Was my past really “that bad?”

There are people reading this who really, really struggle with acknowledging how their past has affected them. 

If that’s you, I don’t blame you. I struggled with the same thing for a long time. 

We all know someone who doesn’t want to admit that their past was sufficiently painful to impact them now, in the present. 

We all know someone who often says some variant of, “I don’t know why I’m so screwed up, I didn’t have it THAT bad.” 

We all know someone who often says some version of, “My parents did the best they could. I don’t want to blame them for how my life has turned out.” 

And we all know someone who says, “I definitely don’t have a trauma history, it’s not like I was ABUSED or anything.” 

A LOT of people get hang up on acknowledging and accepting the pain of their past. 

They truly feel that the pain they experienced in their early relationships “wasn’t enough” to cause them difficulty in later life. 

They truly feel that their current pain somehow isn’t “legitimate” because, whatever they went through, they know or have heard of someone who had it worse. 

Here’s the thing: our nervous system doesn’t care what we think “counts” as abuse or neglect. 

It doesn’t care whether somebody else had it worse. 

All our nervous system knows is what WE went through, and what WE needed to do to survive. 

No matter WHAT it was in our lives that impacted our nervous system, we have to deal with the aftereffects.

Our symptoms and struggles don’t suddenly change or disappear if we today decide that our past wasn’t ‘bad enough” to “screw us up” now. 

No matter WHAT we think of our past, whether we consider it objectively painful or not, it STILL impacted us exactly the way it did. 

We have to deal with that. 

There are people reading this who feel, because they weren’t hit or verbally berated or emotionally manipulated— because they didn’t suffer “abuse” as it’s often defined— that they “shouldn’t” have symptoms and struggles related to their past. 

But that perspective overlooks the often devastating impact neglect and loss can have on our lives— especially if neglect and loss happened to us early and often. 

We really, really need to resist the temptation to categorize our early experiences as “bad enough” or not to produce struggles now. 

If we’re struggling now, we’re struggling. 

Nobody LIKES the fact that they had a painful past. 

Nobody LIKES the fact that they struggle now. 

But we DON’T have to experience shame around the fact that we had pain in our past, and that it impacts us now. Of COURSE it impacts us. 

We also don’t need to experience shame about the impact on us of experiences that SEEM similar to things other people experienced— but to which they responded differently. 

OF COURSE we responded differently. We’re different people. 

Your past, your pain, your challenges, your goals— they are yours. 

The name of the game is accepting that what’s on our plate, is exactly what’s on our plate. 

No mater how much we wish it was different, whether or not it seems to “make sense” given what we remember about what we want through, whether somebody else did or didn’t have it “worse” or “better” than us…we STILL have on our plate, exactly what’s on our plate. 

Focus in on that. 

When your inner critic tries to get you distracted by carping about the “legitimacy” of your pain, redirect your focus back to your goals and recovery plan. 

Second guessing the “legitimacy” of our pain is a dead end. There’s literally no upside. 

Whether or not it “should” have, your past produced exactly your current struggles. 

Start with that fact. 

Saying “no” is not negative. Not even a little.

We very often think that saying “yes,” even when we want to say “no,” is the key to making a relationship good. 

We think that other people will appreciate our self-sacrifice of accommodating them, even when we don’t feel like it. 

We think that people will understand that all we want is for them to be happy and comfortable. 

Often we’ve been told that people with a “good attitude” say “yes” instead of saying “no.” 

Often we’ve been told that saying “no” means we’re being “negative”— and NOBODy wants to be in a relationship with someone who is NEGATIVE, right? 

So we say “yes” when we want to say “no.” Over, and over, and over again. 

It’s true that our lives are full of people who don’t want to her the word “no.” 

But it is NOT true that constantly saying “yes” when we want to say “no” is the pathway to “good” relationships. 

The truth is, when we repeatedly say “yes” when we want to say “no,” our self-esteem pays the price. 

We find ourselves continually forced into situations we didn’t choose, not REALLY— but that we can’t complain about having not chosen, because “technically” we opted in by saying “yes.” 

If we find ourselves again and again in situations we didn’t choose and we don’t want, and unable to safely or realistically opt out, we’re GOING to end up both unmotivated and angry. 

