Over several months I spent time listening and learning from numerous women who had been stuck in their lives in one way or another. These are strong women who woke up and got dressed and continued to care for the people in their world despite the crushing inner weight of being stuck. (Okay – most days. Some admitted to days of serial binge watching of movies!)
How did these women get stuck? Some of the circumstances were severe involving painful ends to relationships. Some were job-related. Some were the results of unfortunate choices. Some involved mental health issues. Some involved the aftermath of choices of people close to them. No matter what the circumstances, all involved wounding and fear and uncertainty and ugliness from without and within.
Here are 10 things you can learn about being stuck that I gleaned from these powerful women:
- Tears. There are a lot of tears. You can stuff them but then you could be delaying their eventual end. Actually, for some, they never really end but they do slow down to a more manageable level. Buy waterproof mascara or give up mascara completely.
- Sadness. There is a lot of sadness and depression. Some needed medical help. Some self-medicated with wine and chocolate. Some exercised. Some prayed more. Most did an intuitive combination.
- Anger. There is a lot of anger. It’s normal. It’s scary. Sometimes it’s short-lived and sometimes it lasts for years. Sometimes it leads to…
- Revenge. Doing things you never thought you were capable of! I heard some funny stories from these ladies. That is, they are funny now – I know it wasn’t when it was happening. I struggled to picture how the composed women I sat across from would have the capacity to do what they said they did! Things got broken. Things were said. Things got messy. Stuff happened to cars, windows and other unfortunate objects. People got smacked. Maneuvering “stuck” isn’t pretty!
- Numb. Some days you won’t feel at all. No anger. No tears. No energy for revenge. You’ve gone into auto-pilot. It’s normal but not particularly healthy. It’s a survival technique. Don’t let yourself live in this numbed state for long.
Wait a minute! I thought this was a list of things I could learn.
That is simply a list of emotions gone extreme!
That is a major lesson to learn from being stuck.
Pay attention to your emotions.
Don’t ignore them. Don’t sedate them. Don’t push them down and away.
If you do one day they’ll scream so loud or go so silent that you will be forced to pay attention.
- Let go of preconceived notions that those kinds of things only happen to certain kinds of people. We are all the “kind of people” who can be derailed by nasty circumstances. And in case you ever wondered – this didn’t happen because you are being punished by some vindictive God. You may feel that way. I’d say from the number of people that mentioned it, that too is normal.
- Feeling sorry for yourself isn’t productive and regrets will consume you if you let them. If you can, don’t let them. Both are a path in the wrong direction. Re-direct those thoughts in any way possible.
- Your story isn’t over. This chapter will end, the page will turn. For now tell your story. Tell it to a friend. Tell it to someone else who is struggling. Tell it to a therapist, a counselor, and/or a doctor. Get what you need to help you in any way you need it. Don’t tell everyone – only those who you are paying to hear it and a few others who “have earned the right to hear your story.” (Brene Brown, Rising Strong)
- Time doesn’t heal all things but you can heal in time. It’s a subtle difference but an important one. Time can soften the blow but it can equally make you a bitter, nasty person. It’s not time, it’s what you do with your time…and for a while that may involve tears, sadness, anger and depression.
- Being stuck is often cyclical. Just when you think you are finally free, something triggers you and pulls you under again. Just when you think you are no longer angry, it rises again. Just when the tears are stilled something happens that opens up the dam again. The good news is that each time it happens you have more skills and tools to help you navigate the way back up faster and better. Hang on to the tools you learn, you’ll need them. It’s like a spiral staircase you go around and around but eventually you reach your destination.
Every woman I talked with spoke about a gradual turning point. A point where the anger had settled and the tears had lessened. A time period when a shift took place and they were able to realize and accept some hard truths – they were the walking wounded. Sometimes the answer doesn’t come in the form of a change of circumstances, you just learn to live and carry on with the hurt. Carry it like a heavy purse and walk on.
Have you been stuck in some way in your life?
Which points in the above list were true of you?
Do you have suggestions for others who are stuck? I’d love to hear from you.