March Newsletter: How do you want to feel?

Choices

Happy to report I just hit SEND and the March newsletter is winging it’s way from my corner of the cyber universe to yours!

This month I am breaking things down to their essence, the simplest denomination of action, the core of living well with estrangement (or any other life issue).
How do you want to feel?

Happy reading to you all and best wishes for a stellar April!

Healing: It’s Not Just About or For Us

“Sometimes people hurt more than they can handle… And sometimes they don’t know how to ask for help. They’re so caught up in their own pain, they end up hurting everyone around them.”
― Rebecca Donovan

I don’t often talk of my own experiences of being estranged but I am going to share a little bit about what eventually made me “seek support” to illustrate some of the things I have been talking about across my last set of posts.

There are two main themes to this post:

1- sustaining emotional or psychological injury is not a character flaw and we should be able to talk about those things openly without fear of being stigmatized.

2 – not prioritizing the healing of those sorts of injuries doesn’t just hurt us, it hurts other people too, often people we love and care about, like our partners or our kids.

Let me share a little of my experience

At the times I was seeking professional support, I was usually embroiled in “yet another” family drama that had knocked me from my center and undermined my ability to feel safe in the world. I was usually emotionally heightened and struggled to regulate my emotional state – this is to say, when I was sad, I was  absolutely bereft, when I felt angry, I wasn’t ‘a little ticked off’, I was “furious”.

Just thinking about estrangement made my feelings bigger than mountains, and deeper than oceans.

It’s hard to be “in the world”, resourceful and resilient, connected and engaged, when your thoughts and feelings are so powerfully overwhelming . I withdrew from my social supports and often felt a pervasive sense of powerlessness and hopelessness that was really hard on my mental and emotional health.  I found it very hard to trust anything or anyone. My recurring preoccupation {sometimes it wasn’t a problem, but when it was a problem, it was a BIG problem} with my family circumstances, meant I had very little time, energy {or even interest}, to put back into other things in my life, really important things. This of course, took toll on my relationships.

I intuitively recognized that if I didn’t do my work, I wasn’t only going to hurt myself, there would be further collateral damage, a ripple effect {or occasional Tsunami} across all my relationships.

We don’t just seek support for ourselves,  we seek support so we don’t pull others into our suffering, so we don’t continue a legacy of disconnection and pain or don’t create a new one.

When we are feeling vulnerable we often cannot see the forest for the trees. We lack objective awareness about what is happening to us and very often don’t understand why we feel so overwhelmed and powerless. We might be beating ourselves up for feeling “out of control” or feeling like we “just can’t cope”. It is also very difficult to have the perspective to see how our suffering is impacting upon our wider lives, relationships and the decisions and choices we make. Everything seems so random.

It can be difficult to be objective enough to know we don’t have the emotional or psychological resilience or reserves to create safety and structure for ourselves. It’s nearly impossible to pull ourselves forward, when we are drowning in our emotions and being assaulted by ongoing drama and dysfunction. It’s also very difficult to see how our thoughts, feelings and behaviour are impacting others. {Sadly, it can be really hard to even care about the collateral damage on other people and relationships when we can’t get our own heads above water to breathe.}

There is no shame in vulnerability

I’ve been mentioning the difficulty many people have with seeking help for emotional or psychological injury. We really do ourselves and each other no favours from this place.

We are not ashamed to freely tell people we broke our leg, or had a heart attack. We’ll tell  our doctor about our sore throats, vomiting, and strange rashes but but very few of us will share the symptoms of the emotional and psychological injuries we’ve sustained.

We might not feel comfortable talking about those things because there is stigma attached to them. If I am depressed maybe estrangement is my fault? If I am having issues managing my anger, what does that say about me? If I cannot will myself to get out of bed, does that mean I am a total loser and deserved to be estranged from? If I feel or think too much {or not at all}, does it mean I have a “mental health problem”? If I do have a mental health problem, does that mean estrangement is my fault?

It’s a little sickening to realize we live in a culture that stigmatizes people for being hurt. It’s a harsh world when we cannot acknowledge suffering unless it bleeds. Its a worry when as  a culture or society, we are quick to dismiss others with a string of mental health labels, while covering up our own emotional and psychological wounds.

These are not character flaws or personal weaknesses any more than a broken leg is

Seeking professional support around estrangement issues is no different than seeking help for any emotional or psychological problem. The array of mental health “symptoms” people who are estranged may experience include things like: depression, anxiety, obsessive or compulsive thoughts / behaviour, chronic grief, post-traumatic stress disorder and impulse and addiction disorders. We often struggle with emotional regulation and may feel at the mercy of our powerful feelings. Many of us encounter significant issues in our wider relationships – because lets face it, when primal trust has been broken, of course there will be consequences!

Dealing with estrangement {the before, during and after} can be exhausting on every level and because the issues don’t generally “get fixed and go away.” We can feel bombarded by triggers that feel like they take us back to square one, over and over again. Many of us will deal with all of that in isolation.

I’ll leave you with one last metaphor

If we had a broken leg, how long would it take before we got help? Would we sit around for 6 weeks, or 6 months or 6 years wishing and waiting for it to get better on it’s own, all the while trying to cover our pain, and making sure no one notices we’re limping? Would we tell our friends and families that we didn’t want to hear any discussion of our broken leg or choice to “tough it out”?

If we had an abscessed tooth, how long would we put up with the pain? Too long and we risk not only losing a tooth, but even worse, septicemia or blood poisoning.  Would we try to pull that tooth ourselves? Would we expect those closest to us to somehow make the toothache go away? Would we be able to give our best to anything, whilst coping with the agonizing pain of our  abscessed tooth? Would we expect ourselves to be at the top of our game?

If we had either of these problems, would we expect people to unconditionally support us to suffer? Would we want them to encourage us to “tough it out” or would we want them to encourage us to take care of the hurt? Would we expect others to deal with our suffering, our limping and endless pain? Would we cover up the suffering and try to trudge on, or would we do whatever was necessary to get better?

Some things to ponder.