Posted to Medium on August 14, 2020
Hi, in case no one’s said it — I’m proud of you.
Why? Because you’ve come this far. You’re here. You’re breathing. You woke up today.
You’ve come a terrifically long way from where you were. Remember that? You’ve been through it all. You’ve been through hell and back, but you came back to tell the story — and that’s why I’m proud of you. And, the thing is, everyone’s story is a little different. My sense of pride comes from looking back at my past; observing how I reacted to pain then and now. I remember a time not long ago when I didn’t realize I was reacting to pain and grief, but looking back, it is oh-so obvious.
I grieve by substituting one pain for another, covering up the pain, or shoving the pain so far down I’d need a scuba suit to retrieve it. The following are a few examples that range from blatant to nearly camouflaged, but each achieved the same result. Maybe you can relate…
Drank until tomorrow and kept drinking. Inhaled white powder because I wanted to feel happy, if only artificially. Hopped on a dating app for sex and a free drink. Cut myself. Laid on the floor and prayed I no longer existed. Drowned out the words in my head with blaring music or mind-numbing television. Smeared black paint on my nails, eyes and lips to become a new version of me. Cigarettes, ugh. Texted the wrong guy, or a different wrong guy, or yet another different wrong guy. I’ve put so much effort into avoiding my feelings and what did I get? More feelings, more pain, more problems.
I believe none of it was by accident. I wanted, no- needed, better yet- demanded distractions from the issues I already had. I knew exactly what I was doing. I’d cling onto emotionally unavailable men and emotionally unavailable activities in order to remain emotionally unavailable. What’s that- an emotion?? How did that get there?! I built my guard up so high, King Kong could climb it.
Here’s where it gets good. I finally put myself first. I decided — let’s get into it. Let’s dive into the deep and name these feelings. Identify. Understand. Hold them and accept them for a minute (or longer). Then, let them go. That’s the most important one — but it’s the hardest one to do.
Because I yearn to be rid of these feelings so intensely, my immediate response is to claim they don’t exist. That’s different from letting them go (read that again), and that’s what I continue to work on. I realized just recently that something from my past can still trigger me and I responded by not feeling my feelings. It might be something I always work on. But, I’m working on it. That’s the point. Once you feel your feelings — pain, for instance — then you can accept it and let it go.
It might be easier to distract yourself from your pain, but it’s only easy for a time. Eventually, you’ll need more or something stronger, and that only hurts you later on. Talk it out. Journal. Go to therapy. Write a letter you’ll never send. Write a letter you will send. Create art to express your feelings. These mere suggestions address the pain and pull you through it. Most importantly, they help you put you first. Take the time for you and your healing process, because the world needs you.
You are essential. You are loved. You are cherished.
I repeat these mantras to myself every day. It matters. You matter. It’s like Tyrese says— you grow through what you go through. And, you know what, if you already knew all that — I am so glad and truly proud. If you needed the reminder, fantastic! I’m still so proud of you for looking out for yourself. If you came into this article in the midst of your pain and grief running amuk, I hope you remember if a stranger can be proud of you...
...shouldn’t you too?