*this letter is part of a collection for Suicide Awareness Month. I am not a licensed psychiatrist and none of the advice, recommendations, or resources shared in my response should be considered a substitute for therapeutic or medical treatment performed by a licensed practitioner.
I watched your igtv and listened to your words and felt heard. It feels like a really big leap to email you, but I don't know who to talk to. I just don't know how to live through this moment. I'm currently in therapy, in Dutch it's called 'schema therapie', and it's based on inner child healing. A few days ago my therapist told me, that what I described to her about my childhood is what they call child abuse - I didn't know. She scared me by using these terms and it made me view my childhood in a different way--shifting the perspective, lifting the veil. I'm numb, yet at the same time I feel everything . My mind can't wrap itself around this, can't make sense of this, it's working over-hours. I don't feel like I can talk to anyone about this, I haven't got the words. I'm afraid of people's opinions, advice and overall reactions. I don't know how to live through this, how to continue. And this scared me even more, because I love life, I really do. I never imagined to have thoughts that lead to conclusions where living is no longer certain. This scares me, but it doesn't scare me enough to get rid of this feeling, of these thoughts. I know I have to live through this, work my way through this, because ignoring this and continuing my life as if nothing changed is impossible. But I don't know how. Reasoning and rationalizing is helpful but it's also getting me stuck at the moment. I know that my mind likes to take over, but I also feel like I need my body, I need my emotions to help me through this. I'm crying, multiple times a day--sometimes I don't even know why, or why it started. Sometimes it's little tears, sometimes big cries that come from really deep within me. I don't know what is happening to me.
Sending you Love from Arnhem, a little town in the east of the Netherlands.
Dear Love From Arnhem,
I love life, too. Life is also incredibly hard, incredibly unfair, and incredibly unfiltered. Healing the inner child is a lifetime of hard, unfair, and unfiltered work. Often when someone first makes contact with this sacred and scarred part of the Self they are thrown into a state of overwhelm. Your brain is constantly working because it is trying to help your nervous system find resolution. When your therapist reframed your childhood experience as abuse, you probably went straight into a state of fight, flight, or freeze—something that’s commonly connected to PTSD. Basically, your nervous system is playing a specific memory on loop and trying to convince your brain that it’s happening at the present moment. Maybe you were never consciously aware of this memory or collection of memories until this point, and having it all uncovered at once is too much. This state that you’re in is a hard one to reckon with. I, too, have found myself with conflicting thoughts, and at my lowest I’ve considered checking out for good. But, just like you, I know that I’ve got to claw my way back to the world of the living and give myself the chance to actually live.
Every time I uncover a childhood trauma and mindfully work through it, I start to live a little bit more. Maybe, just maybe, the lifting of this veil will do just that for you, too. I want you to pretend like it will, just for now, and consider these questions while you’re pretending:
What would happen if you started to love your inner child? What would life be like if every time you found yourself crying, you let yourself do it without judgment? What would happen if you told your inner child that they are seen and heard? What would happen if you started really listening to them and fulfilling their needs?
Before I landed where I am now, my mind could not make sense of anything. I was so confused and I tried to numb myself in every possible way I could, yet often found myself crying all over the place, or lashing out at the people closest to me in anger. It was my unseen, unheard inner child screaming to be recognized. Once I acknowledged that part of myself and the programming attached to her, I was able to build a toolbox of journaling exercises, breathwork, and activities to engage my inner child and help her heal. Everything in that toolbox was found by asking myself the questions I just asked you and writing down the answers or moving through the most difficult emotions.
It’s OK to not know how to move through this shit. It’s OK to be stuck. It's normal to feel scared. You shouldn’t have to be dealing with any of this. None of it is your fault.
I am so sorry that you are struggling with this overwhelming responsibility of both healing your past wounds and living in the present. You’re right, it is impossible to go back to your life before this shift happened. It’s also impossible to live in this—for lack of a better word—manic state. Of course this is too much for your brain to handle on its own. Of course you need your body to help you. Your emotions are probably the closest thing you have to a compass right now. It’s going to take all of them to guide you through this. Ultimately, you are capable of healing yourself, and I think you both know and believe that.
Therapy is a wonderful place to learn how to create new, positive coping mechanisms and strategies that are specific to your needs. Email or call your therapist and ask if, during the next session, she can provide you with some breathing exercises for you to do on your own whenever you’re in a moment of panic. If this type of work isn’t in her wheelhouse there is a free app called 29K that has everything from journaling to breath work and meditation—and it is customizable to your needs.
Don’t worry so much about sharing this with people in your life right now if you aren’t comfortable with it. You will get to a point in your healing journey where you will feel called to let others in. The only person you need to talk to about this is your therapist and your childhood Self. The conversations you have with those two, both separately and together, will help you carry the weight of this immense burden and, hopefully, shed some extra baggage along the way.
What you are doing for yourself is already incredibly brave. Being committed to your mental health and being aware of your life experience is not easy work, and it is often undervalued in today’s society. I’m proud of you for diving in and for embracing your vulnerability, and I’m proud of you for reaching out when you did.
I believe in you,