In the previous blog post I shared how my healing journey began. I started graduate school in August of 2017, and during residency my trauma finally felt safe enough to come to the surface. I expressed my darkness through poetry and art for the very first time.
Even though this newfound awareness came to the surface, healing did not immediately take place for me. I had this information about my trauma but did not know what to do with it. I had no idea how to cope. Prior to entering grad school, I didn’t realize that I used to cope through avoidance by keeping busy. I was always busy with school, sports, part-time jobs, working out, and spending time with friends.
Then grad school started. I was working and in school full time, but for the first time, I was living alone. As a result of living alone, it gave me the space to only be left with my thoughts. But after recently accepting my sexual trauma, being left alone with my thoughts was a scary place.
I quickly started to look for ways to avoid again. I would get up in the morning to workout, go to work, come home to do homework, and then mindlessly scroll on social media until I fell asleep. Then on weekends I was looking for anything to do to take up my time. That first semester of grad school I went out a lot. I told myself that I was going out for the experience because in college I did not go out that much, but deep down I knew I was afraid to allow myself to feel. I had the mindset to keep on having fun. To chase the next fun experience and maybe I would trick myself into believing that I was fine.
I fell into a deep depression. My studio was so messy that I could only see a little part of the floor in the kitchen, the counters were covered with dishes or junk, and the bathroom was absolutely disgusting. I had stopped working out, I was binge eating, I was drinking pretty heavy most weekends, and when I had free time I immediately went to be on my phone. I did enjoy my job which was the only thing that contributed to me functioning.
I did not have the tools to cope or explore my emotions.
It was quite the wake-up call to enter a program to become an Art Therapist then realize I didn’t know how to heal myself. I think initially I felt some shame with that reality. Eventually, I gave myself some grace understanding that everyone starts somewhere. From that experience I am reminded of the quote from Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” I was grateful to have put myself in a situation where I was able to learn the tools then practice them on myself.
This beginning stage of healing took A LOT of trial and error. I didn’t know what habits worked for me. I was figuring out what made me feel good. Often what made me feel good also made me uncomfortable. Then if I felt too uncomfortable I would start to avoid, slip back into the destructive habits, and quickly spiral back into a depression, because there was comfort in that. I will continue to say this… healing is a process. It is not linear. There will be back slides. Every step of the way I have just been figuring it out as I go.
Opening that door of challenging myself to feel, then work through my emotions, I got better with it every time I sat with the discomfort. I am to a point where now, (for the most part) I no longer want to avoid. I frequently ask myself, “What is the alternative?” If I avoid this feeling, conversation, whatever it may be, how will this go for me? How will this serve me? What if instead I decide to face this feeling or conversation? I have learned that in the long run I will feel better by choosing to face the uncomfort because nothing gets solved when I avoid.
If avoiding is your M.O. then stick around! I will continue to share the layers of avoidance I have worked through which has now led to my current reality! I welcome the discomfort because I know that greatness is just on the other side of it.
When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others.