Over the last 20years of healing I have learned a number of things.
1) Things get better- it took time and work. But I have gotten better. I can do things now that I could not even imagine doing just five years ago.
2) Community/support group- It is necessary to not try to live this out alone. I have found that I need someone to hear me and to understand. Someone to be there for me when things are way too much for me to do alone. This group can be anyone. For me it is my friends, family, religious leaders, therapists. It can be anyone that fills those needs for you.
3) My story of healing and survival is Sacred- I know that there are people out there who want to hear and give sacred space for your story. I also know there are people out there who don’t give a flying fart in space about your story. That is why who hears it and who doesn’t is important. I have no problem with people knowing that I have survived intense years of trauma. But the story itself…that is sacred. The humiliations, pain, and terror that I survived. That is mine to be shared only with those who have earned the right to know.
4) That feeling of mind crushing soul destroying depression that tells you not to exist anymore can and will pass- This is why you need community and support. It does not last forever and it is hard to get through. It is near impossible to get through alone. That is why we need those we love and who care about us to be aware of our struggles. Because they love us they want us to stick around. And they really do want to listen and help. And that feeling does pass. It comes back sometimes, but it passes.
5) A safety plan- I have needed and implemented a safety plan in my life. When things like number 4 happen I know who to call. I have a list of people to call. I have a strategy for getting through those insanely dark times. And the biggest part of that is speaking up and acknowledging the pain. There is nothing that the darkness of depression hates more than turning on the light. And talking about it…turns on the light.
6) No matter what has happened in my life I am loved- There are people out in the world who love me and reach out to me. They have helped me through to this point of growth that I now enjoy. And when I am alone (which rarely happens) i have my dog. Love is non negotiable. Everyone needs it. It is why we sometimes do stupid stuff to get that feeling. Sometimes those things are actually destructive. Finding a way to get that feeling and stay safe is important.
There really is a lot more that I have found out along the way. But community, safety, and the knowledge that the darkness does actually pass have helped me through the dark times. The times of curling up in a ball and hiding to where I am now. But the most important thing that I have learned is that I have already won. I am still alive. I lived through the hell I experienced. And I have lived to tell my tale. I have great sorrow and for those whose pain takes them from us too soon. And I have great love and compassion for those that struggle everyday to remember to breathe. Everyone’s journey is sacred. And we all need to be community for each other so that we can all heal.
This is one of those occasions when a topic seems to be coming at me from all sides. I asked a friend what should I blog about and her response, after a little back and forth, was coping strategies. Then I get a book I ordered in the mail and lo and behold it also talks about coping strategies. The kind that we use for depression. Then I follow a link and you guessed it, coping strategies and how they may not be working for us.
I was going to post yesterday but I got caught up in thinking about the connectedness of all things. It also got me thinking about what kind of coping strategies I am using and if they are still working. Chocolate, though a beloved coping strategy is really not working anymore. Yes the lovely taste of chocolate and the feeling of joy that it brought to me is still there. But I just can’t use it all the time. It was the link that I mentioned earlier that brought that home to me. All I am really tying to do is numb my depression not work with it.
It is the same with the book. All I have been trying to do is not working. The things that I am doing just help me escape from the depression not help heal it in any way. It is like the times that you don’t want to deal with a bill right now so you put it aside. It is still there. It still needs to be paid. Ignoring it or hiding it does not make it go away.
I have not even begun to cull out the strategies that are not working for me. I am however starting to look at them and realize which ones I don’t need. I think that maybe I have been doing that all along. Because as I look back I realize that I don’t do some of them anymore.
I don’t hide in the house and not come out anymore. Thank goodness. I don’t sleep all day trying to hide from people and the things that scare me or make me nervous. And then stay up all night when no one is around and putter. And I don’t keep people out because they might hurt me.
The last one is the biggest. Letting people into my life and allowing myself the possibility of being hurt was hard. And I have been hurt by people. However, I am still trying to be as open to people as I can.
Some of the things that I have mentioned the link “>http://brenebrown.com/2014/01/22/daring-interview-series-meet-jen-louden/ and the book: The Mindful Way through Depression are worth a look. Keeping myself open to new ideas and new strategies has been, probably, one of the biggest coping strategy that I have come up with yet.
But, as with all things, I am a work in progress.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am to be alive. How amazing it is to wake up in the morning Even with the nightmares and everything else. I still get to see the sun rise in the morning and set in the afternoon.
I am who I am because of the things that happened to me. Because of those things I am more empathic to people and their pain. I understand the overreaching sadness that come over people when depression claims them. And I know how to protect myself. Maybe not physically as much as I would like, but I know how to shut off the people who would otherwise suck the emotional life out of me. The ones that talk to you and demand from you your complete attention in a way that pulls out your energy. Everyone has experienced them before. And sometimes it is just a matter of walking away. Even when you think you might be hurting their feelings.
I am glad that I have learned who I am. That learning who I am is a process. And that I will continue to learn as I grow. I am thankful that I can experience all of the joys that I have in life now. That even though I have lost so much of my life to the apathy of depression, I am moving and growing now.
I have survived the dark room of fire and I have come out the other end. I am grateful that I have lived to tell the tale of my trauma and that the trauma did not consume me. Everyone has the potential to overcome the demons in their life and I am grateful that I have found that to be true.