Getting Real and Aquiring the Tools to do so

I’m back home now and it’s great to get back into the beautiful friendships that I left behind. Some things have changed and some haven’t, but the main difference is me feeling better in myself and closer to my friends as I open up and feel confident in who I really am.

I’m glad I went away and took my own time to process everything that I went through and one of the most important things for me to do was talk things out until I had fully accepted myself and everything that happened to me. Without doing this I would probably still be spiralling around the “I’m fine” mantra while I would seclude myself into a hole of negativity and secretly cry in isolation in a cloak of shame because I didn’t want anyone to know my secret vulnerabilities. It’s easy to do this in a facebook world of ‘everyone is so happy, let’s all (pretend to) be happy too’, but what I’ve learnt is that this illusion of happiness isn’t real life. True happiness is acknowledging all feelings and situations good and bad and having the courage to sit through the discomfort as well as the comfort in life.

It’s starting to become clear to me just how many people live in this illusion of happiness while the reality is a whole load of avoidance fun fairs, cafes of coping and a whole flutter of anxiety butterflies chasing illusions of people around while the real people are nowhere to be seen (check out my sketches if you have no idea what any of that means). Where are these real people? The ones who aren’t afraid to talk about real life events and have the courage to sit in the discomfort that is sometimes real life? Do the people in the illusion know that they’re inside a false reality? I know that I didn’t until trauma pierced my illusion bubble and I realised that in order to get on with real life I had to become real myself.

I guess before I didn’t know how to be real because I’d never faced any situations that had made me investigate the darker side of my emotions. I’d had a picture perfect life, and when it came to going into those dark emotions I just didn’t have the tools to deal with them, so I had to go and find these tools from the people who did have them, and I spent the last 5 months using them and exploring them in an objective manner. The thing is that this is a pretty obscure way to deal with trauma recovery and I’ve realised that the most common route in the absence of knowledge is to go silent and step back out of life because I guess if nobody talks about dark emotions then they will go away… Right? No. Wrong! What happens is that this big white elephant in the room gets so big that it will silently crush you to death.

So, in order to get real, I figured that I needed the right set of tools, so I firstly sought about people who had them and that was a counsellor (aka psychologist/therapist). At first, I was quite sheepish about telling some of my friends – yes the attack had got to me that much that I was cracking up and needed to see a psychologist… that meant that I was crazy right? No, and as one of my friends rightly encouraged me she said:

“That’s amazing, just think, you’re free to say absolutely anything and you can’t be judged for it. Awesome”.

When I thought of it like that, it became an experience to look forward to, an opportunity to explore and an opportunity to grow as a person.

So I overcame this social taboo and when I did, I realised just how ridiculous a taboo it is, and how beneficial it is to go and see a someone who has this tool set.

Let’s see it this way… Say I’m building a bike. Not just any bike, an awesome bike. The kind of bike that isn’t out there on the market, because it’s different than anything that has ever existed. This bike is going to be the fastest downhill mountain bike that anyone has ever seen and I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to build it because I love mountain biking. Thing is, I don’t have the tools to build the bike, in fact, I know jack-sh*t about building bikes, but I want to learn because I want to build this amazing bike of my dreams to ride on. So what do I do? I find the best bike building teacher I can afford to teach me how to build the bike and show me what tools I need and how to use them. Once I have this knowledge and the tools I can go off and build my amazing creation. If I get stuck at any point or if the bike falls apart then I can always go back to my bike building teacher for some more lessons.

Why don’t we think about counselling like this? Because all it’s really about is going to a person who has the tools and the knowledge who can share them with you to help you work on something, whether that is processing emotions, trying to be happier or just generally living life the way you dream of rather than in a way you tolerate. I mean, would you try and fix your broken right arm with your broken right arm? No of course not, so why try to solve issues of the mind with the mind?

I guess that I got to a point where  I didn’t want to feel negative  anymore, so I went about getting the tools to change that but I think that we could all do with acquiring new tools every now and then, whether we think we’re happy or not.

But I guess deep down we’re all happy aren’t we… right? Or are we in the illusion of happiness…

If you want aquire some new life tools, explore your inner psyche or just go for a therapeutic massage, check out my 3 step guide to finding the right therapist

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Follow Your Intuition, Have Intention and Find Courage

I’m on my way home now (via Jakarta, Bangkok and London) but I’m heading in that general direction. Home. The place I went to when I first felt the pang of heartbreak, the place I flew straight back to after the attack and the place where I said my last goodbye to my Dad. It feels good to be heading back and I’m looking forward to seeing my family, friends and the cats. Mostly I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter of my life. I came to Asia with the intention of working on myself and the emotions that came up following these traumatic events, in the hope that I could somewhat heal the brokenness that I felt inside. I made sure to follow my intuition to steer me on my path along the way and it’s not been without its challenges. Although I know that I’ve always had a lot of courage, there have been times when I’ve had to search every bit of me to find what it’s taken to get through the toughest bits but I feel much better for doing so.

I really believe that each person ultimately knows themselves better than anyone else on this planet so by listening to what ‘feels’ right should be the best guide for healing, but without a real intention this intuition can often go unheard or ignored and without the courage to act, then both are useless anyway.

