“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.” ~ William S. Burroughs
Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and we were talking about what inspires healing.
I asked, “What inspired you to embark on your healing journey.” She said, “I was desperate.”
Her harmful and anxiety-ridden beliefs were playing in her mind like a broken record and her negative self-talk was at an all-time high. She was in a loop and she felt trapped.
I know the feeling of desperation all too well. Desperation feels powerless, completely dark, and draining. It is truly exhausting. However, I also know firsthand that it can serve as a wake-up call and help dissolve the walls built by denial. It is indeed a catalyst for change.
My friend knew she was suffering for a variety of reasons. She recognized that she needed help and then actively sought it. I too was desperate a few years ago, when I was questioning everything in my life. Up until that point, I felt that I had been a puppet on strings living by default and according to a script. I felt desperate, alone, disconnected, and in deep fear.
I truly hit emotional rock bottom.
I do not have a huge traumatic story to tell that served as my rock bottom. By all accounts, I am the average soul hit hard by some challenges and hardships—like most of us. But I have learned that you do not have to experience some huge traumatic event to justify your sadness or desperation. I punished myself for a long time thinking that I had no right to feel this way. On the outside, my life was pretty good. Yet, I could no longer deny that something was missing.
Here is the humble take on life that helped me push through:
We are born with a blank canvas—to a certain extent. We are then raised with certain beliefs, learn certain behaviors, and get swallowed by societal norms, depending on our culture. In many ways, we lose our true selves. The point is then to find our true self and shed all the beliefs that do not speak to that. This is the journey called life.
So, no matter how much love and guidance we received as a child, the socialization process will undoubtedly cause unintended trauma. This is the only thing I am sure of. Because to survive at a young age means we need to conform most of the time. To conform means we lose ourselves to our parents, our teachers, our friends, and our conditioned beliefs.
And when we lose ourselves, we become desperate.
Everything falls apart. Nothing works. Then, for some, the desperation is compounded by huge traumatic events which can lead to depression, suicidal tendencies, self-medication, and beyond.
The desperation can have you in knots and it can be blinding. But if we can call in that one moment of light where we declare to ourselves that we are ready for something greater, we can then begin the healing.
Life is about undoing and aligning with our true self. Up until that moment when we reach desperation, it is likely that we have been escaping what we feel and suppressing our true selves. We have been betraying ourselves.
For some, life may seem simple and there is not much to undo from childhood or other events. For most however, life becomes a journey of exploration and reconnection.
Desperation gifts us with a new path if we can open our hearts to receiving help and guidance.
On my journey, I discovered that the first step was to acknowledge my feelings and honor them fully without justification or reasoning. I simply acknowledged that I felt lost. I did not say things like, “Oh my god, why are you complaining—your life is so good.” This kind of self-talk is extremely harmful because it keeps us stuck. Instead, I learned to say, “I am so grateful for my blessings, but I feel sadness and I want to explore that.” I stopped judging my feelings and I started to lovingly pay attention to them.
I followed my sadness and any emotion I experienced into the depth of that feeling. I cried. I allowed my body to take me to memories and circumstances that caused a lot of pain. I let coaches and healers and sometimes books guide me; I even had a therapist at one point. There was a lot of support available to me, because I wanted it bad enough.
And desperation led me here.
There were layers upon layers of emotion, and it was like peeling an onion. With each layer I discovered, I started to love myself and have compassion for myself. I started to reconnect with my heart and soul, and truly embrace who I was.
By feeling into my emotions, I started to understand myself and ask hard questions like, “What is really causing my unhappiness?” I had the courage to look in the mirror and admit that many things were not working in my life and I needed a change.
I then began the journey of forgiveness. I had a strong desire to start again in some ways and I wanted to heal any resentment in my heart and learn to accept and release anyone who had hurt me. I declared that I wanted a new perspective. I wanted to drop the baggage right there and free myself from any past trauma. This was not easy at all.
Six years later and I am still shedding events and circumstances that were harmful, but I finally came to a realization: whoever hurt me was just living their life the way they knew how, and their own traumas and experiences shaped their life too. This was not an excuse for bad behavior, it was simply a new perspective. I became less judgmental, more understanding, and even began seeing family members in a different light.
However, in this quest, I also learned that although I was releasing past trauma, I needed new boundaries to protect my heart and well-being. I discovered that I had the power to choose how and when I expended my time and energy, and with whom.
In the eyes of some, I may appear to be picky and entitled and even distant, but I have learned that I am the only one who can measure the amount of peace I need in my life. I am no longer subject to anyone’s opinion when it comes to my well-being and peace. I am the one who decides what I need at any given moment to nourish myself. This step was also difficult but necessary. I began to listen to my true needs and honor them while also honoring my relationships—some of which I walked away from.
Just writing about this stirs up many emotions. And I want to stress that this is a continuous journey. Like one my friends reminds me, “You never truly arrive.”
Through it all, my baseline is peace. How can I bring more peace into my daily life? How can I live in peace? What actions do I need to take to live in peace? And I mean internal peace, not just superficial external peace.
Fun and joy also came to the forefront of my life. I started painting and engaging in activities that were nourishing for me. Desperation led me to this journey and every day I discover something new about myself.
I feel much lighter today. Even with my bad days, I have a toolbox available to me when I feel disconnected or lost. Desperation was a messenger that showed me what needed to be transformed.
Desperation can be a gift if we choose to see it as such. Desperation is here to transform us if we can find the courage to stop denying and start feeling the truth of our lives, the truth of our deepest desires, and the truth in our hearts.
When desperation comes knocking, welcome it in and invite it to share with you what needs transforming. You are never alone, and in the words of one of my favorite songs: “everybody hurts.” But desperation can be transmuted and channeled into drive, compassion, love, and understanding.