My year started off full of anticipation, promise, and hope. Lots of positive progressions that had seemed so far off for so long were now directly in front of me, staring me in the face. I had worked hard, slept little, and sacrificed much – all for this moment. I felt ecstatic. I felt like I could breathe comfortably again for the first time in years. I was exactly where I had wanted to be.
Then life, as it seems to do quite often, threw me yet another curveball. It actually threw me several of them all at once. I didn’t have enough hands to catch all those curveballs! My excitement, energy, and hope waned as though I’d been knocked into a well and Lassie was nowhere to be found. I have to admit, I sat in the well for some time. It seemed, at that moment, that I had two choices. Make a little spot for myself in the well and hide out, or start engineering a makeshift ladder to crawl out.
Lots of people seem to think my choice should have been obvious. Some of you might understand that, in that moment it wasn’t. Really, if I hid out for a while, maybe more curveballs would just fly by overhead. My hands were full, after all, and balls were already dropping all around me. I was pretty exhausted, too, and just the thought of the energy it would take to build anything seemed pretty overwhelming. So I did just that. I made myself a little nesting place, got as comfortable as one can in a well, and hid out for a little while.
Wells, as you might guess, do not offer the most pleasant living environment. It was dark, damp, and didn’t smell too great. I felt pretty uncomfortable, but it really took some time to decide that the uncomfortable comfort of what had become familiar was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my days. Somehow, someway, I was going to have to figure out how to start that makeshift ladder if I wanted any more than my dark, lonely, and miserable well existence.
For people in general, but especially those who have had to live through trauma, life can seem like a series of events that push us into a well – into a dark, lonely, frightening, and overwhelming place. The fall really hurts! It’s scary and devastating. It’s not something you get used to – or something that doesn’t faze you anymore. It seems impossible to plan, build, and climb a ladder – just to risk more curveballs, and more pain.
Sometimes it seems like the work required to heal from trauma will never end. Sometimes it feels overwhelming and scary. Sometimes it seems easier to hide out for a little bit. But building a ladder is not impossible. Healing from trauma is not impossible. Hope for something different is terrifying, but the options that life above the well has to offer can be so worth the risk.
A WAY OUT
So if you are sitting in your well, in that little dark spot you’ve crafted to hide out in, and you’re pretty uncomfortable…
If you’re starting to wonder if maybe you can think about leaving the discomfort of what you’ve gotten used to…
If a part of you wants to move toward creating a way out…
The first step is to decide you want something different. You want to see if it might be more comfortable above ground. If you think that, just maybe, you want more than can be found in your well, then take a little inventory. What materials do you have available? What will work as a makeshift ladder, and what can be tossed aside? What coping skills have you already acquired to help you manage the task? Which of those skills will work for you now, or need a little tweaking, or need to be tossed aside altogether?
YOU DON'T HAVE TO FACE IT ALONE
Today, you have a bonus piece of ladder material, just there for the taking. Today, I extend my metaphoric hand out to you – to help you weigh the pros and cons of moving out of the well. To help you take inventory of what materials you have, and what materials you might need to create. To help you start building for something different – something outside of the well.
Kristen Henshaw, a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern at Counseling South Austin under the supervision of Ann Stoneson, LPC-S, specializes in trauma recovery, midlife transitions, caregivers' issues, women’s emotional health, and LGBTQ+ concerns. Contact her for a free thirty-minute consultation.