The only way to is through.
This has been a gleaming theme lately. Not only in my work with others, but also in the work within myself. Life is tough, really tough. If you’re like me, you feel it all: the beauty, the pain, and everything in between. This can be overwhelming. Sometimes, it may seem that if you could just numb the emotions or avoid them altogether, life would be so easy. Here’s the thing, it wouldn’t be and it isn’t. I realize that so many of us are walking through the world trying to numb and avoid. Not sure about that? Look at how people are coping. Are they throwing themselves into their work, starving themselves, drinking to oblivion? We work so hard to avoid what our bodies and hearts are trying to feel.
Coincidentally, I woke up this morning full of emotion. I was near tears all morning and throughout my workout. I wasn’t exactly sure why. Then it hit me when I took a moment to breathe amidst my busy morning- it was the 15 year anniversary of my first hospitalization for my eating disorder. I have always been someone who remembers dates, sometimes it’s more of a curse than a blessing. And then it all made sense. My heart was remembering where I was 15 years ago while also remembering all of the work I have done to get to where I am today. Cue the sobbs here.
I was the queen of numbing pain, chaos, happiness, anger, and every emotion. Emotions felt so damn scary and starving myself of the ability to feel was a gift I gave myself; at least that’s what I believed. And to be frank, there are times where numbing the pain would appear to be easier than to feel. But it isn’t!
The only way to is through.
It would take 11 long years to get to a place where I could fully grasp what this meant. I was going to have to let go of this false sense of control over my emotions and allow myself to feel it all. I would have to trudge through the pain all the while feeling it.
Nearly five years in and I am still learning, still healing. I don’t know it all, but I feel it all. I no longer numb my pain through starvation. I no longer numb my emotions through endless exercising. Instead, I am open to the feelings and welcome their presence. I cry when I need to. I am real good at asking for support, especially emotional support. I continue my personal work through individual and relational therapy. I give myself permission to be human every.single.day and more frequent when it’s necessary. I hug my younger self when she needs it. I set and respect my own limits. I am gentle with myself. I take it one step at a time.
Please know that this journey though to get to is going to be trecherous. In the beginning, there will be more harder days than easier. It will hurt like hell. You will begin to see the world differently and it may not be beautiful at first. The emotions will likely feel even more intense. There might be days where you want to go back. On those days, it is especially important to get support, ask someone to sit with you. Everyone’s journey is unique so please know it’ll take time to figure out what it is you need. You can start by pausing and asking yourself “what do I need in this moment?” But most importantly, be gentle with yourself as you allow it to flow. I promise, it will all be worth it. Like Glennon Melton says, “life is beautiful and brutal, it’s brutiful”! This journey will absolutely be brutiful.
Today, I have chosen to honor my continued recovery in allowing the tears to flow. I may feel raw and vulnerable and sad and a mix of all kinds of emotions, but I can feel them and that is worth celebrating.
So, when you are scared and wanting to return back to numbing and avoiding, remind yourself: “the only way to is through “.
Until next time,
Dr. Lily A. Zehner, MFT-C is a therapist who specializes in sex, intimacy, and relationships. Her private practice is located in Denver where she helps others reach their fullest relational and sexual potential. To learn more about her and her services, please feel free to take a look around her website.