If we feel unable to say “no” when we mean “no,” our life is going to feel uncontrollable and unmanageable. 

It’s hard to convince yourself to get out of bed in the morning when you KNOW you’re headed toward a day in which you have virtually no say in the supposed “choices” in front of you. 

It’s hard to respect and value yourself if you’re not standing up for yourself on a level as basic as, “I don’t want to do that thing, and I don’t have to do that thing.” 

When we’re unable to say “no” directly and unapologetically, our brain and body WILL find ways to say “no” passively and indirectly. 

If we don’t give ourselves a conscious, intentional way to set limits, our nervous system will register its protest basically by shutting down. 

Saying “no” is taking care of ourselves in one of the most fundamental ways possible. 

We are responsible for setting limits that keep us safe and sane. Other people might be able to help and support us in setting limits, but in the end it is our responsibility. 

Saying “no” when we need to say “no” isn’t just good for us— it’s really important to those people with whom we’re in relationships. 

If THEY can’t trust us to say “no” when we mean “no,” then they can’t trust that our “yes” to them is particularly meaningful. 

The people in our lives deserve to know that when we say “yes,” we mean “yes.” 

The only way that realistically happens is if we are able and willing to say “no” when we mean “no.” 

Nobody is saying that saying “no” is easy. It’s not. 

We often think we’ll be in trouble. We think we’ll be abandoned. We think we’ll be attacked. 

And, make no mistake— sometimes those fears are absolutely warranted. The world does NOT like it when we say “no.” 

We have to be willing to risk it— for ourselves AND those we love. 

For our self-esteem, for our goals and dreams, for our stability, for our sanity. 

Saying “no” isn’t “negative.” 

It’s one of the most positive behaviors we can possibly nurture. 

When ya stall out in recovery (not “if;” “when”)…

I don’t think people struggle in their recovery work because they’re being “stubborn.” 

I don’t think people struggle in their recovery work because they are “difficult.” 

I think if someone’s struggling in your recovery from depression, anxiety, trauma, and/or addiction, it’s usually because they’re overwhelmed, exhausted, or confused about what they need to do next. 

Lots of times, we get attitude from other people who see us struggling in our recovery, and who apparently assume that we’re not “trying hard enough.” 

They’ll call us “avoidant”— as if there’s anyone out there who DOESN’T avoid things that are overwhelming or or painful. 

OF COURSE we’re “avoidant” sometimes in recovery. You would be, too, if you really understood what we’re being asked to wrestle with. 

People in recovery are asked to go into battle against some of their scariest personal demons. 

In trauma recovery, we’re often asked to confront feelings and memories that we’ve buried specifically BECAUSE they’re overwhelming. 

In addiction recovery, we’re asked to with with emotional and physical discomfort that is so distressing that we’ve almost destroyed our lives scrambling away from it. 

In recovery from depression and anxiety, we’re asked to reevaluate thought patterns and beliefs that feel INCREDIBLY real and valid to us— a process that can make us feel crazy, stable, or foolish. 

NONE of this work is easy. 

Can you blame ANYONE for being “avoidant” when it comes to emotional and behavioral change? 

If we’re going to successfully do recovery work, we need to continually work developing ways to stick with it EVEN WHEN it gets overwhelming, exhausting, or confusing. 

The vast majority of people I’ve ever guided through their recovery have been extremely eager and motivated to do the work— but they often run into a wall when they get overloaded, tired, or uncertain about what exactly a situation calls for. 

We need to stop seeing our struggles in recovery as a manifestation of willful “resistance.” 

Generally speaking, the most “resistance” we hit in recovery are completely normal. ANY human being would resist pushing forward when they’re overwhelmed, exhausted, or confused. 

All of this goes to how we talk to ourselves, about ourselves. 

How do we talk to ourselves about our recovery efforts? 

Do we extend ourselves the benefit of the doubt, affirming that this is a difficult process that’s asking a lot of us? 

Do we remind ourselves that it’s okay— and unavoidable— to have normal human reactions such as fear, uncertainty, or fatigue? 

Or do we get on board with our critics and bullies, tell ourselves we’re just being difficult, and that we just need to get our sh*t together? 

“Suck it up” isn’t a strategy. 

