Written by Jor-El Caraballo
Have you ever worked through some difficult moment in your life only to later find yourself frustrated that those difficult feelings have come back again?
It can be hard to accept that our mental health has its ups and downs.
As humans we work very hard to avoid pain. This is especially true when it comes to emotions and mental health. A large part of this is natural…self-preservation even. After all, pain doesn’t feel good! it’s natural that we want to avoid things that feel difficult for us. Obviously, this isn’t always possible and having good mental health also means understanding the ebb and flow of life, and our emotions.
How we Often Respond to Pain
For some people, this is more difficult than others. As a therapist, I find this to be especially true when someone has lived through some very difficult moments in their life. When you’ve experienced things like neglect and trauma, your nervous system can become hypervigilant, always ready to respond to any potential threat. In these kinds of situations we have to learn to manage the nervous system and learn what situations require urgency and which don’t. But feeling triggered, or dysregulated, after you’ve healed is not a personal failure, and maybe not even a setback.
Many people learn skills to cope in different settings, some in therapy and others from different outlets. If you’ve ever come out on the other side of something painful then you know how good it can feel to be on the other side and have your coping skills firmly in hand. And that’s often what makes it all so difficult to then experience another dip in your mental health and functioning. It can de deflating, and disorienting, to have some of those same, hard feelings come back when you thought you healed and had completely “moved on.”
This kind of “setback” often throws people for a loop. It’s something I see often with long term clients who start to second-guess their progress when old feelings rear their ugly heads. In those moments, it so important to remember two key things:
1. This is normal
2. You are not a failure.
We Have to Learn to Accept the Ups & Downs
Life has its natural ups and downs and so does mental health. There may be times when you’re really struggling and other times when you feel capable to deal with anything thrown your way (and probably some in-between too). If you’ve fought some hard mental health battles and come out on the other side, that’s something to be grateful for. If you’ve also found yourself struggling at some point after that recovery, know that is not your fault and tough times are to be expected.
Whether you are currently feeling your best, or not, please remember that you’ve been through hard things and you can survive what is in front you right now. You can get the support you need to continue moving forward. It’s OK that you’ve found yourself feeling some unhelpful feelings, but you don’t have to stay stuck there! And more than that, it is often that these moments help solidify all the skills and progress that you’ve made in taking care of your mental health.