by Cailin O'Hara, MAcOM, LAc, Dipl OM
Maybe you need to hear this in just this way right now. Some things that happen feel impossible to accept and find peace in. But that doesn’t mean you have to harbor it forever, stuck in the misery of it.
How can you find some relief?
How can you take the edge off of the searing pain so that you can breathe, sleep, eat, function?
Sometimes the emotional pain is so intense, you feel like you can’t go anywhere near it... it seems like if you do, it will swallow you whole.
It’s a pain that keeps on giving.
There is the initial event that caused it and then the countless ways it unfolds into new levels of pain afterward.
How can you get through this? What does it even mean to get through it?
First of all, you can trust in the process of avoidance initially because it does serve you. It's ok to check out. You can’t expect yourself to accept what feels unacceptable, unimaginable, incomprehensible.
One way to work with avoidance is to embrace it.
This actually helps you become just a bit more present, a bit more HERE, a bit less likely to check out indefinitely. Give yourself space.
The issue is when we check out so hard, dissociate, detach and aren’t engaging with our life at all. It's when we can’t find our way out of avoidance, when we're controlled by it, driven to drink, eat, overwork... anything to avoid how we feel.
You don’t have to force yourself to accept what happened when you aren’t ready for that.
One way I’ve found helpful is to instead accept how it makes you feel.
An easier way in to the pain of it, to facing it, is to be with how you feel right here, right now.
“I feel weak, despondent, disconnected, isolated, heavy, enraged, dead inside…”
Whatever it is, just identify what it is that you feel.
And then let yourself feel it. Let it be OK to have your feelings.
You may then notice a separation- there is the you that is grieving, in pain, and there is the you that is observing that part of you.
This can be a very comforting experience. You see that you are not your pain. You never will be. It is part of you, but not all of you.
It’s like calling a petal a rose. It’s never rose, but it’s part of it.
Your pain is one aspect, and when you can observe it as a part of you, give space for it, sit with it, stop running from it… it softens, it thanks you for being with it, it turns out to be like a crying child that all along really just needed to be held.
You don't need to make sense of the pain, the trauma, the loss right now. Your feelings just need you to witness them, to hold compassionate space for them. So offer this to yourself.
Accept yourself in your pain.
You need it.
by Cailin O'Hara, MAcOM, LAc, Dipl OM
It hits you. You don’t know how long it’s been developing.
You’ve been sinking, emotionally, and you’re less and less able to surface.
You feel a heaviness, like you’re living in a fog.
You keep crying or you can’t seem to cry at all.
No amount of talking about it makes you feel better.
You don’t know what to do, and maybe you can’t even find the energy to try.
It’s oppressive. It’s overwhelming. It haunts you. You can’t shake it.
The thoughts swarm, and they’re all defeating you; they’re negative; a barrage of “what’s the point?” or “I can’t take this anymore” or “no one understands.”
Depression doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.
It doesn’t mean you’re any less worthy or capable than anyone else.
It’s not necessarily a disease plaguing your brain, either.
YOU ARE HAVING FEELINGS. YOU ARE REACTING TO LIFE.
STEP ONE: ACCEPT THAT.
Whew. Now that the truth has been dropped, let’s keep going…
There is this stigma against being sad, angry or in despair. It’s as if it’s not ok to feel awful. That’s the first problem. Judging these valid emotions as wrong or bad is the starting point to a downward spiral.
Here’s the thing. You’re entitled to feel HOWEVER you feel. Don’t shame yourself. And don’t take it personally if other people shame you, either. They’re just doing the best they can from their frame of mind. And people can be judge-y as F, you know.
Forgive them, keep going.
Depression gets tricky. It’s very convincing, not to mention dreadfully heavy. It pulls you down. It changes how you see everything. The negative thoughts go on and on, one cascade after another, feeding off of each other, until you feel so awful, so wholly inconsolable, that you feel utterly lost.
How can you climb out of this?
First of all, YOU CAN. I promise you that. I have. You can. You may have to more than once, and that’s ok. Keep going. We are SUCH a resilient species! We have no concept of the massive power we possess. Even if you tap into 5% of that power, it’s enough to get you out of the darkness. How? Because each move you make, each negative thought you challenge, each step you take toward feeling better gets you closer and closer to the relief and true peace you seek.
I can only share with you what has helped me and my patients. But remember, we are all different. We all need an approach that fits us uniquely. SO, start by feeling for what it is that YOU need. There are so many people out here, including me, waiting for you to show up seeking help. But you have come find us.
