Megan Griffith

@meganwriteseverything | contributor
Super Contributor
Megan is a writer, poet, and hair dye enthusiast. She writes about her struggles with mental illness in the hopes that others will feel less alone, and, if she's being honest, in the hopes that she'll feel a little less alone too.

What Does It Mean to Be Neurodivergent?

If you’ve been on TikTok at all recently, you’ve seen the rise of a relatively new word: neurodivergent. But what does that mean? Who counts as neurodivergent and who doesn’t? It’s time we talk about it. “Neurodivergent” Is an Umbrella Term First of all, let’s talk about the fact that the term “neurodivergent” doesn’t refer to just one type of brain. It refers to a whole group of brains that work differently. It’s an umbrella term for a wide variety of neurotypes (types of brains that are anatomically and/or physiologically different from the norm). What’s included under this umbrella? Well, that’s a contested point. ADHD and autism are commonly accepted as neurodivergent by nearly all circles, but beyond that, we struggle to agree. Personally, I feel it’s better to err on the side of inclusivity. The neurodivergent community has taught me so much and I wouldn’t be nearly the coach I am today without them. If I’d been turned away because I wasn’t “neurodivergent enough,” my whole life would be different now. So what are some of the other conditions and neurotypes potentially included under the umbrella of neurodivergent? highly sensitive person (HSP) gifted synesthesia dyslexia dyspraxia learning disorders epilepsy Tourette’s personality disorders Neurodivergent vs. Mental Illness So what’s the difference between neurodivergence and mental illness? In a lot of cases, there’s quite a bit of overlap, like with ADHD and personality disorders, which are both mental illnesses and forms of neurodivergence. Does that mean all mental illnesses are a form of neurodivergence? Some people argue yes, mental illness is a type of neurodivergence. Personally, I think it’s possible, but there are two major differences between being neurodivergent and being mentally ill: You are born with neurodivergence, as opposed to mental illness which can develop over time. The goal is to cure mental illness, whereas the goal with neurodivergence is acceptance. Bear in mind, these are my own personal distinctions, and it’s possible for people in these communities to disagree with them. That’s OK. Our diversity, both in conditions and opinions, is natural and healthy. Is Anyone Really Neurotypical? “Neurotypical” is the term for someone who is not neurodivergent, and as the idea of neurodivergence starts to spread, some people are wondering if “we’re all a little ADHD,” or if we’re “all on the spectrum.” Is there any truth to this? Well…no. Not really. Being neurodivergent means that your brain is functionally and/or structurally different from the norm. Your brain either is or isn’t built different. Some people truly are neurotypical, though there are probably a lot less of them than we thought just a few years ago. As more and more people learn about neurodivergence, the number of people who identify as neurodivergent is steadily rising. Not because this new information is “convincing” people they’re neurodivergent, but because this new information is shedding light on people who previously went undiagnosed. My Experience With Neurodivergence So, what’s my particular flavor of neurodivergence? Personally, I’m a gifted, highly sensitive person, and I suspect that I either have ADHD or fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, but I haven’t been officially diagnosed. My identity as a neurodivergent person has helped me realize why my needs are so often different from those around me, and it’s helped me learn to accept myself as I am instead of seeing my whole personality as a collection of flaws. So often, neurodivergent folks are told that we are just failed neurotypicals, but we’re not. We’re perfectly whole neurodivergents. If you’re ready to start working with your neurodivergent brain instead of fighting against it, I hope you’ll join my new group coaching program, Neurodivergent Magic. It’s a nine week program all about coping with executive dysfunction and learning to love your neurodivergent brain. I’d love to see you there! A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted.

