USA Artistic Swimmin... News ARTICLE: The Process...

ARTICLE: The Process of Healing from National Team Member Hannah Heffernan

By Hannah Heffernan: Current USA Synchro National Team Member | Nov. 21, 2019, 12:05 p.m. (ET)

It all started when I lost connection with my emotions. Honestly, I felt as though I had no control over my feelings but they had complete dominance over me. At the beginning it came in waves. Some were bigger than others and some creating more destruction than the rest. I lost my mind trying to make sense of something that I couldn’t understand. I was so desperate to try to find a way out of my world so I could finally breathe. Most days I tried to convince myself and everyone else around me that I was doing fine but the reality is that being “fine” couldn’t be further from the truth. I found myself disconnecting  by distancing myself from the people and things I loved.  

The truth is I was numb, i was feeling absolutely nothing at all. I hid behind my youth, using age as an excuse, blocked out as much as possible and lived inside my mind. I had a moronic philosophy that nothing gets better, but that we as people just get used to it. Thinking this way led me to a belief  that there was nothing to live for, I believed that becoming a prisoner in my own mind would eventually be the new norm. I ironically found comfort in thinking this way, but as any level headed person would expect, I was wrong. As time is guaranteed to do so it went on, problems I never thought would affect me began to devour my entire existence. I hated everything, but nothing compared to the hatred I had for myself. As a way of coping with all these internalized emotions, I found different ways to turn the mental pain into various physical sensations. Knowing the physical pain would only last as long as it took to heal instead of constantly being trapped in my eerie thoughts.  

Continuous questioning of my self worth created another obstacle. I grew to be obsessed with the way I looked. I was fixated on everything that I thought was imperfect. It’s truly pitiful and shameful to admit but I was horrified by food. Trying to restrict myself from essential nutrients was taxing. I had horrendous headaches that made me nauseous. I had no energy to focus or to give my all in any physical condition. Satisfaction is something I tried to strive for, but no matter what I did there was still always something I wanted to change. 

Internally I was alone. I despised being by myself but being with a group of people made me feel more alone. I convinced myself I was an outcast, my presence was a burden and my voice was meant to stay silent. I had no trust in myself, no credibility to my achievements and no desire to love. I couldn’t love myself, so how would I expect myself to look at anything with beauty? I simply couldn’t.  

After numerous appointments with doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and nutritionists I started to begin “the process.” The problem with the process I struggled with was to trust in it. Trust was something that I lacked not only in myself but with others, regardless of the person. The first step was trying to find myself.

One night I randomly decided to sit under the stars and in that moment there was nothing I could do to stop the river of tears flowing down my cheek. Over the next few weeks I found myself learning about the night sky, all the constellations, nebulas, black holes, stars, light years and the rotation of how the stars align in precise moments. I felt a need to learn about what I was looking at, so when I looked at the stars I could make sense of it and feel less alone. 

Days went on, which turned into weeks and slowly but surely I was starting to see color. Looking at something as simple as nature was so much more beautiful than trying to conform myself into what I thought was considered beautiful. Sunset’s became a fascination. I would watch the sunset in complete silence by myself listening to my thoughts. The difference this time was any thought that came to me I would accept it without judgment. It’s easier said than done but over time I was able to regain some control over my thoughts. Everything seemed to be falling into place. I felt I had parts of my old self back. 

It took me a lot longer than I would’ve hoped to figure this out. However when I figured it out it changed my perspective completely. Good, happy, warm and loving moments aren’t a journey on the process they’re just a benefit. The real journey of the process is to fight when there seems like there is nothing worth fighting for. To look at the world with the eyes of a child. To make every rotation around the sun a blessing. Be appreciative of every breath that fills my lungs. Look at the sunsets in awe as though it is magic. Lastly, try not to make sense out of something that can’t be made into sense.  

“The process” is never ending and that’s the harsh reality of it but it can also be known as the epitome of beauty in the unknown. I am not proud of my past and while I am ashamed and embarrassed by it, it is something that I have accepted and learned from. I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. Yes, some days are a bit scary because they feel like a small relapse but I am able to have control of my mind, and while I am entitled to feel sad sometimes I have the choice and responsibility to pick myself back up.  

I now look back on myself, but as I am growing into a more mature and stronger person I am grateful I had this experience. I know it sounds crazy but without this I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to really find myself deep down and to appreciate the smallest gifts in life. In today’s time, my present self takes back what I said about “things not getting better and we as humans just get used to them.” I was so wrong and I apologize to myself for thinking this was a way of life. I now know that even when time seems to be frozen, everything is healing and at the end of the day, no matter how long the day is you become stronger. For me this is the key to trusting “the process.”  

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Hannah Heffernan