The coronavirus pandemic is one of the rare times in which frontline workers are navigating the same traumas as everyone else. We are in to use a phrase that is relied on so frequently that it is rendered nearly meaningless- "unprecedented times." We are building the bridge as we are on it.
This month's article is penned down by Chipo Bvindi, a registered social worker and crisis of care Counsellor. She goes deep on how she continued to care for others while simultaneously dealing with the same intense stressors. I can't even find the words to properly explain how difficult it is to acknowledge someone's pain and also be in pain simultaneously.
Bear with me!
COVID-19 introduced itself to humanity in 2020 in a way that devastated the lives of almost everyone the world over. Conspicuously, it fostered the sprouting of mental health challenges and expedited the sufferings of those who already had presenting mental health illnesses or struggles. By this I mean, triggering those that were in extreme survival modes or under certain guises to subsist. Worse, it affected those that looked forward to continuing their livelihood based on how their psyche responded to threats and/or stimuli. Pretty much the pivot was set on their direct or indirect lived experiences, level of resilience, triggers and so much on effects beyond our control.
I will break this down a bit in respect to how my journey began concerning my mental health challenges. At the genesis of 2020, I experienced an existential crisis, I would like to say. Maybe let's say around Mid-March -April, my prodromes started kicking in… with a sense of disequilibrium in my entity, that flared multiple somatic symptoms. Added to the mix was anxiety and traces of depression. Sadly, back then I had no clue. I just thought,
"Well, maybe it's me just getting sick, especially with gut issues."
I have a sensitive stomach btw. So fairly, it stemmed in me putting the presenting status quo on mute. Because my reasoning was that, like the aforementioned. Now that I look back, I think I may have to some extent been in denial of the reality that was presenting itself to me! My body was grasping for succor, but I was rather resistant. Maybe stubborn and not paying it notice. That was too much privilege, I couldn't afford that then.
Bearing in mind, like chalk and cheese…eww the different hats I gave myself or tapped into. Or maybe some were administered over to me without question. Of course, I wore these gracefully as a crown (what a joke). Being the strong and dependable friend, caretaker, mediator, a Yes man!, having a superhero complex, dealt with matters on my own… on my own accord of how I would deal with the progenies, even if It was toxic towards myself or others, as long as it made sense. We were good to go.
I hid myself under a rock maybe… oh being vulnerable like that… hell no. I have strived here and there, talked about things that irked me but not necessarily dealing with them. Also, that concept kind of made me feel quite imperilled, not being able to maintain the form of independence I had mastered. I think since childhood.. closed up/ shut out. Quiet noxious. I would rather you come to me than antithesis. Role reversal I mean, I would rather, be your emotional toolbox! I still remember one of my friend's back then at Uni who one day remarked,
"Chipo I know you but I also don't know you".
Of course, you are not going to share your everyday existence and experiences with everyone. But I also had mastered how to keep to myself, separating parts of my full prime and how they showed up or out. But baby the body keeps score. What you resist persists. Nonetheless, considering as a social worker, being in a "helping profession" right…, my own set of expectations, those dictated to me by society. At times it's like pressure put under your sleeve, such that if you are not self-aware, Intune, and care about your own needs, you will live a life of complying to a superhero status.
As at times you are mulled over as a little god because of your benevolence or the skills you seize so as to say. Secondary trauma, burnout, compassion fatigue are real y'all but sometimes we can push through because that's all we have mastered as being (at times Performance), called to do and don't know otherwise. Maybe a coping mechanism for some at times. This gives you a dopamine high.. a façade of your life looking like it's in order and not as shitty as it is.
There is so much more to what meets the eye. Sometimes, we lose the context of our full human experience. The need for care for caregivers because being strident to points of cessation isn't cool. Mental breakdowns boi. "Rising to the occasion while giving myself grace" (Tiffany-the HealHer) is top tier. Much needed.
