We Don’t Need to Process Our Pain Alone

Build up a support system of friends and family, and use it.

In an effort to connect deeply with herself and the world around her, our favorite recovering people pleaser, Tatum Fjerstad, is embarking on a 3-month journey around the U.S. to teach people to use writing and meditation as a healing process. On the way, she will be sharing stories of triumph, loss, joy and growth from Actual Humans of Yoga. Or, as we like to call it: #AHOY! Meet Tatum along her journey or email her to share your story.

I met Kim Drye over the phone. She currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and is originally from Asheville, North Carolina. Like many of the folks I can’t meet in person, I had to ask her what she looks like. “I’m a white female,” she said with a giggle. I rolled my eyes and thought, What part of diverse do these people not understand? I’m trying to gather stories from people who DON’T fit mainstream media’s ideal of a Western yogi.

But because my external dialogue is generally not as cynical as my internal one, I asked her to give me a snapshot of the story she’d like to share.

unnamedIt started from a young age. It was about her father and stepmom. It played out like an episode of Jerry Springer meets Law and Order. It involved drugs, depression, divorce, custody battles, runaways, domestic abuse, shitty boundaries, cancer, suicide attempts, actual suicide, more abuse, death, fire, and more pain than any one person should ever have to witness or experience.

As much as I’d like to pass by this story because she’s white, slender, female, and straight, I know I can’t. There is an important lesson here.

Kim grew up in a rough, painful home that never remained in the same place for longer than two years. But she still had the privilege of being white and able to hide her troubles by publicly assuming the role that mainstream media and society has laid out for her.

This didn’t, however rid her of the massive amount of shame she experienced. She used things like good grades and her appearance to prove that she was enough and to hide from her reality.

When school ended, she found yoga. Again, she saw it as a way out from under this mess. When she started practicing, she thought she found the ultimate escape from her dark, tumultuous past.

“I thought it was going to be all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns. I thought I would take this practice and this life and I would overcome all of it.”

During the first week of her yoga teacher training, however, her stepmother, who had undiagnosed mental health disorders, died in a trailer fire, which she may have started herself. Since then, her father has been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer.

So Kim very quickly realized that yoga was not going to wipe the slate clean.

“Yoga was actually going to drag me into my shadow side and ask me to face it.”

So training after training and class after class, she learned to recognize her shame from the outside. She learned that her shame was keeping her from the connection she lacked as a kid.

In order for Kim to form strong bonds with her community, she had to open up about her shame. She had to share her story in detail with me and others. The story is long and complicated and best told by her. But the lesson can be shared far and wide:

We can’t process our pain and our lessons alone—no matter what we look like. We need the help of our community. We can listen and watch others do their work, and, like learning children, we may mimic their behavior for a while until we find our own way. But even when we do, we need to check in with our support systems and be vulnerable and honest about what we’re carrying around.

If we resist this work, we are resisting one of the most powerful and valuable human experiences we can have: deep, meaningful connection.

As someone who is very much alone on the road right now, this story hit me pretty hard. My story is not unlike Kim’s in a great many ways. But I want to do all the work myself. I don’t like asking for help because I’m worried I’ll never be able to repay you. But the things is: I can’t transform into the person I want to become without the help of the people I meet along the way. These people are my teachers AND my students and together, we can make living this messy, vibrant life more meaningful and more loving.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community. As Ram Dass, says, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

tatum-fjerstad-headshotTatum Fjerstad is professional napper who can’t handle that Justin Timberlake loves another woman. When she’s not imagining what her life would be like with JT, she is mostly a human being teaching other human beings how to be okay with being human. She does this through movement, meditation, and writing. Tatum is here to be helpful, honest, and make you laugh, obvi. To learn more about how she does this, follow her on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter, and at tatumfjerstad.com.