Healing, compassion and how to get through
Have you ever heard the expression “the only way out is through”?
It’s usually meant well – in the way only slightly condescending and politely sympathetic phrases can be – often given voice to by counsellors, therapists, life coaches and the like in front of a crying client who is going through a shitstorm of old emotions that should have been felt ages ago.
I’ve actually been on both sides of that awkwardly placed table that serves no other purpose than to put distance between us – and to have a place for the tissues.
I’ve been the crying client, about six bazillion times. And then more recently, as a life coach, I’ve been the wise (and I hope not so condescending) listener who knows that someday, soon, it will all be okay.
The reason I bring it up – and trust me I have a love/hate relationship with being one of those people – is that there is some truth to this saying.
The only way out is through.
Sometimes, the way we need to deal with an obstacle and move forward isn’t to go over, under, left, right, beside, between or beyond – it’s through. Because avoidance can only serve you for so long, and then you’ll break from the sheer pressure of pretending not to feel the debilitating pain…
…and possibly find yourself sobbing on the bathroom floor at 2 am, wondering what the heck is going on.
The problem, however, is of course that no one will tell you how to get through.
They’ll say you have to face it and deal with it and process it. They’ll be full of opinions about what you need to do in order to fix yourself. They’ll put labels on it, and problematize it, analyze it and medicate it.
But they’ll never tell you how to get through it.
How to face it. Feel it. And to survive it.
The reason is that there is no such thing as one recipe for how to get through. You’ll have to find your own way to access the feelings. And then, the battle starts all over again trying to find a way to walk into the fire and feel them without going completely nuts.
That’s why a finding your own way for how to get through will be the most important thing you will do for your healing.
Slowly, over the years, I have started feeling. And that’s where I am right now. In the process of going through. It’s a bittersweet endeavour, this feeling thing, bitter because it shouldn’t have been like this, and sweet because it won’t be like this any longer.
I think that’s what’s meant by going though. To come out, eventually, feeling differently about the whole thing – or maybe eventually be able to live with your story without feeling much about it at all.
In it’s clearest form, how to get through is about how to survive. It is also how to heal and to grow from the seeds left in the ashes of the painful fire that burns in us, even though we pretend to be inflammable.
To me, it means to fully feel, access and understand the complex feelings that surround the trauma I have been through and all the different things I struggle with on a day-to-day basis. It means to talk about the pain, the grief, the fear, the confusion and the ambivalence. But most of all, for me, making it through is about surviving and feeling the feelings without making it worse.
It means having a bad day and allowing it to be, without binge eating or restricting food.
It means to have a painful fight with someone and not act on the urge to harm myself in any shape or form.
I means waking up after a nightmare and get up in the morning and go on with my day.
It means accepting my feelings and not try to make them go away, or punish myself for having them.
It means self-love, self-care and most of all; self-compassion.
How I get through
I speak when there are words. And when the feelings can’t be spoken about, I write. Journal, blog, poems, notes – it doesn’t matter. Scribbles, handwritten, type. Facebook chats with my best friends. Trust and therapy.
When there are no words, there are soft cotton beds with white sheets. There are large mugs of revitalizing spicy tea and white knit wool socks. There are whole seasons full of other people’s drama on Netflix. And there is time to just be.
When there is no light, there is this board on Pinterest. And this. There is this playlist on Spotify. I listen to Jason Isbell and Sara Bareilles. There are good friends with soft beds, the best cooking skills and unlimited amounts of compassion.
When there is no energy, I cancel my plans. It has taken me years to accept that when there is nothing to give, there is nothing to give, period. It’s better to cancel plans than to push yourself beyond your limits. Long term, it will support you more. Always think long term.
For feeling the feelings, comfort is key. Reading David Whyte and Wayne Muller – over and over again. Burning sage and palo santo, lighting candles and wearing cashmere. Working from bed because it’s the only manageable way that day. Breathing. Deep.
When the thoughts are racing and anxiety is building, I walk. In the parks and in nature, it doesn’t matter. Or I do yoga. Sometimes only stretching softly helps to release the tension and shift the focus. There are long warm showers with essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus. There are days I can’t sit still and don’t feel like being around people, so I clean. Or I knit, just to keep my hands from shaking. And sometimes, I wander aimlessly around my own apartment, trying to shake off the ghost on my back that whispers toxic words into my mind.
When it’s all too much and I can’t take it anymore, I take all my duvets and quilts and pillows and make a big nest in my bed. Place myself in the middle, curled up in fetal position and listen to Devi Prayer by Craig Pruess and Ananda. It’s the closest I can get to non-existence while still being in this world, feeling like I am floating in soft clouds and losing time and space.
To soothe my sensitive soul, I dim the lights. And warm things calm me down, so I fill up my hot water bottle. Or drink tea. Or if I can, sit by the fire and connect with something larger than myself.
I write letters with myself, sometimes, as a way of accessing that wise woman in me, the one that knows it will all be okay. And I add a drop of lavender or amber oil on my wrists, so that I can can catch the scent of her, that woman I know I am on the inside, behind the layer of scarred skin and the armor I built in order to face the world.
How to get through is to find your own way of making the pain hurt a little less. It’s doing the things that make you sigh with relief. It’s about feeling the fiery feelings, but without burning out.
Getting through is to make the decision to love yourself no. matter. what.
It’s not easy. There will be plenty of times when you feel like doing the exact opposite of taking care of yourself. There will be moments in your healing where you will not find the strength to do the right things. There will be moments when nothing works.
Don’t give up.
Getting through is ultimately about choosing yourself over the self-critical thoughts that arise from pain.
And it’s about doing your best to care about yourself like you would care about a guest you love deeply.
It’s about loving yourself deeply.
And deeply feeling.
And feeling worthy.
Just because –
Got any good tips that I have’t thought about yet?
How do you get through?