If we’re stalled out in recovery, we need to get clear on the roadblock and brainstorm strategies and tactics to go around or through that roadblock— not a pep talk about how our attitude sucks. 

People who don’t have to do this “recovery” thing will never understand how hard it is. 

They’ll never understand how much it asks. They’ll never know that, in choosing to be and stay in recovery, you’re doing something that MOST people out there in the world aren’t prepared to do. 

Be real and compassionate with yourself when you stall out in recovery. 

It’s not you. It’s the nature of the process. 

Breathe; blink; and focus on doing the next right thing. 

Creating “home” inside ourselves.

“Home” is a complicated subject for a lot of people. 

I wish it was simple, straightforward. I wish that nobody had mixed feelings or associations with the word “home.” 

But we do. 

In the best of all possible worlds, “home” speaks to a place that is safe. 

A place where we feel wanted. Where we ARE wanted. 

In the best of all possible worlds, “home” speaks to a place where we established a safe “base” from which to explore and experience the world— and to which we can return to rest, recharge, and remember. 

But for many people, it’s more complicated than that. 

For some people, as they were growing up, “home” was a place that was unpredictable. 

We WANT “home” to be a place where we’re able to kind of lower the mask that we were out in public, and be ourselves, let our hair down, let our defenses down. 

But a lot of people weren’t able to do that growing up. 

For a them, “home” was a place where they had to engage different kinds of defenses and wear different kinds of masks, than they did out in the world. 

A lot of people don’t know what it’s like to feel truly safe. 

There are different kinds of safety, and different kinds of danger— both out there in the world, and even back at “home,” for a lot of people. 

When we grow up feeling fundamentally unsafe, we tend to blame ourselves. 

What’s wrong with us, we wonder, that we can’t or don’t feel truly safe? 

After all, we hear other people speak affectionately or nostalgically about “home.” 

What’s wrong with us that we don’t feel that way, we wonder? 

If you grew up feeling that “home” wasn’t a safe place— a place where you felt safe, wanted, understood, supported— it wasn’t your fault. 

It wasn’t on you to make “home” a safe place. You were a kid. 

There are people reading this who really, really want to go “home”— but not to the house or the place where they grew up. 

We want to FIND “home.” 

We want to FIND that place where we DO feel safe, wanted, understood, and supported. 

Even if we kind of doubt it exists— part of us STILL wants to find, and go, “home.” 

As it turns out: a big part of recovery from depression, anxiety, trauma, and/or addiction is creating that sense of “home”— inside us. 

We will try, again and again, to find or create that sense in other people, or places, or institutions, and we may even experience bits and pieces of it here and there…but the truth is, it’s on us to make the inside of our own head and heart that fundamental place of safety for us. 

We need to know, without a doubt, that we are safe inside our own head. 

We need to know, without a doubt, that we are safe with ourselves. 

We need to know, without a doubt, that we can retreat inside our head and heart, and find a landscape that is familiar and non-toxic. 

For some of us, that may be completely unfamiliar territory— and we may have doubts about our ability to create that safety, that “home,” inside of us. 

But that’s the work of recovery. That’s what’s in front of us. Nothing we do in therapy or recovery’s going to matter all that much if we don’t make the inside of our own head a safe place. 

I wish so many of us didn’t have to work so hard to create a whole new meaning for the word “home.” 

I wish “home” was a default place of safety for all of us. 

But this is the hand we’ve been dealt— and all we can do, is what we can do. 

So let’s do that. 

Who am I, without my symptoms?

Part of what made (and makes) recovery complicated for me is that, over time, it seemed I had built almost my entire personality around my symptoms. 

For a long time, my social “persona” revolved around being outgoing and charismatic— but what nobody knew was that I had essentially constructed that persona to compensate for what would otherwise be crippling social anxiety. 

In professional situations, I acquired a reputation as being a nonconformist, kind of a “maverick” who would’t conform to rules or expectations— but what nobody knew was that I’d essentially constructed that professional persona to compensate for anxiety and anger responses that got triggered by authority figures. 

Almost every aspect of my personal and professional life had been not just impacted by, by constructed around, my symptoms of depression, anxiety, and later addiction— all of which had been stoked by my history of abuse and neglect. 

