When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story we can write a brave new ending.Brené Brown
Why is healing so hard? If you have been working to heal, it can often feel even harder than “before” as you encounter all the things that get in the way. The journey to having and living a life of healing and wholeness isn’t always an easy well-paved path before you. It can often feel overwhelming and discouraging. You just want to feel better. You picture this version of your life and yourself without all these trauma responses, anxiety, and symptoms but it feels like an uphill battle many days. Why does it feel so hard?
Owning and doing the hard work of healing will change your life. It’s worth it, YOU are worth it. But it isn’t always a quick easy before and after. No one’s journey looks exactly the same. I went through a long season where I felt stuck. I had done therapy and was by all means functional. And by functional I mean that on the outside everything looked mostly normal. But, inside the anxiety and people-pleasing was crippling me.
I constantly felt like I was walking around numb and in a fog. Most of the time, I had a hard time feeling or being truly connected to people, myself especially. Again, I thought therapy may be my only option, but it didn’t feel like what I needed. Finding books, life coaching, and self-healing practices are what I needed. I was a new mom and while this new “season” of healing was hard, it was the best thing I ever did for not just me but my entire family. I’m in a place in life now where I feel whole. My past and traumas no longer inform the way I think, feel, act, and connect to the world around me and myself.
Are you more attached to your healing, or your trauma?@themotherhoodmentor
For most of my healing journey the biggest thing that kept me stuck (what made healing so hard) was my devotion to my traumas. To move forward and get unstuck, we often must be willing to become aware of and sometimes revisit our most painful moments and the memories and wounds they leave. But often, we spend so much of our time and energy trying to validate the wounds, keeping them open. We hyper-focus on the symptoms of what’s wrong with us, instead of redefining our identity and worth.
Once I moved from a trauma-focused journey to moving into health, healing, and wholeness; I started to not only see but FEEL different. I saw massive change not just in the way I was showing up in my life, but the way I experienced my life. As a life coach, I now get to teach other women these patterns and help them in their journeys. Healing is hard, but there are many ways we often make it harder and heavier.
5 Pitfalls That Kept Me Stuck and Made Healing Even Harder
1. I Went Digging.
There is a time in most people’s healing journeys where we start to look to the past to figure out what’s “wrong with us”? A big part of owning our stories and healing the past is becoming aware of not just the experiences we went through but how they continue to impact and affect us today. Often times this can become overwhelming as we begin to hyper-focus on the past. Part of this is often normal and healthy and often a good part of your journey to walk through with a therapist. I had done some of that work, but as a new mom, many of those traumas were resurfacing in my mind, body, and soul.
I Started Digging Into Myself and My Story With a Sharp Shovel and Wouldn’t Ya Know, It HURT LIKE HELL.
When a memory or sensation would come up I would chase it down. It was exhausting and often ended up triggering me even more and took me back to feeling completely unsafe in my own skin. It felt violent and damaging to my soul, but I was desperate to figure out “what was wrong with me.” I felt so broken, again, and felt desperate to find a way to fix myself.
I realize and see now I didn’t have to dig. You can just allow it. I opened my hands and my heart and my body and was willing to experience whatever bubbled up. It felt much less dramatic, painful, and overwhelming. Imagine you want to get stronger physically so you walk into a gym and find all the heaviest weights you can, load them on the bar and then try to lift them. Not going to work, right?
But now imagine walking in the same room and finding a weight that feels heavy, but not too heavy and pick it up. Then put it down. Then pick it up. This approach to my healing felt so much better than the digging and intense seeking out my wounds. I became more patient and gentle with myself. Life itself presents us with moment after moment that can heal us or continue to hurt us or others. So, instead of digging, I began to allow the everyday little moments in my life to become moments that healed. I allowed those constant triggers to teach me something and to heal.
Staying open to my experience and what it was revealing from the past and showing up to how I wanted to see the present and past healed was enough. No violent shovel required.
2. I Punished Myself, Making Hard Healing Even Harder.
Joy is allowed. Today, right in this moment joy is everywhere.
The problem many of us face when we decide we want to heal, is that we make ourselves into a project that must be finished instead of a human wanting to feel whole and alive.
What I wanted more than anything in the world was to finally FEEL GOOD. But I often punished myself. I never thought of this way or saw it like that but looking back, I was continuing to cause myself to suffer. It became habit to unconsciously walk around trying to prove my brokenness instead of finding my wholeness. I made joy, peace, pleasure, connection, confidence this thing I would earn and deserve once I was better. Chasing wholeness was exhausting. That changed when I starting affirming the ways I was deserving and capable of those things in that very moment. I took the hard past and made it even harder with the way I talked down to myself, judged and shamed myself, and kept myself from the very things that I needed to heal.
Worthy Now, Not If or When.
Changing THAT belief was the switch that got me unstuck. Flipping the switch from trying to earn and chase my joy, peace, and wholeness to CLAIMING and fighting for it like it already belonged to me. It is your birthright.
