Chances are if you’re reading this right now, there’s something you want to change:
- Maybe you want a better job
- Maybe you want a different partner
- Maybe you want to find your purpose
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably tried various methods to answer these tough questions, ranging from the Internet to alcohol to therapy.
I grew up in a suburb outside of New York City in a family that valued high achievement. As in many Indian families, I was taught that success is an external thing you pursue. An esteemed job you can brag about is like the Holy Grail for many in my culture, and I bought into that concept hard.
By age 13, I had full-on depression. Everyone else assumed I was simply sad. I soon began a love-hate relationship with medication at 14, taking anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, ADD medication, and sleep aids … You name it, I took it.
I loved having a diagnosis; it was a label that could define me and explain the way I felt. It comforted me. It reaffirmed my victim mentality: that I had no choices and this was just who I was. Not surprisingly, things got worse. Beyond the constant adjustments of pills and playing the side-effects-balancing game, this strategy confirmed the belief that true happiness was an external thing I had to get. I felt flawed, broken, and alone.
Years, drinks, and many relationships later, I was ready to give up. But a small and frustrated voice inside me said, There has to be a better way. But what way could that be? I had already tried everything!
Unfortunately, a small, irritating voice is pretty easy to ignore. I needed a rock-bottom moment for that tiny voice to turn into a full-on scream. For me, that happened on December 31, 2010. I was raped. In my apartment. By someone I knew. The side-effect of my new medication virtually paralyzed my muscles during sleep. I couldn’t fight him off. I just woke up repeatedly and witnessed it. That was the moment when my dislike for medication turned into disdain.
For the next two weeks, I was numb. For the two weeks after that, I was drunk. That little voice came back and hit me over the head. I knew I had a choice: I could either allow him to ruin the rest of my life or I could take some responsibility and make a change.
I began boxing. It felt good to hit something. Exercise opened the door to other much-needed changes in my life. Changes that, had they been suggested before, I would have greeted with an overly-dramatic eye roll.
I had never believed in holistic anything. I always thought it was a bunch of granola-eating hippies who thought they could fix everything with herbal tea. Nevertheless, I had tried everything else. What did I have to lose?
As a self-proclaimed know-it-all, it was a struggle to admit that maybe I’d have to venture into the world of nutmilk, super foods, and—dare I say it—kale. It was my “Aha” moment. I decided not to be a victim anymore. At that moment, my health and happiness became MY responsibility; it wasn’t for a person, a pill, or a thing to fix. I wasn’t broken. It was the most empowering moment of my life.
Within two weeks, my life drastically changed. As I look back, hiring a coach, eating veggies, and meditating didn’t fix me. They did something much better: they allowed me to see that I was never broken at all.
Now, my vision of success is not an external thing you “pursue, ” but an internal state of alignment and bliss. Most people saw my external transformation, but the real change was internal. I no longer needed medication, things, or people to make me happy.
When people ask me how I got over the Depression and abuse, I tell them “I don’t get over things, I get through them.” And in my personal experience and as a coach, there are
7 Truths that Helped Me To Heal from Trauma & Abuse:
- BLAME ONLY GETS YOU SO FAR.
When it first happened, I spent some time questioning whether I was actually “raped.” It was too difficult to accept what had happened and I felt that it would be easier to blame myself or call it some sort of “misunderstanding.” The truth is that culpability doesn’t change a situation. No matter what happened to me or to him, it was my responsibility to take care of myself. And while I could have spent more time in the “I wish things were different” cycle, all it did was keep me stuck. And so I chose to be courageous. I chose to feel the feelings, ask for help, and stop silencing my voice. Because ultimately, courage isn’t a feeling, it’s a decision.
2. FORGIVE YOURSELF.
More than forgiving the other person, the biggest shift in my life came from forgiving myself for what happened. Unconsciously, I held onto anger and guilt, further exacerbating the issue by attracting people and situations that would confirm my self-limiting beliefs. I found compassion for others, but never for myself. The moment I decided to give myself what I gave to others was the start of my journey to self-love, self-esteem, and self-respect. Forgiveness gives you the power to re-write your story. And self-forgiveness is just as important as forgiving others.
