In January I wrote “Me vs. The Storm”. https://thankfulgratefulhumblekind.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/me-vs-the-storm/ It was a moment, a sliver of hope and unbeknownst to me at the time…the eye of the storm. 2020 will forever be a distinct year in my mind. If you are reading this and describe 2020 to a “dumpster fire”, I would wholeheartedly agree with you. But this isn’t a story of despair. This is my story of finding my inner strength.
Let me rewind for a little bit. For me, this year started out much the same as 2019 ended and the majority of my 2020 has been filled with heartache and deep emotional pain. I started this year still jobless after a mass lay-off in 2019, painful relationships, and most days were filled with doing just enough to get by. I didn’t know that one person could cry as much as I did during the first 3 months of the year. Yet, as I reflect back on the last 10 months, I don’t even recognize the woman that brought 2020 in but I sure as hell know the woman that will ride the rest of 2020 out. I no longer want to shrink away and live in a small way. I have found out exactly what I am made of and I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I’m not done yet. I am the storm.
Fighting the storm versus becoming the storm hasn’t been an easy journey. I didn’t just wake up one morning to everything being back to “normal”. Quite frankly, I don’t want what normal had become. I had to learn how to say goodbye to what had become my normal and hello to the idea of new possibilities, even if I didn’t know what those were. Even today I don’t know what my new normal will shake out to be, but I do look forward to whatever it brings.
“One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you’re going through now, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide.” (Author unknown) My oh my how these words ring true in my heart. I look back and I am so very thankful for all of the people that have shown up in my life this year to support and love me. Some were on a similar journey and others not so much. I anointed them into my personal support group with the tears that were streaming down my face. For months they called and texted me just to tell me they love me and remind me that I am not alone.
This group consists of people that I trust. These are my people. They have lent me their shoulder to cry on and tissues to dry my tears. A few have talked to me for hours on end on the phone. One video chatted with me for 2 hours until I was almost asleep. Another held me, cooked for me, and created the coziest most loving environment one could imagine. The collective wisdom of this group has guided me through the darkest days and loneliest nights. I couldn’t be more grateful and humbled that they chose to wrap their arms around me. It is now that I see that the best way to honor those who have shown me unconditional love and support is to share my own survival guide to help others.
For me there wasn’t some huge wake up call or event that magically made me spring out of bed and go full force at life. My story of strength and renewal is built on many small actions and moments that add up to who I am today. But know this reader, I am nowhere near my destination on my personal journey. Nor do I want to be. I am having fun getting to know me again. Maybe even for the first time. If just one person finds my story valuable or inspiring to begin embracing life again then I will have considered this blog post a success.
Here. We. Go.
As I reflect back to the beginning of this year I remember feeling lost and scared but I knew I needed to start somewhere. I started reading scripture. To this day I find Romans 5:3-5 as one of the most meaningful and comforting scriptures to be my light in those dark days.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn and endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. “Romans 5:3-5
For seven months I perfected the art of smiling wide while holding back tears. I could win an Academy Award for “fake it till you make it”. This strategy did not serve me well and I don’t recommend it for anyone else. I spent days feeling as if my entire body was clenched up and a good nights’ sleep was a whopping 3 hours. I was scared and lonely 100% of every day. I pinpoint the true beginning of my healing process back to when I found a gem of a counselor. Rather than continuing to push my feelings away, I started talking through my feelings and unpacking baggage I didn’t even know I had. I spent the first 3 sessions clenching a box of tissues, crying my eyes out, and piecing my feelings together. My counselor has helped me to unpack my baggage layer by layer, fold it neatly and send it away. For me, talking about my true feelings is a raw experience and it is scary. This was hard and emotionally draining work but it was the very beginning of my personal healing process.
When going through life’s perfect storm a good counselor or therapist is an absolute must have. They will listen, ask questions, be a truth teller and help you sort through the mess. What I didn’t know then that I 100% know now is that it takes an incredibly strong person to make the call to go to counseling. This is NOT weak, embarrassing or shameful. There is no greater gift you can give to yourself than positive emotional and mental health. Let me shout it out for those of you in the back rolling your beautiful eyes, “THERE IS NO GREATER GIFT YOU CAN GIVE YOURSELF THAN POSITIVE EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL HEALTH.”
What a counselor will not do is hug you, hold you as you ugly cry for 30 solid minutes, make you dinner, create a cozy space to hide in for 4 days, or call you randomly to meet for dinner or coffee. This is what you need a strong tribe of friends for. Readers, I deeply regret undervaluing the healing power of a strong friendship. I will forever be grateful for the women who chose to ride this storm out with me and love me hard.
The one piece of advice that I heard the most was “Focus on taking care of you.” This didn’t mean that I was to ignore my children, responsibilities of the home or neglect others. Rather, a gentle reminder to make space for taking care of me. This looks different for all of us. What worked for me may not work for anyone else. I had to use a test and learn strategy to figure this out so it wasn’t a quick process.
- Bible study
- Reading or listening to inspirational books & podcasts
- Creating an exercise routine strength training, treadmill, elliptical, yoga
- Asking for help from friends and family & graciously accepting it
- Accepting comforting gestures from others
What Did Not Work
- Listening to any music
- Binge watching tv
Heed my advice, the test and learn experience during the healing process can be both frustrating and rewarding. It is an emotionally intense journey but I promise you that it is well worth the effort. I had to let go of being ashamed of my circumstances to ask for help from friends and family. Asking for help is hard because many of us are just not wired to do so. If this describes you then I urge you to let it go. I bet there is at least 1 person in your life willing to help you but you have to dig deep tell them what’s really going on. Showing vulnerability can be terrifying but people cannot help you if you aren’t honest with them about what is really going on.
I also learned that some things that had served me well for years did not serve me well during my darkest days. For example, yoga has made a tremendous, positive impact in my life and served me well for several years. Yoga is also a deeply emotional and very inward experience for me. When I go to a class it’s like a massage for my emotions and soul. Even though I understand the healing powers yoga holds, in the thick of my storm I could not go there emotionally so I left it on my mat and walked away for a little while. I’m back now and loving that I am relearning technique and have a newfound appreciation for the way my body is serving me and how I can serve her (my body) better. Be open to shelving a few things for a bit if they seem just too hard on your first try. You can always try again later. There is no one “right” way to heal.
Do not expect this to be a fast process. This has been a year long process for me. I still have so much to learn and try. I know that I love life most when I embrace it as a journey of self-discovery. As I begin a new chapter of life I am excited to see what this chapter will be, what I will learn and how I will evolve.