Part of the problem, ironically, was that my elaborately constructed personality and behavioral defenses were kind of working. Working well enough, anyway. 

I was able to pawn off certain self destructive behavior as just me being “intense.” 

I was able to justify isolative behavior— which exacerbated my depression and enabled my addiction— as just me being a “loner.” 

I was able to pawn off my disorganized behavior— which, I know now, was my unmanaged ADHD running the show— as just “Glenn being Glenn, whatcha gonna do?” 

And people bought it. Because what else could they do? 

How were they to know that a lot of my personality and behavioral patterns resulted from me working around nearly debilitating symptoms of depression, anxiety, addiction, and trauma? 

I had a problem that a lot of people have: even though a lot of my personality had been constructed to compensate for my symptoms, I functioned more or less well enough to keep people off my case. 

At least, most of the time. 

Fast forward to finally getting serious about recovery, and I ran into a problem that may be familiar to you: I realized that to really work on eliminating or reducing some of these symptoms, I’d be forced to essentially become a different person. 

That seemed overwhelming. It still does, sometimes. Maybe you can relate. 

After all, who am I, if I don’t have to put on a performance to compensate for my social anxiety? 

Who am I, if I’m not isolating for the purpose of secretly getting high and avoiding meaningful attachments that I’m afraid will tie me down? 

We don’t have to deny how huge the task in front of us is: when we’ve constructed big parts of who we are around our symptoms, healing may ask us to literally become someone else. 

Choosing and creating who we WANT to be— not just who we “have” to be to compensate for our symptoms— is a BIG ask. 

Many of us can’t even imagine what a calm, confident, secure version of us might look like. 

If we can’t even imagine it, how can we possibly become it? 

Make no mistake: a big part of recovery, especially in the beginning, involves experimenting with different ways of being “us” out in the world. 

We may have to make it up as we go along for awhile. 

We’ll definitely have to do certain things that feel unnatural and uncomfortable. 

And we’ll definitely be tempted to just go back to the way things were— being the person who was constructed around our symptoms— just because it’s easier and more familiar. 

Resist that temptation. 

Yes, imagining a calm, confident, secure you is going to feel like a stretch at first. 

Yes, putting words to our thoughts, feelings, and needs, is going to feel unnatural and uncomfortable at first. 

But stick with it. Visualize it. 

Construct the new “you” from the ground up. 

You deserve the opportunity to be more than just a series of reactions and responses to painful symptoms. 

You deserve to be a whole person— not a person constructed to compensate for or hide pain. 

Emotional management in the real world.

A lot of us struggle to put words to our feelings— and a lot of us feel shame BECAUSE we have difficulty putting words to our feelings. 

We tell ourselves we “should” be able to describe what we’re feeling. 

After all, how hard can it be? We’re inside our own skin, right? Why should it be difficult to just report what’s going on inside us? 

As it turns out, putting words to our feelings is hard for a few reasons. 

Many of us simply weren’t taught that our feelings were important. We were trained to minimize our feelings— and consequently, we just didn’t get a lot of practice in describing them. 

How many times have we been told, directly or indirectly, that our feelings just don’t matter? 

Why WOULD we be good at identifying and communicating our feelings, when the message we received about them again and again was that they simply weren’t important? 

Sometimes we’re not great at recognizing and describing our feelings because our feelings themselves are overwhelming or painful. 

We’re not great at describing something when we’re busy just trying to SURVIVE that something— and many people reading this are busy just trying to keep functioning, DESPITE the fact that their feelings are regularly overwhelming. 

Often, we’re not great at naming and describing our feelings because we’re actively in the process of denying and disowning them. 

It’s hard to put words to something when you’re busy ducking and dodging and hiding and running away from that thing. 

So many people reading this have such a conflicted relationship with their feelings. 

People who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, or addiction tend to be highly sensitive people, who feel things more acutely than most…but we also tend to have a very complicated relationship with those big feelings we often feel. 

The truth is, we’re unlikely to feel and function better unless we get on better terms with our own emotional life. 

We need to be able to recognize what we’re feeling, and put words to those feelings. 

We need to relate to our feelings with compassion and acceptance— because our feelings very often represent deeply vulnerable parts of ourselves. 

