Lydia confides that she feels sad and depressed most of the day, lacking energy to move forward on her goals for self care and to enjoy her life more. On top of feeling depressed and fatigued, her inner critic blames her for not “getting over it.”
If only it were that easy. Who wouldn’t “get over it” if they could?
The reality is that emotional healing takes time and support. For me, healing came in stages-and I needed to have safe spaces that supported me in expressing what I was really feeling-even years after active treatment. And 10 years later, there are pieces that I still need to revisit-especially when it has to do with a side effect continuing to need attention (like lymphedema or osteoporosis) or ways I notice my life is different than it might have been. Time helps tremendously with the acceptance and integration of my cancer experience, but it’s still an ongoing process of observing and expressing my feelings. The more I express my feelings, especially the “negative” ones, the lighter I feel and the more energy I have.
Many survivors are reluctant to share “negative” feelings, believing (often correctly in my opinion!) that loved ones prefer to see the Grateful Warrior face of your experience, not the lingering effects of a traumatic experience.
Gratitude and grit have no doubt been part of your journey, but they are not the whole story.
Recent research in neurobiology finds that ignoring or repressing emotions or memories does not make them disappear. Instead, the limbic system, the emotional part of the brain, stays activated as though the initial experience is actually happening.
You might not be talking about it, but you are still feeling unexpressed emotions, in the mind or in the body.
To heal, you must find safe spaces and people to acknowledge and express yourself.