I’m angry. Yep. I finally had to admit it. My back went out two weeks ago. So far it’s been one week in bed, and one week hobbling around with a cane. The pain, at times has been debilitating. And I didn’t do anything to injure my back. Just one day, it gave out. It happened out of nowhere, or so I thought…

I finally deduced that my back pain was in fact a manifestation of emotional pain. I’ve been under an inordinate amount of stress for way too long, and have dealt with painful bouts of loss. All the energy of the stress and suppressed emotional turmoil went to my back. After realizing this I was scrolling on Instagram and came across a life coach who had liked one of my posts. I asked him what he thought of my self-diagnosis and he agreed. He said I had unresolved anger and expectations. Geez. He read me like a good book. And right after our private message conversation, I saw this on Instagram…

It was an obvious affirmation.

When I took a moment to think, I had to admit that I’d been angry. I hadn’t been purposely trying to suppress it, but I hadn’t allowed myself to fully admit that:

I wasn’t over being abused at my last job
I was angry that my job search had been absolute hell
I was angry about facing discriminatory behavior over and over again
I hated my new job and resented having to work for an inexperienced manager…again…
I was angry with people who let me down
I was tired of feeling alone
I was tired of struggling
I didn’t have the life I felt I deserved, the one I’d imagined

I was angry. I was mad. I was grieving.

I knew I’d experienced disappointment and dissatisfaction and that I was stressed out. I was engaging in emotional eating and gaining weight–which I was also mad about. I was super irritable and impatient on the road dealing with jerky drivers. I experienced irritations that in the grand scheme of things, I should have been able to let go, but couldn’t. I knew I wasn’t ok, but didn’t realize how much I’d been holding in. I didn’t purposely ignore my feelings, I think I wasn’t fully aware them. And sometimes, like many people, I suppress my feelings to survive. This is something black people are all too familiar with.

At times we hold it together to get through because if we fall apart, everything falls apart. I couldn’t allow myself to melt into an emotional mess especially starting a new job. I have to pay the bills and keep my life together. And since I was new, I couldn’t take the time off that I needed to decompress. So it wasn’t about purposely holding my feelings back, it was about keeping all the balls in the air. I couldn’t afford to get buried under an avalanche if they all came crashing down. But they came crashing down on my back. And now I’m dealing with the aftermath of the accumulation of emotional distress. Now that I know what happened, how am I going to heal?

The life coach suggested I connect with the present telling me: “That was the past. There is nothing you ‘have’ to hold in. That’s an old belief. It probably kept you safe but it’s old and not serving anymore.” It’s funny that he mentioned “safe” because though I’ve gotten much better at owning my voice, protecting myself in unsafe spaces by being silent is something I’m used to. My mission is to be more honest with myself and others about how I’m feeling. I also need to increase my peace.

I will have to work on letting things go, and as the life coach mentioned, disconnecting from the past. Though a tough job, that will be imperative to my emotional and therefore physical health. It can be hard to let go of hurts and disappointments but moving forward is the only healthy decision. I’m sure I also need to revamp my diet and increase my physical activity once I’m back on my feet, but the emotional work and “unpacking” my anger will be just as critical as the physical to optimize my overall health.

My continued journey of healing probably won’t be easy because whenever we make a decision to move higher in our personal growth, we are challenged. The very thing we’re trying to conquer will show up and test our resolve to do better. But awareness is key.

Your emotions are your guide, your internal compass that tells you what feels right and what doesn’t. Pay attention. Honor your feelings and don’t hold in toxic emotions. Find an effective and productive way to experience, express and resolve them. Deal with them before they deal with you.

Post Author: Wendy Todd

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