Healing from Buried Pain: You Must Go Through It

Man Purple Sky

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” ~Robert Frost

When I was a child my friends and I often played a game called “Going on a Bear Hunt.” Each of the verses told of a different challenge, but offered the same advice—that you must go through it. One of the verses went like this:

“We’re goin’ on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. I’m not scared. What a beautiful day! Uh-uh! A cave! A narrow gloomy cave. We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. We’ve got to go through it!”

I had forgotten the concept of this game that we played as kids until much later in life, when I developed stress, anxiety, and depression due to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).

My C-PTSD resulted from a youth of constant bullying—which is now seen as a form of child abuse—and this song came back to me in my lessons to recover.

By the time my anxiety and depression took full hold of me, I had spent five years trying to help others suffering with the long-term effects of bullying, but I had not yet confronted my own demons.

It was much like the concept of “physician, heal thyself”—I was helping others without helping myself first.

I found myself in a constant state of anxiety, and then depression set in. I could no longer sleep, focus, or even find a moment of enjoyment in life. For me, it might have been over.

But I made an important decision that so many don’t make: While I felt completely alone and lost, thinking I was crazy, I contacted trusted mentors. They led me to mental health specialists who knew how to put me on the path to recovery.

It was not quick, as it would take two years to feel “back to normal,” or at least was the new normal for me.

In my sessions with mental health specialists and in the many books I read about the issues I was having, there was one common theme: In order to get better, you have to face and go through your problems, not avoid them, as many people who have suffered from child abuse do.

We all believe that we can bury or forget these things that happened to us as children, but in truth they are always with us. We must find a way to accept that which we cannot change and move forward without the past haunting us forever.

I found that to begin the healing process, you have to first let go of the pain of the past. You cannot heal without this crucial first step. Here’s what helped me “go through it” so I could let go and heal.

Remember and face what you’d prefer to avoid.

You can’t go over your problem, you can’t go around your problem; you will need to go through it. This means that you will have to face and in many cases relive the issues that you have suppressed for so long.

For me, it was having to deal with the low self-esteem I had developed from my C-PTSD and relive all of these events again. Yes, it was painful, but far less painful than a lifetime of burying my feelings would be.

Talk to someone you trust.

I went the professional route, and I found “talk therapy” to be the most helpful part of my healing process. At first it hurt terribly to dredge up these stories, and I would cry as I relived the hurt. But after a while of telling it, it became just a story.

You might also find it helpful to see a psychologist or therapist, or it might be sufficient to lean on a friend or relevant. The important thing is that you share all the details you’ve buried inside so you’re no longer hiding them in shame.

Focus on the good in the bad.

I learned that, while people can be cruel, others can be loving and supportive—like my family and true friends. As I’ve opened up to them, they’ve shown me sympathy and empathy. I wouldn’t have chosen to be bullied, but I appreciate that the difficult times in life allow us to see how much others care.

It is easy to forget the good parts of your life when you are going through a difficult time. Remember that there is both good and bad in your story, and you too may feel differently about the pain you’ve endured.

Find a lesson in your pain.

It helped me to find a lesson in this painful period in my life—something that I could use to help myself and others going forward.

I learned that many people hurt others when they’re hurting. They’re dealing with their own pain and they take it out on others through displaced aggression.

Understanding this can help me be compassionate to others, so I can be there for the people who are hurting as my loved ones have been there for me.

Remember that life is not one journey, but many journeys.

Previously, I saw my life as one big journey with a beginning (birth), middle (mid-life), and end (death). But then I changed my thinking to see my life as many little journeys.

By doing this and allowing this one period of time to be just one journey that had a conclusion, I was able to let it go and put it behind me.

I found as I wrote out each of my mini-journeys that I had so many good ones, but each had an ending. It’s like the saying “this too shall pass.” You’ll note that it neither says that what will pass is good or bad, just that it will pass.

So this was the beginning of my hunt for me again. With the above in mind, I was able to take the next steps in recovery, to truly work toward self-acceptance.

I know many people that don’t confront their past and continue to try to go around or over their problems. They cannot, and they end up frustrated with the world and those around them. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

My wife gave me a quote in a frame to keep at my desk at work. It shares a simple thought:

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I go to bed now thankful for the day I had and wake up thankful for the day ahead. Each day I go on a bear hunt and each daily challenge I deal with, I go through it, grateful for the opportunity to try another day.

Man and purple sky image via Shutterstock

About Alan Eisenberg

Alan Eisenberg is an author, blogger and founder of Bullying Recovery, LLC, whose mission it is to help those suffering from the long-term effects of bullying to find the help they need by providing media, materials and support to seek and receive the help needed. His memoir, “A Ladder In The Dark”, is now available in print and eBook.

