We all have painful thoughts from difficult situations and/or abuse we lived through. Some you might not believe happened to you. From cruel relatives who brought us up to snarky classmates, brutally strict teachers, difficult neighbors, hateful and demanding bosses, vindictive co-workers, former and current narcissistic partners or spouses; our memories include them. Many times they surface on their own, and other times they pop up in their full combat mode when we think about something we want to accomplish, making us retreat into our paralyzing turmoil we can’t shut off until we learn how.
For example, have you found an outfit that made you smile and wanted to buy, but the criticizing voices in your head shamed you into changing your mind? Do your thoughts say things like you’re too fat, too stupid, too ugly, and/or people will laugh at you?
Has that been your experience? Do you have similar experiences? Maybe you came across a job you wanted, only to talk yourself out of it in record time? You’ll get fired, you can’t do that, you’re not smart enough, no one will respect you, love you, hire you, and/or want you?
Did you hear that growing up? I did. My family brainwashed me into believing those horrid words by repeatedly pummeling me with their toxic waste, grinding down my fragile self-esteem so often that I believed them. They taught me well, convincing me I was defective and to cower in shame.
As a result, I became impaired, not realizing I lacked the healthy foundation based on healthy self-esteem to manage my life successfully. Instead, with painfully low self-esteem, I became a self-destructive promiscuous low-income addict mess going from job to job, struggling to support myself, and drinking and driving.
Diagnosed with clinical depression in the early 1990s and with complex ptsd in 2017, I can see why my life was the screwed up chaos it was.
So, for me, living crippled with depression and complex ptsd was like being stranded on the highway median between 4 opposing lanes of highway with busy traffic rocketing by me not being able to escape to either side, to free myself from danger.
I say was because my life today is calmer, happier, and more productive than it was back then, but my question to you is this: Can you identify with my writing? Part of me hopes you do, but part of me hopes you don’t. If you do, then you too have been brainwashed with toxic waste in your life.
Now, this is what I learned that helped me heal: There is a process to work through those memories to get rid of them, to FREE yourself from them! I know it intimately because I have used it for years!
I began focusing on and blogging about what scared me on October 17, 2012. I embraced this habit and made this habit my own and have used it thousands of times. The benefits are rewarding and astonish me daily. I feel more at peace than I ever have; I don’t lay awake at night, worrying myself sick like I used to.
Before, I was trying to decide what to do with problems with my traumatized brain. Most of the time, the results did not work well at all. Getting rid of their spewed poisonous puke makes it so much easier for me to come up with solutions and to map out what I want to do and how to get myself there. I am more efficient and practical than I ever thought I could be. And that is because of the hard work I have done and still do today to continue to clear up and rid myself of the emotional wounds that held me back. Don’t the words emotional wounds sound better than mental illness? I prefer it.
Ok, to get back on track, if this process is new to you, I urge you to find a professional counselor who can help you through these steps. Remember, your therapy sessions are just that: they are YOUR sessions for you to work through what troubles you. You decide what your topics are and you decide the pace.
Back to my subject, think of something or someone who upsets you. What do you think it would feel like to face them calmly, thinking on your feet and not being intimidated by them? Even running into them somewhere or talking about that situation and not being upset by it. It not only makes you feel better by keeping your cool, it strengthens you at the same time. And that benefits your self-esteem.
I have experienced that several times. And let me tell you, not having all that torment and crap flying around in my brain is as refreshing as a delightful spring rain. When I think of something I want to do now, my brain is on board with me. I don’t have to fight my way through complex ptsd flashbacks or the constant toxic waste spewed by my mother and sisters chanting hateful criticisms in my face for hours. Hearing that all the time creates a lifelong pattern in our brains.
The reason for that pattern lies in how our brains learn and operate. So, if you grew up surrounded by people who ripped your fragile self-esteem daily, your brain becomes traumatized by the constant attacks. Young brains are still developing and trauma impairs the brain structures, which impairs the development. Amnesia is one result of that. Complex ptsd is another. So is depression, and several more.
Think of soldiers who have seen combat. They have developed brains, yet the trauma of combat impairs their brain function. The changes show up in moodiness, depression, illness, fear and more. They need to see a counselor and also a psychiatrist for medications to help them get better.