4 Mental Health Takeaways From Bo Burnham's New Special 'Inside'

If you haven’t watched it yet, Bo Burnham’s new special “Inside” is less of a comedy special and more of a musical exploration of white supremacy, pandemic trauma and depression . Actually, the special is so accurate in recreating what it’s like to be depressed that, after watching it, I actually fell into a depressive episode myself. But now that I’m feeling better, I want to talk about all of the incredible insights I took away from “Inside.” 1. Everything is performative when you’re depressed The special as a whole spends a lot of time exploring the nature of performance, both on the internet and as a professional performer, and I think one conclusion it comes to is that everything is a performance when you’re depressed. At one point in the special, Burnham is so depressed, he can’t get through a simple transition line without starting over and over and eventually screaming at his equipment. Depression makes even the simplest things feel unnatural and difficult. Existence itself is a performance when you’re depressed because depression makes you not want to exist. 2. A big part of depression is grieving the loss of pleasure found in the little things You know that aching feeling when you can just…tell that your depression is coming back? The way little things make you hurt instead of smile? Bo Burnham knows that feeling , or should I say “that funny feeling.” That’s the name of one of the songs in the special that focuses on seemingly little things that might normally make you smile or feel warm inside, but when “that funny feeling” comes back, you just feel the aching. Burnham uses this song to demonstrate how depression is defined by loss: loss of energy, loss of function but also loss of all things good in the world. Everything turns into pain when you’re depressed. 3. People who are depressed are often desperate for others’ concern because it means their pain is real Another song in the special, “Hands Up (All Eyes On Me)” conveys a message about depression that particularly resonates with me: people who are depressed both crave and fear the concern of others. On the one hand, as the name of the song implies, we want to demand concern and attention from others because, dammit, we are drowning here and people should notice. But on the other hand, we feel like if we have to ask for the attention and concern, then maybe our pain isn’t really that bad. If it isn’t already evident to others, then maybe we’re exaggerating everything. This song might be my favorite from the whole special. It captures both the desperation I feel to be seen and the panic I feel whenever I am seen. 4. The past year, both the pandemic and the increasingly apparent social inequality, has been truly traumatic and we have to take time to process that Finally, my biggest takeaway from “Inside” is that 2020 was traumatic, and if we choose to ignore that trauma instead of dealing with it, it will eat us up inside. I’ve kept very busy throughout the whole pandemic, I’ve been constantly distracting myself, but when I slowed down enough to watch “Inside,” I was reminded of how truly awful the last year has been and I realized I haven’t been letting myself feel that pain. Feeling it was…uncomfortable. I didn’t know to think about any of it, all I could do was feel all these overwhelming feelings of loss. But then I did start thinking about it, and I realized that if we don’t take the time to really let ourselves feel this pain, to really process this trauma , we will internalize it, like I have internalized other traumas in the past, and it will ruin our lives. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m listening to the songs from “Inside,” letting them wash over me and letting the pain run through me, and reminding myself that it’s OK not to be OK. Maybe it’s even important not to be OK sometimes.  