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  • lv2terp

    Great post!! I love the perspective of many little journeys that all have conclusions, to then begin another one. Also the concept of “this too shall pass” refering to good and bad journeys, long or short. NICE! Thank you for the food for thought! 🙂

  • Bullyinglte

    Thank you so much for your feedback. It took me quite a while to decide that life is really little journeys and this perspective really helps me stay positive about tomorrow (and every time I write the word Journey, the lyrics “Don’t Stop Belevin’) pop into my head too, which is quite helpful as well.

    I appreciate your feedback and it is amazing how this too shall pass. Our life is ours to own. We just have to take ownership of it. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • lv2terp

    Thank you for this wonderful reply, and I giggled about the Journey lyrics, that is really awesome, and goes so beautiful with it! 🙂

  • Bullyinglte

    “Hold on to that feelin”, Iv2terp. : )

  • Great Debate

    I loved reading this and it brought tears to my eyes as it is so me. I could not and still have a difficult time getting the past out of my mind…bullied as a child, alcoholic parents, sexual abuse by a family member and 1st boyfriend, not accomplishing what I wanted to in life and total lack of self esteem, respect and confidence in myself. I never think of the good things I accomplished even though my life was difficult and I experienced many losses, hard times and I had no biological family other than my deceased parents and narcisstic brother. I am now finally working on help and just turned 50 years old. I had a total breakdown and even committed a criminal offense (which is so not me or even something I would think of in the proper frame of mind or if thinking cognitively as it was my breakdown and emotional depressive thinking that made me want to run away from everything or just end my life). I know my life will change due to a criminal record but I am starting to feel a bit better about myself due to talk therapy and group therapy and antidepressants etc. I could always listen and help everyone else but myself as I never dealt with my own demons. I just hope and pray that things and life will get better now that I have brought my own past forward and want to deal with it.

  • Bullyinglte

    Thanks you for sharing your own difficult story. There are many of us. I was 42 when I had to deal with my “break down” and it is strange to think you will change your life so dramatically at such a later age. Trust me, I totally have empathy with that part. You can win and there are great articles on Tiny Buddha to help. We are a big community and remember that you are ALWAYS part of it and never alone.

  • jen

    wow that’s wonderful. I like it, and it’s true what you say, you gotta face what your struggling and get through it, not around it. I’ve definitely been through those times and really all that I get was more pain, pain on taking it out on others like I’m angry all the time for some reason to loved ones the most too but I didn’t know why. Until I realised it was all because of my suppressed feelings, feelings of pain and I never did realise them at the moment when I really wanted to. That’s when I realised that that’s the moment you should the most – express your feelings when it feels like you really can’t stand the idea of doing that like your going to get eaten up by something huge. It’s scary but I think the root of this unnecessary pain is the fact that we always tend to worry about what others are going to do, what they’re going to feel. I know we just want to make sure they don’t get hurt in the process but you know you gotta take care of yourself too and that’s the most important! There’s this quote that says – “you gotta love yourself first before others can start loving you,” something like that and I think it’s true not in a discouraging way but in a way that I want to inspire others to really think about themselves first, to really love yourself because everybody is going to judge you anyway based on what they think and we all know everybody is different and nobody ever has the same opinions so in my opinion we really shouldn’t be so caught up in what everyone else thinks about us. That’s all I’m saying. And of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong about caring what other people think about you but you need to realise and ask yourself are these people worth thinking about so much? and do these people care about me that I should care about their opinion so much so? that it might really be causing me some trouble just by making the effort? Are they worth the effort? ask yourself and priorities. your feelings for good reasons good intentions.

  • Great Debate

    Thank you for your reply and understanding. I am working hard on dealing with my past and will have a very difficult next few months dealing with courts as I have never ever have been in one. I hope I find the strength to get through it. I look at it as a do or die situation and don’t know if I can or will survive a jail sentence as I am not in mental or physical shape to be there but I have taken ownership for my mistake and know I deserve some form of discipline.

  • Bullyinglte

    Jen – You hit the nail on the head. You have to love yourself. So many of us don’t and we look outside for love to be appreciated. At some point we have to realize that love goes from within to without. If we don’t like ourselves, then there is no way we can give to others. It is such a crucial first step. Thank you so much for your thoughts.

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  • Eva

    I really enjoyed reading this .. It’s funny, I’m in the opposite situation .. someone loving me too much, which in the past, for me, had created a remarkably strong dependence on this person. Their “love” was actually their pain, which inadvertently ended up hurting me. Thank you for helping me to remember to have compassion when someone hurts us, because they too are hurting 🙂

  • Bullyinglte

    We must all carry the burden of our past that makes us who we are. Burden is really not the right word. We must all find a way to carry empathy for those who have survived and help find the strength to help ourselves and them. Thank you for your perspective, Eva.