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How to save yourself from the abyss of emotional trauma

FACTS & ARGUMENTS

How to save yourself from the abyss

There may be no quick fix or life hack to feel better, but there is something you can do, Michael Landell writes

Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Where do I go from here?

That's the question I've been trying to answer for the past 10 months.

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I still don't have the answer.

Spoiler alert: There is no answer, no quick fix, life hack or secret to recovering after a calamitous life event such as (fill in the blank).

The only thing you can control is yourself and the key ingredient is, to keep moving. When you are occupied, so is your mind, and, in doing so, you limit your mind's capacity to dwell on (fill in the blank). There is immense therapeutic value in a new pair of running shoes and a gym membership. (You actually have to use them though.)

To anyone who has had their life unravel in a few minutes or slowly over a longer period of time, you very likely understand the post-traumatic existential crisis that becomes your daily routine in the days, weeks, months and even years – after (fill in the blank).

You get the sense that things will never feel normal again. This thing that happened has changed you forever and, always for the worse. There is a never-ending sense of loss, dread, frustration, sadness and overwhelming sense of defeat whenever you dwell in the part of your brain that ruminates on (fill in the blank).

The feeling of being a walking cliché is actually one of the hardest things you will have to overcome. Surviving emotional trauma is not easy – neither is getting past physical trauma. Whether you're dealing with either or both, be prepared to also face everyone you know as they graciously impart their experience with a totally different and unrelated (fill in the blank) that they will say is just like your situation – and they're fine now so you will be, too.

They mean well – just get used to people saying they are sorry over and over again about (fill in the blank).

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As much as you will want things to be different or go back to "normal" – in all likelihood, that will not happen. You have to let that part of your life go and embrace what remains. You will want to do it alone and just power through or pretend that nothing happened. Living your life in a state of denial is exhausting, but it does work for a time until, eventually, (fill in the blank) catches up with you. If I can give any advice – and it isn't my advice to give really – it belongs to my long-time yoga instructor. I heard this over and over practising yoga but never really paid any attention because I never understood it – until now.

Practice radical acceptance.

Accept yourself, whatever that means to you. Accept the circumstances you find yourself in. Any expectations you have or had about the future – you have to let them go. Any type of control you thought you had outside of yourself or your own actions, you also have to let go of.

In bad moments, you will feel as if you are standing on the edge of a cliff holding a rope with the weight of the world on the other end. Attached to the other end of that rope is all of the negativity and fear you have related to (fill in the blank). The reflex is to pull up with everything you have and fight the battle with those thoughts and feelings – but that is a losing battle and you might end up getting pulled off the ledge and fall into that abyss with all of that negativity. The harder thing and, ultimately, the healthier thing to do, is just drop the rope. Let it all go. Realize that (fill in the blank) is a set of circumstances beyond your control.

The only real power you have is over your own mind – not outside events. How you react to life's externalities is your only control. That is the part where you get to (fill in the blank) for yourself.

(Fill in the blank) happened. You do not need to be "okay" or "fine" or whatever else people expect or want you to be. Try and put yourself first when it comes to (fill in the blank) and that should help you find the right perspective, your own.

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The world of social media is full of mindfulness quotes directing you to have a coffee, put on some gangster rap and "handle" it. If that sort of thing works for you, go for it. But, if you need a bit more than java and G-Unit to deal with (fill in the blank), I hope you get all the help you need. Finding meaning or a silver lining to (fill in the blank) is up to you and your own process. If you accept the present version of yourself, you may come to the slow realization that you are enough and exactly where you need to be. Nothing else matters more.

When you actively control your self-narrative as it relates to (fill in the blank) – you regain the pen used to author your life story. It takes practice, time and perspective. Even still, at times, you will find yourself fighting that rope on the cliff. Progress is always a process, it just gets easier and easier to drop the rope and walk away. Until then, keep moving and accept it – all of it – especially yourself.

Michael Landell lives in Toronto.

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