My first blog post in months. Things have changed dramatically for me this year, due to some very traumatic experiences that happened to me at the end of last year, and the beginning of this year. Events that changed the course of my life and changed me as a person.
This year the Agency had a really rough start. One of the worst 6-8 months I’ve experienced since this business came to life back in 2008. I’ve experienced mental illness to the point of paralysis, and being unable to work. And this week I have lost a dearest and darling family member, and my heart is broken again.
But instead of hiding my pain, I use it to teach myself lessons. I use my darkness to give me strength, I always have. And I have decided to write this blog in the hopes that other authors and business owners out there who feel the same pain, know that you will get through it.
So these are my top 5 pieces of advice for anyone out there trying to build a business for themselves (especially you self-published authors, because that’s what you’re doing) about getting through trauma, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel:
Accept your pain.
Our society teaches us that it’s better to get up, dust yourself off and move forward. They forget that we can’t exactly do that if we’ve broken a leg. If my experiences over the past year had displayed themselves physically, I would have been in the hospital under constant care, with bruises and broken bones and internal bleeding. I’m under no illusion about the severity of what I went through, but we are not taught to view our emotional and mental states in the same way.
It is important for you to recognize when you are in pain and need care. Accepting your hurt and pain paves the way for healing. You are allowed to hurt, you are allowed to feel all the emotions that are going on inside you. You don’t have to keep pushing them away and pretending they’re not there. You’re a human being and deserve great love and care, and the way you give that to yourself is by giving yourself permission to feel it, and heal.
Get people around you.
I am very used to isolating myself in crisis mode. I’m naturally an introverted homebody, and I love being on my own. But you need people around you. It is very easy to get swallowed up in your own self-criticism and punishment but you need people around you to tell you to stop doing that and that you’re being too hard on yourself (because you are). You need people to be your strength when you have none, to help you.
This year I have bonded more closely to my family than I ever imagined. They were at my door and calling me on my phone when the shit (repeatedly) hit the fan, and they have been there ever since. I have carved new intimate friendships with people in my life who I had no idea would ever become so important to me. I learned a new aspect of support, one I didn’t think was there and I didn’t understand how everyone else had people around them and I didn’t. But I did, and I do. And so do you.
But you have to ask for it. These people probably have no idea what you’re going through, or don’t know how to help you. You must ask for it. People want to help you, they often don’t know how. How many times have you seen a friend or family member go through something and felt totally helpless? Don’t be afraid to ask. There is no shame in asking, only love for yourself. Asking for help means you are taking action with trying to help yourself. You will be surprised at how willing the response will be.
Do things that make you happy.
When the storm clouds are above and the waves are crashing in upon our ship, we may forget that there are things out there that make us happy. Writing makes me happy. Playing Magic the Gathering makes me happy. Watching and analysing movies makes me happy. Learning about business makes me happy. Listening to music makes me happy. What makes you happy? When was the last time you gave yourself time to do those things, simply to be happy and enjoy it? Without any expectation of success, achievement, or improvement. Just… cos it makes you happy?
Actively find things in your life that will trigger that happiness part of your brain. The more that triggers, the bigger the ripple effect it will have in your life. These aren’t just temporary moments, but they are influencing how you feel the rest of the time. Piece by piece, feeling good about yourself will begin to chip away at the feeling bad about yourself. Give these moments to you, each day, to remind yourself what it feels like to be happy.
Recognize your strength
I’m not good enough. I can’t do this. I’m not capable.
Are these familiar thoughts? I have them every single day. But it’s thanks to #2 on this list (people) who remind me of how strong I am. That my recovery throughout this year has been far faster, and with greater emotional health, than normal. Others in my position would probably not have felt the way I do for another two years.
I lose perspective so easily. I forget how much I’ve been through and all that I’ve achieved through it. I tell myself “Anyone would have been able to do better than me,” but that’s total bullshit. They wouldn’t. And we don’t know these things because they’re private, we don’t hear about it except from the Fortune500 CEO’s who experienced these things ten years ago and became stronger for it. Whoop-de-do, but what about the people now? Where are the other people who are hurting as bad as I am? Everyone else seems to have a handle on life pretty goddamn well.
This is not true. Everyone is fighting a hard battle, and everyone has their ways of dealing with it. And most of us do it quietly, because we don’t want the world to see what’s really going on.
Everyone struggles and suffers in their own way. Including you.
It takes so much strength to overcome trauma. You can drown in a wave of doubt, guilt, and shame, collapse under the weight of helplessness and loss. Don’t be blind to how much strength it actually takes to sometimes get through the day. This is not you being weak, this is you being strong.
Look at the reality of your situation, of what you have been through. Pretend it had happened to a dear friend or family member, would you be so willing to tell them that they’re being weak? Or would you understand how hard it must be for them to get through what they’ve been through? You are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for, I think it’s about time you start believing it.
Hold space in your life for you
A lot of the damage I experienced this year was due to the fact I was putting others before me, when I needed to put me first. I was surrounded by people who wanted me to bow to them, to make sure they had enough before I had enough. This happened with relationships, with family, and with friends. I am naturally someone who puts others above myself, and I hit a breaking point. After everything I had already been through at the end of last year, they drained me of all I was. I was getting to the point where I was losing my own identity. I didn’t even matter anymore. And it took the support of others in my life to be able to step back and say no. To begin to rebuild the walls around me. To know that I matter.
The same can be said about business. I was brought up in a family that put work above myself. Work is more important than me. And so I worked and worked and worked when I shouldn’t have, and I was going through serious breakdowns, and again paralysis. Where was I in all of this? I didn’t matter.
Finally, as I began to emerge through the trauma (I still haven’t completely recovered, and it will take quite a while until I’m feeling 100% again), I started to put myself first. Because there is no life for me, without me in it. Not only that but if I continue to bow to the will of others in my life, who want me to sacrifice my entire self, happiness and life to make them happy, then I have no life at all.
Holding space in your life is you giving yourself permission to be who you are, to enjoy all the things you want to, to give yourself the time and space you need to in order to heal.
To hold space means you recognizing this is your life, and you are allowed to live within it. You are allowed to exist within your own moments. You are important.
And most of all, keep writing. Writing is our vice. Writing is our voice. You need to get the stuff inside you out. Seeing it outside of ourselves helps give us perspective, and something to reflect on. It’s also a record, so that in six months you can look back and realise how far you’ve actually come. And it is in your blood, as it is in mine. Writing is our calling, and we must continue to let it flow.
Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. And don’t take anyone in your life for granted. Go out today and tell your friends and family how much you love them, because they may not know. Treasure them. And treasure you.