Healing from childhood trauma has been the most significant endeavor of my life. The last two years I have been raw and rapid cycling, while dealing with a lot of anger and pain from the past and present. Below, I share some of the lessons and insights I’ve learned in this arduous process. I’m hopeful as my life enfolds, I will have even more to celebrate and share. I hope you are able to find something relatable here that will help you on your journey.
A few years back, I set my intention on the process of healing. In the beginning, I was unknowingly halfway in, still dancing with the things and people that were leading to my eventual demise: gambling, an abusive ex, stressful jobs, and the addiction that had touched my sister and her family. All of these preoccupations were causing relapses of my Bipolar I illness. My moods and perceptions were hijacked every few weeks and I spent more time rapid cycling than I did in “clarity”. I can remember times when I felt calm and clear headed, feeling that I had leveled out, only to be taken hostage again. During these days, my mania took me to extreme rage and suicidal ideation. There were very valid reasons for my anger and yet, I wasn’t able to be constructive with it. I ended up being hospitalized, losing a great job, and unemployed. After years of my manic motor running, and my eventual collapse, I was forced to take a harder look at myself. It was in this state of desperation, I began to truly heal. At this point ALL of me wanted it. It has been a breaking of my will, so to speak, and a readiness on my behalf to not only seek help, but receive it. I’m not perfect at this, but I keep trying and I keep reaching out.
Lesson 1: Acceptance of what is & letting go. This was and still is a difficult lesson for me. I’m not only stubborn, I also consider myself somewhat of a justice warrior and often have a difficult time tolerating situations that do not feel “right” or “fair”. The reason this lesson is so important is it allows you to leg go of what you cannot control. My sister’s addiction, a broken healthcare system, and an abusive relationship were all examples of preoccupations I had little control over, but engaged in anyhow. Doing so did not change the person or the situation, it instead alienated me and caused conflict leading to loss of relationships and jobs. I still feel there are times to stand up and fight, but I see the value in accepting life, as is, and letting go of what is not in my control to change.
Lesson 2: Be Still. Sitting still in the silence or practicing mindfulness gives yourself the space needed to process. It helps me sort out what is mine and what is not mine. I often discover emotions and the root cause of them in this space. Sometimes, these discoveries are real gems. They are what I have been avoiding and running from my whole life, a missing puzzle piece. Sitting in the stillness and letting the emotions be with you has helped me find answers to my vulnerabilities and the reasons for much of my fear and sadness. I used to run away from the uncomfortable emotions that arose in stillness, now I embrace it, giving it the time and attention it needs to heal.
Lesson 3: Forgive Yourself and Others, Cultivate Compassion. Let go of the notion of perfection. My life has been messy. I have had good days where I ran non-stop serving seniors and the disabled. I’ve had other days were I’ve been horribly cruel to my mother when in conflict over the addiction that hit our family. I spent years being angry and then a couple more years being engulfed in rage, often hurting people I loved. I gave a decade of my life to a tumultuous relationship fraught with desperation which led to shame. I was disappointed in myself and lost, often suicidal. In relapse, my mania would cause many problems for myself and others. At the end of the day, the self-loathing I did for years increased the likelihood for relapse. I decided to cultivate compassion for myself and others. Forgiving myself and others allows me to focus on understanding myself better so that I can cope and decrease the intensity in my life that has caused so many issues for me. It’s a work in progress and I feel it has the potential to open doors and soften who I am in times of stress and conflict.
Lesson 4: Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries! I used to not have any boundaries. I would let anyone into my life and onto my plate. I became completely wrapped up in their life. If someone had a tragedy, it was MY tragedy and I would put more energy and effort into resolving it than the person suffering. I gave money, time, and tons of energy. I realized that these people often left me once I tried to set a limit. Now, I’m excited to finally have an empty plate. I am working on rebuilding my life exactly how I like it, and will only let people in who are able to give as well as receive. This is a SUPER exciting time for me. I don’t have many people in my life yet, but I am excited to find people with similar interest and set healthy boundaries for myself.
Lessons 5: Be Persistent: This alone has saved my life! I’m persistent. I might fail over and over again, but eventually I get up and try again. I am persistent when I need help & I will seek until I find it, using any and all resources available to me. If I get depressed and I “give up” from time to time, that’s ok, I just try and make the “giving up” temporary! I also research and educate myself on issues that affect me. Be persistent and know the resources out there to help you in your recovery process. Never judge yourself by the times you quit, always look at the times you were persistent and pushed through. Many things should be a lot easier to access, so don’t be too harsh on yourself!
I’m still learning so much in the healing process that has not settled yet. I hope in the future to write more about humility and turning towards others. I know I can be closed off, difficult, and stubborn. I am doing my best to change a lifetime of poor coping due to trauma and living with a mental illness. The 5 lessons above have been significant agents of change in the process of healing for me and I’m now 100% in this thing for the long haul!! Happy healing!