We’re not going to feel and function better while denying and disowning deeply vulnerable parts of ourselves. 

Managing our emotional lives may never be exactly easy for people like us. 

Many of the people reading this have genetics and personal histories that make emotional management a really complicated task. 

We CAN get better at it, though…but it takes some practice. 

Practice, courage, and patience. 

We need to be willing to look at our emotions without flinching— even if it makes us sad or angry. 

We need to be willing to accept what we’re feeling— even if we don’t like it. 

We need to be willing to get curious about how our thoughts and beliefs are impacting our emotions— even if we feel too exhausted and frustrated to be curious. 

And we need to be willing to look at and sit with our feelings for long enough to put words to what we’re experiencing— because without words, it’s really difficult to understand OR change anything we’re experiencing. 

The good news is, managing our emotions isn’t as overwhelming as it may seem. 

It does take practice, and it does take some willingness to look at and sit with things we don’t like. 

But as we get more experience with emotional management, we DO get better at it. 

And as we get better at emotional management, the more in control we feel of our choices and our life. 

Easy does it. Patience. 

Hidden Everyday Struggles.

There are absolutely people reading this who struggle with everyday tasks because of their emotional and behavioral symptoms— but who don’t advertise the fact, because they don’t want to appear “screwed up.” 

I’m talking about things like going going grocery shopping. Taking their car in for maintenance. Making phone calls. Taking their pets in to vet appointments. 

There’s this myth in our culture that if you struggle with everyday tasks, you MUST be in severe crisis— but that’s not true. 

You wouldn’t know by looking at a lot of people that their anxiety or depression very often holds them back from doing things many people don’t think twice about. 

Many, many people keep their everyday struggle hidden. 

The truth is, you don’t have to be in severe crisis to struggle with something like running errands or making phone calls. 

There are many levels of anxiety— and not all of them are what we think of as debilitating. 

I guarantee there is someone you think of as “high functioning,” who struggles with something you wouldn’t IMAGINE someone “like them” struggling with. 

So many people keep their struggles under wraps because they’re embarrassed. 

They don’t want to be thought of as “that person,” who can’t easily go, say, grocery shopping. 

Our culture tends to think in very black and white terms when it comes to level of impairment, especially impairment due to emotional or behavioral issues. 

If you’re reading this and you struggle with everyday tasks of living, you should know you’re not alone— and you should know that it doesn’t mean you’re hopeless or helpless. 

There are PLENTY of smart people, people who have made progress in their recovery, people who are resilient and high functioning in lots of ways, who have a hard time getting out of the house (or, for that matter, have a hard time keeping their house clean). 

It’s such a drag that we think of impairment in terms of “how sick” a person is. 

You don’t have to be debilitatingly ill, mentally or otherwise, to struggle with the anxiety that comes with being out of the house. 

Depression very often robs people of the energy and focus necessary to run certain errands. 

Anxiety very often hijacks our physiology in such unpredictable ways, that we’re never quite sure whether it’s safe or practical to leave the house. 

You don’t have to be a train wreck to struggle with activities of daily living. 

It’s really important, as we heal, that we confront shame. 

Lots of us really struggle to distinguish between “because I can’t do this thing right now, I’m helpless, hopeless, and useless.”

What you can or can’t do right now isn’t a function of who or what you are— it’s a function of what you can or don’t do right now. 

No more; no less. 

Don’t get down on yourself because you struggle with everyday tasks. 

It’s not about how smart you are. It’s not about how resilient you are. It’s not about whether or not you’re working hard enough in recovery. 

It’s not about whether therapy is “working” or not. 

It’s about what’s going on with you right now. 

Some days are going to be better; some days, not so much. 

The name of the game is identifying what activities and routines are meaningful for your life— and what, specifically, gets in the way of being able to carry those routines out. 

We work on realistic ways around each obstacle as we identify each obstacle. 

It’s slow going sometimes— but the truth is, EVERYBODY has obstacles to feeling and functioning the way they’d prefer. 

You’re on your way to identifying and overcoming YOUR obstacles. 

Don’t let shame trip you up. 

Just identify and work on the next thing. 

Then the next— then the next. 

You’ve got this. 

In recovery, the little things ARE the big things.

