Inspiring Me Now

  • "The Purpose of Life is to Be Happy" Dalai Lama

November 21, 2012

Broken Bones

 Heartache and emotional pain are like broken bones. It’s not something you plan on happening it just does. So you break your wrist. You can either admit that it’s broken, go to the doctor, get a cast, and let your body heal itself, or you can pretend it’s not broken, put an ace bandage around it and try to ignore the pain. The thing is, if you don’t treat the break right, it’s not going to heal right. The bone will be weaker and more prone to further injury, and if you do injure yourself again, the break is going to be a lot worse. So, most people do the advisable thing and get the cast.

I don’t understand why we treat injuries to the heart so much differently than injuries to our physical bodies. The consequences are just as bad. You can ignore your emotions and put them aside until you don’t feel the hurt anymore, but something is going to happen and that hurt will resurface twice as bad as it did before.

I can look at this and I can clearly see the correct way to handle my emotions, but for some reason, I never want to put a cast on my wrist. I’d rather just try to ignore the pain. I think a lot of people fall into the same category.  It’s easier to distract yourself with other things that occupy your mind, than face heartache and sadness. Why, when the biggest part of ourselves is hurt, do we think putting a Band-Aid on will fix it? Our heart and some would say soul, make us who we are. Our emotions shape us into individuals, but you have to go through the emotions. You have to surrender yourself to feelings, even when they are uncomfortable and painful.

As I said earlier, I’m not good at this, turns out a lot of people aren’t. A USA Today poll in 2011 showed that more than 1 in 10 Americans take antidepressants. When we don’t face our emotions and push them down, we are depressing them. We aren’t handling things the way we should. We make our brains process information in an unhealthy way. Then one day you realize you can’t find one single reason to be happy that day, or you can’t figure out why you’re still here on earth, while other people aren’t. You realize that you’re depressed.

Some people won’t ever realize this. They will self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Not realizing that drugs and alcohol, while they make you feel awesome temporarily, are just making the issues worse. You have to take more and more to keep feeling “good” and before you know it, you have a whole new issue on your hands – addiction. I’ve watched addicts my whole life. I have alcoholics from both sides of my family, and I’ve lost people close to me to addictions. It makes me ridiculously sad to think that had these people had the support and strength to face their initial heartaches and sadness, they might still be around today.

My dad died about a year and a half ago. He had a brain aneurysm. He was 51 years old. He had high-blood pressure, he smoked like a chimney and he drank. He drank a lot. His parents both drank and smoked and also died at an early age because of it. When my dad passed away, I was so angry. I felt like I had just started to get to know and accept his role in my life. I was angry that he could be so selfish. He drank away lord knows how much money, putting his family in constant financial stress, and because he didn’t take care of himself, I no longer had a dad. I wasn’t even 30 and my dad was gone. It wasn’t long after my dad’s death that his past became present. I don’t know why people feel the need to divulge other people’s personal issues when they die, but they do. I didn’t want to hear a lot of what people told me about my dad, for several reasons. One, I could not change the man he was. I loved him flaws and all, and I was scared that what would be revealed to me would change my opinion of him.  Secondly, I thought it was disrespectful. Had my dad wanted me to know certain things about his past, he would have told me, and maybe he wanted to but didn’t have enough time, but odds are he hadn’t ever planned on it.

I found out that my father was molested as a child. When I found out, my heart broke for him. Even now, I feel like the wound is still fresh. I picture my big, strong, tall dad as a helpless little boy and I would do anything to have the chance to protect him, but of course I couldn’t and it seems no one else did either. I’m not sure if no one knew at the time, or if it was something not spoken of. Either way, the heartache or pain my dad experienced because of this, is what ultimately led to his death. He started drinking to escape the issues that he didn’t want to deal with. I’ve fortunately never been through something even close to so traumatic, but I can imagine that having to relive it as a way of healing, would be terribly hard. I forgave my dad for a lot of things the day I found out. I couldn’t blame him for the way he chose to deal with his problems. I can’t say that I wouldn’t do the same. I didn’t forgive him for everything, because I do believe life is made of choices, but in his case, I feel like he was dealt a shit hand and made the decisions that he thought would be best for him at the time.

When I found this out, it was shortly after my father had passed away. I was still fresh in my grieving process then, but I was grieving in a very unhealthy way. I would tell myself that after a certain period of time, I would not think about him if it made me sad. I put away the pictures I had up of him at work. I was going through an odd battle with trying not to remember too much but not wanting to forget anything. I was failing on both accounts. I wasn’t dating anyone at the moment, so for a majority of the time when I wasn’t at work, I was home alone. I didn’t feel like being social because people either wouldn’t talk about it and I would be resentful, or they would talk about it and look at me with pity.

