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Transformation

Posted Jan 20 2011 9:03pm

I wrote this post 2 years ago and I wanted to post it again for all the new people here.

I received an email a few days ago that said (in part), “I read all the fantastic progress of others on the blog and don’t think I can do it. I feel like changing and having a nice life is for everyone but me.” And it made me sad and I wrote the person a quick note that said it IS for everyone – absolutely. Love does not hurt and life is not supposed to hurt. Yes, there are times of sadness and loss but life and love are NOT about one hurt after another. It’s NOT supposed to hurt. You can transform your life into something wonderful. You can do it. Honestly you can. I am reposting the “On Transformation” post for anyone else who might be struggling. YOU CAN DO THIS.


Courage is reclaiming your life after a devastating event robs you of your confidence and self-esteem. It is facing tomorrow with a firm resolve to reach deep within yourself to find another strength, another talent…It is taking yourself to another level of your own existence where you are once again whole, productive, special… ~ Catherine Britton

People often ask me what is the difference between someone who transforms their life and someone who doesn’t. I meet people all the time, on the blog, in seminars, in bootcamps, who ask, “Can I do it?” with a doubt in their voice. Even those who work hard will say, “Maybe I just can’t get better.”

It would be trite to suggest that these questions shouldn’t be addressed or that the person is not “thinking positively enough” or not affirming or visualizing enough and I bristle when I hear so-called gurus say things like this. These are legitimate questions and ones that I strugged with at the beginning.

There was no one so convinced that they could not ever feel better than me. I could not believe that I could face the mountain of garbage rattling around in my soul and do something about my life. I DID NOT believe I could learn to stop picking losers. I DID NOT believe that I could ever be happy. I DID NOT believe that life would ever get better.

I had no proof in the pudding that anything I was doing would work. I started this journey clinically depressed, full of unresolved grief, unfinished business and zero self-esteem. I was, to be honest, one hot mess.

When my marriage first broke up I was incapable of putting two thoughts together. My hands shook all the time and I cried more often than not. I had the pounding in my chest and flutters in my stomach that accompany anxiety and grief. I was a physical, mental and emotional wreck.

I used to go to my therapist’s office on Tuesday nights. I would be so nervous and anxious that I would show up almost an hour before my time. Her office was behind an A&W stand but it was February and it wasn’t open. I would sit there in the dark parking lot waiting for my appointment time. It was all I could do to sit tight and not burst in on my therapist and beg her to talk to me NOW.

I was so miserable. I thought the empty parking lot was a representation of my lowly and lonely existence. Knowing my ex was off with his new girlfriend laughing it up and enjoying puppy love made me feel even worse. I was here, in a dark, empty parking lot, alone, and writhing in pain.

Why was life so unfair?

Would I ever feel better?

Would I ever not feel like this parking lot? Dark, empty, abandoned, having seen better days?

Sometime around the middle of March A&W opened for the season but no one really was showing up yet (even though the place was packed in the summer). I would drive in, the only customer at 7:30 on a cold Tuesday night, and order a hamburger and try to swallow it. I would sit, alone, in the car in that cold, dark parking lot staring at the dull A&W sign and the small silhouette of the A&W lady waiting for someone else to show up.

I would sit there waiting for my therapy time and think I had the loneliest and most losing of all possible lives, even worse than the A&W lady because she could count on spring coming when her fortunes would turn around. My stomach was in such turmoil, I was in such emotional pain, that I could barely eat the small single hamburger and would wind up throwing it out most nights. I was such a mess.

I had no idea that waiting for my turn, going to my appointment, talking to my therapist and doing the work she assigned would result in anything.

No matter where I was, I felt different from everyone else. Whether it was being in foster care, being adopted, being battered, being from New York, being this or being that, there was ALWAYS something that set me apart from everyone else. I felt like no one really understood me and if no one understood me, how could anyone fix me? I had A LOT of negative thoughts and energy….but I knew I had to try SOMETHING because what I had done for all of my life wasn’t working.

I read books, I journaled, I went to support groups, I wrote out affirmations and day after day I seemed to feel worse than the day before. Was relief ever coming? I asked a new friend when I would feel better. I was so SICK of doing this work and feeling so awful. He said, “Well, what else are you going to do?” EXACTLY. I had no other choice. It was continue this work and hope for the best or go back to my old existence. Not an option. I didn’t want to be here again.

But I was back in whining mode in a few months and a very kind lady told me not to give up the day before the miracle happened. Naturally I expected a miracle the next day and when none came I felt cheated but I thought maybe tomorrow…or the next day…or the next.