Subliminally, I had mastered the art of masking and concealing whilst at the same time, presenting a portico in my wake. "I am okay even when I am not" she would emphasize. Fortunately, (and this is important!) I had people who knew my struggles and all my skeletons even without having to ask me! Such people knew the kind of things that I had not personally mastered to let go and deal with them head-on.
For some unfathomable reason, my superhuman complex was not keen on my meeting in ruins and quest for help… but 2020 had other plans! Because that inter-dependency part of my natural subsistence and need for municipality was kicking in.
Either I was going to give in or survey myself pall a slow death, or the grand finale "end It all" at some point. Man, I was tired. As a recent graduate back then, I had big dreams to pursue and had somewhat delineated the course of my 2020. Well, I am big on Planning. So, it made sense to plan right? Hence, I had sketched some sort of a final draft with no plan B, about how my year was going to look and how I would manoeuvre towards my next big break…. How it would play out… like a movie, with me in it, with the different scenes and diddly squats if any. Lol. I had the perfect script. I just needed a Director and some cast members with some sagacity or acuity I think who would tag along.
I was convinced that I could somehow conduit the universe in my direction to achieve my goals. But HELL NO! The universe comically said well F your plans. Therefore, my dreams were deferred. Inserts big Sigh here. To cut the story short, I had planned on embarking on my masters into the workforce overseas simultaneously. I reminisce on getting 2 admission letters from UCT back then, but I didn't feel put to pursue my first choice either or remain in the country that had hosted me for about 7.7 years. So I declined courteously after changing my mind.
Regret- a verb: feel sad, repentant or disappointed over something. Mid-Year I regretted the decision I had made. The audacity of this certitude. Then, things would be free-floating in my direction as I had anticipated. Because, with my solicitations, either I was put on hold, or rejected, accepted but something was discordant. Something in the way. Maybe there wasn't, but oh well. "Why had I turned down that offer? '' I ruminated. Definitely had my Snap! What a mistake. Lol, two of my friends then remarked "who rejects UCT, you are so brave lol". I think that hit me later, but that's just a Uni. So…ain't nothing to it honestly. Of course, it's a remarkable place to be at and that one opportunity, that felt like I was settling when I had plans… backfired. Intense compunction after my little castle in Spain inventories didn't work out was felt deeply. Not only this one, even a crisis intervention in the period of waiting, but the underdeveloped Plan B in transit WAS also MEH.
I faced some level of darkness of my own. Especially with my career- the next step. I felt quite stuck in a rabbit hole I couldn't get out of. It's like trying to find an exit egress but you only end up returning to the same start-up point. A series of unfortunate events per se. Talk about being a new graduate, applying for jobs, getting a turnaround of multiple rejections. Even with interviews that felt assuring, but something would just be amiss. I recounted a lecturer, telling me I should stop looking overseas (far-fetched) because I might be destined to be here … Like I wasn't doing that already and experiencing a mountain of refutations.
With these encounters, a sense of not belonging aggrandized, I didn't belong anyway…
"Why me….?" I would ask.
Oh, everything seemed bleak… an Austere of some sought… Pitch Darkness if there is anything of that nature. It was one catastrophe after the other…. It didn't make sense. (But sometimes not everything has to make sense, you also don't have to make sense of everything- it is what it is boo). Peekaboo. Like a tacky remorseless cycle of defies. I also had a lot of pressure back then to perform… to be my very best even if my very best then was visibly different from the norm. It was not enough and I had to power on.
Man after all that self-mastery on performing to be loved, to be seen from some of my adverse childhood experiences and even going into adulthood… I was struggling here. I could not mask up! Another thing is academic excellence… being known as a top student from my Alma mater, kind of put me on a pedestal ( I didn't ask for). In my day to day interactions, I would be bankrolled by questions on what I am doing and why I am not working or getting a job… "I mean Chipo of all people ''! "You are the shit, you Summa Cum Laude graduates should be making it in life". I don't think these remarks have anything to do with me lol. On a real, but I capitulated to the gravity they implied.
