The hot mess in me recognizes the hot mess in you so pull up a chair and let me share some wisdom that blew my mind the first time a therapist shared this particular nugget of insight with me.
Are you ready? This might sting. Okay, here goes.
Sometimes you’re the toxic one.
Don’t panic, you’re not a villain. Recognizing the part you play in a situation is a crucial step in healing and growing so that in the future, you’re part of the solution, not the problem.
I know, growing is hard but it’s worth it, I promise.
Full disclosure, I’m not a therapist but I’ve absorbed a thing or two from the hours spent on a therapist’s couch and I want to share.
People are complex creatures. Our emotional triggers, memories, systemic bias and prejudice, and general bent of our personality all go into creating the chef’s kiss that we become as adults.
And let me tell you, that is one complicated dish.
Emotionally well-adjusted adults handle stressors in a wildly different way than people who are burdened with the heavy baggage of unresolved trauma. Emotional pain is a bugger that ruins a lot of good things in life: ambition, inspiration, creativity, the ability to love without reservation, parenting, being a friend, and the list goes on.
Studies have long supported the data that emotional pain is at the epicenter of all addictions because people will do anything to dull the ache they carry inside them — at any cost.
And yet, the importance of mental health lands somewhere between organizing the spice rack alphabetically and polishing your grandmother’s silverware that hasn’t seen the light of day since the late 1800s.
Think about the last time you were triggered. Were you proud of your behavior? C’mon, don’t be shy. I’ll admit that triggers have caused me to react in ways that I’m less than proud of but that’s a good thing because now I know what I need to work on. And it takes a lot of work to root out behavior that’s not aligned with who we want to be as human beings.
The thing is this, my legacy matters to me. How I am remembered matters. I want my kids to see me learn and grow from my mistakes. I want them to know that it’s okay to admit when you’re wrong and that you can learn and change into a better version of yourself if you’re willing to do the work.
I’m pleased with the internal work I’ve done because I was willing to do the one thing that felt scarier than anything else — admitting my part — and choosing to change the behavior.
I’ve always taught my kids, words have power. This includes the words we use with ourselves and others.
Let’s start normalizing getting and receiving help for issues that make us less than we are capable of being. We all need therapy at some point. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Take that first scary step and admit sometimes you’re the problem.
Didn’t that feel good?
You’re not a monster — you’re healing and growing.
And I’m proud of you.
Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide occasional columns.