The events are still relatively fresh for me but I find that I’ve reached a turning point where I’m ready to drop the trauma story. I’m not quite sure what that means for this blog yet, I guess I’ll write for as long as it feels right, or maybe I’ll change it or develop it into something new (suggestions very welcome: traumaontour@hotmail.com), but I know that for now I’m ready to change the trauma record. I reached this point in the last week or so and something that I feel sped it up somewhat, was having some intense Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (a therapy that I’ve always respond to very well). I was lucky enough to find an intuitive therapist in Bali, who worked with me to push my limits as much as I could emotionally and physically handle and within the safety of the practice – based on both our intuition and his expertise and knowledge. This application of intuition and knowledge was applied with awareness, then sense checked, reflected upon and evaluated to really measure progress and I reinforce this kind of evaluation in my learning experiences in life, be it for personal development, therapy or learning a new skill. I mean this is commonly done in work environments, why wouldn’t we apply it to our own personal development, growth and healing?

Listening to my intuition resulted in me to staying in Ubud for over six weeks, surrounded by great people, including my inspirational roommate CJ, an awesome self-built entrepreneur, who’s been like a sister to me. Deepi was the third member of our crew, a lively Canadian/Indian chick who speaks her mind and takes no shit. These two women have been an influential part of my healing because we created an environment where it was safe to talk about everything, and I mean everything including difficult personal feedback about vulnerable situations, upfront truths that needed to be heard and all our emotions in all their colourful shapes and intensities. All without judgement and with wholehearted compassion in the hope that we would learn about ourselves and grow more in the process. I certainly feel like I did. Maybe if everyone had an environment like this, where they could talk so freely without fear of being judged or ridiculed then the World would be a much better place. I can imagine that traumas might be processed faster at least, especially because talking so openly and frequently about them would eradicate the taboo and discomfort that so often comes with this kind of sharing.

Now, following your intuition is one thing but it’s not just a case of landing in Bali and expecting to be healed, even if your intuition is screaming “Go to Bali”! No, because nothing really matters unless it’s done with intention, and the right intention at that. I came here with the intention of healing because I wanted to get back to living the nomadic, adventurous, fun filled life that I used to and nothing was going stop me getting there. I knew that I would have to sit through some uncomfortable challenges, that I would have to experience all the darkness of my traumas and the emotions that came with them to process them and get through to a more positive and stable state of mind and it’s not been easy getting here. I knew there would be anger, tears, confusion, embarrassment, shame, blame, apologies, confessions, panic attacks and a whole host of ‘break down’ type moments in front of a variety of audiences (I’m totally cool with public crying now). The thing is that I was ready to look all these moments in the eye and crawl through the sludge of them because I also knew that I had the grit, humility and endurance to do it, I knew that I had courage. Sometimes that meant reaching out and asking for help, regardless of how weak this made me feel at the time. As if I’d somehow failed at life because I was having to ask someone to be there for me or that I was lesser of a person because I couldn’t help but break down at certain situations that ‘normal people’ wouldn’t be phased by. It’s the overcoming of this shame and breaking the silence to speak that took a huge amount of inner courage, especially when to even voice my traumas brought out reactions in others that made me feel outright rejected, unsupported and unwelcome for sharing. I know this comes down to other people’s discomfort at not wanting to deal with these situations but overcoming these rejections (that’s what they felt like) when I expressed myself was a hard thing to keep overcoming. I actually remember a captain friend of mine stopping me on a walk back from the pub to tell me how brave I was to seek counselling straight after the attack. I guess I didn’t quite realise it back then because being from a medical type family going to counselling made sense to me – experience a psychological trauma, go and see a psychological expert – but looking back I don’t think that’s what he meant. I think he meant overcoming the stigma of opening up about my vulnerabilities, and having the courage to speak out. He was right, it was brave.

What I realised is that speaking out takes a different kind of courage. It’s not the courage that you need to live the life of a nomad without financial stability or the security of a fixed base, it’s not the courage you need to jump out of a plane even though your heart is thumping in your throat and it’s not the courage you need before enduring a hike to Everest Base Camp – trust me I’ve done all those thing and they were easy in comparison. Speaking out took a deeper level of courage that I wasn’t even sure I had, the courage to go somewhere that no one wants to go. The kind that makes you feel like you’ve exposed your deepest darkest secrets in front of the whole World and its judgement. Like you’re the helpless child in the playground, being humiliated, alone, being pointed at while the whole school laughs at you. I’m sure you know the feeling, it’s the stuff of nightmares. It’s often the fear of this feeling that silences us while we continue to tear up inside, telling everyone on the outside that we’re “fine” while we sink into a pit of loneliness which gets heavier and heavier until it’s almost unbearable. Having the courage to break that silence is real courage, and as with all things that involve hardship, it pays off, at least it did for me. By communicating and sharing as much as I have I’ve created stronger bonds with people because deep down we all have our trauma secrets, by sharing them it brings us closer together. It’s made me stronger too because I’ve got to know myself well through all these events and I’m sure that I’ll push myself even further with this new depth courage that found.

So I’ll leave you with a thought today. Tap into your intuition about a situation that feels vulnerable for you, see what feels like the right thing to do. It’s most likely the hard thing, that you subconsciously make excuses to avoid without realising. If you do realise what it is, find the courage to do something about it, with intent and see where it leads you. It might be saying sorry for your part of an argument, telling someone how you feel about them or just admitting that you need some help right now.

With courage x

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