Learning How to Heal

This post is a hard one to write, because the last time I wrote about my parents, it set off an explosion within my family. The backlash was immediate and intense, yet here I am again, writing my way through the hardest parts of my life.

I got married to the love of my life almost six months ago. We have a cute little apartment with our cat on the east side of town. We make coffee and eat breakfast together every morning, kiss each other goodbye as we get into our cars and go to work, and we come home to each other at the end of each day. Life with Dan is every bit as beautiful as I hoped it would be.

This has been the happiest season of my life, but there’s been this underlying sadness that I haven’t been able to shake. 

Over the last few months friends and family have repeatedly asked me “What’s wrong?” or, “Why do you seem so blah?” I would respond with something like, “Oh, i’m just tired” or complain about work, or anything really. But the truth is I didn’t know the answer to their questions. It got to the point where I would get angry with myself and started thinking, What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be happy? What happened to me?

Well friends, I finally figured it out. The source of my underlying unhappiness is the situation with my parents. I won’t spell out all the details, but the short version is that they’re separated and this Sensitive Sally hasn’t been handling it well.

Anxiety makes me constantly worry about every possible angle of their separation. Here’s a look into my brain: Mom and dad were fighting today, I hope they’re okay. I hope mom is actually happy living on her own. I hope dad wont be too lonely once we’re all out of the house. What does Thanksgiving look like this year? How about Christmas? What do Thanksgiving and Christmas look like a few years from now when we all have kids? Will everyone get along at Kaleigh’s wedding next month?

It’s exhausting.

It’s exhausting and I can’t carry it around anymore.

I broke down in tears the other night on the way home from a family party. This was my epiphany moment when I realized how messed up my parents’ separation has made me. Dan, being the logical fixer that he is, asked me, “What does the best possible outcome look like to you? What can you do to make that happen?” The first answer came easy. I want my parents to live in peace and for my family to have a semblance of wholeness again– if that means an amicable divorce, I’m okay with that. The answer to his second question came quick, but not so easy: Nothing. There is nothing I can do, and the best thing for me is to simply let go.

I got angry at myself when I realized all of this. I thought that I had moved past it all, I thought I wasn’t going to let my parents’ situation affect me anymore. It’s been over a year since I wrote that explosive blog post, but nothing had changed. I told myself I was going to heal and move on with my life, but that healing never reached my heart.

So, I learned something the other night and it’s a little scandalous: It’s okay to take a step back from unhealthy situations and focus on yourself. It’s okay to be “selfish” and indulge in self-care when everything around you is crumbling. It’s okay not to have any answers or solutions to the toughest problems you’re facing. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. It’s okay to be happy and joyful and live your life.

But the most important thing I learned is that change has to start in your heart, or it won’t last. I can talk or write about my resolution to get better until I run out of words, but if I don’t let my heart feel it, it doesn’t mean anything. I can’t start healing until I empty myself of bitterness and anxiety and surrender my heart to God’s grace.

My heart feels lighter than it has in a long time. I’m ready to step away from the crumbling house that I can’t fix, and step forward into the life that my husband and I are building together.

2 thoughts on “Learning How to Heal

  1. So I wasn’t actually planning to read this, but clicked on it by accident and started reading the next time I picked up my phone without realizing.
    The first thing that popped into my head from just a few sentences in, was that I needed to tell you about the concept of ”radical acceptance”
    In case the idea of just letting the struggles in your family go, and giving it to God, is still making you unsettled or you are still finding it hard to do, I highly recommend you hear me out on this concept.
    So Radical Acceptance is a concept/skill that comes from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). In case you never heard of that, or in case you start Googling, you will quickly see it is one of the most proven treatments for people with certain types of personality disorders, people who are suicidal and people who self-harm. (I do not think you have any of these issues so don’t freak out). Basically, it is for people who are in an emotional crisis and are not coping well. and honestly, I think every single person in the world could benefit from DBT at some point in their lives or they should have it so that they can cope better with their anticipated struggles. I have personally taken part in months of this therapy, and it has seriously helped, and have written my fair share of research papers on it.
    So anyway, one of the coping skills in DBT is Radical Acceptance.
    We are taught to use this skill when we have a problem (like your parents’ separation) and we cannot solve it ( you can’t solve that), we can’t change how we feel (you’ve been feeling pretty awful for a while about this), and we don’t want to stay miserable (sounds like you don’t). So we use Radical Acceptance. Rather than re-writing all about it here, I’m going to link you to this article. It is a piece of a transcript from a video made by Marsha Linehan, the (brilliant) psychologist who created DBT. I seriously think this skill/concept can be helpful for you, so when you are ready/able, check it out, and feel free to be in touch if you have questions or want more info or just want to tell me it’s a crappy idea 😉


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