by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
Copyright © All Rights Reserved
Courage is reclaiming your life after a devastating event robs you of your confidence and self-esteem. It is facing tomorrow with a firm resolve to reach deep within yourself to find another strength, another talent…It is taking yourself to another level of your own existence where you are once again whole, productive, special… ~ Catherine Britton
I wrote this post for the first time, in 2007 – long before GPYB (the book) was ever thought about.. I reposted it a few times and posted it with this addendum in 2011 (I received an email). I haven’t posted it since. Since it’s mid-March 2019 and I am writing a letter to my first therapist about “whatever become of me,” I thought I’d post it again.
This was from 2011:
I received an email a few days ago that said (in part), “I read all the fantastic progress of others on the blog and don’t think I can do it. I feel like changing and having a nice life is for everyone but me.” And it made me sad and I wrote the person a quick note that said it IS for everyone – absolutely. Love does not hurt and life is not supposed to hurt. Yes, there are times of sadness and loss but life and love are NOT about one hurt after another. It’s NOT supposed to hurt. You can transform your life into something wonderful. You can do it. Honestly you can. I am reposting the “On Transformation” post for anyone else who might be struggling. YOU CAN DO THIS.
This is the original post: On Transformation
People often ask me what is the difference between someone who transforms their life and someone who doesn’t. I meet people all the time, on the blog, in seminars, in bootcamps, who ask, “Can I do it?” with a doubt in their voice. Even those who work hard will say, “Maybe I just can’t get better.”
It would be trite to suggest that these questions shouldn’t be addressed or that the person is not “thinking positively enough” or not affirming or visualizing enough and I bristle when I hear so-called gurus say things like this. These are legitimate questions and ones that I strugged with at the beginning.
There was no one so convinced that they could not ever feel better than me. I could not believe that I could face the mountain of garbage rattling around in my soul and do something about my life. I DID NOT believe I could learn to stop picking losers. I DID NOT believe that I could ever be happy. I DID NOT believe that life would ever get better.
I had no proof in the pudding that anything I was doing would work. I started this journey clinically depressed, full of unresolved grief, unfinished business and zero self-esteem. I was, to be honest, one hot mess.
When my marriage first broke up I was incapable of putting two thoughts together. My hands shook all the time and I cried more often than not. I had the pounding in my chest and flutters in my stomach that accompany anxiety and grief. I was a physical, mental and emotional wreck.
I used to go to my therapist’s office on Tuesday nights. I would be so nervous and anxious that I would show up almost an hour before my time. Her office was behind an A&W stand but it was February and it wasn’t open. I would sit there in the dark parking lot waiting for my appointment time. It was all I could do to sit tight and not burst in on my therapist and beg her to talk to me NOW.
I was so miserable. I thought the empty parking lot was a representation of my lowly and lonely existence. Knowing my ex was off with his new girlfriend laughing it up and enjoying puppy love made me feel even worse. I was here, in a dark, empty parking lot, alone, and writhing in pain.
Why was life so unfair?
Would I ever feel better?
Would I ever not feel like this parking lot? Dark, empty, abandoned, having seen better days?
Sometime around the middle of March A&W opened for the season but no one really was showing up yet (even though the place was packed in the summer). I would drive in, the only customer at 7:30 on a cold Tuesday night, and order a hamburger and try to swallow it. I would sit, alone, in the car in that cold, dark parking lot staring at the dull A&W sign and the small silhouette of the A&W lady waiting for someone else to show up.
I would sit there waiting for my therapy time and think I had the loneliest and most losing of all possible lives, even worse than the A&W lady because she could count on spring coming when her fortunes would turn around. My stomach was in such turmoil, I was in such emotional pain, that I could barely eat the small single hamburger and would wind up throwing it out most nights. I was such a mess.
I had no idea that waiting for my turn, going to my appointment, talking to my therapist and doing the work she assigned would result in anything.
No matter where I was, I felt different from everyone else. Whether it was being in foster care, being adopted, being battered, being from New York, being this or being that, there was ALWAYS something that set me apart from everyone else. I felt like no one really understood me and if no one understood me, how could anyone fix me? I had A LOT of negative thoughts and energy….but I knew I had to try SOMETHING because what I had done for all of my life wasn’t working.
I read books, I journaled, I went to support groups, I wrote out affirmations and day after day I seemed to feel worse than the day before. Was relief ever coming? I asked a new friend when I would feel better. I was so SICK of doing this work and feeling so awful. He said, “Well, what else are you going to do?” EXACTLY. I had no other choice. It was continue this work and hope for the best or go back to my old existence. Not an option. I didn’t want to be here again.
But I was back in whining mode in a few months and a very kind lady told me not to give up the day before the miracle happened. Naturally I expected a miracle the next day and when none came I felt cheated but I thought maybe tomorrow…or the next day…or the next.
In other words, it didn’t come overnight. There were little sprouts, little buds of hope and change that I was able to see and feel throughout the spring and summer. Come fall I was feeling pretty good but then took a nosedive over the holidays. It was up and down.
I don’t think I ever fully committed, mentally, to the idea that I was transforming my life….but I knew something was going on…and I just continued along because, as my friend said, what else was I going to do?
If you read my stuff, you know that eventually I started to think positively and put together all the things I needed to put together to make it gel. Eventually it worked. You know that I figured it out and went on to start teaching and showing others how to do it. But I had my doubts as you might have yours. There are so many days and weeks where it feels like no progress is happening, or even that you’re going BACKWARDS. You’re not. It’s just how change works. It’s how it happens.
I met and married the most wonderful man 9 years after my divorce. Had you told me it would take 9 years, I probably would have flipped out….but those 9 years were well-spent.
I spent time alone. I dated. I went in and out of relationships. I spent more time alone….etc. Every single man I was with after my first husband was a better man than he was. Every one of them – even ones I only dated short while – was pretty good to me. If we broke up, there was no name calling, no violence….maybe some anger but nothing crazy. I learned… Each time…I learned.
After a time, my ex was a distant memory. I can’t even believe I ever cared about someone who called me names so often and who treated me so badly when I was pregnant and when I was a new mom. When my oldest was a baby, he criticized me as I didn’t know what I was doing. When my middle son was born, I was TOO involved with him (he was colicky and attached to me 24 hours a day) and when my youngest was born – he didn’t want him anyway. What a horrible creature. And eventually I was able to see that he was terrible and to find a man who never once called me a name and treated me with nothing but love and kindness.
People always ask me why I continue to do coaching and speaking and teaching when I’ve left the psychology field and work as a lawyer instead. I usually tell people that I believe that an important part of being healthy is giving back to the world at large. Another reason, though, is that without continuing this work, I would miss watching people transform their lives.
I’ve met people on this road who have had the most devastating experiences and difficult circumstances who have worked hard to transform their lives and move beyond that which has kept them down for years and years — I continue to meet people who get past their past. Being able to witness their courage in their self-transformation is amazing and wonderful.
It is possible no matter WHO YOU ARE.
Don’t give up the day before the miracle happens.
Copyright © Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
All Rights Reserved No Duplication is Allowed Without Explicit Permission of the Author
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