3. I Gave Away My Authority and Agency in Healing the Hard.
It may not have been your fault, but it’s now your responsibility.
I lived in a victim mentality long after I was a victim. I was so focused on blame and shame, hyper-focusing on the problems the past caused me. It wasn’t just what had happened in the past but the aftershocks and effects I saw in my everyday life. It was the way it fogged and crept into what should have been. Part of my hard healing was coping not just with the past but what could have been.
I was preached to over and over about forgiveness. I just needed to forgive the abuser. Actually, what I needed was to feel and then process my anger and grief. I needed to be angry and wake up to the ways this trauma was stealing not just my past but my present and my future. But for years I listened to others, and not myself about what I needed. I waited for someone to save me the way I believed someone broke me. Marriage, and then motherhood was what I thought would make me whole and then when they didn’t, it made me question if I was doomed to feel broken.
That’s when I took my authority and agency back. I started listening to and honoring what I wanted and needed. Looking inside me and seeing that the depths of my healing were just for me and God to do. I started taking captive my thinking. Changing my thinking and changing my actions. Agency meant bringing all my systems back online and working together. My mind/ thoughts, my spirit, and my body. Befriending myself gave me the power to actually change things. One of the most powerful ways to reclaiming your authority and agency is to learn, practice, and honor boundaries. Boundaries are your way of mentally, emotionally, and physically taking back and owning your space, results, and life.
4. I Tried To Do It Alone.
The hard part of being an over-functioner is that many people don’t see your hard. On the outside, I had this bright beautiful life, but on the inside I still felt and smelled like the crap I had walked through. We often get too good at helping, faking, and people-pleasing our way into connection, wanting desperately to belong.
In that season before getting unstuck, I only let people see the version of me I wanted them to, not the real me. I was terrified and truly believed that if people really knew they wouldn’t love me. It left me stuck in a cycle of too much and never good enough. I felt so alone in my stories and shame. Others would never understand not just what I went through but what it felt like and how it was still impacting me. I needed to just get over it, but I wasn’t over it.
Time and time again I sat at tables with women who looked and sounded like they had it all together while it felt like I was falling apart. Finally, one day, someone saw me. She asked me some questions, and for the first time, maybe in my whole life outside the therapy room I didn’t just tell her what had happened, I told her how I felt. I told her the truth about what I was experiencing. I shared fears and vulnerabilities I had never opened to anyone before. And she saw me. She held me, she listened.
That began a season where I found people in my life that felt safe. I found an online coaching group. I found mentors and friends who were real and raw and honest. And I started to tell the truth and ask for help. I started letting my husband in, my family, and some friends. It wasn’t an easy part of the journey. It was terrifying. But everything felt scarier in the dark.
Bringing things into safe light made them easier to heal from. Having help and support made it lighter. I wasn’t journeying alone. When I got stuck, I had people who could see the way forward.
5. Direction Over Perfection.
Like many people, I started diving into books, podcasts, and tools for healing through the hard. But oftentimes, I’d take those tools and use them for harm. I would beat myself up when I didn’t measure up. When I didn’t set boundaries or ask for help, I’d spiral into my old beliefs of being broken. When I parented from fear or my ego, I’d feel like my girl deserved better. I’d face a hard day or season and feel like it was all a broken sham.
The very tools that could help heal me, I sometimes used as ways to measure my brokenness. It gets tiring to constantly chase and dig. Replacing old trauma responses with perfectionism and trying to be good weren’t doing me or my life any favors. It’s like when I began to heal I was learning these new steps in a dance class. I’d learn the steps and work so hard to get them “right”. But at the end of the day, it only became a new performance. So I stopped performing and learned to dance. I stopped trying to get it right and I started to honor whatever was healthy. I moved in the right direction. Crawling became an acceptable pace. Some days I didn’t expect progress – just not backsliding. This journey was hard enough, but as long as I kept going it always felt worth it.
There is a Past Version of You That is So Proud of How Far You Have Come! Keep Going.
You are worth it and you are worth all the work and discomfort of healing. You deserve a good life you love. It may not always be an easy life, but it will be a good one.
A great place to start your healing journey is finding support (remember without giving away YOUR authority and agency). Support can look like a lot of different things. For example, coaching, therapy, doctor or psychologist, reading books, podcasts, support groups, church groups, recovery groups, etc. Try some out. Give yourself permission to make this a journey and a life of healing, not a before and after project. Find leaders who are having brave honest and kind conversations.
A few resources I will always recommend on your path to healing- Brené Brown (https://brenebrown.com/podcasts/) , Dr. Caroline Leaf (https://drleaf.com/collections/all), and Dr. Nicole LePera https://theholisticpsychologist.com/. If you want to connect you can find me on IG @themotherhoodmentor.
Need help with boundaries on your healing journey? This blog was so great: https://thewespot.com/7-tips-to-set-healthy-boundaries-with-our-relationships/.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, its employees, sponsors, or affiliates.