I also think, back then, I felt kind of behind in life (what does that even mean, to be behind in life?), and a mere loser with nothing to show for it. Comparison maybe, bruh at times, it's not even intentional. I mean some of the people I knew back then were changing jobs. Honestly, I will seem unfair if I get tempted to compare myself to my classmates.
Even though I faced my fair share of troubles which coerced me to question fate as to why I had to go through such scores of calamities. I couldn't secure just 1. But some words of wisdom from my friend, "we all experience life differently, and have different happenings at different times, it's not one way". There is no one way to do things either. There are multiple ways of getting there at your own pace and time when it is meant to be, it will happen. Everyone's journey is different. Umm Hello.
Even in my sufferings, and with all the effort I was putting, It seemed useless and never enough. I also had to live up to my high expectations and also the expectations of others (close to me) were paramount. I think the latter was more important than the first. I began to sink. I felt adjudicated (even by myself, my biggest critic) and my mental health didn't matter. I think what broke me the most was the pressure and insensitivity I felt from loved ones (emphasis on some, I know it's not there). The ones who looked up to me, those who even to date, want to see through the best outcome for/ from me. I know some of these things are unintentional, but they hurt period. Even at times of goodwill.
Regardless of whatever effort I exerted sometimes in my quest for help, my entire world started abating. What I needed and wanted at that time (support) was concealed. Some translucent effects on a high grade. (But at times some people don't know what you need when you don't ask, at times when you ask, they don't know how to go about meeting that need). And some do a very good job. Maybe all people are appreciated in all the categories they fall into.
By July, I was exhausted. I know people mean well and want the best for me at times, but baby it wasn't the time or place for that either….It's like being in detention whereby you have to listen to a non-stop talking Betty. It never ends.
I felt Pressure, excessive pressure, Pressure from 3rd parties that had nothing to do with my business but were very invested in matters that were none of their concern. How they knew…mmm I can tell you.
Neglect! (Also, consider me as being a perpetrator of my own neglect, I mean be accountable for some shit you hold yourself up to).
I so longed for my body language and verbal communique to reach some peeps in my immediate circle who couldn't hear me. Even with a loud cry.
I started sinking….
Somewhat grew numb, I was unfazed at times, disassociated
And constantly lived in fear….I don't think I had experienced anything as hectic). I had a panic attack on the day of my birthday, it's funny how I laugh now, just at the memory of such an experience. It was late at night, after all the shenanigans of my 25th birthday locked up (I had a great birthday btw even in quarantine). I had experienced a couple of anxiety attacks before then, in 2019… and honestly, I thought it was academic-related. I was in my final year of school and I had academic stress, particularly for one module.
I booked myself in for therapy sessions for about a month plus…did a bit of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) etc. We stuck to books and my future endeavours during that brief therapy period. And I got back on track and ran my race to the very end. Graduation.
Even when I did so well, when you have mastered the art of performance (grades were very important in my household), I was just like, not really proud. That was done you know unto the next thing. (Maybe imposter syndrome?).
Conversely, before my 25th birthday, I had experienced panic attacks (arbitrary attacks, show up unannounced) but they were set apart. It became a regular experience of being alert, on the run from the unknown. I still remember a friend of mine suggested I go see a psychiatrist and I kept on procrastinating… I know why. I started picking up changes in my body, mood and behaviour.
I was easily triggered, snapped, started withdrawing, and wanted to be left alone I think most of the time. To some extent, I was very much more reactive than responsive. Tiny witty things would make me cry. I also had an alteration in my appetite, I wasn't eating much but I was at my biggest around then. As my life progressed into the mid of 2020, so did anxiety attacks (these are triggered by something).
