Recently I have been talking to women all over the United States who are stuck in all sorts of horrible situations. Women who have been lied to, cheated on, abused, taken advantage of, and left with no connections or resources to speak of. It breaks my heart to see so much pain and suffering.
I have had my own fair share of the experiences listed above and for years I was stuck in depression wondering how my life could ever amount to anything. Some years it was too much to even ask for it to amount to something; I just wanted to feel happy. Just about every woman I talk to expresses some version of this feeling. It can be really easy to get lost in the storm of so much chaos, pain, and suffering.
One day in my mid-20s I found myself in a locked mental health unit on suicide watch. I don’t think I wanted to die, I just didn’t know how to live. I knew I couldn’t keep going. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to get out of bed, shower and manage life with my 14-month-old baby. I just couldn’t keep going and it seemed like no one around me really cared. I tried to tell my husband and I tried to tell a pastor at church. They would give me a hug and be kind, but they didn’t really see my pain. I just couldn’t keep going, so I thought my only option was to end my pain. I justified it in my mind as my baby would be better off without a depressed sad mom. He was young and his dad could find a new happy wife and give him a great life. Now, looking back on how twisted my thoughts and perceptions were, I am deeply grieved by my thoughts. I also have an immense amount of compassion for that 20-something woman doing the best she could with the tools she had.
As I sat in the locked mental health unit on suicide watch, I looked around and saw that everyone around me was at their lowest point too. They too didn’t know how to keep going. They too didn’t have the tools to cope with the cruel realities of life, and they too didn’t die, but didn’t know how to live. As I got to know the men and women there I began to learn that this was the 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th visit for many of them. They would go to “time out” as I referred to it at the time, and then get thrown back into the game of life. They would get tossed around and beat up and then put back in “time out” once they had had enough.
I distinctly remember the moment half way through my week there when a thought was planted deep in my heart: “this will not be me”. I wasn’t judging them or upset – I was actually most upset at the half-hearted support offered by the hospital staff – but I just knew in that moment that I would not continue to be tossed around by pain and suffering. I wanted to be free. I would stand at the caged windows looking out wishing more than anything I could be free. I wanted to be physically free and mentally free. I just wanted to live life. Like really live LIFE, not survive, not cope, not manage, but live.
My determination to get out of that hell hole and into a situation where I could actually be productive in my recovery got me out of the hospital in seven days. I made promises to the staff that I was safe with myself, made an appointment with the best therapist I could afford, and left with a determination to find whatever it was that I was looking for. I honestly had no idea, I just knew that this wasn’t it.
I had no idea I was embarking on a 20-year journey. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t or I wouldn’t have had the stamina to keep going. Here’s the thing about making decisions and determinations. Once we make up our minds about something, we find the resources we need to keep going.
I went to therapy when I couldn’t really afford it, because not going to therapy meant more time being stuck in a place I didn’t want to be. I cycled through MANY therapists over the years, because I discovered along the way that therapists are imperfect humans too, and many try to escape their own pain by trying to help others with theirs. This never works by the way and causes more pain for everyone involved. Just ask me how I know…
My point is, if you want your life to change. If you are sick and tired of being kicked around by life, then you have to make the decision you want out. You have to be willing to sacrifice your comfort, your bank account, the desires of others in your life, and invest in what you want. Scarcity will tell you there isn’t enough money for help. Scarcity will tell you that you will just get hurt because you were hurt before. Scarcity will tell you that there is no hope.
Listen to that other small voice within you that tells you that can’t be true. Listen to the stifled voice inside that is screaming to get out. When you make the decision to end your suffering, and therefore the suffering of every generation behind you, you’ll find the resources and gain the tools you need.
I went to therapy, I joined support groups and big self help events. I even went back to University and got degrees and certifications to first learn and heal myself, and then to find more effective ways of helping people who are hurting. I still feel frustrated and angry over the lack of effective support available, but that doesn’t mean any of us need to give up. If you get food poisoning from a meal does that mean you stop eating for good? Absolutely not, so if you seek support from someone and it turns out not to be helpful for you, keep looking. There are many people who have done the work for themselves and are ready to help as many others as they can, me included.
When I look back at my 20-something self, standing at the caged window staring out into the sun shining on the city, I am deeply grieved by the amount of pain she was in. I am also deeply grateful for her strength and determination despite her circumstances. I am honored and grateful for the decision she made that day, and I am so glad she was able to stick with it despite the number of years it took to truly break free.
Here I am 20 years later reaping all the rewards of her hard work and determination. The time will pass anyway, so what will you do with the time you have left here? Will you waste it by staying stuck in the same cycle, or will you do something to create radical change with your life? No one can do it for you. No one will come and rescue you. Only you can decide you want something different and make the choice to go for it.
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