– How your weakest moments can uncover your biggest strengths
By Ciara McCarron
It’s often in our darkest moments that we find strength, courage and resilience we never knew we had. That little light within that somehow felt so weak, goes from a little spark to a strong glow. And it’s in these moments that we truly realise just how much more we’ve got to give. My biggest breakthrough in life came in the midst of a mental breakdown. I’d lost everything from my home to my business – and experienced the death of my father, one of my closest friends and 3 other close family members in the space of four years. I was broke, miserable, alone and struggling mentally, as well as recovering from a narcissistic relationship. Things were pretty bad – but it was during this time that I also broke free from years of unhealed trauma and actually found my true identity – something I had struggled with my entire life.
Asking the difficult question
Mental breakdowns are somewhat strange things. For the most part you don’t actually realise you’re having one and it’s only when you hit rock bottom that you actually look up long enough to see the destruction all around you. It can be the most lonely, disconnected feeling in the world and yet somehow you take comfort in the chaos. At least I did anyway – it felt familiar. And familiarity to the human brain signals safety. it’s better the devil you know than the one you don’t, and after years of chaos, drama and toxicity in my childhood home, anything calm or normal felt entirely out of reach and so to me, this was normal – it was all that “someone like me” should expect – and accept. For the first 28 years of my life I thrived off chaos and drama. My poor tired soul knew nothing else. I’d always felt like there were two versions of me, though – the suicidal single mother with absolutely nothing to show for 28 years of life and the wild, adventurous free spirit inside me just longing to break free and make her mark on the world, and for the first time in my life – in the middle of the worst time of my life, I started to question everything. Who was I? what did I want? Where did I want to be? And the biggest question of all – Is this all there is? I didn’t know how to respond to any of those things, but as I lay there in the dark night after night with nothing but my self-destructive thoughts to keep me company, I had no choice but to try to find the answers.
Waking from the longest night
After 28 years of living in a state of trauma, danger, and hyperarousal, I realised that something had to give. I was a single mother on the breadline struggling to feed her daughter, with a career in ruins and a failed engagement. I had just been rehomed in social housing after being homeless and I was struggling badly with anxiety, depression obsessive compulsive tendencies and grief. Everyday was a dark cloud that just rolled on through to the next and I was so ashamed of my mental health issues I hid them from even my closest family members, which resulted in me losing my 4 best friends in the world. I was so alone, filled with guilt, shame, blame and complete heartache. How did it come to this? One night laying in the dark at 3am I came across a speech that changed my life. As cliched as that sounds it resulted in the biggest breakthrough I ever had. I cried until morning and when the sun came up, I wasn’t the same. Something in me changed in those moments, and finally I was waking up from the longest night. The wild, free spirit who was there all along was finally free – and ready to make her mark on the world.
Breaking through is not how it seems in the movies. You don’t just wake up hearing birds singing as they land on your windowsill and suddenly life is a song. It’s a long road and its very bendy. In fact, it’s barely a road it’s more like a dirt track in the dark. But it’s the most glorious dirt track you’ll ever walk down, I promise. I’ve been walking down mine for 6 years now and although there’s been times when I’m tempted to turn back – I know now that even if I did, I wouldn’t belong there anymore. Walking down this path, I’ve learned quite a few things about myself and through truly connecting with myself on a soul level, I’ve come to realise just how worthy I am. That I’m more than my trauma and more than the labels I placed on myself. That I’m so far removed from that lost little girl who couldn’t even put the bins out. I’ve grown to know exactly who I am and what I love. In losing everything else – I found me. I found out things about myself that I never knew existed, reconnected with parts of me I thought I’d lost forever and discovered things inside of me that bring joy to my heart and peace to my soul. For the first time in my life, I care about me. I thrive in my own company. I listen to my needs and I always trust my gut. I value myself. I mange my expectations and I set healthy boundaries. I meet myself where I’m at and I hold space for myself in my human moments – I’m not Mary Poppins after all.
Walking the path to emotional freedom
So, how did I actually do this then? Firstly, I took myself out on dates. Breakfast every Sunday and coffee every Thursday. I got comfortable eating, walking and going out alone. I stayed single for 3 years in order to really figure out what I wanted in life and what my own dreams were, after years of going from relationship to relationship trying to find the missing part of me in someone else. I went back to school. I read old books that smelled like there was soul in those stories and I embraced my spiritual side. I found holistic therapies, meditation and alternative wellbeing practices and I took my awareness inside – and for the first time in my life I actually allowed myself to feel how I really felt. I public ugly cried. A lot. And it was beautiful. I celebrated new years alone. I travelled a bit and wandered through beautiful streets and drank nice coffee and journaled outside in the sunshine. I done some more public ugly crying. It was still beautiful. When I felt uncomfortable, I tuned into my body and I asked myself what I needed in that moment. I took a lot of naps. I started telling people how I really felt, and I spoke out publicly about my mental health issues, my suicide attempt, and my mental breakdown. I told my mother how I really felt about our difficult relationship and I screamed into the sky to tell my father the same. I realised that I was wounded, not broken. And that wounds can heal. I repaired my relationship with my mother and thankfully, it became something truly beautiful. I planted flowers where I used to plant weeds and I made myself a promise to never forget to love me ever again. And then, when I was ready, I started to heal. I started to thrive. Ifound my purpose and I realised that it was helping other trauma survivors to make their breakdowns their breakthroughs. I suddenly became aware of why mine had to happen – in order to help people truly heal, I had to know how it felt to be truly broken. And in that moment, I was reborn. The journey back to me has been the most rewarding journey I’ve ever taken. I’m forever grateful for that traumatised little girl – I’m me because I was her. And she fought so hard to get me here.
Your breakthrough is coming – My top tips for breaking through the tough times
When things get too much and you can’t seem to get out of the fog, follow these simple steps below to bring yourself back into your awareness. And remember, if it all gets too much and you can’t do it alone, seek professional help or reach out to someone you trust!
- Go inside. You’ve got to tune into your soul and connect with your inner child. What did you need to hear when you were younger? Who did you need? Be that for them now.
- Breathe. Meditation and breathwork are the most amazing things to quiet the mind and soothe the soul.
- Spend time figuring yourself out. Get to know the biggest love and truest friend you’ll ever have – YOU.
- Set healthy boundaries with yourself and others. It’s ok to say no when you want to – no is a complete sentence.
- Check out of the world and into your life – you’ve got to tune out to tune in. bring your awareness inside and figure out what needs to change, what no longer serves and where your biggest resistance is laying.
- Acknowledge your true feelings – give yourself permission to be honest with yourself about how you’re actually feeling. We need all of our emotions, even the tough ones. They’re there for a reason, so embrace them and let them help you bring focus on what needs to be healed.
- Forgive – whether that’s yourself or others, being willing to forgive is the most freeing thing. It’s not for them, it’s for you.
- Let go of the blame game – it’s not your fault what you went through, but it is your responsibility to do the healing.
- Embrace every little bit of you – realise that your worth is not measured, it just is. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, it’s where you’re going.
- Journal it out – get it off your chest and onto paper. Writing down how you feel creates space in your mind and allows the brain to release and let go.