#Nothing Will Ever Be the Same Again - And That’s Okay
Written By: Kacey Wehr, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist & Mental Health & Wellness Specialist.
“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” ― Roy T. Bennett
There are moments and events that are so big and so disruptive, that in true Fresh Prince fashion, they come in and our “life gets flipped, turned upside down”- this is one of those moments. Some disruptions are positive and feel good as they come in and change our lives, like when I got married, or when I passed my licensing exam and officially became a therapist. Others are more difficult and painful in their disruption, like when my chronic pain and health issues left me practically bed bound for almost two years. And others still are more complex in their disruption because they are a bittersweet mix of both joy and sorrow; positive and difficult; beneficial and challenging- like when I decided to give up my fertility and have a total hysterectomy in order to give myself a shot at a less painful life. It meant giving up having a biological child of my own, but it enabled me to get out of bed and pursue our dream of traveling the world (which we did for the last two years). I think this pandemic is one of those events- our lives are currently flipped, turned upside down, and after this, things will never be the same. But do you know what? It’s okay.
What I have learned about these double edged, earth shattering shifts is that even in the unpleasant wake of destroying our previous way of life, they make room for new ways of existing, new growth, and a new way of being that we may never have imagined possible. It doesn’t mean you have to enjoy the process or ignore how uncomfortable or painful the shattering part is. In fact, honoring that part of the process and feeling those feelings is super important. Change and growth are uncomfortable bedfellows, and there is a reason they call them, “growing pains”. It’s because it sucks and it hurts like a bitch. So where does that leave us as so many of us lay here, shattered, broken, hanging by a thread, wondering where this upheaval is going to leave us and our futures? What are we supposed to do now? Well, fortunately, this is not my first earth shattering rodeo so I have some tricks up my sleeve that may help us get through this, if not better, then at least on the road to recovery. And let’s face it, sometimes, that has got to be good enough.
Surviving & Thriving Tips:
Process Those Feelings: This is an easy phrase to just throw out and I know there are so many articles and resources out there on this particular topic but I want to share with you what it actually means (in plain English) and give you some ideas on the various ways you can dig through and deal with those emotions. Firstly, what we mean when we say “processing your feelings/emotions” is two-fold: (1) identifying the emotions that are coming up; and (2) deal with them in a healthy way. I honestly don’t know which is harder but they are both easier said than done. Think of your emotions as a sounding board for your needs- very similar, in fact, to our bodily functions and the cues they give us when they need to be dealt with, like feeling uncomfortable when your bladder is full, or your tummy growling when we are hungry. Our emotions are our bodies cues/communication when we are either meeting a need, like feeling joyful when we are hanging out with friends, or not meeting a need, such as feeling irritated when we are not being appreciated, or angry when we have been ignored/disrespected. In order to deal with these emotions that come up we have to first be able to identify them and then determine what they are attempting to communicate to us about our needs. True, we sometimes just experience emotions that don’t seem to be attached to anything in particular or aren’t signalling anything specific, other than needing to be expressed, but most of the time, there is a source so try to identify what that source could be. Check-in with yourself about your needs (met and unmet as these are most often the source of those challenging emotions like hurt, sadness, anger, frustration, irritation, joy, contentedness, calm, anxiousness, and happiness) and then once you have identified the emotion(s) you are feeling and why you are feeling them, then you can do something about it. I don’t know if you have ever noticed this, but once I identify my emotions and figure out what they are communicating to me, they seem to have less power over me and I am less at their whim. Although I will share my go-to’s for processing emotions, I highly recommend you add to this list and make it your own:
- Journaling - which is a great way to just get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and down onto paper. This is your safe space to just put it all out there.
- Move Your Body - Our emotions are stored in our bodies (especially those difficult oneslike anxiety, frustration, worry, anger, hurt, etc) and when they go unaddressed for too long, they start to communicate louder and in physical ways in the form of muscle tension, intestinal distress, sleep disturbances, headaches, decreased immune function, lower labido, fatigue, and other fun issues. Moving your body in healthy ways can help the body release endorphins and other hormones and natural “feel good” chemicals. Moving your body also helps release and ease muscle tension and improves brain and body functioning. It can also improve the quality of your sleep which is critical to health and wellness.
- Get Your Need(s) Met - If you have identified a feeling and have traced in back to an unmet need, or personal boundary violation ask yourself what you can do to get that need met and/or what you need to do to address the violation. This may mean sitting down with someone and letting them know that your feelings got hurt; your trust violated; or possibly that you need some more quality time to connect. Whatever it is, it is important that you do what you can to communicate your needs clearly, non-confrontationally, and as openly and honestly as possible. For example, if you are angry because you feel you need more help with the household responsibilities, you could sit down with them and share that you have been feeling overwhelmed lately and would appreciate it if they could help with the dishes for at least one meal a day. The other person may choose not to make amends or meet your needs but at least you will have done what you can to address it and can then put your energy towards other issues and/or finding ways to get those needs met in other ways.
- Use A Creative Outlet - There is something so healing and magical about the creative and expressive arts, and the name tells you everything you need to know right there. They are expressive arts because they not only trigger emotions, they help you process them. So whatever your particular penchant is, do it! Draw, paint, bead, sing, dance, color, write, collage, just do something and do it often!