I was already seeing a therapist, thank god, and it was at one of my appointments that she stopped me mid-sentence and said “Jacqueline, I’m going to need to ask you to stop.” I was talking about exactly what I’m writing about now, about how hurt I was that my dad was hurt and how angry I was about other things. She went on, “I need you to tell me what you’re feeling right now.” This seemed weird to me because I was telling her how I was feeling, or so I thought. “I need you to close your eyes and take a deep breath and tell me what you’re feeling.” I closed my eyes and took one big long, deep breath. I paid attention as I let it out. My whole body was shaking and I hadn’t even noticed. There were emotions inside of me literally fighting to get out of my body and I was talking around them as if they weren’t there. I started to cry, and I started to really heal.

The months that went on, I made a pact with myself. I would make a conscious effort to feel whatever it was that I was feeling in the moment. Unless it was during a highly inappropriate time, like in the middle of a work meeting or conference call, I would take no longer than ten minutes and let myself experience whatever it was my body was telling me to. It’s like icing a sprain throughout the day. You don’t keep the icepack on there all the time, just when it starts to throb or hurt. My ten minute emotional releases were the icepacks for my heart.

So I did it. Some days were much harder than others. I would think of something random about my dad and tears would well in my eyes. My first instinct would be to stop crying, but I didn’t. I would let myself cry while I thought of that moment. Sometimes I cried for a few seconds and sometimes I cried for my full ten minutes. Every single time I did, I felt better. I also let myself experience happiness again. I was so full of sorrow and anger and hatred that I wasn’t reveling in the good things happening in my life. I started to realize that the good things in life are the small things. I started appreciating things I took for granted all the time, things I never thought of, like being able to see an awesome sunrise. I could look at it and appreciate all the wonderful colors. How lucky am I that I can see that and find joy in that? I was slowing down my life. I was figuring out that there are meaningful things happening all around me all the time, I just needed to take the time to notice. Even if that time was only 10 minutes.

Weeks turned into months and months turned into a year. It had been 365 days since my dad passed away, but I was still moving forward. I didn’t feel like I was clinging to my sadness. I felt like I was starting to be grateful for the memories I had instead of terribly sad for what I had lost. It’s ironic that my dad’s death is what led me to a peacefulness that brought me to a very emotionally healthy place.

So time marched on and like a good little soldier, I fell back in line. Things at my job were getting busier; I was in a relationship now that was becoming difficult. I wasn’t taking time for myself anymore; I was putting that extra time into more work or more of my relationships with other people. I started slipping again, back into a depression. The relationship I was in ended up hitting an unhealthy point. At first I tried to ignore it, I told myself that I could deal with the issues that were happening, and I tried at first, until I realized that I was back in my same old pattern. I’m not sure what made me snap to, but I ended the relationship because I knew it wasn’t healthy for me. I have NEVER done that before. I never put my emotional health first in a relationship. I want so badly for the person I’m with to want to be with me, that I end up sacrificing parts of who I am to do so. I wrote a great blog about this called “Cherry”.  Leaving that relationship was powerful for me. I felt good about putting myself first. I had a new confidence that made me feel like who I was right at that moment, was good enough for me and therefore should be damn well good enough for someone else.

I met that someone else a few months later. He liked my confidence and even commented on the blog I had written about it. He got it. He didn’t want to change me and for the first time, I felt comfortable enough with someone that I didn’t feel like I had to change. He knew where I stood and what I expected and he respected that. Somewhere along the line, things got messy. Life comes full circle sometimes and he ended up experiencing the loss of his father, too only a few weeks into our dating. I’m not sure if my being with him during that time was helpful or not. I tried to put myself in his shoes; after all, I had been there just a year before. I think we both wanted things to be ok. They had started off so wonderful, that we grasped at those moments when the hard stuff came up. Ah, but grief is powerful, and though I saw glimpses more and more over time, I didn’t fully see that man I met months before. I again found myself circling back to the spot where I’d do anything to make this person love me. I was so scared to lose him. I was scared because what we started with was so fucking amazing, but I realized that that man I met was now shrouded in grief. How could I expect him to love me the way I needed to be loved, when he didn’t even love himself? Things went back and forth and then it was done. I feel like we stopped mid-sentence. There was no discussion, no specific reason. It was just over. It was the first time I didn’t have some kind of closure to a breakup. I think because of that, I’ve been holding out that maybe just hit the pause button.

I of course am heartbroken. I’m heartbroken for myself, because I feel like I’ve lost someone utterly irreplaceable in my life, someone who challenged me and called me out on my shit, someone who was genuinely proud of my accomplishments. And I’m heartbroken for him, because I know the man that he has the ability to be, when he’s not fighting his own demons. I wish I could wave my wand or hit the un-pause button and make it all better, but I’m realizing the only thing that will make it better is more time.

The past few weeks I feel like I’ve been going through boxes of ace bandages trying to fix this broken wrist. Acknowledging that it’s broken and that it’s going to take time to heal seems so daunting. I don’t want to wear a cast, I just want pain pills. I don’t want to move on without someone who has been so important to me. But bones don’t heal with medicine and neither do hearts, and healing mine will bring me back to the strong, confident woman I found in myself months ago.  So here I am, opening up, taking off my bandage, putting away my ice packs and putting on cast.

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