2017 was a year of lessons in self compassion.
I hurt a lot in 2017, and perhaps I have been hurting since 2011, or even before that, since 2000. I have suffered several losses, and before I can recover from one, the next one hits: a senior from school committed suicide, a close friend died from drowning, my grandmother’s death, my grandfather’s passing, the loss of a dear colleague from a freak bike accident, the imminent closure of my beloved business, which led to the dismissal of my wonderful staff, that caused me to be hung over from guilt and shame. Eventually I was driven into depression.
In the midst of all these losses, I continued to give of myself to the people and situations around me, without realising how thin I must have stretched myself. I was not even sure I was in depression, as it was not a “thing” yet, during that time. All I knew was that I was not truly happy, and I would have bouts of irritation and frustration, and a lot of insecurity. I was never truly excited or enthusiastic about anything, as I used to be, before the year 2000. Taking on responsibilities to lead seemed like a natural progression in what I was doing, and yet, the more responsibilities I took on, the more expectations I had of myself, the more weight and burden I felt. I equated responsibility as heavy, burdensome, tiring.
Perhaps the moments I truly felt alive, was when I was involved in facilitation, when I felt that I was making a difference to someone else. I didn’t notice the patterns then.
In 2017, I was forced to look and go deeper within myself, to search for the “dark side”. I struggled; I did not understand why, and I resented the process. It hurt again, and it was so painful. I didn’t understand why, and I retreated within, deeper into my heart, hoping to protect it, even though I was filled with tension, between who I may be and who I thought I was. I did not want to feel the pain, and yet, I felt it tremendously. I blamed the people responsible for teaching me how to feel, for inviting me to open my heart, and then crushing me with the torrents of emotion. I blamed me, for allowing myself to be manipulated, for trusting, and giving permission to get hurt again.
It was through conversations with neutral parties, mindful friends, that I slowly healed. I learnt to be mindful to myself: to be able to acknowledge and accept whatever emotion I was feeling, to allow them to either gently wash over me and/or to come crashing down on me, wave after wave; to allow myself to experience each emotion fully. It took courage to be able to go through with the experience, as it called out to me to be vulnerable. And I have so constantly been told that vulnerability is a weakness. And now, I know otherwise.
It took compassion, to myself, to be able to accept and acknowledge my own suffering, to let go of my own judgement, and seek to understand what I was going through. I do not need fixing; I only need to be heard with compassion, so that I can connect with my inner wisdom. I need patience, and gentle support. I was seeking happiness outside of myself, and now I know, happiness comes from within.
About the Author
Michelle Ow is the founder and Human Experience Facilitator of Chrysalists Pte Ltd.