I couldn't breathe well, experienced tingling sensations in my hands and feet, pins and needles. Typa thing. I would be tense, restless even if I was tired, big on that insomnia and panic. I also self-medicated to sleep at times. The trembling did it for me shem. WTF. Oh and persistent worry; a sense of danger. My alarm system was hyperactive. Even alcohol intake made me feel worse… (y'all know alcohol is both a stimulant and depressant right?). I had my worst case of anxiety attacks at the end of August 2020. I remember this specific one very well because it was that bad, and I was like,
The way to go was to check in with my doctor and he indicated I was experiencing hyperventilation syndrome which was on high. We spoke about what could be the triggers, and what could be done. I got meds and was on my way, I could always come back if there was no progress.
I remember then, the urge I felt. Not to live, feeling suicidal….and paranoia which was at a 3-4 being incredibly bad on a scale of 1-10. I lost the fervour to live as I felt empty and I couldn't contain the pressure to continue when I couldn't. It was out of me. So much hope was lost in my despair. My obsession with the psychosomatic symptoms was a lot. The pain was bad, my hands and feet would hurt, I had increased GERD issues, tension headaches and migraines. OH, my right side I believe was on a mission to kill me. From head to toe. Pain. Everything would just hurt. The source of pain I didn't know back then. It didn't make sense if I woke up without experiencing pain.
Unfortunately by then, I was depressed, I wouldn't leave my room at times, be it for eating. Even personal hygiene became labour. My bed carried me during that period, it knows me by name now. I would be extremely sad and would cry, for whatever reason I don't know... I still remember getting back from my doctor (sweetest man ever) and just crying a squall. It got to a point whereby opening my laptop and starting an application would make me tremble by just reading some of the requirements of the applications dead-ass… or even just having to do trivial stuff.
This was much, a result of the pandemic and having most of my friends move back to their hometowns. I stayed at home with my mom, most of the time alone, as she had work. Just being stuck at home, without an option to leave is prison. Even for a homebody like me. I need options man. I think the loneliness, led me to experience ruminating thoughts of my unresolved complex childhood trauma, child abuse, some of my unfortunate experiences, regret and guilt, and even, creating scenarios of what was. I felt like the unfortunate friend and child of my mothers. But that's also because everything seemed very bleak then and all I could see was my predicament. Which was in front of me every single day. That's all I looked up to. Also, some of the experiences leading to 2020 were precipitating factors. That's all I had.
Anxiety fucks you up! Ever felt like you were in a bubble… floating? Derealization. I did. But this was more of my body communicating its needs about existing imbalances. Looking back I think I had some signs/ stress responses that flared up, even during uni, but I would just link it to school or whatever that was going during that period. Nonetheless, now, it was manifesting at a greater degree, but to get through it, I needed to look inward-the Roots. (If you treat something on a surface level without attending to the roots, it will grow back and expand). The outcome, worse than before.
This goes to say although the generalised anxiety I was experiencing and somewhat depression was triggered by the "existing events in the now", these happenings and how I felt, responded, were also triggered by situations from my past life that were unresolved.
Even without similarities in the happenings (the past and the present), your body knows how that felt like. And there can be coloration in response. Due to a trigger. When things are left unaddressed you begin to spill over into other areas that have nothing to do with the things you haven't addressed. Does it make sense? I hope so.
As an individual who had tried to commit suicide in my teens, I kind of felt like this was the last resort. The thoughts occupied my mind and it felt like it would be better with my demise and I would not have to experience the pain I was in. Also, I would not have to live up to feeling like I had failed and was not able to meet prospects. Felt like a battered breath to me. I had this plant called "Louis" (she died, my sweet sweet baby, I wasn't a good mom then), and because I had her liquid plant food or fertilizer it seemed like the closest accessible thing to me and I would go ham… but somehow I didn't, even regales of the intense suicidal ideation I had. It seemed like Louis' food was calling my name to give her a try. Almost every day, then.
By then, when I experienced the worst anxiety attack, I decided to pen up to my mom about that experience of attacks. Later, I had that check-in with my doctor and had a consultation with my then therapist on the phone, and my journey to recovery began. If I had not taken that route to self-check-in I would have maybe been dead by then. Looking back even if I had moved, achieved my dreams, I would have continued to live in a half-baked state of entirety.