In other words, it didn’t come overnight. There were little sprouts, little buds of hope and change that I was able to see and feel throughout the spring and summer. Come fall I was feeling pretty good but then took a nosedive over the holidays. It was up and down.

I don’t think I ever fully committed, mentally, to the idea that I was transforming my life….but I knew something was going on…and I just continued along because, as my friend said, what else was I going to do?

If you read the “About GPYP” tab, you know that eventually I started to think positively and put together all the things I needed to put together to make it gel. Eventually it worked. You know that I figured it out and went on to start teaching and showing others how to do it. But I had my doubts as you might have yours. There are so many days and weeks where it feels like no progress is happening, or even that you’re going BACKWARDS. You’re not. It’s just how change works. It’s how it happens.

People always ask me why I continue to do coaching and speaking and teaching when I’ve left the psychology field and work as a lawyer instead. I usually tell people that I believe that an important part of being healthy is giving back to the world at large. Another reason, though, is that without continuing this work, I would miss watching people transform their lives.

I’ve met people on this road who have had the most devastating experiences and difficult circumstances who have worked hard to transform their lives and move beyond that which has kept them down for years and years — I continue to meet people who get past their past. Being able to witness their courage in their self-transformation is amazing and wonderful.

It’s real.

It happens.

It is possible no matter WHO YOU ARE.

Don’t give up the day before the miracle happens.

