When I was in my darkest place, my pain lied to me. It told me that I was all alone. It whispered that no one would understand my hurt. That I was a burden.
So I shoved the pain down for years until I no longer could hold it inside. I remember the day I finally opened up. My best friend and I went out to lunch. I could barely eat, sick to my stomach knowing I needed to tell her how bad things were. Saying it outloud made it real, and I had no clue how I was going to move forward from here. But I knew I had to share to get out of the pit. After lunch we sat in a parking lot until I finally felt brave enough to talk. I shared how bad things were in my relationship and the thoughts I wrestled with in the darkness. She listened. She gently cried with me, told me how much she loved me, and said she would fight with me to help me get through.
That day marked the beginning of my healing journey. While I was coming to terms with my own pain in silence for months, it still felt too big for me to carry on my own. It took opening my heart a little bit and letting someone else in to bring me out of isolation and into connection and freedom.
That friend has trekked all the way up the mountain with me. As I got braver, I linked arms with another friend or two who joined me on the journey. It made the burden lighter and the healing process easier than if I’d tried to shoulder it on my own. I added a counselor and a support group of women to my mountain climb.
If you are in that pit of darkness with your pain, please know that you don’t have to do this on your own. Start small in sharing. Vulnerability doesn’t have to be a public speech to a room full of people or a social media post to thousands about your deepest secrets. It starts with finding just one person who makes you feel seen and heard. Find just one person who makes you feel safe.
Here are some of the qualities of the people I consider “safe” in my life when I need to be vulnerable and share. A safe person:
- Listens without judgment.
- Makes space and time for me.
- Does not try to fix the problem. He/she may offer suggestions or challenge me when it’s safe to do so (after the initial sharing/if I’ve asked for it), but their initial response is just listening.
- Meets me with empathy instead of pity/sympathy.
- Proves that they are trustworthy (holds your story in confidence, does not gossip).
- Is also vulnerable with me (when appropriate; my counselor cannot be vulnerable with me about her own journey, but she is still on my list of safe people). I prefer to share my heart with close friends who are also open with their own pain, thoughts, and stories.
Do you have a safe person or people in your life? If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear who’s trekking up the mountain with you? If not, what are some of the qualities that would make someone feel safe to share your story with?