As a result of my unresolved trauma, having been in survival mode for so long, with a nervous system that has been on alert. Having a crisis with regards to my existence and feeling stuck… one's proneness to illness, chronic pain, suicide and early death are by far true. I think the year 2020 was the last push for me… I had to get out, create and discover myself again. Find me. I needed 2020 and 2020 needed me. We needed each other. And guess what we showed out. Lol. I love you 2020 although you were a piece of work. Showing up as your true authentic self is quite scary...never easy in a world sieved by astronomical altitudes of performance and pretence. And overworking and the need for success. Oh, I have been there. "Yes, I am okay" but deep down I feel like a turd.
I share this from a place of courageous vulnerability because I know that I am not alone. The year 2020, welp going into 2021 has been chaotic. Frenetic to be exact.
What got me during my crisis and call for help?
The discomfort I felt in my prominence remained the same, at a default setting that is. I decided to book myself into therapy- pretty much. One thing I have noticed at times is that we don't seek help when we need it, because we don't want to be at a place of need, and there can be underlying factors to that. I also speak for myself in this aspect. And having done deep reflection as to why that is, has helped me. My "ego" chastised by certain experiences was in the way of my recovery. Therapy has helped me big time. To add on, what's key is finding the right shrink for you. Feeling comfortable and having a sense of connection with a therapist is fundamental.
Doing an inside job is painful! Its WORK.
Somedays I hated it, and I didn't like my therapist that much, but it opened room for so much dialogue, going back to move forward and conversations with those that hurt me, looking at past hurt, issues of abandonment, abuse, instability, exposure to violence- Getting to understand and gain perspective. And, just having to sit with those emotions that I had closed away. With some experiences, I didn't even know I carried a certain emotion or resentment towards the happenings until we would talk about it in therapy. I was shocked. After all, before that, I didn't think the issues bothered me because my reaction was different. In the past. I think a reflection question one could pose is what difficult conversations are you shunning from? Or what discomforts are you avoiding experiencing? Phillipa Haine says" unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive, and will come forth later, in uglier ways". It's okay to sit in that emotion, uncomfortable feeling, or space. That bumpy place is necessary. Healing = discomfort leading to acceptance of what is and growth through resilience. All adaptability to change comes with this. So is accepting unspoken apologies… it's not always going to be verbalised to you. Also, closure is a scam.
Having an understanding that my nervous system and even my whole existence won't be like someone who never went through what I went through has allowed me to exercise radical acceptance and self-compassion. Grace! Even if we did experience similar things…the outcome is different… We are diverse and respond to things contrariwise. I am about a year into therapy, and I am still on the journey. I might be in it for a lifetime. The workings of my doctor, referring me to a specialist and then having to do tests and seeing a psychiatrist also assisted in me getting back to maybe feeling a bit more human in a way. I wouldn't say normal, I still remember my therapist asking me what is normal to you? Cause I had told her I feel very abnormal. Normal is distinctive for all. Having a team that understands you, where you feel heard and seen is important. You can always change a doctor or whomever if they are not meeting your needs. Because what's the point?
Coordinated care and collaboration are key…
Sometimes you just need a therapist and that's okay…
Therapy helped me learn to live with things I can't change…and allow the grieving to continue its course… One cannot pretend that what happened to them did not have an effect, but you learn to live with it. Therapy allows you to call yourself out. Yes, You… you could be the toxic one. Me lol. "Your nose is the closest thing to your body". You will smell yourself before anyone else". Filth. You might not be responsible for what happened to you, but your healing is yours. You are worth the investment in yourself. Nobody got you the way you got you. Always choose yourself. "If we are going to heal, let it be glorious". No one can do the inner work for you. I wish I could pack my shi and hand it over to someone else… but no.
