STRENGTH in Recovery – Part 4
Emotions can be scary.
As you may know many mental health illnesses are actually a result of trying to numb painful emotions; they are just too much for us to cope with. They make us feel overwhelmed, weak and vulnerable...but in order to recover that numbing needs to end.
Making the choice to recover doesn’t mean we suddenly become less afraid of our emotions, they are still as scary as ever when we first start out on the recovery journey. Instead it just means we have reached a point in our lives where we feel strong enough to begin to confront our fears. We’ve developed a bit more trust in ourselves using our tenacity, and the ever developing resilience that accompanies that allows us to slowly get in touch with and begin to face our emotions.
Allowing ourselves to “feel” again takes a huge amount of courage. We know, deep down, that all the negative emotions we have avoided while being caught up in our illnesses are waiting for us.
I remember early in my own recovery reading an article entitled "The Mid-Recovery Cluster Fuck of Emotions" which left me traumatised for months. Every time I thought about getting closer to a "normal" weight I imagined some massive, bloody battle scene (akin to the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones for any of you who may watch) with my emotions overtaking me and killing off any sense of "normalcy" I still had left. I spent months battling myself against the terror of my emotions, until one day something clicked and I realised while I remained afraid of my negative emotions I was also denying myself the joy of the positive ones.
Like many of us, I had spent years believing emotions were a sign of weakness that would just hold me back. They were something that everyone else experienced, but not something for me. I didn't realise how the detached life I had built for myself was actually contributing to my illness and whilst I avoided the #vulnerability of my emotions I was allowing myself to become physically and mentally weaker and more vulnerable. So what changed?
I should point out, that may sound easier than it actually was! What happened was I came across a fantastic Ted Talk from Brené Brown where she talked about the importance of vulnerability and shame. Her words;
"Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage."
sparked my curiosity and made me wonder whether my fear of emotions could be overcome. I started to question where that fear was coming from and wondered what might happen if I allowed myself to start feeling again.
And the more curious I got, the more self belief I developed.
And the more I believed in myself the stronger I got.
I realised that if I wasn't willing to accept my emotions I was never going to recover and so I got #BRAVE enough to stop running and by doing so I was able to start living my life again.
So how does being emotional fit into being strong enough to recover?
It takes strength and courage to finally stop and face what we have spent years avoiding.
When we decide that we are going to allow ourselves to start facing our emotions again we need to be resilient enough to withstand the torrent that may, at times, threaten to overwhelm us. Yes, emotions are natural and there to guide us, but when they have been suppressed for years the fear that they are going to be uncontrollable can make us nervous about allowing them in.
But our strength makes us #BRAVE. By the time we reach this point in recovery we have already proved to ourselves time and time again that we are worth fighting for. That when we fall we can pick ourselves up and that we can endure whatever life may throw at us. We take a risk when we allow ourselves to be emotional, but in the wise words of Robert Ebert;
"Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you"
Being strong means trusting ourselves. Are you willing to trust yourself and your emotions today?
Perhaps if you haven't made that decision yet, listening to Brené could help you get curious about what might await you if you do?