In the previous post I mentioned that with physical pain it’s easy to investigate what the problem might be and in most cases figure out what needs to be done which is not the case with emotional pain. However, there are tell tale signs that someone is in emotional pain and might need help.
1. Personality change. Although our personalities are relatively stable, extreme stress resulting from emotional pain alters the structure of our brains by “shrinking” parts of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, affecting our emotional responses, problem solving, rational thinking and decision making. This could lead to engaging in risky behaviour and impulsiveness. Long-term exposure to stress could result to major depression and mood disorders.
2. Withdrawal from family, friends, social activities and things that one previously enjoyed doing. This is because when in emotional pain one is struggling with the meaning of life, relationships and the world
3. Poor self care. Since one is struggling with the meaning of life, one is likely to shift their mindset from “living” to “survival” and do only those things that sustain life. One wonders; do I need to take shower? Do I need to check my weight? Do I need to comb my hair? What difference will it make if I don’t iron my clothes? Do I really have to clean the house? Do I need to go to the gym? Do I need make up? Do I need to spread the bed, after all I will still sleep in it tonight?
4. Feelings of hopelessness. Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life, but when hopelessness and despair take hold and just won’t go away, when trying to go through a day is just overwhelming; this can be a sign of depression.
5. Sadness that won’t go away. Sadness fades with time, however if it doesn’t fade it could be a sign of depression
6. Anxiety and worry that are interfering with your daily life and impacting things like relationships, work and hygiene; anxiety that is causing you stress and becoming difficult to manage; you are easily startled and unable to relax; or you get immobilized and feel stuck.
7. Shame and guilt that won’t go away. One feels guilty for not saving a situation and shame for not being able to forgive. When Patrick’s mother died, he felt guilty for not being there while
she took her last breath, he felt ashamed for going out drinking with friends when she was sick in hospital, and he felt like had he taken his mother to a different hospital she would have survived. He could not forgive himself, he could not forgive the nurse on duty that night, he felt like she wasn’t very keen and did not act fast to save his mother and he found it extremely difficult to forgive God. Your journey to emotional healing starts with you, because it is you who knows where it hurts most.
Here’s how you can support your healing process.
1. Honor your pain- avoidance of pain increases it. Realize that there is nothing embarrassing or inappropriate about feeling severe emotional anguish when your heart is broken. Your emotions and reactions are legitimate. Realize that your pain is not just sadness, its felt from the depth of your being. To heal you must grief. Time and patience are keys to recovery.
2. Reach out- being alone is part of healing, since pain is very personal. However long periods of isolation tend to bring out bitterness, and self blame, embracing victim-hood, and you feel
trapped in the pain. Reach out to family, friends, support groups, or whatever brings you peace of mind.
3. Take a break from your pain. Take an activity that allows you to escape into another reality even if just for a few moments. Do something that you love doing; read, go hiking, swim, cook, dance to your favourite music, and just do anything that makes you happy. Many people feel guilty for feeling good during their moments of pain; don’t feel guilty because your pain will be waiting for you when are done enjoying; only this time it will find you ready and energized to face it.
4. Learn from it- reflect, explore, ponder, try to unearth value in the experience.
5. Move on- will you allow emotional pain to hold you back or will you decide to use it to propel you in a new direction? When pain defines and shapes you it robs you life.
“Until you heal the wounds of your past, you are going to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with sex; but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories and make peace with them”- Iyanla Vanzant.
March 2020 – My Heart Beats
On emotional Healing
© Lucy Ngari,