There is nothing more important than having a support system in place. We need people, we need each other. For me, although everything was bleak, man I had some family, friends, relatives and even strangers I could lean into. At times even when I didn't want to. They were patient with my theatrics, impulsiveness, zoning out and where I was at with the over activeness of toxic cortisol and adrenaline. At times that accommodation and assimilation are required. Communication on your end is necessary as well. I remember the need to cancel my girls' trip last year, but my friends made me feel that I needed it. They were convincing. That push was necessary. That was the best trip away from home during that period although I couldn't sleep. But I had fun.
The concept of being vulnerable like that was disrupted by my insecurities and past experiences. I also perceived it as a weakness on my end and the perception it entailed. Shoutout to the conversations I have with my big sis, I learn so much from her and I learn a lot about myself. Your support! It's so strange how you can tell a person one thing and you practise or do the opposite. Being open to being vulnerable is central to your full human existence. No real relationship is built without that aspect of opening up and showcasing your skeletons. (I don't mean you need to tell everyone, be selective with your info too). You are human, with shadows. Your shadow might be too much of an exaggeration from reality.
At times we can fear opening up because of the trepidation of disappointments, reactions or not being serious which at times is an actuality. I attest to that. At times, it could be your childhood at work even in your adult journey. If you have experienced or been in situations whereby you could not express your concerns, or things were not dealt with in a way that you were not considered, made to feel like a burden when you expressed concerns, or lacked that naturing aspect, abandoned, lost someone at a young age, you might have mastered to shut down, repress and keep to yourself. Your lack of trust was already groomed into being then. Also, even things like tremendous independence. And maybe how you perceive the world.
For me, when I later opened up to my mom about my attacks, she said, "next time please let me know when you are experiencing an attack again". You don't have to go through it on your own. I did the other time I had one, and that was around after Christmas, that was the first time my mom saw me in action. And she was so supportive! I got to rest on her chest for a bit. At my big age, it calmed me down, we sat on the balcony for some air … we both slept in the living room that day... Would that have happened if I kept quiet? Nope. I would have been dealing with my shit on my own.
Sometimes, it's okay to test the waters and see who is for you! Because how will you know? I mean being disappointed is part of life. You wouldn't know if you continue to live your life in fear of being disappointed and rejected. I mean that's what my therapist told me, "test the waters" All good relationships are centred on honesty and vulnerability. Yes, you are your own person, but there are people out there that would give anything to be there for you and be your peace and hope when you can't locate it. They will be your eyes when you cannot see. I am so grateful for all the check-ins, calls, treats and catch-ups I have had with my loved ones. When you don't necessarily want to be around people, that's when you need to. This is in context to what I am talking about.
I handpicked individuals I could depend on. I think I saw a lot of unreliable people during that troubling time – people also looking from the outside in. Especially, if you are required to be exceptional when it's clear you cannot or just being centred on circumstances that they had no understating of. You don't want human stress added to your stress, a beg. Maybe the source of your stress is human beings lol. So stay away from people that make you feel like crap, tell you to do things based on how they cope because they can deal with high levels of anxiety or can get through a bad day. During this period I also learnt to exercise grace, I still remember talking to a guy telling him that I was experiencing anxiety attacks and I was very disoriented and he said to me;
"You are scared! Honestly, what are you scared of? Ahh man, anxiety"
He laughed it off like it was nothing. That hurt me during that interval, but I remember, not everyone has that axiom, or deep-seated supporting knowledge on mental health, disorders - illnesses. Or whatever, also if people are ignorant that's on them. That was the last leg for me. Being heightened by others not knowing what to do and saying things that would crumble my spirit is not it for me. Hell no. I mean not everyone is educated or is aware right. You might think you are doing your best, based on what you know, sadly you can be inflicting more harm and damage. Unsolicited advice at times…. Stop it. Sometimes it's helpful to ask, "what do you need at this moment" … or even being clear you don't know what to do or how to be supportive. "What would support look like for you?"