How I'm Breaking the Cycle of Toxic Parenting and Childhood Trauma

I am a cycle-breaker. I refuse to engage in the same toxic behaviors that I was raised with, especially when it comes to raising my son. But that’s so much easier said than done. The thing nobody tells you about being a cycle-breaker is that there’s a lot of pressure to be perfect. Part of your brain tells you that if you aren’t perfect, then you’re just as toxic as the people who came before you. But that isn’t true. Here’s what’s true: every time you make the choice to show up, to try, you break the cycle of toxicity. Every single time. You Are Still a Cycle-Breaker When You Mess Up A few weeks ago, my therapist said something that changed my life: relationships are about rupture and repair. A good relationship isn’t one with zero stress or mistakes, it’s one where both people can show up as themselves, even when that might cause conflict. And both people are willing to do the work to repair the relationship after these conflicts. Rupture and repair. This spoke to me because I grew up without any repair. Relationships ruptured and then I was expected to forgive and forget without any apology. So I became afraid of rupture. Conflict was an exercise in self-abandonment. The only way to move on after conflict was for me to pretend I wasn’t hurt. So now whenever I make a mistake in my relationships , I feel immense guilt because I feel like I’ve put someone else in that position of needing to abandon themselves. This guilt is especially strong with my son. Any time I make a mistake with him, it feels like I’m not breaking any cycles, I’m just perpetuating the harm I experienced. But now I focus on the repair. How to Repair a Relationship After Rupture The first step toward repairing your relationships is to learn to pay attention to the ruptures. Notice when ruptures happen. If you have an overactive guilt complex, like me, you might be highly aware of even the smallest ruptures in your relationships . Instead of seeing this as a weakness, as being “too sensitive” or something, try to see this as a strength. You’ve got this first step nailed down. The second step is to acknowledge the hurt that’s been done and your role in it. This might be hard. So often when we have been the victims of a toxic environment, we’re used to being the one getting hurt, not the one doing the hurting. We typically don’t think of ourselves as having enough agency to hurt someone else, but we do have that power. That doesn’t make us a bad person, it just makes us human. Next, it’s time to apologize. This apology shouldn’t be self-deprecating or self-loathing — actually, it should hardly focus on you at all. It should be all about the other person. The only aspect that should be about you is the part where you admit that you did something to hurt the other person. No more apologies that sound like, “I’m sorry you felt that way.” Nope. Try, “I’m sorry I made you feel that way.” Take responsibility. Finally, take the time to evaluate how this rupture happened and what you can do to both show up as your full self and avoid causing harm. This step isn’t about making yourself small to avoid conflict, though that will probably be tempting. No, this step is all about finding a way to be yourself and still show up for your loved ones. Your kids don’t need a perfect parent or an anti-conflict parent; they need you, exactly as you are. We Break the Cycle of Generational Trauma One Interaction at a Time Generational trauma , the trauma that lingers from one generation to the next, passed down through toxic parenting styles and unhealthy coping mechanisms, isn’t healed overnight. You might be a cycle-breaker, but you’re still human. Instead, generational trauma is healed in small ways through each healthy interaction we have with our kids and other loved ones. It’s not a black-and-white, healed versus toxic dichotomy. It’s a multilayered spectrum, and each time you make a healthy choice, each time you soothe yourself instead of lashing out, each time you choose to listen to yourself rather than abandon yourself, one small part of the spectrum shifts toward something healthier. If you made 10 bad decisions today, if you had 10 big ruptures in your relationships , but you chose to heal one of them, you’re taking steps in the right direction. It might not feel like it, but you are. Celebrate those healthy choices, celebrate the ways in which you are breaking the cycle, bit by bit. If you want to be a cycle-breaker, but you’re scared and feel like you can’t do it, take a minute to sign up for my personal  5-day Finding the Courage to Try  email challenge. I think you’ll get a lot out of it. A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted .

