One of the most important takeaways from 2022, for myself and many others, has been this: Your feelings are NOT always the facts.
This is one of the more challenging concepts to learn on your path to healing – at least it certainly was for me. When you struggle with anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, OCD, or any other mental health disorder, we often (or sometimes all day long) have these intense feelings that cause us to believe things that simply aren’t true. For example, if you’re battling depression, you might go to sleep every night feeling hopeless and unworthy of love and connection. If you have PTSD, your brain can make you feel like every stimulus in your environment is a threat, consuming you with fear and anxiety.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder consists of intrusive thoughts that make you believe beyond a doubt that something horrible will happen if you don’t act on a certain urge or impulse. If you struggle with Anorexia, Body Dysmorphia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, Orthorexia, or any other types of disordered eating, you may find yourself feeling like you are broken beyond repair. Similar to eating disorders, chronic illness also has us believing that we will be broken, defective, or sick forever.
But none, I repeat, NONE of these feelings are factual. Feelings lie to us sometimes, which can be hard to wrap our minds around, especially if you’re a very intuitive and empathic person, like I consider myself to be. Personally, this past year, my battle with a chronic health condition called endometriosis has brought me to my knees. I have had two major surgeries occurring at both the beginning and the end of the year. In the midst of my health struggles, I started to feel hopeless. That voice in my head started to tell me that “sick” was just going to be a part of my personality now.
After my second surgery, which to date (fingers and toes crossed!) has been successful, I still had trouble believing it. I kept believing that another bad thing was just waiting around the corner for me. I felt on edge, hypervigilant, and believed that maybe the surgeon missed something or maybe the rest of my life would consist of surgery after surgery. But here’s the thing:
These were my FEELINGS. My feelings, while very valid and understandable, are not facts. So what are the facts here?
1. Parts of 2022 were terrible to me. But I’ve also had massive growth and joy in other areas of my life. I created the most beautiful garden in my backyard, my business expanded, and I even went on my DREAM vacation to Fiji.
2. I have a chronic health condition, and it has caused me severe pain and lots of loss. But my second surgery was very successful. The surgeon, who is one of the top doctors in his field, was confident that I would be okay. So many women in similar situations have had success under this doctor.
By looking at the facts, I am by no means discounting my feelings and fears, but rather, I’m not letting my feelings or fears rule over me. If I just paid attention to my feelings, I would be a ball of panic and anxiety on a daily basis. However, when I take a minute to consider the facts, I notice my feelings shift from despair and panic to hopefulness and optimism. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you should ignore your difficult feelings. You need to make space and time to honor and acknowledge your feelings, but I don’t want you to get stuck there! It’s important to learn how to manage your feelings, all while recognizing that feelings are very different from facts.
So the next time you find yourself overwhelmed or paralyzed by negative feelings as a result of a mental health disorder, please make yourself a cup of hot tea, take some deep breaths, and remind yourself:
“My feelings are valid and understandable, but they aren’t always factual. I may feel awful, but that doesn’t mean I AM awful and that doesn’t mean tomorrow, the next day, or even 10 minutes from now won’t be better.”