I know some people would give anything to be present for me, my tribe! It's so petite but cute. Some of my friends state that I have a lot of friends and I am just like maybe I have a lot of acquaintances, colleagues, ex or old whatever…but maybe everyone thinks we are friends lol. Tear down walls and remove individuals that add on weight to what you already have. In the process, communicate your needs, fears, wounds, issues to those open to hearing, listening, understanding. Sometimes just debriefing helps. More so, it's not helpful to continue being in environments that revives old patterns you want to break free from. Remove yourself from toxic energy and situations. For what it's worth, if it means changing groups of friends, environment, careers, lifestyle or evaluating your kin, do so.
Boundaries! Definitely, one thing about me, I would be up doing something or whatever. Of course, most of the everyday endeavours I participated in were close to my heart. But also now that I look back, I enjoyed being busy. I was always alert and on the go - doing something of some sort. However, that was my way of not dealing with some of my happenings. I also realized how being alone in the house especially during quarantine felt like an epidemic of my own. I didn't want to face the boogie man… more so sit with myself and my thoughts. That's how survival mode works at times… at times people who are workaholics or always on the go might be doing so to repel face to face encounters with their demons. Just like how we can abuse alcohol and smoke till we.. to numb pain, binge eat (I do) or whatever. Everyone has their coping mechanism. Just realise your own and the toxic one. Work on that. Be mindful of your patterns. Also, the content you consume… can be traumatic. Then you wonder where the anxiety is coming from. Putting yourself first, your needs will never go out of style. Also the art of saying,
" NO!" Something I struggle with even to date. It's okay to say no Guilt free with practice. Especially if you are so used to saying yes all the time.
I have learnt and am still mastering the importance of rest. Rest is resistance, it is more of giving my body what it needs. Boundaries are mandatory for your well-being. Be the change you want to see. Ok? Be your own source of peace. "Personal boundaries do protect us from abandoning ourselves" Yasmen Ahmed. No one gets an award for being a yes man at the expense of your health. Anyone upset with a boundary you have put in place can hit the door. Not being liked is ok… do you like everyone? no. That boundary was necessary so Let go of that leech. It's alright to begin "clearing paths so that what you want can reach you". Standing firm in what I want and need is always going to be exact. You can work on setting boundaries with yourself too. Boundaries should not always be about others and our interactions with other people. But also aiming to keep ourselves sane and accountable. What boundaries do you need to set for yourself? Sidenote, distinguish between a boundary and a wall.. (something to reflect on).
The books- I love reading y'all. These books helped me personally during that period.
What a time to be alone by Chidera Eggerue
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by: Peter Scazzero
Of course fiction and novels… I could go on about a list… but reading can be a good escape…. There are good distractions out there btw. Such as good stimuli… that takes your mind to places and maybe releases creative juices...
God! He carried me through things I couldn't voice out, prayers and chapters within the bible. I think I dwelt in my bible very much then during that period, it was my go-to. Of course, I was very upset at the beginning. Lol. I felt like I was on some punishment or something. Bookmarked verses that would give me hope to push through, worship. Lol, my baby and I even had a fast then (that was hard) but the spiritual renewal / we had. Incomparable. Though, we quit a couple of times. Lol. As a Christian, I think it's key to pray through it all, the hardships, the good, the bad. (I don't always do that). "Pray about it, your mood swings, your temper, your internal ego, your weight, your insecurity, your lack, your mindset, your self-love, your emotional state, your envy, your timidity, your deficiency, your lack of motivation, your lack of execution, your attraction of bad people. Give God every piece of you, every vessel, and every molecule. Pray about it all!" (Nompumelelo Dukwe). Will he love you less and give you conditions… Nope. Even silence is prayer. Sometimes talking to our problems about God is helpful.
Self-care… I told you, you are your greatest investment, the most permanent thing you will ever know. Self-care is great stewardship towards self. So are concepts such as self-compassion and self-acceptance. We live in a faulty world so you are bound to make mistakes. At times these mistakes are costly.
