I have been an advocate for therapy and mental health awareness for several years. Therapy has been a safe place for me to navigate many of the unresolved issues in my life. Therapy has allowed me to learn how to live with my trauma in a healthy fashion. However, seeing a therapist is not a cure-all. Wait, did I just shock you? Going to therapy is amazing. You get to talk to someone who does not have preconceived notions about you. They have an unbiased perspective while giving sobering revelations. Attending your sessions is the easy part; doing the actual work is difficult.
Therapy did not prevent me from entering into a trauma bond soon after my father passed away. Do you see this photo to the left? This was the day of my engagement photo shoot. I love this photo, I appear to be certain, even fearless. What you cannot see is the tempest of emotions swirling in me.
I know what you are thinking: you are probably saying, "you look amazing! OMG, I am so happy for you! You deserve to be happy." This photo represents such extremes emotionally. Listen, I was happy but hurting. I was excited yet torn. Wait, did I mention this all happened within six months of burying my father? So, what is really going on in this photo? Could it be that this relationship was the distraction I needed to avoid dealing with my grief? Was planning a wedding the emotional exit that my "avoidance" response longed for? The short answer is yes and yes.
My trauma response is avoidance. I avoid feeling the impact of the situation as it is happening. I will focus all of my energy to solve a problem, become extremely productive, or even suppress my feelings altogether. This makes me invaluable in a crisis but unable to assess my own emotional state. Four months before the wedding I returned to therapy. I knew something within me was not ok. I became uncertain in my ability to make good decisions for myself. I began to replay the words of caution from my family and close friends. All of them wanted to see me happy, but they were also uncertain about this decision. Although I can be impulsive, my ability to make sound decisions was without question. During the growth work of therapy, I became more aware of the red flags my grief and avoidance would not allow me to see. I said, "ok maybe this can still work, I mean we have invested so much time, money, and emotional currency into this wedding." Then it happened; on a Wednesday night, I finally did it. I fell to my knees in a full weep and cried out to God. I told God, "I cannot survive another divorce." I prayed and cried for what seemed to be twenty minutes and suddenly felt a peace that I had not experienced throughout this relationship. Within thirty-six hours the relationship was over.
Things I learned in this relationship:
- The things you avoid will manifest at the least opportune time.
- Having people in your life that will tell you the truth is only beneficial if you are willing to listen.
- Grief can alter your perspective and decision making.
- Making life-changing decisions with unprocessed grief is not healthy.
- Your trauma does not have to define you!
- Whether you believe in God, a higher power, or the ancestors, the spirit will answer when the heart and mind are ready.
- Your mental and emotional health is worth more than any financial or relational investment.
The way this relationship ended was painful; however, living a life full of regret would have hurt more. I am thankful for the friends and family who made sure I knew they loved me and supported me throughout this process. I still love him but understand that I should love myself more. Emotionally, I was not ready, and I was spiritually drained. All logic pointed to this being a bad decision, but like many of us, I did it anyway. I do not regret allowing space for love. I do not regret giving my heart a place to dance or sing. I do not regret realizing I have the capacity to be free and authentically me. The only thing I regret is not weighing the wisdom I received.
Take the time to evaluate your perspective in every area of your life. I want you to know that no matter what situation you might find yourself in, you can begin today to make yourself a priority. I promise you that if no one else understands your story, I do. Walk down that path that seems to lead to an uncertain place. I walked it and can tell you, it leads to a better you.