Our baby steps and little victories are the key to our recovery. 

We often want to think about recovery as involving these quantum leaps forward in our ability to cope and function— and, sure, sometimes those big leaps do happen. 

But when big leaps in our recovery happen, it’s usually because we’ve set the stage for them with our little, consistent, daily steps. 

It’s extremely UNLIKELY we’ll make big leaps in our recovery if we HAVEN’T been taking those baby steps every day. 

What do those little, incremental, baby steps in recovery look like? 

They’re often a little (or a lot) different than what we assume. 

A baby step might look like, going to bed and getting up at consistent times every day. 

A baby step might look like, sticking to a schedule— not letting your day be determined by what you do or don’t feel like doing at any given moment. 

A baby step might look like, carving out time every day for reading and journaling— even if it’s just a few minutes. 

A baby step might look like, doing your internal communication and self-talk exercises every day— even if you don’t want to. 

A baby step might look like, curating your social media feed with mutes and blocks, so you’re not exposed to the online presence of people who trigger or otherwise destabilize you. 

There are dozens of baby steps that might be applicable to the specific work you’re doing in your therapy or recovery work— but the commonality is that we’re talking things that aren’t overwhelming, and that you can do every day. 

Very often we skip the baby steps, ironically because they FEEL too small. 

Sometimes we think we don’t have to do that baby step today, because we can just make up for it tomorrow. 

The thing is, the entire point of these little incremental steps is to build momentum. 

The entire point of having them be NOT overwhelming is to be able to do them regularly, daily, without fail. 

A lot of the time, we’re going to have to just do the thing, even if we don’t feel like doing it, even if it doesn’t feel like it’ll make a difference, even if we’re bored or frustrated by the thing. 

I can assure you, a LOT of the routines and rituals that make the difference in recovery are boring and kind of frustrating. 

We WANT recovery to be this dramatic shift. I would prefer that, anyway. That way my brain would be more interested in it. My brain loves the drama. 

But recovery is rarely about drama. 

It’s mostly about consistency. 

It’s about life becoming LESS dramatic and tumultuous. 

If we’re doing recovery right, our lives actually become MORE predictable— and, consequently, more manageable. 

When I try to get my brain to follow a routine, my brain often pushes back. It tries to convince me that if I stick to a schedule, if I go to bed early, if I get up at the same time every day, I’m going to become a robot, with no spontaneity or fun or passion in my world. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

If we really want a life we can enjoy, if we really want a life that includes adventure and fun and passion, we first have to establish safety and stability. 

We don’t want the kind of adventure that arises out of instability and chaos. 

Focus in on routines. Focus in on habits. Focus in on rituals. The smaller and more consistent, the better. 

The little things we do, over and over and over again, without fail— those really are the big things in our recovery. 

What if you DON’T check that social media account you hate?

Ever have trouble STOPPING yourself from checking the social media accounts of people who drive you absolutely CRAZY? I have. 

Lots of people do have trouble with that. Even if we don’t want to admit it. 

There just seems to be a part of us that REALLY, REALLY wants to know what those people are saying. 

Sometimes it’s because they might be saying personal about us, either directly or indirectly. 

Sometimes its’s because they might be saying things that our brain tells us HAVE to be responded to or debunked. 

Sometimes we just check the social media of people we hate just to remind ourselves of what NOT to be, think, or do. 

Either way: the time and emotional energy we spend checking the social media of people we hate, is time and energy we’re NOT getting back. 

Very rarely is it time and energy we’re GLAD we invested. 

It’s absolutely the case that sometimes people post defamatory or untrue things on social media, and sometimes it’s necessary to monitor and either report or rebut them. 

But it’s also the case that, often, it doesn’t particularly matter what we say in rebuttal, or whether we report them— it won’t affect their behavior. 

(In fact, it’s sometimes the case that when we DO respond heatedly to someone’s posts, they consider that a victory of sorts— they’ve coerced a reaction out of us.) 

Believe me, I know: it’s really, really hard to let someone be wrong or mean on the internet. 

Even if we make the resolution that we’re not going to provide them with the satisfaction of a response, we very often continue to struggle with not checking their social media to see what untrue, unfair thing they’ve said THIS time. 

