Sudden grief overwhelmed me to a point where I couldn’t function in my second year of college. I had never viscerally experienced an emotion so deeply it made me sick. I realized I had grown up, shoving feelings down, where I only felt validated going to therapy because this was socially acceptable for me to now seek help. While I knew the interior emotional damage was severe, it did not feel like it was enough of an excuse to seek help. However, exterior effects such as lack of sleep and not eating, were signs that I felt were hard to dismiss to the outside world. It is like seeing someone with a broken arm versus anxiety. A broken arm is seen by the naked eye, while emotional health is not perceived by sight, but through words. Thus, in some way, seeing the deterioration of my physical health alongside my mental health was verification that I needed to reach out to someone. Looking back, I knew that therapy was important yet it took a major loss to understand that processing emotions are important in the mountain peaks, valley lows and everywhere in between.
The start of my healing process didn’t feel like healing right away. It felt backwards, addressing my emotions, where half of it was giving voice to the thoughts swirling around in my head and the other half was sitting with feelings of discomfort and reopening scabbed wounds. It meant releasing a clenched fist and giving space to my own words. A boxy room, a couch, and a person with the capacity to listen: it’s powerful.
During the pandemic, my emotional health went out the window. In the back of my mind, I knew that I needed to take care of myself, self care it up, yet I found myself slipping into the void of anxiety. Uncertainty with my future was ever present as I hardly expected to graduate college during a pandemic. This alone is an unraveling process against the backdrop of reminding myself to take it one day at a time. Sprinkle in fear about contracting a virus and not leaving your house really does a number on your head. In addition to this, multiple relationships blew up in drama. Not understanding my story, my family history, and my boundaries left me susceptible to heartache and to being hurt by the people I love most. In the heat of intense conflicts, the emotions I tried to suppress would come spilling out.
I reached the edge of an emotional breakdown in December 2020. Depleted, I was trying to please everyone and, ignoring my own needs, I realized I needed to talk to someone. A third party. Someone removed from my life who would let me speak uninterrupted.
Here I am, now, four months into seeing my therapist, and I can definitely say that healing is not linear. Productive days feel like the fruition of insight and understanding about my life. I see chapters and the fine print of events that I thought I knew, but still had to reread. On “unproductive” days, I feel defeated and more confused on my journey to healing, and wonder if people in my life will ever reconcile. These days are some of the hardest to sit with as I prefer to rush to resolutions and the perfect endings. Then, there are the “good cry” days, when emotions I’ve been holding onto for too long flood from my soul.
Everyday resilience has also been found in putting my words down on paper. A steady, mindful, intentional practice of writing even when I am unsure of the exact words needed to go on the page. Humble beginnings, sometimes starting with, “I don’t know what to write, but…” which inevitably unfolds into pages of emotions, of thoughts unchecked, and freedom to explore all that it means, if I so choose. This therapeutic practice means vulnerability and honesty with myself about myself as I am increasingly becoming more aware of the inner workings of this Filapina-Boricua-Russian girl with a wild family and complex relationships.
Healing is a process, and part of me thinks that true healing will never fully be achieved. Not to be pessimistic but the world is a messy place with hurt people. Quite wisely, C.S. Lewis spoke to this, saying that “there is no safe investment, to love at all is to be vulnerable” (The Four Loves). For me, therapy has been a tool to understand and move through the emotions that seem counterproductive for me to put into words. It’s a space to visualize my thoughts and make sense of the internal and external factors of my life. To acknowledge the mess, but not to let the mess dictate how I behave, live, and think.
I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t sure if healing was ever going to come and honestly I still don’t have the answer to that because I am continuously in the process of understanding what it means. Pieces of healing are revealed through communicating in a safe environment, in therapy, with a trusted counselor or friend. There have been countless times when I am talking with a friend. We will start discussing something that has caused a lot of pain, but through their words, somehow, illuminated and broke through a hard thought process for me. I have found that people have the power to tear down, but they also have the capacity to build up. Spiritual healing is another piece which is constructed through surrender. It requires faith to revel in the mystery. Healing comes in different languages. The intricate aspects that have contributed to my healing is not the same for everyone, but I do think that parts of healing are meaningful regardless. I think everyone wants to belong, be heard, and be shown dignity. Healing is found within these spaces.
My story isn’t over because well my life isn’t over. I still have pains that I am holding onto and conflict that is still sticky. But now to be in a place where it’s less about the resolve, but more about the growth, that is what has held layers of alleviation. We can often find power and peace when we stop blaming others for our hurt, but we instead turn inwards to the fluidity of reflection in our experiences. Self-awareness brings consideration to the world around us, and knits us more closely to the relationships around us.
Constantly creative, Tabi thrives on coffee, stories, and connection as she explores art and fashion. Residing in Seattle, she is always learning more about her community and how she can advocate for change. Her dream is to have ten dogs.Discover more from Tabitha Villanueva.