  1. Bluskye:
    I don't remember ever reading this post before. I kept nodding my head and nodding my head the whole time I was reading this because, as you know, this has been my experience, nearly exactly! I started following your suggestions and getting help not because I had any hope that any of it would work, but because I finally realized there was no harm in trying because what I was doing, on my own, was an absolute fail. I agree with what you say about telling people they just need a more positive attitude. While it was definitely true that I had a negative attitude, just hearing that I needed to be more positive, and I heard it probably thousands of times throughout my life, NEVER did a thing for me. I felt like even more a failure and more "different" from other people because I could not figure out how to not feel there was something seriously ridiculous about trying to put on a happy face and fill your head with happy little thoughts all the time. I had to take tiny little baby steps in the arena of positive thinking in order for it to gel with me. First, I just made a pact with myself to stop being nasty to me--that was something I could get behind--I couldn't manage telling myself I was the Queen of Sheba or even the Queen of my household of one, but I could stop telling myself I was garbage. I didn't speak to anyone else the way I spoke to me in my head. When I wasn't being nasty to myself any longer, it made it easier to start thinking good things about myself. I couldn't just make the big leap to that from the start. As far as therapy goes, I never felt worse in my life than I did before I stopped seeing my previous therapist. I was a total blubbering weak mess. That's because with his help, and your help, and the help of this blog, I was finally starting to see that I was emotionally not well and it was completely devestating to me. I could, for the first time, understand that the way I was thinking and the things I was doing, in the name of love of the BH, were just so horribly wrong for me, but I had not found the way to breaking free from it. It really does feel terrible when you can finally see the light but feel the path is blocked to get there and that you're the one that is blocking the path. So, yes, it's been my experience that I felt a lot worse before I started to feel better. I have a lot of empathy and respect for of the people on this blog that have so many more obstacles than I have had, yet are working so hard. Some of them have such incredible obstacles such as being battered, being jobless, being dependent upon parents that are toxic, trying to coparent with a tyrant, being abandoned in a different country, having endured repeated childhood sexual or physical abuse, in recovery from alcohol or drug abuse, struggling to be assertive against cultural beliefs, struggling with food disorders, struggling against bigotry or predjudice because of sexual orientation. Any ONE of these things seems a very good reason to me to doubt you can transform your life. Yet, every day, people on this blog prove to me that they can overcome incredible obstacles and get healthier. I am in awe of their courage. So, that gives me the inspiration to keep trying, too.
  2. sflajimmy:
    Just what I needed to hear tonight. Thank you Susan and bluskye. I'm not seeing much if any light at the end of the tunnel but I understand this is just the start of the journey. I had trust the process to get sober after 30 years of drinking and drugging because nothing I was doing on my own was working. I was out of options so I said why not try this? It was a slow and ever on going process that I work hard at even now 9+ years later. So I see this as the same thing. It will take work, hard work but I'm willing to do it because I don't want to live with the pain I'm in now and frankly this is the closest I've ever been to picking up a drink in those 9 years and I WILL NOT go back there. I wanted so much to break NC today and I didn't because I see that as the 1st step and one that must be maintained in order to do the rest of the work. I don't believe in coincidences any more and the fact that I felt so low and was ready to sell myself out and call or text BH and I come home to find this post well...it tells me I'm right where I need to be and I will live to see tomorrow still NC. Thank you both for being here!
  3. bejo23:
    Thank you for posting this, Susan. As I read it, I started crying very softly. I paused in my reading to just observe my feelings - this is something I've started to do, trying to get in touch with the feelings behind the expressed emotion. It has helped me begin to separate when I'm truly grieving for the BH vs. making myself a victim because I don't want to face up to the hard work. I've had a lot of challenge with procrastination over the past 10 years and I read something that said depression, low self-esteem, and procrastination are best pals. Anyway, I realized that my tears were tears of empathy for you and your struggle...the A&W scene was so vivid in my mind and I could actually feel the pain YOU experienced. It took me straight back to the first couple of weeks after my recent breakup, when I would sit for long stretches holding the BH's left-behind slippers (clutching them to my heart, actually) and feeling like my life was over. Yesterday, I mailed those slippers and the rest of his stuff back to him. So, yes, I am making little bits of progress now. I also am aware that my ex is dating again - this hurt like hell initially, but lately it's let go of me slightly. I think it's because I can now clearly see how exhausting it was to be with this man, no matter how he was behaving, it was draining! I told my therapist the other day that I feel my biggest challenge now is working on me. I need to see me as "worth it" and keep doing what it takes to become the awesome woman I know is inside of me - and always has been inside of me. When I first started coming to this blog and reading your book, I was in the "never" mindset: never going to feel good, never going to have money, never going to find a good partner, etc. I still don't have all the answers, nor have I done all the work, but I don't say "never" these days. My phrase now is "I just want to __________." So, at least I have the desire to live a full life again. And, every once in a while, I feel some excitement about the future and see myself doing something great, traveling to the places I've longed to visit, having things I've gone without, etc. I never said this outright, but I said at some point I would share it, so here goes...I really was contemplating taking my life in the early days of my breakup. It just seemed I had no reason to keep going. The pain was that intense :cry: , despite the fairly short nature of my relationship. Your book and this community helped snap me into the realization that what I really had to do was heal myself from so many years of self-destruction, bad choices, cheating and abusive mates, and things beyond my control that I was ill-equipped emotionally to handle. There were times I didn't want to do the healing, because it is hard work and I didn't feel strong enough to do the work. Now, I do - even though I still get sad, lonely, and fret....I feel strong enough to do the work, damn it!! And, I am and I will continue to do so. Thank you!
  4. Leah:
    I appreciate the very eloquent description of your experience, Susan and the follow up posts. I evokes so many responses in me I really don't know where to start. Will you be having more face to face workshops or just sticking with the online format? I think it would be helpful to discuss the types of issues you articulate so well. However, attempting therapy has been a rather mixed bag. Just prior to my getting the full picture on what I had married, I had insisted that the man to whom I was married and I get marriage counseling. (I so related to your previous post on the false sense of power the mark has when the exploiter is reeling them back in with promises.) Upon hearing that my then-husband had had an affair (at the time I thought it was "only" one affair) the therapist blasted me saying that two people are always at fault when one has an affair. She added to him as an after-thought that he had behaved selfishly. Ironically after the session, he (in one of his few moments of decency - or perhaps it was just part of the game) said he thought she had been rather hard on me. After everything came out, I returned to her alone and told her what I had found out. She replied "Oh, he's sociopathic" in very much the same tone one might say "Oh, he's diabetic." They say you can't find everything in one man - not true. I found John Edwards, Tiger Woods, Elliot Spitzer, and Andy Fastow (CFO of Enron and architect of most of the fraud). My terror at the time was not knowing if there might also be some Scott Peterson. In any case, there is a lot more to the story...but fast forwarding to the next therapist. I saw one off and one during the time I attempting to negotiate how much I would have to pay to get him out of my life. As I said, there is a lot more to it. So I was beside myself, literally throwing up five or six times a day (which caused signficant damage to my teeth given that it was mostly pure stomache acid) and dealing with a series of unrelated catastrophic events which coincided with the time I was in court. The therapist was kind and a good "active" listener. The problem is that I used the work "psychopath" fairly early on (I now believe he is actually a clinical narcissist), which reminded her of patients she had had who had been stalked and mutilated by psychopathic exes. So she strongly advised disappearing, leaving the country if necessary. It turns out he was primarily interested in money and although he was threatening at the time and sent a number of mixed messages, he has largely gone off with his other marks. Given that I have a strong predisposition to anxiety and that I had a small child to protect and that I was floored once I realized that the man I loved and married had never existed, her fear sent my anxiety into absolute overdrive. There is more I could say, but I seem to be going on a bit....Anyway, the posts are helpful. So few people can relate to this on any level. It helps to connect with others who have been through trials by fire. Many thanks for that.

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