When I was 13, I was in a downward spiral no one could stop. Really. Thankfully, when it was just about too late, I found the help I needed (let's call it divine intervention), and it woke me up to that 5% of my power. I never felt that low again. I saved myself, and it was just the beginning of my journey to feeling whole and happy. I can report to you that decades later, I continue to discover greater happiness and wholeness.
No one will advocate for you like you can. No one knows what you need. Only you do. Somewhere inside, you intuitively know what you need. You HAVE to follow that. Sometimes it means you need to make a HUGE change, like move to a new state, get a new job, leave a relationship, travel. Sometimes it means you make a lot of little changes until your life totally transforms, like taking up meditation, weekly therapy sessions, joining a group, etc. Maybe you need to do both of those things.
You must change that negative spiral frame of mind that seeps in like poison, though. The best way to do that is to GET a different perspective. Literally. GO get it. The best way to do that is to ASK for it. Meditation can help you find it. Prayer can. Going for a drive can. Reading a book on the topic can (books have changed my life, my health and my mind for the better pretty epically). The way you are currently seeing things is just ONE way. You can see them differently.
As the brilliant late Dr. Wayne Dyer said:
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
So, climb out of the hole. Look for any glimmer of light and follow it. You may feel like a speck in this world, but we are ALL connected, we are ALL powerful, and we ALL have INCREDIBLE gifts to offer one another. We need yours.
As you allow yourself to enter your winters, you will come to find that they will eventually lead you into the light, beauty and rebirth of a new season of spring.
Interested in working with Cailin?
The Journey of Becoming
“Not a perfect soul, I am perfecting. Not a human being, I am a human becoming.”
When you’re feeling well, you can participate in life, follow your ambitions, you name it. When you’re not feeling well, it can become a struggle to live the life you want to live. And if you're not feeling well, you probably have some kind of diagnosis that is to blame... anxiety, depression, fatigue, hypothyroidism, IBS, heart disease, fibromyalgia, degenerative disk disease, arthritis... the list goes on and on and on.
I believe this is a very important concept to consider when you’re on any kind of healing journey. As the quote above describes, we are in a process of becoming. You weren’t who you were last year. You aren’t who you will become. And this, of course, also pertains to your health.
So why can a diagnosis become a problem?
Let's look at how the journey from well to unwell often unfolds:
Each of these diagnoses has a certain set of symptoms and diagnostic criteria; each has a specified treatment protocol; and each has a projected treatment outcome. Some diagnoses are relatively easy to treat, but many are not with conventional medicine. Why? Because everyone is different! The cause and effect process that creates disease and symptoms is an intricate web, and it can be challenging to sort out specifics and find answers.
What are your diagnoses? How do they make you feel about yourself?
1) Diagnoses can feel depressing. Your life has become limited in some way. Your relationships may be impacted. Your future may begin to look different. The treatments available may be limited or risky.
2) Diagnoses can feel overwhelming. You develop countless questions and some will never have answers. You undergo extensive tests and/or have to take a number of pharmaceuticals. It is hard to understand what is happening and how to “fix” it.
3) Diagnoses can feel disempowering. “How did this happen? How can I help myself?” We can wind up feeling like a victim of our physiology or life experiences that co-created our disease/illness/symptomatology.
And this is just to name a few.
But I approach any diagnosis in a different way...
Why You Are Not Your Diagnosis
Principle #2: There is no singular pathway to healing. The road is up and down and winding, full of unexpected turns. As you embark on a healing journey, you learn that there is much more to you than your diagnosis and that there are many avenues to explore to help you heal.
Principle #3: Healing is not one-size-fits-all. We all have differences in our physiology and psychology that influence how we respond physically, mentally and emotionally. (Standard treatments for diagnoses generally don't take these differences into account, and thus, you may not feel better.) If you learn what makes you unique, you will discover that you are much more complex than any diagnosis... and that within those complexities lies your innate ability to heal.
Your being is constantly adapting and evolving. Whatever your diagnosis may be, it is what is happening at this current moment in time. And if you are in a constant state of change, a state that is influenced by just about everything, then the argument is that you are not your diagnosis. Who you are now is not who you were a year ago, and thus, it is not who you will be in a year.
Be your own source of hope on your healing journey.
You are not a victim of your physiology.
You are not your diagnosis.
You are an ever-changing being on an ever-changing path of becoming.
Keep going. Keep searching for answers.
In time you will find that hidden within your symptoms and struggles are the very answers you seek.
Interested in working with Cailin?
Your first consultation is free.
Dr. Cailin O'Hara, DACM, LAc, Dipl OM, is a nationally board certified Doctor of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, herbalist and coach. She is based in Phoenix, AZ.
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