“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” — Cheryl Strayed
How do you heal?
You let the pain pass through you. You feel your feelings. You let them envelop you. You feel the loneliness. You feel the bruises from falling down. You cry. You stay home from work wrapped in a fuzzy blanket on your couch. You rewatch Friends for the millionth time. You eat a tub of ben & jerry’s. Then you eat cereal for dinner. You let the tears flow freely. And they keep flowing. Your skin becomes blotchy and your nose becomes chapped. Your eyes become swollen. You don’t recognize yourself in the bathroom mirror. You ignore the texts from your friends asking if you are okay. You avoid seeing anyone, so you don’t have to tell them how much you are hurting. You feel as though the world has fallen apart.
And you wish someone could be there to save you. You wish someone could wrap their arms around you and make you feel okay again. You wish someone could reassure you that you’ll get through this, that you’ll come out on the other side. You wish someone could relieve the drowning feeling you are experiencing. You wish they could bring you a life raft and suddenly make everything okay again.
But as much as you want this, you can’t really imagine it. You can’t imagine feeling good again. You can’t imagine life feeling light again. You can’t imagine being happy, let alone excited about anything ever again.
You might not brush your teeth twice a day. You probably won’t floss. You’ll most likely go to sleep in the same sweatpants you had on all day. You’ll probably wear these same clothes for a few days and nights in a row. You’ll fall asleep with the radio on, because even though you want to be alone, you don’t really want to be alone.
And the days will blur. You’ll become emotionally exhausted. You’ll start to wonder if this is just how it’s going to be.
But then one morning, you’ll see the sunrise. And you’ll feel your heart break, all over again. But something special will happen. You’ll feel a little bit of warmth. You’ll feel a little bit of something worth holding onto.
And that is when you will know that you will survive. You will get through this.
And then, it will hit you. You will realize that it is up to you to get better. It is up to you to find a way out of this darkness. Noone can rescue you. Noone can save you. You can’t drown yourself in food or alcohol, or even bubble baths. You can’t mope around forever, in the hopes that somehow this will make it any better. Deep down, you have to convince yourself to get better. You have to muster up every little ounce of strength so that you can save yourself.
You feel empty and alone, but you know that it is time for you to do everything possible to get yourself back on your feet.
You throw away the empty tubs of ice cream. You take a shower, and put some moisturizer on. You sit on the couch to watch Netflix, but you don’t cocoon yourself in a blanket. You eat breakfast and drink coffee instead.
You think about the people who love you, the people who have raised you to be who you are. You think about how they have always told you that you are special. So you try to think of yourself as special. You try to think of yourself as someone who matters. And it’s not easy at first. When you’re drowning in your own self pity, it’s nearly impossible to tell yourself that you are loved. And that you matter. And that you are worth saving. But you try. And you try again. And you keep on trying.
You don’t feel one hundred percent, but little by little, you do actually start to get a little bit better.
You find that the hardest part is finding hope, when you feel like there isn’t any hope. The hardest part is squinting your eyes and searching and searching until you find that tiny little glimmer of light in the darkness. And you begin to believe that no matter how bad things are right now, hope still exists, and things might actually get better.
You hold onto this hope. You go to work. You take a walk. You listen to your favorite album. You read a chapter of your favorite book. You text back your best friend. You call your sister.
You do the very best you can, with whatever you have. You give yourself love, even when it feels impossible. You treat yourself with compassion, even when your immediate inclination is to put yourself down. You push through the unbearable days, and hold on to the faith that better days will be coming soon.
And you slowly realize that you are healing.
And you remind yourself that saving yourself, that picking yourself up, doesn’t mean you need to forget the pain. It doesn’t mean you need to move completely past what you’ve been through. It doesn’t mean that your pain doesn’t matter. It just means that the pain no longer controls your life. It means that slowly, you will be able to start feeling like you again. It means that you will have a scar, rather than an open wound. And your scar can offer you the reassurance that even if things get hard again, you will be okay.
And once you realize this, you’ll rise back up. Maybe when you realize that it’s okay to let your pain spill over a little bit into your everyday life, you won’t be so afraid of healing. You’ll realize that it’s okay to pick yourself up, even if you are still hurting. And when you do this, you will realize how strong you are. You will realize that you were strong enough to heal, all on your own. You will realize that you are strong enough to save yourself.
And one day, you will be better because of it. You will be able to feel vast joy. You will be more able to give and receive love. You will be able to see the miracles in the world, and the little glimmers of hope that other people may be blind to. You’ll realize that the world is so big. It’s so full of energy and life, and little twists and turns that you cannot predict. There is still so much time and so much space for good things to happen for you.
There is so much possibility for you, and so many ways in which you can begin again.