Checking and rechecking the social media of people we hate can consume HUGE chunks of our time and attention in a day— more than many of us appreciate. 

And I can tell you from personal experience that purposefully exposing ourselves to the posts of people who have NOTHING constructive to contribute to our lives is absolute POISON for our recovery from depression, anxiety, addiction, and trauma. 

Learning to leave certain social media accounts alone is a major, very necessary, steppingstone goal for many of us in recovery. 

But, like all habits we’re trying to quit, it doesn’t work just to tell ourselves, “don’t do that.” 

We need a plan. 

We need to identify when we’re most at risk for checking the social media of people we hate. 

We need to identify what thoughts, feelings, and events make us more likely to check their social media. 

And we need a plan for what to do INSTEAD of checking those social media accounts— even when we really WANT to scratch that itch. 

We need to figure out what support we need in order to keep us from checking those accounts. Who can we call or text or message instead? Who will remind us of our commitment to stay “clean?” 

We need to set realistic goals for ourselves in reducing the behavior. If we check those toxic social media accounts twenty times a day, maybe our first goal is to check them fifteen times today. Or maybe only check three of the five we usually check. Or maybe only check them at certain times, for a certain amount of time— that we subsequently start reducing, day by day. 

Social media can be an extraordinary tool. 

But, much like any other tool— much like a hammer— it can either help us build something, or it can injure us. 

Anyone reading this, probably found me on social media. I like social media. It think it has way more upside than downside. 

Which is why we have to take REALLY seriously the impact it has on our emotional and behavioral health. 

Your reality is not dependent upon their validation.

Everybody reading this either knows of or has experienced a situation in which systems have failed to hold people accountable for hurting someone. 

Many of us know of or have experienced situations in which the people hurt were the people who ended up being blamed and/or shamed. 

It’s often asked why someone would bother coming forward to share their experience, if this is the predicable, consistent outcome. 

You don’t have to be a legal scholar to see that systems of accountability and justice seem to be broken. 

I don’t know what to do about those systems. My training and experience isn’t in making laws of prosecuting criminals. 

What I do know is that the fact that systems often fail survivors often ricochets back on survivors, emotionally. 

You, the survivor reading this, need to know that your experience was real and is valid, no matter what the system does or doesn’t do. 

The reality of your experience is not determined by whether anybody believes it. 

What happened, happened— and it had exactly the impact it had. 

The fallout is real. You’re not imagining it. You’re not attention seeking. You’re not trying to “ruin someone’s life” by speaking out. 

I need you to know that, because you are GOING to get ALL kinds of messages about not only why you’re doing what you’re doing, but why you’re even experiencing what you’re experiencing. 

People will project ALL kinds of motivations onto you. 

When survivors come forward and describe what they’ve been through, it triggers feelings of vulnerability and shame for a LOT of people— and unfortunately, a LOT of people respond to those feelings by questioning the reality of what they’re being told. 

We don’t LIKE to think that we’re vulnerable. 

We WANT to think that, if we’re just smart and strong enough, we can avoid being victimized.

You need to understand that, in their minds, your story isn’t about you— it’s about what COULD have happened to them. And it terrifies them. 

So: they’ll turn to denial to help them feel better. 

The situation couldn’t have been THAT bad, they’ll say. SURELY there’s more to the story. SURELY you’re not THAT affected. What’s your REAL motivation here? 

Don’t let it get in your head. 

I’ve worked with hundreds of survivors who have doubted their own life experience for a number of reasons. The memories aren’t all there, the memories are incomplete, the memories don’t seem to make any sense; the family is pushing back; the legal system’s let them down. 

You’ll be able to find dozens of reasons what you went through just didn’t happen, if you really want to look for ‘em. 

But none of those reasons negates the impact what you went through had on your body and mind. 

The fallout is still real, whether you or anybody else believes your experience. 

PTSD doesn’t care whether the court or your family or public opinion acknowledges what happened to you. 

We have to deal with what we have to deal with, whether to not anyone EVER validates us. 

Your worth exists independent of anyone else’s acceptance. 

Your experience exists independent of anyone else’s corroboration. 

Your pain is real, whether or not anyone else wants to believe you. 

I need you to know that. Really, really know that. 

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