“Life begins on the other side of your comfort zone”
Everyone has heard that quote… or something like it, whether it’s substituting “fear” for “comfort zone”, though those two often go hand-in-hand. And, really, it is bang on. We are now of the age of “instant gratification”. If you’re cold, turn on the heat. Warm, turn on AC. Hungry, grab a snack. If we don’t know something, we go online. Bored, turn on Netflix or a video game. We can do so much to aid in our comfort, we don’t know how to handle shitty things when they happen. We go out of our way to stay comfortable.
But do you know what comfort brings? Stagnation. Depression. No growth. Boredom. Dullness. Introversion.
When we stay in comfort we do everything to stay there, even if it means turning to negative ways to deal with things. I have found that being in mental/emotional discomfort often brings on abuse of food, alcohol and drugs – and something I witnessed just this week, self-harm. Food, drugs, and alcohol tends to numb a situation. When we’re not used to the uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, we’re not equipped with effective coping mechanisms or ways to express and deal with them, sometimes it’s easier to feel physical pain for something emotional. Physical pain means you’re alive. Physical pain is tangible. Physical pain makes it easier to release emotional pain.
The other week, a girl – probably still in her teens – got on the bus and she had the most intense self-harm scars I’ve ever seen. In the past, I’ve only seen the healed, white scars of the cutting – and sometimes, in the case of a friends son, the healed scars were crazy. There was no “normal” flesh on his arms – they were entirely scars. This girls harm scars were fresh – deep, gaping, red, angry… my heart went out to her and everyone who has had to deal with such anguish that self harm was the only way they knew how to escape.
Yes, I’ve been through it myself… but never on this scale. Yes, I used to cut myself, but I was maybe 14 years old and it wasn’t deep and those scars are long, long faded… but I understand this.
However, hurting or numbing the emotional pain away doesn’t actually go away, but just gives you temporary escape from the pain. The problem with this is that eventually it stops working and you have to try harder to hurt or numb the pain away and it slowly sinks you further into a pit of despair where the only way to get out of it is to face those emotions you’re running from.
It can be done – and it sucks! When I stopped drinking alcohol and using OTC drugs to numb, I suddenly had to process and allow all those emotions to come. I had to feel everything I had been trying to escape… but the alternative was way worse.
I was at a party and I was triggered – and I went from drinking to have a good time, to drinking to forget – and, unfortunately, I drank WAY too much and by the time I realized that, it was too late. I went to bed to try to sleep it off and I was sexually assaulted. The whole evening was the most terrible I’ve ever had to deal with – and it wasn’t even about the sexual assault, but about the position it put my family in. And I didn’t even give up drinking at that point! It still took another year+ to realize alcohol and drugs were ruining my life – not just ruining it, but destroying it. I can look back now and recognize this abuse over the decades, but at the time, it was all I could do to survive.
However, once I stopped the numbing, I was finally able to move forward. I was no longer running from my past, but facing it and because of this, I was able to move forward and LIVE my life, not hide from it. I’m no longer clinging to the shit that’s happened to me because I’ve faced it. It no longer defines me but it allows me to use that experience to become stronger. When the #MeToo movement came out, I was terrified – utterly terrified – to chime in. But doing so made it lose its control. Slowly it no longer terrified me.
Because I was able to embrace that discomfort, I was able to move on. Because I faced that fear, I am stronger. Because I can now share this, I hope I can encourage others to embrace their discomfort and fear to be able to move on and live a life they’re meant to.
Now these are somewhat extreme examples of embracing discomfort but there’s another that everyone goes through that, women in particular, tend to struggle with:
In the January of the year I turned 40, I decided to stop coloring my hair. I was going to embrace the color I had told myself I hated for 25 year – I started coloring my hair when I was 15 – all but 3 months some time when I was maybe in my 30’s. I was going to embrace a color that I wasn’t even sure what it was, grey and all!
And you know what? I actually really liked it!
I had also stopped wearing makeup when I was mid-thirties as I had a severe allergic reaction to makeup and though the actual product / ingredient was never pin-pointed, I simply couldn’t wear makeup like I used to.
When society puts so much pressure on women to look a certain way, it’s slightly terrifying to go against what society says is acceptable. If you LOOK older than 25, you’re virtually disregarded. However, if you’re brave enough to go against society as a force to be reckoned with, you might be surprised.
Society NEEDS women who are willing to stand up against those who say that they are unworthy; that they have to look or act a certain way. So many women try to blend in when we’re meant to stand out. There’s so many women who have ideas and experiences that would benefit someone out there who is going through what they are – but they’re afraid to speak up despite it being easier than ever to get your word out there – like a blog!
I don’t know how much my words may help or influence someone, but if I can help just one woman – give her hope or strength or comfort – then that would make me happy!
Because every single one of us can help someone – even if it’s just to know they’re not alone.