Signs You're Living With Toxic Shame

Toxic shame is the deep-seated belief that you don’t belong, that there is something wrong not with how you act or look, but something fundamentally wrong with who you are. And the worst part is that this shame tells us that we’re the only ones who feel this way, when really, toxic shame is a hugely common problem. Not sure if what you’re experiencing is toxic shame? Check out these five signs of toxic shame. 1. Indecision To be fair, indecision could be a sign of many things: overwhelm, burnout,  executive dysfunction , and so much more, but indecision related to shame has a very particular flavor. Essentially, people with toxic shame have a hard time making decisions because they don’t trust themselves. People living with shame were told by parents or romantic partners or even teachers that they were wrong. Not because of one choice they made, but because of who they were. And if who you are is wrong, then all the things that feel right to you are also wrong. This makes it nearly impossible to make a decision and feel good about it. People who feel ashamed of who they are struggle to make decisions because they don’t see themselves as an authority on anything, including themselves. They don’t trust that what they want is the right thing to want, so they defer to others and allow other people to make decisions for them, from small things like where to go out to eat, to big things like which career to pursue. 2. Difficulty Expressing Anger This sign of toxic shame can go one of two ways: people struggle to hold in their anger, or people struggle to let their anger out. If you have a hard time reining in your anger, if you find yourself yelling more often than you would like, if you tend to be defensive any time someone criticizes you, even if it’s a valid point — you could be struggling with toxic shame. The same is true for people like me who are the opposite, people who swallow their anger so hard, they can’t even admit to themselves that they’re angry. For these people, anger often morphs into self-loathing. Regardless of your presentation, difficulty expressing anger in a healthy way is one of the most problematic signs of toxic shame because anger is a basic human emotion that we all feel, and it’s hard to get through life when you don’t know how to express it. 3. Low Self-Worth People with toxic shame also tend to struggle with their sense of self-worth. Personally, I define self-worth as the knowledge that you are a decent person worthy of love, whereas other similar terms like self-esteem or confidence are defined more by outer things, like appearance or social skills. It’s possible for someone to have perfectly good self-esteem and terrible self-worth at the same time. I know, because that’s how I am. If I don’t think about it too hard, I like myself fine. I seem perfectly acceptable. But if I ask myself, “Do I believe I am lovable?” oftentimes the answer is “no.” This is due to negative core beliefs about who I am as a person. Negative core beliefs come in all shapes and sizes, from “I’m hard to love,” to “I don’t deserve love,” and so much more, but the underlying message is nearly always this: “Something is wrong with me, and because of that, I am unlovable.” 4. No Clear Sense of Identity Do you feel like you know who you are? Can you describe yourself easily to others? Or do you panic when someone says the dreaded words, “So tell me a little bit about yourself?” Are you obsessed with taking personality quizzes, hoping to find some definition that fits? People with toxic shame really struggle with identity. This is because they are so afraid to like, do or be the “wrong” thing in some capacity, that they end up avoiding almost everything until they don’t have any traits to hold onto to describe themselves. Again, toxic shame is all about feeling like there’s something wrong with who you are, so naturally, you spend an enormous amount of energy trying to be someone else, and as a result, you lose your sense of inherent identity. 5. Feeling Different From Others, or “Not Normal” Finally, people with toxic shame, because they feel they are inherently broken or less-than, typically feel like they’re also inherently different from others. Like other people are good enough, the only person who isn’t is them. They aren’t “normal.” This leads to a comparison game where you are constantly using others as a measuring stick for “normal” and always coming up short, which can worsen the self-worth issues. You might have felt like the weird kid growing up, and now you feel like an imposter adult, someone who looks like a grown-up but doesn’t actually know what they’re doing at all. A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted .

