I’m not going to lie…2017 has been a rough year. Horrible. Totally sucked. Get the hell out. Awful, stinky, yuck. I remember at the end of 2016, we were all so glad to see it go. We lost so many beautiful souls that year, Leonard Cohen, Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, just to name a few. I remember thinking, “Good riddance!” as I rang in the new year. But then January felt shaky and by February, my world was upside down. As the year progressed, more bad news and more pain ensued. This year came at me personally. The universe was no longer interested in my inspirations and heroes, it wanted my soul. In my lifetime, it had already stolen my innocence, stolen my security, destroyed my self-worth, and now, it set its sights on the rest of me. It almost won.
I often refer to those of us who live with PTSD, or any other mental health condition, as warriors. Life is a bit more challenging for us. Not just a bit, life can feel like a battlefield. A battle we did not declare but was declared on us. A battle that we fight in our mind, daily. A battle that many of us work to conquer one day at a time. One that leaves us scarred and bruised and broken. Like soldiers, we watch our fellow brothers and sisters who fight alongside of us, succumb to the battle. We say goodbye. We question whether we are next. Yet through the tragedy and the trauma, we carry on, often hiding the pain that rages inside of us. It can be a silent and lonely fight.
I wish I could say I handled myself well these past several months. In some ways I have, I have survived, thus far at least. I wish I could say that I reacted in a healthy manner, that I used my coping skills, that I took the high road in all matters. I didn’t. We put so much pressure on ourselves to follow the textbook; here is a list of twelve ways to cope with adversity, follow this list. Life can come at us like a hurricane leaving us no choice but to ride out the storm until we can get our feet back on the ground. Today is the first day of November; the storm has been raging all year. Dear 2017, what finger am I holding up…
I have come to a realization that healing often comes through releasing. Letting go of the negativity. Letting go of self-pity. Letting go of toxicity. Letting go of unhealthy habits. Releasing others from my own expectations. It is so difficult to relinquish control. Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” The road paved with anger, resentment, toxic friendships, distrust, seems the more difficult road. However, look around, the world is full of anger, resentment, gossip, and negativity. That is the road our psyche seems to want to follow. When someone approaches you with a story that begins, “The most wonderful thing happened…” or “You will not believe what happened! I am so angry!” which one piques your interest? I believe we all love the excitement of the big fight or betrayal, whether we are willing to admit it or not. It has been easier to allow my emotions to rule the show. It has been easier to be angry and bitter, to feel sorry for myself. It has not been healthy, but it is reactionary so it comes natural, like an instinct. Forgiveness, positive focus, healthy choices, those take discipline and work. Discipline and work are laborious, but they are oh so worth it.
If you’ve read my previous blog posts then you know that my marriage took a severe blow. I still am not sure if it can recover. Unlike relationships of the past, there has been no abuse, no derogatory comments, and no critiques of who I am as a person. This is new territory for me. I have always left war zones. In the last eight years, I have never been abused, mentally beaten down, or treated harshly. My husband is not a bad person. He is actually very likeable, he smiles often…or used to. But there IS betrayal and distrust. There has been secrecy and suspicion. This has not felt like a vicious attack, but more of a growing cancer. The details are irrelevant. What is relevant is where do we go from here? Quite frankly, I don’t know. What I do know is I have to let go of my resentment and anger because there is no doubt it is hurting me every bit as much, if not more, than it is hurting him. This is not to say that I have to accept inappropriate behavior or that what happened is acceptable or “ok,” but there is no way to heal a wound if you keep tearing off the scab. In order to let go of resentment, I have to let go of expectation. Unmet expectations lead to disappointment. Emotional intimacy is something completely foreign to him. He does not know how to reassure me, how to make me feel comforted, how to share his own pain and struggle, he just doesn’t know. Could he learn? Yes. Could he try and fumble around and take the difficult road to something that feels very uncomfortable for him? Yes. He could, but he hasn’t. It is not because he doesn’t care, this I am sure. Possibly it is a product of being a recovering addict, but that is just me analyzing. I still have no understanding of the why’s for his actions. I still struggle with the “what’s wrong with me?!” He is unable, for the time being, to help with that. My unmet expectations, coupled with the original pain, leads to rage, resentment, and of course, acting out. This is making me into someone I no longer recognize. I find myself becoming the enemy…and I hate it. I have to let go of expecting from him what I need and begin giving myself what I need. I have to feed my own soul, my own self-worth, bring about my own joy. He knows the stumbling blocks that are before him, it is up to him to remove them. If nothing ever changes, nothing ever changes. The future is unknown for us, so I am concentrating on my own future, finding my own smile again. That is all that I have control over…so I am letting go. Letting go of control and letting go of expectation.
I have begun by eating healthier so that I can feel better and have more energy. This has helped my overall mood as well. I had ignored my meditation and mindfulness practices so I am getting back into the practice with the help of the app “Calm.” I am aware enough to know that without some form of outside help my meditation will be futile. My mind has just become too jumbled to do it on my own. I am going back to work and will be starting my new position soon. This does not afford me the luxury of self-sufficiency but it does give me something new to focus on, will help with financial preparation, and will also give me a much needed distraction. I am setting long term goals for my career path. I am looking at where I want to see myself in one year? Two years? Five years? I am talking to people in those fields and asking about the pros and cons that I can expect and making informed decisions.
Social networking is a love-hate relationship. I love being able to keep up with friends who I do not get to see often, but it can easily develop into a crutch. We mindlessly look at our phone to distract us from whatever life is dishing out. That could be something as serious as personal pain or something as minor as completing a task, whatever the case, it is a huge distraction that is often accompanied by negative consequences. Many of us, yes me, find that likes on Facebook validate us. I have over 500 friends on Facebook, yet I have never been lonelier. There is an illegitimacy there that we may not always see, but deep down we know, or at least sense, is present. I am limiting my time on Facebook and have been spending more time reading books from people like Timber Hawkeye, Anne Lamott, and Thich Nhat Hanh. I am watching Ted talks of people who have overcome diversity or desire to live a purpose-driven life. I have decided to feed my soul. If 2017 has decided that it’s my soul that it wants, by God, it’s going to get a fatted one.
One of the most difficult things we have to do sometimes is to let go of toxic friendships. Our friend circle should include people who we consider part of our tribe. People who act as positive influences, trusted confidants, comrades. It can be hard to let go of a friendship that has become toxic. A toxic friendship becomes laborious and one-sided; it brings with it negativity. All relationships, regardless of whether it is a friendship, parent/child, marriage, lovers, has its ups and downs. They all take work and upkeep, but a toxic relationship will bring with it toxic results. Feelings of being taken advantage of, taken for granted, being used, are all signs of toxicity. If setting boundaries have not worked, if sharing your feelings about the direction of the relationship have not worked, then it may be time to release them. This is not easy and it is not painless but sometimes, it IS necessary. It is not leaving someone when they are down, it is not letting them push you down. In order to make room for the healthy, you have to let go of the unhealthy.
Healing is not a rush job, it is a journey. It does not happen overnight, it takes time. It is one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. It is acceptance of the lack of control we sometimes have in a situation and the realization of what we CAN control. It is an act of releasing and reintroducing. It is a gift to ourselves but also to those we love. Healing is a love act and love always emits outward. Much love and healing to you all.