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“Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked into it. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
~Haruki Murakami, critically acclaimed writer
Each of us goes through personal storms in life. They may come in the form of financial problems, a serious medical diagnosis, a failing marriage, a struggling child or several troubling issues all at once. Whether your personal storm was brought on by circumstances beyond your control, by decisions you made or a combination of factors, it may produce feelings like anxiety, anger, stress, fear, disillusionment and despair. The key to surviving these challenging times is in how you respond to them. Counselor Danny Hodges suggests that the journey through a personal storm can be compared to the seasons of the year:
Your stressful situation may feel like the endless misery of the dog days of summer. It may seem as though you cannot endure the ongoing stress, pressure or “heat” any longer. And like a summer storm that pops up quickly and loudly, you may react with an irritable response or quick reaction that wasn't fully thought out. You may be feeling anxious, agitated, moody and/or melancholy.
You may struggle with personal thoughts that constantly take residence in your mind, or you may resist sharing your true feelings for fear of being misunderstood or being judged. Like the luxurious foliage of fall, eventually these unexpressed feelings and thoughts fall away, leaving barrenness, bitterness and grief. You may be feeling isolated and apathetic, magnifying your past failures and focusing on self-dislike rather than the situation at hand.
Just as the frigid temperatures of winter bring ice and snow, feelings of resentment and hopelessness and a lack of sustaining faith seem to freeze your heart. You find it easier to withdraw and isolate yourself into the chilling grips of despair than to reach out to the warmth of a friend, family member, physician, counselor or pastor. You may be feeling depressed and crying a lot, sometimes for unknown reasons. You may notice significant changes in your sleep patterns, and thoughts of dying may recur.
Spring is a time of renewed perspective and anticipation, and you may begin to experience personal growth as you adjust to the challenges you have been facing. You may experience moments of anxiety as you learn to redefine or make sense of your circumstances, and you may feel a newfound sense of clarity about what you truly want, what is truly valuable and where to find genuine support. You may experience a newfound energy and feelings of courage that motivate you to move forward.
Periods of significant crisis can offer you a tremendous learning and healing opportunity, if you take the time to reflect on your experience. They force you to stretch and grow into an even better version of yourself. You may recognize strength and resilience that you never knew you possessed. Your personal storm may clear out old beliefs or habits that don't support your redefined goals and new outlook. And looking back, you may realize that the person you were before the storm wasn't equipped to achieve the goals you are focused on now.
Coping and adjusting to life crises is very difficult. When you are facing your personal storm, remember that you are human and what you are experiencing is not uncommon. Good support systems are a necessary part of your recovery. You are not alone, and others have weathered storms in their lives. It's essential to allow yourself to seek their assistance in navigating you to a safe place of confidence and hope for the future.
This article was written by James Daniel "Danny" Hodges, MA, LPC, CAC, SAP, a licensed counselor who works at Cabell Huntington Hospital's Counseling Center. If you'd like to learn more about weathering your own personal storm, please call the Counseling Center at 304-526-2049.