The Phrases That Might Affect You If You Experienced Emotional Neglect

Childhood emotional neglect is an often-ignored form of trauma that can really do some lasting damage on the children who grow up without the emotional support they deserved. Then, because we don’t talk about childhood emotional neglect , the child grows up thinking there’s just something wrong with them for being so “weird” and needy and clingy, or “weird” and distant and aloof, or just “weird” in general. Especially when it comes to seemingly harmless phrases that can actually make people with a history of childhood emotional neglect very upset. You aren’t weird if these phrases upset you. You went through trauma , and that’s not your fault. What Is Childhood Emotional Neglect ? Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) is often less about what happened and more about what didn’t happen. In households where CEN is a problem, there tends to be a lack of emotional support rather than the presence of something actively harmful. Emotional support is essential for healthy relationships , especially for developing children, and can take the form of: attachment (feeling safely connected to your caregiver). attunement (feeling like your caregiver is invested in you). mirroring (seeing your feelings mirrored in your caregiver). validation (feeling understood by your caregiver). attention (feeling important to your caregiver). When this emotional support is lacking, children grow up with childhood emotional neglect , which can have a lasting impact on their self-concept, future relationships and more. What Does Childhood Emotional Neglect Look Like? Childhood emotional neglect can look different in every family. But there are a few typical arrangements for an emotionally neglectful household. First, there’s the “cold” household, where affection is withheld and open discussions are rare and deeply uncomfortable. In this household, there is a lack of pretty much any form of emotional support, from attachment to attention. You may know your caregivers love you, but only in the intellectual sense. You rarely feel loved by them in an emotional sense. Second, there’s the toxically positive household, where affection abounds… as long as everything is good. Positive emotions are celebrated, but negative ones are ignored or invalidated, and there may even be an element of  gaslighting  to try and convince you that your negative emotions aren’t real. Finally, there’s the “good enough” household, where negative emotions are invalidated, just like the toxic positivity household, but so are overly positive emotions. Everything is expected to be “fine” all the time, and anything that rocks the boat, for good or bad, is seen as a threat. These households typically involve caregivers with their own unresolved trauma that they subconsciously pass on to the next generation. 3 Phrases That Are Probably Triggering If You Experienced Childhood Emotional Neglect If all of this sounds familiar, then you may have experienced CEN growing up. If you did, then you probably find these three phrases to be very upsetting or even triggering: 1. “Don’t be so sensitive.” Ah, a classic. I want to be clear that the use of this phrase does not automatically mean you experienced (or caused) CEN. Although I would argue that this phrase is never actually helpful, it is not inherently neglectful. However, when it’s used over and over in response to a child’s feelings, it can definitely be part of a system of neglect . As an adult, when you hear other adults say this to their kids, your heart might race or you might get very angry or sad. If other adults say this to you now, you may completely shut down, burst into tears, or spiral into an identity crisis. 2. “Everybody feels that way.” This phrase demonstrates a complete lack of attunement, and if you grew up with CEN, when you hear this now, even if it’s perfectly well-meaning, you probably have an extreme reaction like the one described above. When we’re children, all of our feelings are big, unmanageable things that we need to be guided through, but if our caregivers dismiss our big feelings by saying things like “everybody feels that way,” then we are neglected, left to figure out these big feelings on our own. Plus, the implication of the phrase “everybody feels that way,” is “so you’re not special.” And every kid needs to know that their feelings are special and they matter. 3. “I love you.” For those who grew up in emotionally neglectful households, the phrase “I love you” can be loaded with fear. If you grew up with CEN, then you might immediately dismiss it when others say “I love you.” You don’t trust them, because you grew up with caregivers who said that they loved you but didn’t show it emotionally, so you don’t expect others to either. Or maybe “I love you” triggers feelings of longing, desperately wishing you’d heard those words growing up because you never really did. Or it’s possible to feel ashamed, as though love is a weakness because it’s a display of emotion, which were always dismissed growing up. Unfortunately, even positive phrases can bring up a lot of pain for people with a history of CEN. In some households, emotional support is treated like a cherry on top of a sundae: a nice treat, but totally unnecessary. In reality, emotional support is the cornerstone of healthy development, and without it, children grow up to be dysfunctional adults with significant trauma to process. If this is you, don’t worry. Your pain is valid and real, and you deserve attention, attunement and so much more. It’s possible to get it now, even if you didn’t get it growing up. The work is hard and slow, but it’s available to you.  Inner child work , reparenting, attachment work can all be done in therapy and lead you to a far more functional, enjoyable experience of your life. A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted .

Childhood Trauma: Signs You Have an 'Avoidant Attachment Style'

