We are excited to have guest blogger, Kelly Jacobson from Stronger Therapeutic Counseling join us this week on the blog!
Talking about the things we are going through, struggling with, worried about, unsure how to handle…I can guarantee that if you talked about these things, you would find out one of two things, either someone else has been through it, or someone else is going through it.
Why do we keep things in? Why do we hold back from talking about what is really on our minds and in our hearts? Why it is difficult to talk about the times when we do not feel confident in ourselves, our relationships, or fear that our life isn’t as we had planned for ourselves?
As I write this blog post, I want to share with you that I can relate. So many times I’ve decided not to talk and not to open up and share what is on my mind or in my heart. And let me tell you, it’s not easy. It’s not easy keeping things in. Our bodies feel that hurt and it can then manifest in different ways. Keeping the hurt, worry, fear, shame, jealousy and confusion inside cannot stay hidden. Keeping these feeling locked in the body can cause not only physical pain but can wreak havoc with your relationships, thoughts, self-control, and decision making.
I remember deliberately thinking that when times were tough, if I reached out and opened up about what I was struggling with, someone might see me differently or think of me differently. I remember feeling that I might bring embarrassment or shame to my family if I shared what was in my heart that desperately needed to come out, or worse, that what I needed support with might create a burden for others. I thought I might burden them with worry or burden their time from their own families and their needs that required their attention.
You’re probably thinking that is crazy, right? If you are my friend, you’re probably thinking, “You totally could have called me!”
But ultimately, why did I feel these ways? One word…
As a therapist and social worker, I should know better, right? Unfortunately, this is what held even more power over me. So many times I wanted to call a therapist and talk about the pain I was experiencing and the worry that I had. I wanted to call a friend to unload and have her understand what I was going through.
However, as a social worker, I had this thought and belief that I had to live a life that would assure others that I could help them. I felt that if I shared what I was struggling with, others might feel that I wasn’t as strong as I appeared to be, or I wasn’t as skilled as I should be.
This is all stigma. Stigma comes from misconceptions we believe about ourselves, and what we believe others think of us. Stigma comes from our world - the messaging and teaching we took in as children and brought with us to our adulthood…to be tough and not talk about it.
To truly move towards a world without stigma, we have to do 3 things (and we have to truly believe in the importance of doing so).
1. We have to ditch the illusion that everything is fine.
Life is not always fine and you are not always perfect and that is OK.
Feeling that if we share, others might see us differently or not as strong as we should be can hold so much power over us (oftentimes too much power). Last I checked, we are not super humans and we all experience pain, have heartache, feel worried, have fears, experience loss, get disappointed, and are rejected. If you are living and breathing, you are experiencing the beauty of life, the good and the bad.
It is the bad, coupled with the good, when we are truly living. The bad teaches us to live anyway and allows us to see the growth that is possible and the strength that we have to persevere.
2. Lose the fear that by sharing, we might be hurting someone else.
Growing up as a millennial, I’m sure I was not the only one who heard in their home to keep family issues family issues and not talk about them outside of the family. It is these teachings that perpetuate stigma and our beliefs around connecting and sharing with others when life gets tough.
Older generations were taught to keep things locked up and not to air the family’s dirty laundry. Not only is this unhealthy, but it creates isolation. We then isolate ourselves from engaging in the good stuff because we’re not feeling good inside. Keeping all the feelings locked up can increase feelings of depression and slow the healing process.
I don’t know about you, but I never want to share what I’m struggling with or the struggles from the lives of my family members to be a gossip and bring any pain to anyone. Rather, when I experience personal pain, or pain from the struggles of those I love, I feel the need to connect with someone, find someone who understands or might have been through something similar to offer advice and validate how I am feeling.
As humans, we are designed to connect and support each other and to feel loved and understood. These are basic needs that allow us to thrive and feel ourselves, validate our struggles, and find strength that might have been hidden in fear, worry, and doubt. Connection brings healing.
Unfortunately, our society, generation, and culture have instilled that we need to keep pushing through when things get tough and handle it or figure it out, right?
These messages are valid and true, however; they are not rules for all things and all of life.
3. Promise yourself that you’ll talk about it (and encourage your children to do the same).
This simple promise can be everything. Say it out loud to yourself and really think about what this promise can mean. KNOW that making this commitment to yourself shows the respect and value you have for yourself and all that you are worthy of.
Talking can be powerful, and it truly takes courage to open up to share what is hurting, what isn’t Pinterest perfect, and what feels difficult to navigate or comprehend.
If you trust and honor your promise to yourself and begin to talk about what is on your mind and in your heart, you will allow the healing to begin. Once we open up, a burden is lifted from us and we can begin to see more clearly and think more rationally.
This alone is worth it! This alone sets the example for our children that talking is healing, and we can talk to feel better, feel calm, and remain in control of the life that we want for ourselves and our families.
So now that we’ve talked about talking…who should you talk to?
Simply put - whoever makes you feel safe, understood, and supported.
Participating in counseling can be a powerful tool to assist in navigating your feelings, to feel hope, peace, and learn new strategies to cope and live a healthy, balanced life.
Talking with a mentor, friend, sister, pastor or parent can be an important way to heal as well.
If you are in need of immediate support, please contact 911 or reach out to the crisis support line 1-800-273-8255.
Support is there; you just have to harness your strength, trust the process, and open up.
I believe in you.
If you'd like to contact Kelly, her website is: www.yourstrongerself.me or catch her on Instagram at @yourstrongerself!