Ep. 35 How to Pursue Healing After Hardship
Deep pain isn't something you just get over in a day or a month. Sometimes it’s not even really accurate to say “get over,” but instead you learn to move on in life in the healthiest way possible.
When dealing with trauma, we have two choices. We can either face it, or we can walk away. Walking away involves putting up walls and avoiding dealing with it.
That was my go-to for the longest time. I put up walls in an effort to protect myself. But what I learned is that walls aren't selective about the feelings they let in. Yes, sadness stays out. Yes, anger stays out. But love and happiness stay out too. You become numb. You become a shell of a person moving through life without really experiencing it.
The only real way to move forward after trauma is to feel it. I know that answer sucks, but it’s true and more importantly . . . it’s worth it. Because no matter what hardship you've been through, your heart matters.
If at this moment in your life you're going through a hard time, I want to remind you that you're still here. You are here in this moment. You are here breathing - no matter how difficult each breath may seem. No matter how difficult each minute, each hour, and each day are, you're still here and your heart is worth fighting for in each moment.
For me, believing that my heart was worth fighting for was a game-changer.
Believe Your are Worth Fighting For
How much you are willing to fight for yourself has a direct correlation to how much you value yourself. If you value yourself very little, then the amount you are willing to fight for yourself will be very little.
When you don’t value yourself, the amount of time you would typically spend fighting for yourself is very small. For most of my life, I didn't value myself the way I should.
If you've known me for awhile then you know that I was sexually assaulted in 2013 and that isn't something one heals from in a day or a week or a month. To actually pursue healing, I had to believe that I was worth fighting for, that my heart was worth fighting for.
It's possible to carry on for a short time without that much motivation or conviction or belief, but real healing is something you're going to be working on for a really long time. Therefore it needs to be supported by deep convictions and beliefs. When I decided to commit to pursuing healing, I had to start valuing myself.
When you're going through healing, you have to say "no" to people, because your energy is zapped. Certain things are hard for you, and you have to put yourself first. Sometimes even the most basic self-care—feeding yourself, bathing—can be huge feats. So you have to believe that you are worth fighting for.
I don't believe that everything that happens to us is for our own good, especially when it is a trauma committed by another person(s) with the intention of causing you harm. When people say that everything happens for a reason, or for your own good, it just seems like a scapegoat for evil. I believe that we need to call things out when they're wrong, when they're evil. You don't have to believe that an awful experience that happened to you is for your own good.
However, I do believe that no matter what happens, good can always have the last word. That distinction has been a very important one for me. I believe that you can always find good again. You can find a light in the darkness.
No matter what, you can still push forward, you can find healing.
Healing is Not a Destination
Healing from trauma is not like a small cut that fully heals, leaving no sign it ever happened. The most difficult traumas are much bigger wounds. They typically leave an emotional scar.
Healing is not a destination. Healing is the goal of getting to a place where the trauma is no longer the most powerful force in your life.
When I was going through healing after my assault, there were days where I thought the pain would never stop. I tried to imagine a day where I didn't think about this assault multiple times a day. And each time I thought about it, it wrecked me.
I encourage you not to feel like you're reaching for a final destination, but instead reaching for a place where the weight of the trauma does not steal everything from your life. A place where you are able to smile again and enjoy life again.
As you continue to work on your healing, that will become easier.
Depending on your specific trauma there may be different seasons where you're processing different aspects. Eventually, you'll be looking back and realizing that you're in a better place. At different seasons you'll be able to process different layers that you may not have been aware of or able to process previously.
You'll continue pressing forward until you get to a place where it is not overwhelming, not suffocating. You'll be able to breathe and move forward in life.
4 Tips for Your Healing Journey
Below are some tips for when processing hardships:
1) Lean on Trustworthy People
Try as much as you can to lean on trustworthy people. That can mean friends and family, or it could be a counselor or a support group.
Support groups are so powerful, healing, and comforting. I had amazing friends and family to help me during my healing process, but if they hadn't experienced a sexual trauma then they could only relate to a certain extent. However, when I was around other people who had experienced it, we spoke this common language.