- EVERYONE WILL GIVE YOU ADVICE. MOST OF IT WILL SUCK.
Everyone who knows will try to help you. Despite their best intentions and desire to help, they will give you advice on how you should feel and deal. Unless they have gone through it, their advice will annoy the shit out of you. And while there may be times you want support and want to talk about it, don’t assume that your usual go-tos for answers are the right people. They love you, but they may injure you more. And honestly, I feel for them. It’s hard to feel powerless to help someone you care about when you can’t magically fix it. My advice: choose where to get support. Explain to your loved ones what you need. It took me a while to learn to say, “I’m going to share with you how I feel. I don’t want you to try to fix it. I just need you listen.” Sometimes we need to directly tell others how to meet our needs.
- ASK FOR HELP. LOTS OF IT.
Based on #3, I’m not advising you to keep it to yourself. Once you make the choice to get help from appropriate sources, get lots of it. DBT, CBT, EMDR, not to mention yoga, meditation, couples therapy, a spiritual mentor, and puppy cuddles. Loved some, hated others. I wanted to find the one modality that would fix everything. But much like the perfect chocolate chip cookie, it simply doesn’t exist. As I look back and fondly bitch about the methodologies and practitioners who claimed their way to be best, I realize that everything played a role in my growth. I learned positive communication & coping skills, emotional resilience, and more than anything, how to trust myself. Today, I see an AMAZING therapist, I exercise, I engage in creative outlets, I meditate, and I honor my intuition. Ultimately, even if only 10% of everything I do now is actually making a difference, it all adds up. Try everything that intuitively feels right, there’s more than one path to healing.
- SELF-LOVE AND SELF-CARE AREN’T SELFISH.
When you’ve spent a long time feeling small, it can be hard to prioritize your needs. On a very deep level, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we don’t deserve it, that it’s wrong, or that it’s selfish to care for ourselves. It’s no wonder we have such a hard time choosing to love ourselves before we love others. Sexual assault shakes your sense of self to the very core. To heal yourself, prioritize your self-care. These actions may be uncomfortable, but that just means you’re doing the right thing. After all, in discomfort is where we grow. Choose to be gentle and compassionate with yourself.
- SELF-EXPRESSION IN ANY FORM IS EMPOWERING.
Much of my growth came from honoring and cultivating my own voice. I began singing, I spoke up for myself, I started writing. I began expressing myself. More than that, I began owning it, listening to it, and loving it.
- GROWTH ISN’T LINEAR.
Each year, I feel better. There are still moments when I feel like curling up in a ball. And in those moments, I get scared that I’m going to enter a serious Depression or that my growth wasn’t as large or legitimate as I had thought. But the truth is that growth isn’t linear. Feeling the full range of emotions is imperative to processing what happened. And the many layers of recovery offer greater opportunities for growth, self-awareness, and peace. Despite the temporary relief that Netflix and alcohol might offer, you need to feel it to heal it.
For me, life is about gratitude. For what I am, what I’ve achieved, and what I’ll create. Each day gives me an opportunity to begin again. An opportunity to let go of the past and take steps toward my ultimate goal: creating a life aligned with my best self. And each year, another bit fades away and reveals who I’m meant to be, allowing me to step into my potential and live my true life’s purpose. And it all started with a moment of surrender and the humbling admission that there had to be a better way to create a happy, fulfilling, and successful life that I love.
Amita is the Owner and Founder of AlignedHolistics.com, a coaching services company that empowers individuals to create a life they love from a place of self-love vs. self-discipline. As a coach, writer, and wellness expert, Amita works with individuals to break through their barriers and embrace lifestyle change from the inside-out. Her unique approach combines nutrition, physical activity, relationships, career, and personal philosophy. Amita has been featured on CBS, NBC, and the Huffington Post. She received her Master’s Degree from New York University and her Health Coach Certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
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