As the year draws to a close, I have received Facebook notifications inviting me to see my year in review. Whilst it was very brief (I’m not practiced at taking selfies), it was enjoyable and interesting to revisit both the highs and lows of 2015. I guess the personal highlight of this year would be the relocation of Watersedge Counselling to a larger, more spacious and inviting location. It symbolises the notion of change and growth, values that I pursue personally and professionally.
It appears that the need to reminisce at this time of year is typical of a majority of people, given the number of friend’s posts that invite me to witness their year in review also. In the majority of instances, their year looks interesting, happy and even enviable as I study their smiling faces and those holiday backdrops of blue oceans, golden sand and scenic mountain ranges. There may even be shots of them with their partner happily holding hands, enjoying a coffee together or off on another vacation together. However it would be naïve of me to assume that holidays and happiness was the sum total of my friend’s experiences, because life like the ocean, changes from day to day and season to season. The majority of us are careful to tell the happy story, leaving out the parts where life seemingly falls apart, where we feel afraid or depressed or enraged.
If you did include the parts of 2015 that have been ‘edited out’ what would the full story of your Facebook year look like? Mine would reveal weeks of exhaustion, anxiety about my ageing parents, the grief of saying goodbye to a sister who relocated and heightening frustration as I struggled to communicate effectively to my husband. These are not the moments I choose to reveal because they hold pain and distress however they exist.
What do you do with the bits that you have edited out of your story? There was a time when I would ignore the parts I didn’t like or caused me deep emotional pain. I would tell myself that I would feel better the next day, which worked quite well for many years. Another great way to edit the bad stuff out was to avoid the situation in an effort to minimise any negative experiences or even ‘cut –off’ certain people who I felt uncomfortable around. And of course, chocolate has always worked for me!
How do you edit out the negative stuff of your life? Perhaps you use alcohol to edit out a relationship marked by physical or emotional abuse or the grief of losing a loved one. You might be choosing work to edit out the sadness of a marriage that is marked by sarcasm and criticism. Perhaps you choose to live a life of pretence, bravely putting on ‘a mask’ each day to edit out the hopelessness that threatens to swallow you whole if you remove it. Many people use food as a way of editing out the tough stuff. The challenge with all of these strategies is that they have to be repeated time and again to ensure that our ‘edited material’ doesn’t make a come-back; so you eat more, drink more, pretend more and work more.
So how is that working for you?
I discovered that my strategies of forgetting or avoidance eventually produced a depression that completely debilitated me for a number of years. I may have convinced myself that I was editing out the distressing things, but the reality was that I was stuffing them down into the fabric of my psych where they waited until depression called my attention to them. It was by talking about and acknowledging my fears and my emotional pain that I eventually recovered, learning the value of talking with a trusted friend or counsellor. 2015 has been a tough year for me in many aspects of my life, but these days instead of editing them out, I choose to talk with a trusted mentor about the challenges I face and ways more positive to cope with them. This practice has proved to ensure that I remain resilient and optimistic about life as I experience it.
How have you dealt with the emotionally distressing times of 2015? Walking into a New Year is a great opportunity to re-write your story; a story that is honest about the hard and challenging times and yet equally hopeful and optimistic about the future.
Do you want to re-write your story in 2016? At Watersedge Counselling, Colleen is available to individuals and couples on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute consultation to discuss your personal situation and how we can help you. Duncan is available to individuals and can be contact on 0434 331 243. Rachel Morris is now available to work with youth and young adults. If you are ready to make an appointment, you can go to out book online now and follow the prompts to make your booking.