TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide attempt, depression, anxiety
When things get complicated, it’s tough to believe that life could be happy again. Do you feel like you are riding an emotional rollercoaster? And you have a lot more down times than up?
I spent the first 30 years of my life feeling like I was destined to be miserable, overwhelmed, chronically ill, and stressed. Honestly, I didn’t know any different. Often, many women stay stuck in this pattern without realizing how to change it because you don’t know what you don’t know.
My pursuit of the American Dream lasted years. At every step, I thought I was getting closer to feeling that happiness (and wholeness) I craved. Yet, my achievements and milestones only brought short-lived satisfaction.
It felt like I was checking things off a checklist and moving on to the next thing. Nothing brought true happiness.
Deep down, I felt disappointed, sad, and lost… thinking, is this all there is? What is life really about? My mental health was never great, to begin with, and kept declining. On New Year’s Eve, 2013, I attempted to take my life and failed. I was hospitalized, and that’s when I truly started my road to healing. I am thankful I’m here to tell you the lessons I’ve learned.
Are you trying to figure out how to live a happier life? Do you dream of a day when you feel at peace and comfortable? Here are 5 things you should know:
1. That missing puzzle piece… you’re looking in the wrong place
Do you feel like a piece of you is missing? Something you can’t put your finger on? It’s you. The true you. Your true authentic self. You chase external accomplishments and validation to help fill in the gaps. But the truth is, your authentic self is dying to be seen, heard, and fulfilled.
Unfortunately, most children are raised to believe they are inherently flawed and learn to hide. This is because, as children, we strive to connect with our parents, so we learn to censor the behaviors our parents disapprove of. When caregivers are emotionally immature and/or abusive, it creates a cycle of self-deprecation which can lead to deep self-shame.
As you enter adulthood, you strive to feel fulfilled and live a life based on the censored self you have created. As long as you deny your true self, you will always feel like something is missing.
2. You are not alone
Many people struggle with being authentic because it means living vulnerable. Yet, science tells us that to feel happier, we must find a way to show up authentically. If you’ve suffered from trauma and abuse, this can feel terrifying. In relationships, we want to be liked and fear rejection, which can lead us to hide parts of ourselves.
Yet, here’s the painful irony of hiding your true self… A study in Psychological Science found that hiding one’s authentic self produces feelings of immorality and impurity.
How do you think this unfolds in a relationship (marriage, friendship, adult children with parents) where both individuals are not authentic? It leads to communication breakdown, pain, frustration, and so much more.
3. Healing is complex because you have so many layers to heal
If you’ve been working on healing, you know it’s not easy. Yet, maybe you are waiting for the tipping point because you think, someday, you’ll turn the corner and life will be “easy” or at least “easier.”
This was an intense lesson that I learned. Healing isn’t linear and can get worse before it gets better. Why? With each new healing level you enter, you bring new tools and wisdom. Your work last year made it possible for you to heal wounds today. You can’t force healing, it comes when you are ready.
4. Make a habit of looking at your progress
The year 2022 was one of the worst of my life, which says A LOT considering my past. I have been through the gamut of grief, loss, and abuse, and learning to be disabled after feeling like I had “healed so much” was something I never expected.
Fortunately, I found support through EMDR therapy, and my therapist taught me one of the most valuable lessons.
So often, we get hyper-focused on where we want to go. And we forget all the work it took to get exactly where we are now.
In 2022, I was diagnosed with CPTSD from childhood abuse and neglect. I had spent years suppressing memories and not addressing the pain of my childhood. And it all came boiling to the surface… and it nearly broke me. I was angry. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. I had worked so hard. My therapist said something that I’ll never forget…
“Your body couldn’t hold this in any longer. Your body knew it was time to deal with this.”
As you heal, remember on those hard days, look back on far you’ve come.
If you are interested in learning more about how childhood trauma might be impacted you, I highly recommend this blog article. How childhood trauma makes you feel alone, isolated and misunderstood.