A client asked me the other day “How do I really let go of all this shit?”
My response was to ask her some questions requiring further self analysis. Really though I was stumped by the inquiry. I don’t have a quick easy DBT trick for this like I do in a lot of situations. I can tell you some skills associated with the process.
But in all honesty, I don’t know how to let go of the type of thing she is referring to.
In the moment I felt like a dummy for not having a better answer for her. But if there was a simple answer for this, I would have found it by now in my own search for relief.
My own beliefs is there are somethings you never fully let go of.
The events of my early childhood. They shaped every aspect of who I am.
There is no magic crystal ball I can look into and see my potential fulfilled had I not been marred by this. What I do know is my career choice, romantic relationships, familial relationships, many aspects of my personality, my likes/dislikes, the quirks that are uniquely defining to me – all of these things were irreparably altered by the events that occurred so many years ago.
You can’t just LET GO of the things that made you at the core who you are. Right?
The best answers DBT has for this question are found in the Distress Tolerance Skills. These suggest peace can be acquired through the practice of acceptance and finding meaning.
I have fully accepted the things that occurred. It took until I was almost 30 to really come to grips with all of it even though in my heart I had always known. I had begun processing it over a decade early. My brain just gave me the last pieces of the puzzle once I was finally strong enough to handle them.
🧘🏼♀️My Personal Practice of Acceptance🧘🏼♀️
-Not living in denial. When I have a bad PTSD day, I call it just that. This all came up, it fucked up my life, and I am the only one who lives the day to day reality of surviving it. I get to call the shots on what I need. I ended relationships last year that I had only been able to tolerate through denial and a level of mental separation that I was no longer willing to put myself through.
-Owning my story. The people I am closest to have shared their darkness with me and they are ok with me doing so in return. It took me a full year to find my footing and during that time I didn’t want to share any of what was going on with anybody other than a handful of people. Now that I am stronger I want my friends to understand what happened and the changes that have since occurred in me.
-Practicing non-judgmental stance in regards to my symptoms. A symptom is not a character defect. I cannot control how often I have night terrors (or the fact that I am completely nonfunctioning on the days after). Blaming myself or pushing beyond what I am capable of will not help me get any closer to being healthy.
The other skill we often discuss is Finding Meaning. To me this has always been one of the easier parts of the journey. I know that my unique clinical approach and the way I interact with clients is shaped by the traumatic events that I survived and the secondary trauma of incorrect diagnosis within the mental health system. I am good at what I do because I have the same repertoire of experiences as many of my clients.
My purpose in life is to help others. I’m a highly trained professional and my clinical experience has helped further shape my understanding of trauma, human suffering, the needs of the spirit and our collective soul. But I’ve never truly been happy working in the mental health field.
So for me, acceptance & finding meaning hasn’t really taken it all the way though. As I pondered this conversation today though, I believe the answer is to take it a step 👣 further. You let go (the most fully because again there are some things that never 100% leave) when you move beyond finding meaning and into living your meaning.
My trauma work, took me away from my work with clients for the past 9 months. Ethically I knew it was the right ☑️ decision. But it has defintely been an extra layer of complication to all of this. Beyond the financial implications, there was the loss of all the positive things that come to me because of the work I do. That’s been really hard.
I am ready though to fully commit 100% now to living my meaning. I think if I can build a life that I truly love, then I will be able to more fully release the hold that this darkness still maintains on my life. For me a big part of this is having the courage to be who I truly am and to be firm in my decisions on what is best for my life (even if its everybody doesn’t agree).
I know this means making millions of small choices on a minute⏱ by minute basis. Each time I choose to LOVE JAMIE and do what is best for Jamie, I am creating a solid foundation for my new self to grow upon. And I have a feeling, in six months she’s going to be someone I’m really proud of!!
I’d love to hear any & all of your thoughts on letting go, acceptance, finding meaning, living your meaning, etc.. I feel like Letting Go is a topic I still have plenty more to learn.
Looking for further reading 👀 check out my Trauma 101: Before You Start Your Trauma Journey post!
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