as fast as you want.
Remember we make every future decision based on hindsight. Not just hindsight in how you may be thinking of it, but how we handled all situations before is how we’ll handle it again because we ‘trust ourselves’ when we are the ones with the bad habits and toxic traits, so you have to ask yourself, have you actually grown enough, do you know your mental health well enough to best manage it, and are you mature and honest enough to prevent the cycle from repeating or will you lose it all when you get pulled in from that title wave?