I can easily say this year has been unlike any other year of life I have experienced, and I have lived through 9/11 and a major recession. But, 2020 has surpassed in it’s ability to simultaneously traumatize from every angle of insecurity I have.
I experienced so many emotions. I felt fear, anxiety and frustration as days turned into months of altered reality requiring quarantines and social distancing. I worried about my health and the health of my loved ones. I feel grief for the people who are sick or lost their lives without a loved one being by their side. I felt anger about the civil unrest. There was disappointment at the government response, the insanity of the election and the many points that felt like failure in providing people with relief and safety. It’s been a rollercoaster.
But, the solitary nature of everything has forced me to do a lot of introspection. Dealing with constant triggering and the subsequent emotion made me examine my coping mechanisms. The healthy ones and the unhealthy ones were pushed to capacity. I reached a point where I decided that I couldn’t keep trying to suppress the feelings. My mask was cracking and I was forced to get very real.
Suddenly, people were asking real questions and we were having real conversations which forced me to confront long-buried moments that hadn’t been fully processed. I was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder as the racial protests played across television screens. At first, I disconnected from my body, but eventually, I had to confront my fears, resentment and sadness of being a person with brown skin in a country that doesn’t value it. One day, I just allowed myself to wail until I had no sound left.
I also felt survivor’s guilt and felt unworthy to feel the depth of hurt I was feeling because I wasn’t facing the same hardship as others.
When I felt my humanity, I had to meet myself and show compassion. Often, I have just been pushing myself to be strong. Even if I felt the shock of trauma, it wasn’t a reason to stop or pause. I treated myself like a soldier and just kept fighting while pushing back the inhumane things I’ve witnessed. But, eventually, it becomes too much. This year pushed me to the point where nothing worked but self-care and I am grateful for it.
I had to find ways to calm my mind. I had been doing emotional work prior to this year, but this year pushed me to really dig deeper and show more courage in the face of what showed up.
“Remember that if you really want to motivate yourself, love is more powerful than fear.― Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind
What I discovered was how unkind I was to myself when I felt emotional. I was extremely critical and beat myself up in order to keep producing despite my feelings. This was the basis of my codependency and people-pleasing. But, the threat of Covid gave me a reason to choose me beyond any doubt. It was a no-brainer for me. When people asked me anything, my answer and explanation was, NO. I quickly saw that I didn’t need as much as I thought I did. I didn’t need as much to entertain myself.
Being an introvert, I was fine at the beginning of the lockdown, but after months I did struggle with the desire for human connection. I used to joke that you could drop me off on an island by myself and I would be just fine, but this actually is not the case. I do want to be around people, but I don’t need it all of the time. I also understood that who I was around was important too. I had very little extra energy to expend and people who complain incessantly were the first to go as they quickly drained my battery. I started being very choosy about who I allowed access to my limited energy.
“Being human is not about being any one particular way; it is about being as life creates you—with your own particular strengths and weaknesses, gifts and challenges, quirks and oddities.”― Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind
I began to accept myself for who I am with all my complexities and understand that I am the sum total of my experiences. I embraced my emotions and greeted them as messengers who showed up to tell me something about myself that I wasn’t aware of. I let my body tell me when it was time to rest or who was stealing more energy than they deserve. I allowed the tears to fall like rain and let it cleanse the grief from the heart. I stopped trying to control and respected the cues of my needs. I became my own advocate.
All this time I thought I was waiting for someone else to see me as someone they couldn’t live without and it turns out I am the one who needs me the most. I asked my own forgiveness for giving myself away blindly all of these years.