One thing that can benefit us is knowing our brains are “plastic” meaning we can change how our thoughts play out.
For example, neuroplasticity can be viewed as a general umbrella term that refers to the brain’s ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function throughout life and in response to experience.
How mind-blowingly COOL is that? Yes, I know “blowingly is not an official word, but please work with me!
Ok, here’s the process with some more explaining:
First, I had to admit and accept how deeply that behavior or those words wounded me. My hurt feelings, the pain I felt and drank and drugged to not think about, damaged me. It held me back because the more often I heard those hateful, untrue words, my brain believed them. That is how we learn, right? Doing homework when we were in school, we had to read and reread what we needed to learn to pass our classes. We believe what we tell ourselves and those hateful, untrue words dominate our thinking.
Now, why would that be? Why doesn’t the negative poison settle down and chill out?
Ahhh! I am glad you asked! It is because that negative, toxic waste does not belong to us. It is not at home inside of us. It has to go. That is why it bothers us so much. It needs to go!! It needs to be kicked to the curb so our wounded, hurt feelings can heal, which betters our lives along the way.
So, how can we do this?
How I turned my thoughts around began with blogging about what I gave thanks for daily on February 12, 213. I still give thanks daily, but I stopped blogging about it over a year ago, I think on March 24, 2020. I can’t explain why, but then that was what felt like I needed to do. I will start that back up because I love writing about it, plus I think people reading about it on my blog could benefit them. I am all for that because it is important to include it in a successful recovery lifestyle.
When I wrote with details about what I gave thanks for every day, I added positive thoughts to my negative thoughts. That slowly diluted the negative ones. I had to make my way through my negative crippling thoughts to heal my wounded emotions. Over time, I realized this: Our negative and distorted emotions fuel our negative and distorted thoughts, so to heal those thoughts, we have to heal what fuels them.
Another thing I did was I watched movies that made me cry. The reason they made me cry was because something in the movie touched my soul at a deep level. The emotions tied to that pain surfaced. Because they surfaced, I allowed them to wash over me and evaporate in their timing. I did not hurry this process. Some movies I had to stop and cry for a while before I could continue to watch them.
The three movies I watched that stand out the most to me are these: Les Misérables, 12 Years a Slave, and the Salem Witch Trials. And like I said, it took me a solid week to get through each one. Again, I paced myself because I wanted to face those emotions the best I could. To describe to you what that was like for me was this: I felt sad for a few days. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, or hunt down my abusers. I stayed home and let my emotions do their thing. Once I got through that portion, I felt happier and wanted to have fun. I took baking back up, which I stopped doing because of my depression.
I stink at pacing myself, but I tried to be careful about not overwhelming myself. I kept going because I needed to and I wanted to.
So this is the formula: facing plus accepting what wounds your emotions equals healing.
You do this and you will learn a lot about yourself along the way and every day, you’ll see tiny improvements that add up. I encourage you to keep notes so one month from now, or 6 months from now or whenever you want to, you can look back and see how far you have come! And that feeling of happy, fulfilling pride will feel better and last you longer than any drug, alcoholic drink, or any self-sedating behavior you did to manage your pain.
In closing another important benefit is as I kept going and keep using this technique, my real self buried under the brainwashed toxic waste I inherited from my hypocritical abusive family, is stronger every day. Back then, I was miserable and worried; today I am confident and doing everything I can to keep myself moving forward. It thrills me to see firsthand for myself the difference that hard work made in my life.
Now my question to you is this: How can you take what I have written and make it your own, based on who you are? Where can you start, if you are ready to? What would help you the most, if you want to start this healing journey, remembering to pace yourself along the way?
Remember, the decision is yours to do; when and how you start is your choice. It doesn’t mean it is right or wrong; it is simply different to suit your needs. How you suit your needs is your responsibility and privilege to do. Now, you might see significant progress much sooner than I did. Your path will differ from mine, just as who you are will differ from who I am. So, take what I have written and not to pressure you, but, if you can and when you decide you are ready, surpass me!! But, don’t compare yourself to me or to anyone. Just try to do better than you did before. Only compare yourself to yourself. That is what matters. And let me know how you do!!