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Feeling the Pain Matters

Summer has officially cruised by us and left us right where we were before we melted into the ease and warmth brought on by its months.

I spent a good amount of time nestled on sandy beaches, surrounded by trees and canyons, basically anywhere I could feel the love and gentleness of mother nature. I needed her to help reset, recenter and ground me. I understood the importance of having this time to care for myself, so I humbly took it because summer doesn’t last forever. If you are like me, you have been left feeling cheated in a way. This summer flew by more so than others because of the great need to melt into it and restore our minds, bodies, and souls. We all needed this summer to bring us back to ourselves, remind us of what is important and mostly to resolve us from the perpetual state of fear being forced upon us. So, why am I more anxious now then at the start of the summer?

My anxiety leaves my hands trembling so much that it is difficult to write, drive, or cook dinner for my kiddos. My stomach is constantly in knots and bloated, I lay in bed at night trying to sleep as my mind races and I literally feel as though I am being choked. Yes, hands wrapped around my neck choked. I wake up tired with brain fog and unable to process complete thoughts. My hands and feet are always cold even when it is 90 degrees outside because my circulation has slowed down along with my digestion and brain function. My sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive and as much as I have studied and practiced how to regulate myself, I am having a difficult time regulating myself in this moment. I know I am physically safe. I know all I have is the moment I am in, and I can’t control the past or predict the future. I know I get to choose. I know I am in control, but I don’t feel it and it is maddening.

Today, I am supposed to be writing copy for my website. It is extremely important to me, and I believe deeply in my work, but it’s simply not happening. This lack of movement is adding to my anxiety. I am going to explain further what causes my anxiety, but I’d like you to know that I am able to pull it together in this moment and write because my kiddos have friends over. I love the sound of them playing, having conversations, listening to music, and telling each other stories. Right now, I can hear my daughter telling her friends about the Armenian camp she went to this summer and how to say “good night” in Armenian. Her friends are asking her lots of questions about her camp friends and the camp activities. One friend asked her if she slept in a tent. They are ten years old, engaged in conversation, interacting, joking, being curious, learning from one another, exhibiting compassion and kindness and a great deal of interest as my daughter tells them about her camp experience. This is childhood, this is what our children need to grow up with social and emotional intelligence. This is what they need to feel safe, confident, and secure in their environments whether at home, in school, on the playing field or any community they belong. This is what summer brought them and the school year will take away if we continue the traumatizing narrative.

Using fear, guilt, or shame to control a person young or grown is traumatic. Allowing our children to believe going to school, being with their friends, playing sports and simply just being kids will cause them and others to get sick is unfair and not true. This narrative has caused extreme societal trauma and although many of us tried to use the summer months to heal and normalize our lives, the return to September, school and still mostly working from home is undoing everything summer did for us and our children. We are social beings and need each other at every stage of our lives to grow, learn and especially develop social and emotional intelligence. We simply cannot and do not learn about ourselves and the world without human interaction. Being in relationships allows us to learn the most about ourselves and how we show up in the world. This is a constant whether we are in a pandemic or not, we need each other.

This brings me back to the anxiety I have been experiencing. My anxiety is rooted in trauma from messaging I received as a child. I have accepted a story that has me believing I am not good enough, I am too sensitive, and I need to play small. I am constantly bringing awareness to how I show up and the voice in my head because it is important that I don’t feel dismissed by anyone including myself. Two weeks ago I was greatly triggered when a person I care about repeatedly dismissed me and my feelings. I was again triggered in a conversation with someone who was dismissing the pain our children are experiencing as they live through a pandemic by stating, “children are resilient.” Yes, they are resilient. This does not mean that we get to dismiss all their challenges and all their emotions. Depression and suicide were on the rise with our adolescents and teens before the pandemic and the trauma brought on by the pandemic has increased these numbers. To give you some perspective, according to the World Health Organization between 2007 and 2017 the rate of suicides increased 56 percent in young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Emergency department visits following suicide attempts by girls aged 12 to 17 spiked in 2020 and the first months of 2021. The number of girls who went to the hospital after a suspected suicide attempt rose 51 percent from March 2019 to March 2021, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase among boys was 3.7 percent. This is a crisis that we cannot dismiss.

I empathize so greatly with feeling pain as a teen. I never expressed my pain, I never felt safe enough, seen or felt like I belonged. I felt like my pain did not matter and it was up to me to figure out how to make it go away. The past few weeks have been difficult because this trauma showed up in an extraordinary way. I typically fight the feels. Meaning I never fully succumb to my emotions and what comes up for me in terms of feelings or identifying their source. I give the feelings a nod so to speak and convince myself my work is done. This is how I have functioned my entire life because the messaging I received was “toughen up, suck it up, and stop the crying”. I need to be tough to survive. I bought that narrative and began to sell it when I first started coaching. The tough survive, we dominate and achieve success all while we build elaborate stone walls around ourselves to make sure no one gets in and see us or our weaknesses. If our hearts are not exposed, they can never be broken. A brilliant and a full proof plan, right? Not really, the reality is, I am not tough, I am tired of swallowing my feelings and I cry a lot.

I like feeling and I am proud to say over the past five years I have been slowly dismantling the stone wall. A large section of the wall was removed over the past two weeks, and it was hard. Honestly, it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in a very long time. Sitting with my emotions, acknowledging my trauma and how I show up and don’t show up for myself has made me better. I was unable to function, but I was able to feel and when we allow ourselves to feel everything: the sadness, disgust, anger, and frustration we get closer to our own humanity which brings us closer to our aliveness; that light deep inside each of us. This is where we find our purpose or divinity. Each of us has a light and when we choose to ignore our feelings and the information they deliver to us, we are ignoring our inner brilliance.

The pain matters. It will not magically go away. We are not resilient enough to heal without love and support. We all experience trauma as we grow and move through the world. It is important that we get help and use our voices to heal and help heal others. This is how we get better. This is how we stop the cycle of trauma and build generations of self-aware children able to self-manage and self-regulate. This is how childhood stories are created and shared. This is how we become a society that thrives and feels everything not just the ease and warmth of summer.


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