Do the work!
Healing ain’t easy and it sure ain't pretty but the results are life changing!
After my divorce I really struggled with my emotions. I was trying to balance life, work, finances, the house, being there for my kids all while trying to process my emotions. I remember when I started therapy, I was very eager to “do the work”.
The first few sessions I just shared everything. I wanted to get her up to speed on all the things that had happened in my life so we could “get to work.” A few months in a got frustrated and asked when the work was going to start. I thought there would be a check list or a work book. Like school or a job, I expected there to be assignments or something physical that I had to do and I was ready.
That’s when she explained to me that “the work” looks different for everyone and will change depending on where I am in my healing process. A big part of my work was giving my self-permission to the feel the emotions I tried to ignore for years. What I had actually learned was how to turn off my emotions or ignore them all together. They were there I just didn’t let them out. There were several sessions that I would sob and talk for hours, literally hours. It felt good to tell someone things I had never said out loud. Things that I had carried inside of me for years.
Since I struggled with depression, I was afraid to feel my emotions but what I didn’t realize that’s what fed my depression worse. I would be sad and stuck in the bed over the things no one knew. Having no desire to get up and participate in life. Once my children started staying away for the night or weekend, I found myself alone not knowing what to do. When they were home, I had a reason to get up and handle things but with them gone I would just sleep. Sleeping was a huge part of how I dealt with overwhelming emotions. Although that is a healthier option than self-destructive behaviors like drugs or alcohol, it still wasn’t healthy and there was no real healing in that. I was still avoiding the emotions.
I began giving myself permission to be sad. I would give myself 24 hours to do whatever (within reason) I needed to do to feel better. I would literally plan my Friday nights as my nights to be sad and to feel my emotions. I would plan things like bubble baths with candles and sad country music, or power cleaning with my favorite music blaring through the house while dancing in my kitchen, binge watching a TV show while eating ice cream for dinner, taking a drive at sunset with the music up and the windows down. I would always allow myself to feel whatever emotions came up. I cried a lot, sometimes I would scream and often I did both. It wasn’t pretty and I didn’t want anyone around me while doing this.
What I noticed was I typically didn’t need 24 hours. After a few hours of showing myself grace and giving myself the space and permission to feel all the things, I found myself to be ok. Each time I needed less and less time and eventually it turned into me doing things that made me happy rather than feeling sad. Do I still have moments of sadness? ABSOLUTLEY! But that is normal. We are supposed to have emotions; it’s how we express them or don’t express them that can be the issue.
I learned for me; this was “doing the work”. Avoiding those emotions was way more exhausting than actually feeling the emotions. Avoiding them was work but with no results. Feeling the emotions is also work but at the end there has been progress and growth. Typically, I learn something about myself.
My work has changed now that I have entered a different season of healing. Learning how to give God my emotions has shown me that life can be tough but carrying his peace with me rather than my pain has made life more enjoyable.