“The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” Joanna Macy
To say that I was a tender little child is an understatement. My mother often said I was born into the world on my shoulders. I look back on diaries I have kept from my younger years and have shaken my head at things I worried about when I was young.
When I visited the Western Australian Art Gallery for the first time, I cried all night because I was so moved by a sculpture of a Noongar woman and her child in a sandstorm.
As I grew older, the anxiety and sadness didn’t improve a whole lot. I just found new things to numb it with. I don’t remember being taught how to handle emotions, how to normalise grief, how to recover from trauma. ‘Mental health’ wasn’t a buzzword around town either!
Enough of the sob story. The point I’m trying to make was that I look back and see a little girl who felt deeply and that was not a bad thing at all. It was special, it was filled with potential, it was a gift.
I am 27 years old and only just am beginning to feel comfortable in my own skin. Comfortable to feel deeply, comfortable to cry, to feel compassion, for my heart to break when I see injustice in the world, comfortable to grieve and to sit in the sadness and pain for a while. I am real and authentic about how I feel in each season and my mental health struggles.
Why? Because it might just help someone else feel less alone in the world. It might just give someone hopes that there are joy and beauty in and amongst the dust and the dirt of life.
So my friend here’s a few tips I’ve learnt along the way :
- Give yourself permission to feel
What made my pain worse was beating myself about the fact that I feeling the pain. Showing emotion about something that has happened in your world is not weakness. It is a perfectly healthy response. I have a thing called a “Pity Party” and only my dog is invited. I sit and I cry, I eat ice cream, I watch a whole season of Downton Abbey and turn off my phone. I allow myself to feel the pain for 24hours and then I move on with my life either by confronting whatever has made me feel sad or grieved, or I let it be. Psychologists called it ‘containing emotions’, I call it darn good excuse to eat ice cream.
2. The World needs you
One thing I have realised is that I am made the way I am for a reason. Yes, I might cry over stupid things like my husband texting for too long but that part of me is also connected to the compassion I feel for people suffering in the world. I cry and I get angry and do what I can to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, I refuse to numb myself to the plight of others, I refuse to numb myself to my own pain. And that is a truly brave place to stand in. Weeping for your fellow human is a divine act. The world needs more people who dare to weep for others.
3. Screw the haters
Some people don’t like that you are a deep feeler. Some people take themselves too seriously to hang out with a beautiful paradox like you. These are not your people. And that is totally ok because I bet lots of people think you’re adorable and awesome. I’ve posted blogs before that have left me with concerned looks in the hallways but then there’s that one person who reads it and it really helps them not feel so alone in what they are going through. I’d put up with the weird looks if just one person was helped through my choice to be vulnerable any day of the week. Invest your time in people who love you just the way you are.
4. There’s a healthy way to handle emotions (and an unhealthy way!)
There are so many great resources out there (See the bottom of this post) to help you learn emotional resilience. Sometimes my emotions control me and I find myself curled up in the foetal position crying at 3 am in the morning and sometimes my emotions help me to be the safest place on earth for a friend who is going through a tough time. I often think of my sensitivity as a double-edged sword. One side of it hurts and limits me and the ones I love and the other side is productive, good and makes others around me better people. You can feel deeply and be a fairly functioning adult and contribute to society in a meaningful way, but it takes work and boundaries with yourself and others to do it.
5. Get help before you “Need” it
One of the biggest mistakes I have repeatedly made is making an appointment with a professional when my mental health has whirled done the toilet a few weeks prior.
The best thing we can all do for ourselves is to go see someone to talk about what we are going through early. If it has been more then a few weeks and you are not feeling your normal self, it’s time to see a trusted friend or professional. If you live in Australia, you are entitled to 10 FREE counselling sessions a year. All you need to do is to go see you G.P for a referral. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on counselling and psychology and every dollar is well spent because now I have the tools to live my life to the full and be free of all that has held me back.
6. Give yourself a break
When you’ve been through a season the has required lot of you emotional, or maybe you do a job that channels you deep feel all day long. You deserve a break honey, even if its just from your own head! Self Care is the pinnacle of our effectiveness in our daily lives. Do something completely selfish and enjoyable. Take a nap, eat your favourite ice cream (there I go again), hang out with a friend and go so something fun, take a walk on the beach. As long as it fills your tank and gives you pleasure. Do it!
7. Connect to something bigger than yourself
If one thing is for certain it’s that the world will keep turning even without our endless participation. Deep feelers are particularly susceptible to becoming martyrs if they’re not careful. Connection to a greater power has helped me accept that I really don’t control a whole lot and there are really some situations in the world I cannot change on my own. Whether you meditate, pray, read a good spiritual book (see below), accepting that there’s a force in the universe that feels and sees and has compassion just as you do is a comforting thing. We are participants in a dance, we don’t coordinate the dance. Yield to a power that can heal your heart and can heal the world.
Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
The Dark Night of the Soul
“Living with a Black Dog” on Youtube https://youtu.be/2VRRx7Mtep8
Henry Clouds short n’ sweet blogs on https://www.drcloud.com/
Super Soul Sundays with Oprah Winfrey
The Psychology Podcast with Dr.Scott Barry Kaufman
The Kin Women Podcast
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to read sad poetry and cry into my peppermint tea.