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12: From Broken to Changed

Episode 12: From Broken to Changed

I had an experience as a teenager that felt like I was broken emotionally. I became super sensitive after that experience, and I couldn’t handle any joking, teasing, anything like that. Justin and I had the discussion many times, and he couldn’t understand why I would get so upset when he tried to tease me or anything of the sort.

I felt fragile. I ran from conflict. If a relationship became strained or broken, I just left it instead of trying to fix it. I didn’t want to talk about the hard things. Probably like many of you, I didn’t think it was possible to live if something were to happen to anyone I loved. I had never experienced a loss of anyone close to me yet. I had not experienced deep grief over the death of someone I loved.

Then Aria died. And I had to learn what I was really made of. This was a catalyst for learning how to face my emotions, lean into my emotions, and taking responsibility for my life in a way I never had before. These lessons I’ve learned from grief, and from Aria, have made me into a changed person today. I don’t really want to say stronger, but I do feel stronger emotionally. I would take Aria back in a heartbeat, and I’m sad I had to say goodbye to her in order to begin learning these lessons.

Here are three things that have changed the way I view the world and how I try to show up. These things have given me emotional strength, or emotional fitness. Where I do not feel like I will shatter at the drop of the hat. Is this age? I do not know. I am pretty young still, and sometimes the trials we have in our lives teach us lessons that help us gain a new perspective.

I learned that I am the only one who I can control. I cannot control my husband, I cannot control my kids, I cannot control the way anyone acts around me. The only person I can change or take action from is myself. I am the only one who can do the work. I am the only one who can say sorry. I do not need to wait for others to do it.

It is so easy to slip back into old habits of stewing in anger, and ruminating thoughts of it’s all the other person’s fault. But I keep reaching for compassion and trying to understand where the other person is coming from.(usually my husband).

If I am frustrated with how something is going, it’s up to me to take action to change it. If I am frustrated with something, I do something about it. Anger comes up often with grief. And I’ve learned that this anger comes from the loss of control. The loss of the reality of control in our lives. This anger can easily turn to bitterness and become a normal habit in our lives, if we do not actively work to process it, doing things to expend the high energy of anger from our bodies.

The other thing I take responsibility for is how my actions affected someone else. If I am having a difficult conversation, I want to take responsibility for how my actions hurt them, or what my part in the conflict has been. This does not mean taking responsibility when you don’t need to, but truly getting honest with yourself, with how you are acting, and setting boundaries as well.

This takes a lot of self reflection, digging deep into who you are, and getting super honest with yourself. What are your strengths? What things are a struggle for you? And accepting them as truth in a compassionate way rather than beating yourself up for it. Then working to do better.

We are an over-medicated society. I get scared to say that because so many people rely on medications and use them daily to function. I want to begin with this. I’m thankful there are medications out there that help people function. I am thankful for medications that are necessary in many people’s lives. I am not shaming the use of medication if you have made the decision that it’s something you need. I really believe though, that we jump so quickly to medications over exploring other options. When we go to the doctor, that is all they offer, instead of so many other ways, and more lasting ways to help.

I want to offer this. How have medications become the immediate thing to reach for as soon as something difficult happens in our lives? When we have a hard time coping, it’s immediately for medications. These medications can not only be prescribed medications from a doctor, but also drinking, drugs, eating. Anything that numbs and eases the pain for a little bit.

When we reach so quickly for numbing with whatever source we use, we are saying we should not feel a certain way. When we reach so quickly for numbing, we are saying what we are experiencing is bad. And I want to say, your experience, your emotions, they are not bad. They are not awful. Yes, they can make some days incredibly difficult. If we never had difficult days we wouldn’t be able to have amazing days. When we numb the pain, we are just pushing the can down the road, instead of moving into and through the pain.

I’ve often wondered how many addictions come from not wanting to feel pain. How many addictions come from numbing an emotion or feeling that feels hard to handle. Then you try to stop, and those feelings and emotions come back magnified, because you haven’t felt them, now you know you can do something to numb it, so you can go back to the numbing. It’s a vicious cycle that is hard to break. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do.

I know this pain is incredible, and falling into a numbed state would be the easy way to go. But going this route does not lead to a happy and joy filled life. Why? Not only because it’s risking becoming addicted to whatever is being used to numb the feelings, but it’s also not allowing you be to actively grieve and work through your emotions. Instead, it’s shoving them under the water, like you might try to hold a beach ball under the water, and eventually it will pop up under enough pressure.

I know from my experience that it’s possible to lean into the pain. That by leaning into the pain, and experiencing it, it softens and changes. By allowing it to be, you slowly grow and change. When I shared at the beginning, before Aria died, I felt very fragile emotionally. After Aria died, I was even more fragile. But I just leaned into the pain. I did the grief work. I keep doing the grief work. I am not done. Every day, I do things to support myself emotionally, and sometimes, that is just acknowledging that where I’m at is okay, even if it is not fun. Even if I’m in a hard season, that I can be here and that’s okay. All the while, working at ways to support myself and care for myself in a hard season.

Now, I can say that I feel a lot stronger emotionally. I do not feel like I will shatter over every little thing. Do I want to have another person die close to me? No, I really don’t. When I worried about it to my therapist, he reminded me that I have made it this far. I have gotten to where I am now. If it happens again, I will get through again, the same way. I am still here, still surviving. 

So, I want to encourage you to not label emotions as good or bad. We are always reaching for happiness 100% of the time, yet if we allow ourselves to be happy 50% of the time, and feel all the other things 50% of the time, it’s a much more beautiful life, because we are not fighting the other 50% of the time to be happy when it’s not realistic to always be happy. There are hard things and life, and we need tools to face them and deal with them.

By learning to lean into my pain, and taking responsibility for my life and my actions, I have changed in so many ways. Some ways better than others. But I know that having the skills to learn to face my emotions, and have a stronger sense of who I am, and who I am not, has helped me become more of who I am today.

So, I encourage you to try this out. What can you do to take responsibility for in your life? Instead of blaming everyone else, look inside of you. What ways can you face the pain that is in your life, instead of running from it? It’s hard and messy work. But it leads to a beautiful and fulfilling life.