“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
None of us is immune.
As I have grown older, through the private worlds of others that I have accessed in my life as a psychic, and in the unfolding of my own days, I have come to understand that suffering visits us all.
For almost everyone, at some stage, there will not just be one burden too heavy to bear. No. Instead what we will have is a tsunami of suffering. One impossible thing heaped upon another.
We will find ourselves in a place where the hits come so thick and fast that we will wonder how we can go on.
My sister and I still laugh about once when I became so desperate and dogged – at a time where everything was going wrong, where my life was nothing but bad news, and where only my husband still stood beside me and him in his own world of pain – that I rang Lifeline, an anonymous phone counselling service, hoping to find a glimmer of light in the darkest of times.
The counsellor asked me what was wrong, and I began to list things off.
She became quieter and quieter. Finally she stopped me.
That’s too many things, she said. I’m sorry. I’m only trained to help you with one problem. I’m completely overwhelmed. It’s just too much. I’m sorry.
After which I spent an hour counselling and reassuring her, before getting off the phone to make myself a cup of tea and reflect ruefully on the extreme emotional isolation I had found myself in, and to marvel that even in that place I had still managed to find a way to laugh at myself and my situation.
I have survived a tsunami of suffering more than once, my friends. So I feel well qualified to offer a perspective. Coping skills have become one of my magical powers, not that I ever imagined I would be in a place to have that kind of knowledge. I’m glad to be able to share what I know in the hopes that it may ease your own suffering, or your sense of isolation.
A tsunami is catastrophic, and sometimes the way things break in you, or in your life, they can never be put back together the same way ever again.
But I have learned one thing well. Humans have incredible resilience. We have a great capacity to move through suffering, and to find ourselves eventually back on shore again. That shore may be completely different to the place we started. It will become familiar in time. You may even grow to like it better than the ‘before’ place.
It’s seldom graceful when we’re in the maelstrom. We just have to survive it any way we can, and with as much kindness and compassion for ourselves and those around us as we can muster.
Here’s what I know to be true:
- It helps to have someone to talk to. Someone who won’t judge. Someone who can listen and hold space while you unburden all the things, the tsunami of things, that are going wrong in your life. If there’s no-one you trust go outside and speak to the trees, talk with your pet, or your dead gran. Your Angels, Ancestors, Guides or God, if that works for you. Talk to your own wise self, or write it all down in your journal. There’s ALWAYS someone who’ll listen, and who’ll hold that tender space of care and love for you. It just might not be in the place you’d hope or expect it to be. (Like friends, partner or family. Be okay with that, so that it doesn’t add more pain to your burden.)
- Set short goals. Get through the next breath. The next minute. The next hour. Til sundown. Til sunrise. Tiny increments can get us through the most impossible pain.
- Breathe. Just breathe. In and out. In and out. Mindfully slowing your panic and bringing your awareness always back to your breath and then into your body or out into the world. Let your breath calm you.
- Ask for help.
- Don’t hide stuff, about your situation or relationship or whatever else is happening. It is what it is. When we hide things or make them out to be less than what they are we create shame, and make it impossible to stay open and to be able to accept help.
- Get creative. Know that you can survive stripped down, stripped bare, and that it is possible to make yourself and your life over from the ground up.
- Drugs, alcohol, emotional eating and self-harm don’t fix anything, and ultimately add more to both your burden and the distance you’ll have to travel back to yourself when this is all over. Try music instead, or binge-watching a box set of DVDs where the characters can become friends. Books are also great medicine. Can’t focus to read? Try an audio book or podcast. Knitting, art and crafts are also good. Sometimes you’ll look back and have no idea what you did with your time. That’s okay too.
- Meditation and time in nature heal more than you can know. Go try them and begin to experience their magic for yourself.
- People will often go all judgey, hard-arsed and holier-than-thou about the need for extreme self-care when your life has gone pear-shaped. They’ll be spruiking green smoothies, whole foods and superfoods. If you can manage this, great. But if you’re broke, miserable, exhausted and barely coping my advice to you is this. Eat something. Remember to drink water. Don’t overdo the caffeine. Or the sugar. It only makes you feel worse in the end. But if it’s what’s getting you through, do whatever you need to do, honey. Get some sleep. Try to make healthy choices, but know that toast can be an emergency food group.
- Find a support group, a counsellor or a caring practitioner who will listen, and who can guide you back to solid ground. That might not even be until after the worst has passed.
- Do the best you can. Be okay with days where you don’t cope, or barely cope. Some days will be better, some will be worse. That’s how it goes.
- Everything changes. Everything. Bad times end. Life may be different afterwards, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to know joy, happiness or safety again. Life returns to us in increments. Somehow, we find a way forward.
Some extra advice:
- Walk away from people who tell you ‘everything happens for a reason’ or ‘you just need to work on yourself more’ or ‘God only ever gives you what you can handle’ or that ‘your outer world is only a reflection of your inner beliefs’. You don’t need that shit. You’ve got enough on your plate.
- If people don’t understand, let it be. Sometimes the only people who will truly get it are others who have been in that same hard space. Some people will never understand. It’s likely that some of those people will be friends and family.
- Your dark night of the soul, no matter how painful, has the power to be transformational. The circumstances of our suffering can steal so much away, but you can find a gift if you look for it. That gift could be resilience, compassion, wisdom, caring, courage, a stronger sense of self, a new view of yourself and the world, a deeper connection to humanity or an understanding of what really matters to you.
Sending you so much love, and holding you in my prayers and meditations. You’ll find a way. You’ll get through this. Nicole <3 xoxo