I know what you’re thinking—that doesn’t seem like a very inspiring or helpful thing to say.
But stick with me, and I’ll show you not only why it’s true, but also why it was one of the most important things I ever learned.
I used to feel like I had the world on my shoulders. And my legs. And my feet.
Worn down by traumas of the past, profound self-hatred, and constant mental noise, my existence was one of constant burden and prolonged suffering.
There were many scars, many pains, many things which did not kill me. And yet, they were not making me any stronger.
For much too long, the deepest wounds within me were making me weaker and I couldn’t understand why.
The truth is, I had no idea how healing worked.
Every single time I got cut—every rejection, trauma, disappointment, alienation—I just put a bandage over it. I never let it heal. As time went on, I was covered in bandages. As time went on, my real authentic self was left suffocating beneath piles of armour that I was layering on in the name of keeping myself safe.
After a while, that part of me that I kept suffocating in the name of safety was blue-faced and desperate. It burst out in an explosion that I would later refer to as a mental breakdown.
As I sat among the broken pieces of my armour, I was lost. I was confused. I was in so much pain.
For weeks, the pain didn’t stop. It was so intense, I could barely handle it. It wasn’t just emotional pain, it was flashbacks, physical sensations and repressed fears. They all came rushing out, overtaking me. I allowed it to happen.
It was almost as if I had been piling bandages onto my wounds for so long that the skin below became necrotic. To heal, I had to rip the bandages off. To heal, I had to expose the wounds and flush them out. It was almost unbearable, but I had no choice. I would have died in those bandages.
Slowly, the pain abated. Slowly, the mental noise quieted. Slowly, the flashbacks disappeared and my body began to feel light. All of that heavy baggage that was constantly weighing me down disappeared and, in its place, there was something I’d never experienced before.
I found my core. I found my inner self. And that part of me was so incredibly soft, and yet so powerful. It was incredibly vulnerable, and yet it could take all of that pain without damage.
I realized that this strength, this quiet and calm softness, was within me all along. I could never become stronger, because I was already strong. That core I found was indestructible. It was impenetrable. It was eternal.
But, to find it, I had to take down the protective walls I’d constructed around it to “keep it safe.”
What I’ve learned is this:
We fear having our hearts broken, but our true hearts can never be broken. Our real hearts are what lies beyond the breakable shell we’ve constructed. Our true selves are infinitely powerful.
Now that I have healed, I help others heal, and I see this same pattern again and again. I see this habit of people holding themselves together, afraid to fall apart, because they think that, once they’re open, they’ll just die. They don’t know that, when they let everything fall apart, they find what can never fall apart. By letting themselves break, they find what cannot be broken.
The truth is this—what doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger. What doesn’t kill you is a pathway, an invitation, for you to discover how strong you already are. It is an invitation which does not fade. It will keep knocking on your door, until you choose to accept it.
This same invitation came to Nelson Mandela in a lonely prison cell. It came to Sinead O’Connor, Eckhart Tolle and Jesus. It came to me. Has it come to you?
Are you awaiting your own permission to acknowledge the strength that is there?
Are you listening?
Are you willing to open the door?
~ Vironika Tugaleva
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Editor: Travis May
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