By Barton Goldsmith Tribune News Service.
When you have been through a difficult time, it can be hard to see that things are improving. You may find yourself looking over your shoulder for a while, waiting for something bad to creep up and grab you. However, if you change your focus a little, it can make your healing complete, and you can get back to your normal life.
Here's what you may notice:
1. The bills are getting paid. It may seem simplistic to some, but if you have lost a job and have had to reinvent yourself, taking care of the basics can feel pretty good.
2. People praise you for your inner strength. Take it in when other people compliment you on getting through your challenges. Sometimes we brush off such compliments, because accepting them reminds us of what we've been through, which can trigger bad feelings. The trick here is to listen to what others are saying and allow yourself to believe it too.
3. Even though you may still feel sad inside, you are not crying much anymore, and you generally feel a little better. Embrace that you are doing better, even if it's only little things that you can see at the moment.
4. You are getting more done. With emotional healing, we also get extra energy and some creativity thrown in. As you get back to your old self, you can take pride in your productivity and enjoy the process more than you have.
5. You are rethinking your life path. This is something we should all engage in at least once a year. Maybe you've always wanted to travel or be a writer. Now is the time to take those adventures you've wanted to take and to make changes that will bring you more happiness. This may propel you into a new direction, perhaps toward your life's dream.
6. You have fewer negatives in your life. Reevaluating your friendships and relationships is natural at this time. People may have dropped out of your social circle and support system, some because they don't like being around someone who is down and others because they just can't be emotionally supportive. Stick with the few who remain, and you will see the numbers grow.
7. The future doesn't look as dark. Sometimes you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but you're still concerned it's an oncoming train. Again, this is part of the normal emotional healing process. As time passes, the light gets bigger and you can see the world beyond.
8. Life has become a little more social. More friends are inviting you over and/or out, and you are accepting the invitations. You are also inviting people over, and for now this may feel safer than venturing out. Either way works.
9. Your physical body is responding better. You don't have that unbalanced feeling in your stomach, your energy is better, and you are feeling stronger. If you haven't gotten ill in several months, it's another sign you are healing.
10. You are feeling that your life matters. Feeling that you matter to others is a very important part of many people's lives. I don't think I could live without feeling like I was contributing on some level to humanity. The only thing that's required is your desire to be a good person.
Who you are and what you do with your life is important. When you can't be your best self because you have been through a difficult time, it makes enjoying life harder. Just think about a few of the tips mentioned and take them in. It will help. ___ (Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif.)