So, I've talked about what the last couple of years were like for me before, and have mentioned my recent divorce here on this blog. It's strange to think that it's been a year that the "official" end of my marriage was finalized on paper a year ago.
But I'm finding that it's helpful for me to look back even further than my marriage, and when I revisit what the last 10 or so years were like for me, I can see that I've made a few *really* big changes, besides a divorce. I've changed careers, moved several times, and my credit rating has been all over the place. I've said goodbyes, made a lot of introductions, and tried a LOT of new things.
All of that moving, shifting, and discovering has resulted in where I'm at today.
I could sound optimistic and call this kind of growth an act of "rebuilding" or "discovering myself." And yes, while I've done a lot of work to uncover and get to the root of who I am and who I want to be, it would be dismissive to just call it all some kind of cheery self-discovery exercise.
Some of the last few years have been self-destructive. Some of it got ugly. Some of it was scary and dark, and involved weekly panic attacks that kept me up in tears, alone and wondering how I'd get through the next day.
Any kind of change that we go through can be scary. It's not just insensitive to advise someone to "power through" or "buck up" when they're in the middle of something like ending a relationship or getting a promotion -- it's ignorant. To be dismissive of how hard change really is on a person ignores one of the most important aspects of getting through that change -- and that's the aspect of self-compassion.
I'm not talking about self-pity here -- the kind of pity/remorse than prevents change and growth. I'm talking about self-compassion -- the same sort of generous love that you'd give others while they were undergoing some kind of transition.
When we change, we're screwing with our identity a little bit. How we defined ourselves before might be tweaked just a bit when we, say, move out of our childhood home or start dating someone new. Yes, we're ultimately the same person, and perhaps we're just discovering another part of our personality that we hadn't explored fully before.
What I'm getting at is that change isn't to be taken lightly.
Having gone through so many changes these last few years, I got used to picking up and moving on, and I ignored my own signs of burn out. I found myself at what I consider to be "rock bottom." And while I'm sure my situation could be far worse (it could be), I'm glad that I'm able to recognize now what kinds of things I need to get me through the darker times. Even when it's really dark.
So maybe some of these things will help you, too. <3 Which is why I'm sharing them now.
- Let people know you're in a bad place. Shrugging off your pain/discomfort doesn't help you, and will also indicate to folks that you're not 100%. It can help to set expectations, and gives them an opportunity to practice kindness. Or to back off, if that's what you need. Communicating that you're not doing awesome is WHAT ADULTS DO AND IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS. I'm not sure how loudly I need to shout that, but yeah -- admitting that you're not an Instagram-perfect version of yourself is honest and real. And it's badass.
- Tell your loved ones what you're going through. Allow others to support you. I try to schedule calls with my best friend, Raquel, because she ALWAYS has insight into things and can tell me how much better I'm doing than I think. She makes me feel like myself again. So do my siblings, and having them closer to me these days has made a HUGE difference.
- Practice self-care, in some way, every day. I'M SERIOUS. I know I've talked about it before, and it's something I have to remind myself of often (like all the time). Find something that strengthens you or eases you back into yourself. Some of my tried-and-true self-care practices include: walking, taking a hot bath/shower, going for a drive, texting someone I love, making a list of gratitudes, journaling, 20 minutes of easy yoga, meditation, drawing, etc. Just pick one thing. Try it out. Do you feel better? Great! Do it again tomorrow.
- Try something you're scared of that you haven't done before. It can be something small, like starting a conversation with someone you see regularly at the coffeeshop but never talk to, writing a poem, or cooking a new meal. What happens is that you'll prove to yourself that you can overcome obstacles, no matter how small they might seem. This builds on itself, this sort of self-improvement. You'll get braver, so watch out.
- Take a good look at how you're spending your time. Cut out the things that eat away at your personal time -- for me, I can waste 30 minutes on Facebook without realizing it, and could be using that time for something better, like listening to my favorite songs and writing or drawing. Which is so much better for my brain than scrolling through political bullshit and arguments that shouldn't be typed out in a little comment box.
- Forgive yourself. This is a hard one, and I'm still trying to understand it myself I know how to forgive other people. But forgiving myself -- and I need to, because I've done some shitty things (both to myself and others) -- seems so abstract and backwards and strange. But it starts with understanding, that much I know. And when I can understand why I did the things that I did, I can work on loving myself despite acting shitty sometimes. The shitty things I've done don't make me a shitty person -- and I think understanding that is part of forgiveness. That's what it looks like for me so far, at least.
- Laugh. My family and friends will tell you how I laugh all the time, and there's a reason. It feels great. I enjoy it. I find things that will make me laugh, and relish in letting go and guffawing all too loudly. I highly recommend it. Laughing when times are hard and when it's dark/gloomy mean you're bigger and louder than what's swirling around you.
Because you ARE bigger and louder and more glorious than what is suffocating you. Laugh and feel solid and know you'll get through it. Even if getting through it is just getting through the rest of the day, you're doing it.