But dwelling on spilled milk won't help either, lean into your mistakes, learn and move on. Aim to become a better person. One step at a time, one day at a time. Easier said than done right… What would you say to your friend if they were the ones struggling in this area?... Whatever you said, say it to yourself too. You can practice this in retrospect to situations you wish you could have done better, or cannot change. Exercise, oneness with nature, journaling, therapeutic practise I implemented in my routine and tapping into the reserves of things I loved to do or love to do got me going.
You are a gift to the earth, your nourishment and care towards your oneness have an impact on how you show up. And how you offer yourself to others. Listen to your body, mind and spirit. Study it. Give it what it likes and needs. Engage in physical, mental, emotional, social, creative, spiritual and sensory rest. Me time and that space, just you…there is nothing better than this. Be authentically present for yourself too. Mute, block, delete too. Sabbaticals and distancing yourself... Pouring into yourself is the best gift you can ever give yourself.
I love the acceptance, deep awareness, self-actualization, freedom that comes with grieving the old. Setting me free for all I am becoming. Creating more room. Being welcoming to each ebb and flow. Realizing I had centred my life on performance, external validation and that superhero complex have got me thinking… "If you were not fed on love on a silver spoon, you may have learnt that you need to lick it off knives"- The South African Therapist. I have made room to release things I can't control or change. "Sometimes nourishment looks like trying to cling to control just long enough that our hands get tired, slowly reminding us control was never ours, to begin with, and remembering to open our palms once more—over and over" (Lisa Olivera).
When there is no room to exert control, shift it elsewhere where you can exercise it positively. When you have mastered a certain lifestyle for a long time, it will be a long process to get to where you want to be. Unbecoming, becoming, Letting go of that old you is not instant. It may take years of inner work but the beauty about life is you have the opportunity to evolve every day. Failed today and try again tomorrow. The key is to start be it messy, dirty, scared, in doubt. Do it like it's your b-day baby…(singing). Start, whatever makes you happy (as long as it doesn't harm others) do it. Live and be in the moment. OH, the other thing I did, I continued voluntary work, it gave me a sense of purpose even in my struggle. Sometimes psychological distancing is key… you later realise it's just your brain at work (overthinking things) and at times its just thoughts. I tell Luther (my brain) I don't like you right now so shut up. You know, Me run tings, Tings nuh run me! But I fail at times and that's okay.
To some extent I got embarrassed, being the one to experience what my clients are experiencing. I still remember my psychologist asking me at one point, whether I felt ashamed about my mental health and having to seek help in that aspect. At that very time, I didn't. I did at the beginning of my struggle. I thought I was a superwoman, that could not happen to me. Well, I had a clap to the face. My therapist brought it to my attention as to how I would be a better social worker considering I had walked my journey of fatalities (of course it's not going to be like my clients' experiences at all, as journeys differ, so the outcome) … because I have walked my path.
Many social workers enter the field because of personal experiences in their own lives be it directly or indirectly. Not saying it makes me a better social worker, but I believe it ignites empathy having walked through your own experience, as theory is one thing and experiencing something is another, each experience differs too.
I have read an article titled "Scars on healing hands, the role of lived experiences in social work and it got me thinking especially considering how at times the "heroics'' are tabooed from having lived experiences such as these, considering at times "self-disclosures are sometimes discouraged or even forbidden in some capacities" (Jennifer Gerlach). Nonetheless, "someone's tragedy can easily become your own '' be kind always….
Edit this life, the way you see it fit. Everything and everyone will adjust to the changes you make. The goal is not to be fixed (no one can do that) it's to grow and glow. As much as 2020 was a cosmic mess, it's still "beautiful" to me in its own way. I honor this transition into the person I am evolving to be. Loving all parts of me.
Honouring my past to give room to new beginnings. I hope you love all parts of you...embracing each ebb and flow. Broken crayons still color. I hope you get to a place of complete wholeness and healing. I hope you grow through it all. I hope you persevere and do not give up. Change the narrative. It starts with you!