Self-Care Is Your New Best Friend: I am not going to go into too much detail here since I already did an entire article on this one (which you can check out here ), but suffice it to say that in order to have the space to acknowledge your feelings, identify your needs, and process your emotions, you have to give yourself permission to take care of yourself. Self care isn’t an indulgence, it is a necessity if you want to maintain health and wellness.
Utilize Your Support Systems or Get One: For those of us lucky enough to have an incredible support system of safe and supportive family and friends, we know how truly blessed and fortunate we are. To have a person or persons we know are there if we need a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to, a non judgemental person we can open up to, someone we can call day or night and they would be there no matter what. It is a rare and beautiful thing, and for many, it doesn’t exist. For those that have it, use it- call when you are down, ask to get together when you are lonely, vent to them when you are overwhelmed or frustrated, text when you need a reminder that they are still there for you and love you. Don’t worry that you are a bother, or an annoyance, or that you are going to scare people away by being vulnerable or expressing your needs. Let them support you when you need it. Let your loved ones be there for you, as you would be for them. For those that don’t have that support system, find ways to build one- join hobby groups (one of my biggest support systems is with my old Vocal Ensemble Group! I’m not even in the group any more but we are all still connected on Facebook and they are amazing!); join online support forums. There are so many out there if you look- Facebook has a group for pretty much every type of support you might need so you might start there. The quality of the groups differs based on the moderators and participants but I participate in several that are great. Another option if you are religious is to talk to a religious leader- a Pastor, Priest, Rabbi, Apostle, Elder, Preacher, Yogi, etc. Where these supports have not been able to provide the support needed or you're just wanting to dig a little deeper, a professional therapist or counselor is always an option. For a list of all video and telehealth mental health providers listed by State, check out Pandemic Therapists.
Make Space for a Metanoia Experience: The concept of metanoia is one I was introduced to in my Undergraduate Studies in a Systems Theory class and is one I have never forgotten. “Metanoia” means “a transformative change of heart” and in my class it was used by author Peter Senge, in his book, The Fifth Discipline (2006) and was used to describe a “fundamental shift of mind/thought”. This concept has stuck with me over the years and feel particularly relevant right now as we stand on the brink of a new world. Right now we have a unique opportunity to shift the way we see ourselves in our personal lives, as fellow humans, and as stewards of our Earth. Things are changing right now and I know for me, times of great upheaval provide a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate my beliefs, my values, my priorities, my personal and professional goals, and even my life path. For some, this whole pandemic experience will be nothing but a blip in their memory bank- a short lived (well, somewhat) annoyance that once it sorts itself out, they will return to exactly the same life they were living before all of this went down. But for some of us, for those that are open to the possibility of change and who see obstacles as personal growth opportunities, and are viewing this experience as the beginning of something new for our lives, this is a metanoia experience- a time for reflecting on what we want our life to look like after all of this, and are willing to make changes to experience our lives and relationships in new and more meaningful ways. Neither option is necessarily better or worse- for those that were happy and content with their lives before COVID, getting that back, or at least, something like it, makes perfect sense. For others, the idea of building on and expanding their previous life and redefining it may have more appeal. And for others still, they may just be in survival mode right now which is also completely fine. Sometimes it is hard to have ah-ha moments or even get a chance to reflect on what is happening when you’re in the midst of it. I guess the important thing to ask yourself is, “what do I want my life to look like after all of this?” “Are there changes I/we have made during this time that I want to continue?” “Are there issues that came to light about the way we have been living that I want to do differently moving forward?” “Are there things I have learned about myself in this process that I want to work on, continue, improve, keep, change, or nurture?” “Are there dynamics within my relationship(s) and/or parenting that benefited from this experience or got worse?” Regardless of where you are at, one thing is for sure- nothing will ever be the same again, and that is okay.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi
Kacey Wehr is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with degrees in Child Development, Psychology, and Marriage & Family Therapy. She has six years experience providing therapy, psychoeducation, developing trainings and workshops, leading support groups, and has over seven years experience in Education having taught Early Education for preschoolers, High School, and Undergraduate Psychology. She has extensive training and experience in Trauma Informed Care, Crisis Intervention, Grief & Bereavement, Complex Trauma, Child Development, and is a Certified Crisis Counselor for victims of relationship abuse/violence and sexual exploitation. She has devoted the majority of her therapeutic experience to working with and empowering young adults, new parents, couples, and families with complex trauma history. She believes in integrating holistic health approaches in her work and attained a Certification as a Wellness Clinician which enables her to utilize aromatherapy in her mental health support. She also is trained in acupressure for labor and has assisted in the labors and births of several of her closest friends as they brought their littles ones into the world. In her free time she enjoys singing, all things crafty, watching movies with her daughter, nesting and home decorating, cooking and eating yummy foods, and traveling the world with her husband (so far they have been to 27 countries and over 40 cities around the globe!). She is here to help other mothers navigate the crazy journey that is parenthood, relationships, challenges with mental health, sex and intimacy, and walk this journey with you, sharing her experience and expertise.