After Tragedy Strikes
…How Do You Put Yourself Back Together?
I know I touched on this a bit ago in this amazing guest post, but I thought I’d like to expand a little more on the topic. Tragedy happens, people leave us, we get ourselves out of bad situations are are forced to deal with the ensuing trauma – so just how are we supposed to pick ourselves up after that? How are we supposed to move forward and find ourselves again?
There aren’t any easy answers to those things. Believe me, I know. I’ve had to pick myself up off the floor too many times to think dealing with things and moving on is simple. But I do know a few things that’ve helped me rediscover (or discover for the first time) myself admits the chaos. Seeing as that’s what I’m in the middle of dealing with, and I know a lot of my friends are too, I thought it was about time I wrote something about it.
- Take each day as it comes. Don’t get ahead of yourself. The worst thing I’ve done is focus on what’s going on tomorrow, stress about where I want to be, and how far I’m going to have to go in order to get there. That does nothing but make me feel behind, miserable, and overwhelmed. Today – this moment – is all you’re going to have. So make the most of it. Always. It’s all that matters, so stop concerning yourself over tomorrow, or even the next hour. Do what you need to get through, and you’re good.
- It’s okay that you’re feeling ______ right now. I don’t freaking care what it is. Feeling happy? Angry? Wanting to die? Stop punishing yourself for that. One of the worst things you can do to yourself is to try to hold back those feelings. All of that – all that emotion – means that you’re processing things. It means you’re making it through and doing what you’ve got to do. The more you suppress things, ignoring your feelings, or hating yourself for having them, the longer it’s going to take for you to heal and move forward. It’s all apart of the process. Embrace it.
- Go back to your roots. I’m not talking family history here, I’m talking about the absolute basics of your identity. Skip anything that’s confusing and you haven’t got figured out yet. What food do you enjoy? What makes you feel safe? What do you enjoy doing? Cling to the smallest things you know about yourself already, and take comfort in them. Once you’ve got your foundations set, you’re free to experiment with new things that may or may not interest you, and discover yourself further from there. However, out of everything, I recommend setting up camp, first.
- Find support. As capable as you like to think you are, you’re not going to be able to do anything by yourself. I’ve tried, and it sucks. So find yourself a few friends or people you can be completely open and honest with. Counselors are amazing, and I absolutely implore you to go to one. It’s not a sign of weakness or anything like that – not embarrassing like I used to think it was – it’ll honestly change your life. You need someone to vent to and help you move forward. You also need people (note the plural there) who will have your back no matter what. You’re not going to get anywhere without that.
- Take joy in the small things. Who cares about doing huge and incredible things when you’ve got tea to enjoy? Stop and check out the sunshine (or rain, depending on your preferences), really take every opportunity you can to appreciate the tiny things around you. Not only will this help you keep a bit more of a positive headspace (but not really), it’ll teach you to stay in the moment, and maybe you’ll even learn some new things about yourself through it.
- Give yourself things to enjoy. Like, actually. How else’re you going to make it through things, reclaim your identity, and move past a personal tragedy but to have fun? Play games. Go on hikes, spend time baking, do nothing but watch Netflix. You need time to heal, to take care of yourself, to establish who you are and what you enjoy. And sometimes, you’re just going to need a distraction when life gets a bit too much.
- Take time. Relax, chill out, stop forcing yourself to keep moving forward all the time. It’s okay to stand still. Not forever, mind you, but for the moment? It’s alright. I’ve seen so many people around me – myself included – who thought the only way to make progress was to keep pushing myself to meet goals, to keep moving, and to do whatever it took to attain the kind of future I wanted for myself. But after years, I looked back and noticed I hadn’t been getting anywhere. It was only until I took time to actually just sit and do nothing that I started moving forward. Contradictory, I know, but it’s true. You’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t stop. Sounds harsh, but I mean it. So take yourself out of your crappy situations and rest. Or else five years will pass and it’ll be the exact same.
- Where do you want to be? Once you’ve got yourself established a little bit, think about the person you would like to be. If you were designing yourself as a character in a novel, and you could make everything as ideal as you want, what would you look like? What would the life around you look like? Dream impossibly big, lay it all our in front of you, let nothing hold you back. Screw the ‘yeah but I’m too scared for that.’ We’re imagining, not being realistic. So have a bit of fun, will you? Then write all this down so you don’t lose sight of it on your most miserable of days.
- How are you going to get there? Okay, now we’ll look into the realistics. Again, take one moment at a time, respect how you’re feeling at any given moment, and let yourself rest. But within that, what can you do to make things just a little closer to how you want them to be? I got a tattoo, dyed my hair pink, and moved out of town. Maybe you’ll do something like making good meals for yourself once a week, or go to the gym once or twice a month. Start small, and go from there. If it’s too much, take a step back. If it’s not enough, do more. And for the sake of everything that’s good in the world – do not be like me and punish yourself if one day you can’t manage to do something. It’s all part of the process, so respect that.
- Keep everything in perspective. By this, I mean take inventory at every moment. How are you feeling right now? What are/aren’t you capable of handling because of this? Why might you be feeling this way (pmsing maybe)? What’s in your best interest to concern yourself over right now? Are you going to be okay going out, talking to people? Would rather just so in bed and watch 13 Reasons Why because life is miserable and you need that to be acknowledged? Go for it man.
Hope this helps, at least a little. Always feel free to come and chat with me about any of this stuff. I know going through identity loss, depression, and trauma are huge things to deal with, and I’m here to offer that extra bit of support to anyone who needs it.
(Pst. Check out the new magazine issue out for August. It may contain a few helpful resources for handling this sort of thing.)