by Debra Fileta
The last year and a half have been so hard on so many people. Nearly 3 million people have died, life as we’ve known it has been altered forever in nearly every facet, and on top of it all we’ve been isolated; left alone with our feelings. I know for many of us, it’s so much easier to shove down what’s happened to us and move on. But I’m here to tell you that you need to deal with the past, in order to be freed from the past. As a licensed professional counselor, I know that if we don’t take the time to confront our past, we’ll end up paralyzed by our past; unable to move forward.
If we define trauma as an emotional response to change or loss, then for many of us, the past 18 months have been filled with trauma. But what happens when you’re going through a trauma is that your body puts itself in survival mode. It does whatever it needs to do to push through and survive. Think of a soldier who goes off to war. While they’re on the battlefield, they’re in survival mode. The goal is to stay alive. They experience trauma on every level, but the time to process those atrocities is not while you’re in the midst of them. The only thing you have time for during trauma is one thing and one thing alone: survival.
But when soldiers come home from war, and life begins to settle down, this is when their trauma begins to resurface. The body now has time to process and deal with the horrific things it has experienced. Now that it has survived, it can begin to heal. This is why symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder don’t often happen on the battlefield. They happen afterward, when things are calm, safe, and steady.
For many of us, we’re in the aftermath of some really hard experiences. We’re starting to see the glimpses of steadiness. We’re starting to allow ourselves to hope that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. But in that steadiness, don’t be surprised if your body begins signaling to you that it’s time to process. You may find yourself experiencing symptoms of panic, anxiety, and depression -- which can often look like feeling stuck. Let’s talk about some things to be on the lookout for. Here are some signs and signals that your body might be stuck, asking you to take the time to slow down, process what you’ve been through, and begin healing from the inside out:
• You find yourself unable to sleep as well as you used to: unable to fall asleep, waking up many times a night, or waking earlier than you would like.
• You feel more stress than you’ve felt before, which can sometimes be described as a heaviness on your chest.
• You find yourself overwhelmed, unable to keep up or handle the normal rhythms of everyday life like you used to from parenting, to housework, to your job, to your marriage.
• You find yourself unable to enjoy or look forward to things you used to enjoy.
• You feel unmotivated to accomplish the things you need to do.
• You can’t seem to focus or concentrate on things as well as you did in the past; maybe your brain feels “foggy”.
• Instead of coping with reality, you find yourself “escaping from reality” with an unhealthy amount of food, Netflix, scrolling through your feed, alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.
• You find yourself feeling paralyzed by feelings of sadness or worry that you can’t seem to shake off, and it’s beginning to impact your everyday life.
If you can relate to some or maybe all of these symptoms, it’s time to go backward before you can move forward. God is longing to bring healing to your heart from the inside out, and help you move forward in freedom. In order to forget what is behind, as Philippians 3:13, calls us to do, we have to deal with it.
It’s time to get intentional about dealing with the pain of this past year and a half, the things it may have triggered inside of you, the changes it brought, and the ways it has emotionally impacted your life.
Continuing to ignore our emotional and mental health is not the answer, it will only make things worse. You know the adage that “time heals all wounds”? Well, it’s not true. Time does not heal all wounds. Because time alone doesn’t have that kind of power. In fact, some wounds only grow, fester, and get infected with the passing of time. The only One that can heal all our wounds, and help us get unstuck is Jesus. And we have to partner with Him on the journey of getting healthy.
The first step to getting unstuck is to acknowledge how we feel. Putting words to your experience and pain allows you to face it. Writing it out, saying it out loud, and sharing your feelings with Jesus is an important step. The worst thing we can do is continue to pretend we’re okay, and just try to push through. Affirming what you’ve been through and how it’s impacted your life brings it to the light where it can be healed.
The next step is expressing it to others. When you feel stuck, you need the help of trusted friends and community to move you in the direction of healing. Express what you’re going through to a friend, and ask for prayer and support. There’s no shame in being honest with how you’re really doing. In fact, there’s freedom there. That’s what the body of Christ is for. And when you do, you’ll realize you’re not alone in your struggle. Everyone is going through something hard. We’re all in this together.
The third step is simply this: take the next step. For some of you, that means connecting with a licensed professional counselor to work through your feelings and get to the root of what’s causing you to feel stuck. It could be working through pain from your past, hurts from your present, or worries about the future. Taking control of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is such an important step in getting unstuck. You give God what you can’t control, but then you take ownership of what you can control. You choose to become better rather than choosing to become bitter.
It takes intentional work for us to get real about how we’re really doing. When we get healthy not only do we benefit, but so does everyone around us. When we’re emotionally healthy, we’re freed to be better lovers, better parents, and better friends. But in order to be freed from the past, we first have to deal with the past. I’m so ready to be freed and I know you are ready, too. So here we go, let’s do this. Together.
For more on the process of getting unstuck, and getting healthy emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically, pick up a copy of Debra’s new book: Are You Really OK? Getting real about who you are, how you’re doing, and why it matters.
Debra Fileta is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates, and Love In Every Season and Are You Really OK?. She’s also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter or book an online session with her today!