leaning tower of pisa

A friend recently shared that she felt burdened. I felt the same way last weekend, especially as the counts rose of those both contracting and dying from COVID-19 in the United States.

I don’t think you can be a feeling human being and not feel burdened by something this tremendous, even if you’re not experiencing it directly. Sometimes heaviness hits you most when you feel helpless to do anything about it. Whether you are a healthcare worker who feels you’re not able to do enough for those who are sick, or you are an individual who feels helpless sitting at home, waiting for the curve to flatten.

Pain is burdensome. Yours and others’.

But let’s sit with this for a minute, because if I’ve learned anything in my 40+ years on this planet, it’s that emotion not witnessed becomes emotion suppressed. And emotion suppressed finds a way out, often in unhealthy ways.

There’s this theory floating around out there that strong people never need help. I know this because people tend to think that about me. And yes, I have a tremendous well of inner strength. And no, I don’t ask for help very often. My strength has been forged by life events, sheer will, and digging deep into myself. I also value self-reliance, which is why I don’t ask for much from others outside of my own nuclear family.

But it doesn’t mean that I don’t fall apart. Everyone falls apart.

I am a strong one. I am also a human with emotions.

You are a typical human when you feel sad. You are a typical human when you feel anger. You are a typical human when you grieve deeply, feel lost, feel burdened, or feel helpless. All are signs of your human ability to feel emotions. Sometimes deep emotions, yes. Sometimes suffocatingly deep. And sometimes they might take a while to move through, depending on what they’re telling you.

But if you listen closely, they will always tell you what they’re about. For example, I feel incensed when I witness cruelty. I feel despair when I see human suffering. But I continually ask what can I do to counterbalance what I see. How and what can I do to refocus my energy on the life and world I want to create? How can I support those who are helping others in ways that I am in awe of? That is how I try to channel that emotion into recognition and then into action.

So, feel all the feels. Let yourself learn to be with your perfectly normal emotions. Recognize them. See them. Sit with them. Learn from them. So that you can move through them. And allow others in your life to do the same. Safely, with respectful boundaries. But also with compassion for what they’re witnessing, seeing, and learning.

What I’m going to say next might seem like a no-brainer to some people, but I am finding lately that I need to say it, to give others both support and permission.

It is completely normal to need a little time to move through emotion. Depending on the situation, emotions might need to cycle a few times. If, however, you start to feel days upon days of burdensome heavy, then perhaps it’s time to seek some professional help from a doctor or therapist.

There is absolutely no shame in seeking help. In fact, it’s an incredibly brave action to take. I’ve known plenty of people — a few very close to me — who have sought help for mental illness or addiction, and who are alive and healthy and living quality lives because they were brave enough to get the help they needed.

So, if you need permission to recognize that good mental health is worth seeking, then you have it. Regardless of your circumstances or the reason you’re in need, you are worthy of peace. You are worthy of healing. You are worthy of love.

Regarding these burdensome times. Uplift yourself with as much laughter, love, and light as you can bear; it’s amazing how much the positives can keep you going. Find ways you can help others. And if you feel like you can only help yourself right now, that is also enough.

Life is a miraculous and complex web of experiences. It touches you, amazes you, humbles you, at times destroys you, and always changes you. But when it does, it beckons you to look at it differently. I mean, you can’t have your foundation rocked to the core and not be tilted, Tower of Pisa style. The heavier times are the shapers and strengtheners. They are the pressure we sometimes need to see the world differently.

I have no idea how any of this will end. No idea at all. As I get ready to publish this, we are starting to slowly open businesses back up. What I do know is that we will be changed, because there is no such thing as standing completely straight when you experience life-changing events.

But I also know that when you lean, you will have another to lean against who understands what you’ve experienced. And that is how we will hold each other up. By leaning together to take in the different view that life is offering us.

Image from Pixabay

About Tabitha MacGowan

Hi, I’m Tabitha. I’m an author, autism parent, and advocate of acceptance, compassion, and love. I believe that we are all here for each other and we can co-create the world we want to live in. My book, Phig and the Eaven Prophecy, is a delicious fantasy written from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum. I invite you to join me and be a part of my magical world!

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