Support groups are a space where you can let everything go and be yourself. It is a safe space to voice your thoughts and reactions that maybe someone who hasn't been through it wouldn't understand.
I highly recommend a support group for whatever you're going through. It has the potential be so healing. And the great thing is that there are support groups who meet in-person or online. So no matter where you are located or what your comfort level is with being in a support group, you have a great chance of finding one that meets your preferences.
I also would advise finding a counselor or a coach who specializes in the area you are walking through.
2) Set-up Belief Guardrails
Next, I want to talk about finding some belief guardrails. This is going to be different for each person based on their trauma or the hardship they're going through.
Guardrails are boundaries set up to protect you, to keep you going, and to support you.
Let me back up a second. Before I was assaulted, I, unfortunately, had the misconception that sometimes a victim may be partially responsible for what happened to them based on what they were wearing, what they said, what they did, etc. All those things are lies. It is 100% the fault of the perpetrator. You do not have the power to make anyone harm you. However, those misconceptions resulted in a lot of thoughts I needed to process after I was assaulted.
The way that trauma can affect your brain is wild. Thoughts that often came into my brain after the trauma were . . . "Why would he do that to me? It must have been a mistake, I must have done something wrong."
There are so many mental acrobatics a survivor of trauma has to learn to navigate. But they do need to be navigated. Otherwise, they can take you into an even darker place.
So I learned to be very careful with my thoughts. Whenever I had a thought in my head that would feed into that misconception, I just would kick it out. I wouldn't even try to explore it, I would just kick it out. It took practice, but it was so helpful and so needed.
I still do that to this day. There are still times where maybe something pops in, and when I let it go on too long, it causes me harm.
So the truth that it was not my fault was one of the belief guardrails I set in place for myself.
Figure out what belief guardrails you need to set up for yourself in your healing and practice sticking to them.
3) Let Go of Expectations of Your Healing Journey
Another important part of the healing process is having no expectations about how the healing process will go. Healing is full of twists and turns, and sometimes doubling back. I was not prepared for that.
I thought it was like a ladder or a staircase. You work on one aspect of healing, knock that out, and move to the next step.
So at one point when I felt like I just tumbled down the stairs and was revisiting "step two," it felt so defeating. I thought I thought I was moving forward. What I had to learn is that healing is not a linear process. There will be twists and turns, doubling back, and that is okay and expected.
You also don't know how long it'll take. That was also something that was really hard for me. I just assumed I'd be better in two months. I had all these expectations.
When I finally got to the point where I decided to let go of those expectations, it was so much less pressure on myself - which we all need less pressure when processing heavy stuff. I was able to stay in a state of constantly pushing forward without a measuring stick.
Sometimes constantly pushing forward means just standing and facing it. You may not have the strength to take a step on certain days, and that's fine.
When you learn to let go of those expectations and extend grace to yourself, remind youself that you are doing the best you can in a very difficult situation.
4) Help Others When You Have the Energy
The last tip I have is to help others when you have the energy. The moments when you have enough energy to focus on someone else, it is not only good for that other person, but it is good for you as well.
It's a reminder that there's still life happening outside of your pain and that there are other things to look forward to and be part of.
The key thing though to remember is to help others when you have the energy. Don't be doing this when you don't have the capacity.
And it doesn't have to be big things. It might just mean showing up somewhere. Maybe it's writing a letter, or donating some canned goods.
Always be mindful of yourself and what you can give, but do take those opportunities to help others. It's a breath of fresh air, reminding you of what life can be like.
The Healing Journey is Worth It
A byproduct of my healing process was that I learned to value myself, and that led me to where I am right now. That led me to record the Courageous Worth Podcast so that I could teach others to love and value themselves as well.
So know that healing is important on more levels than you could possibly imagine.
I hope you take that next step in your healing process. Whether it's calling a friend to confide in them, getting in touch with a support group, calling a counselor, journaling, or just giving time and energy and focus to your healing. I am cheering for you. I'm rooting for you. Your heart is worth fighting for. You are worth fighting for.