Your  attachment style  is a reflection of how your needs (including emotional needs) were met at a young age and how you learned to cope with unmet needs. The avoidant attachment style is all about, you guessed it, avoidance. Avoidance of intimacy, avoidance of reliance, avoidance of everything. People typically develop this attachment style when their  emotional needs were not met at a young age. They internalized the message that no one will be there for them emotionally and instead they have to be there for themselves. This creates a high sense of trust in oneself, but a low sense of trust in others. If this sounds familiar, let’s check out 14 signs you might have an avoidant attachment style: 1. You are independent to a fault. You do not like to rely on others in case they let you down, so you do everything yourself. 2. You’re scared of commitment. You’re interested in someone until they show interest back. Then your interest starts to just… fade. 3. You’re not super in touch with your own emotions or the emotions of people around you because you would rather avoid emotions entirely most of the time. 4. You tend to be passive-aggressive when something is wrong because you don’t want to come out and be honest with your feelings, but you want the problem to go away. 5. You aren’t made of stone, you’re actually incredibly scared of rejection and that’s why you avoid intimacy: you’d rather reject others before they have the chance to reject you. 6. This doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships . You probably notice these avoidant patterns in your friendships, at work, even with your hobbies. 7. You are actually pretty good at setting boundaries. The problem is, sometimes you set very extreme boundaries that are meant to keep you safe from rejection, but actually end up making you very lonely . 8. You might be a perfectly articulate person usually, but when you try to talk about your feelings, even to yourself through journaling, it’s hard to find the words. 9. You might believe that relying on others is a sign of weakness because you’ve been providing for yourself so long. 10. Even when you do think you’d like to get close to someone, you have no idea how to go about doing that, and often cut off the relationship instead. 11. When you were upset as a kid, instead of getting on your level and helping you deal with your emotions, your parents likely pulled back. They may not have responded at all or they may said things like “stop being so sensitive,” or “toughen up.” 12. You tend to think your partners are much clingier than you would like, when really they are often just trying to get to know you on a deeper level. 13. You’re not lonely . You might have a lot of friends, acquaintances, or partners and be the life of the party, but none of those relationships go very deep. 14. When you are in a committed relationship , you have an exit plan, just in case. If you relate to these signs, I highly recommend downloading my  free trigger tracker  and keeping track of what triggers your avoidant behaviors and patterns. Being self-aware is the first step toward healing. A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted .

Demi Lovato Talks About Bipolar Misdiagnosis in New Documentary

I was certain that I had bipolar disorder . I was in college, 19 years old, only one year older than Demi Lovato when she was diagnosed with the same disorder. I was so certain, and that certainty colored the way I reported my symptoms and I was formally diagnosed shortly after I started therapy. It all made sense and I thought that this was the beginning of me getting better. But it wasn’t. I lived with the diagnosis of bipolar, integrating it into my personality, making it a huge part of who I felt I was, only to switch therapists five years later and finally see my bipolar disorder for what it was– a misdiagnosis. Misdiagnosis Is Nothing to Be Ashamed Of For a long time after I realized my bipolar disorder was a misdiagnosis, I felt deeply ashamed. I was the one who pushed for it. I let it take over my identity, and worst of all, I was terribly harsh with anyone in my life who hesitated to support my diagnosis. I felt overwhelmed by regrets and shame and honestly didn’t know how to cope. Then Demi Lovato said she experienced the same thing. According to InStyle , Demi says in her new YouTube docuseries “Dancing with the Devil” that she believes she was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18 to explain her erratic behavior at that time. Her current doctors believe that was a misdiagnosis and, in her own words, “I needed to grow the fuck up.” We Need to Talk About Misdiagnosis More Often I’ve never heard anyone else talk about being misdiagnosed with a mental illness , let alone a superstar like Demi Lovato. For her to come out and say that this thing she’s been an advocate for since she was 18 was a misdiagnosis all along is a powerful statement about self-acceptance. She is still her, regardless of what label best describes her mental health . I feel like that’s the message I’ve been trying to learn for years now. But, because I felt so alone in my misdiagnosis journey, I had no idea where to turn for advice nor could I even find someone who could relate. I felt alone, and I felt silly. I felt like I’d made a huge mistake in my mental health journey, one I could never take back or undo. But, we learn through making mistakes . As much as we want it to be, it’s just not possible to learn by doing things perfectly every time. I’m still not sure what I’ve learned from my bipolar misdiagnosis. But I know one thing for sure now– I’m not alone in it. “Dancing with the Devil” premiers on YouTube March 23, 2020.

How to Know If You Have a Wounded Inner Child From Trauma

If you’re here reading this right now, you probably already know, on some level, that you have a wounded inner child. Even if you aren’t totally sure what your inner child is, you can tell they aren’t OK, and you are ready to figure it out and start healing. If that’s you, welcome. You’re in exactly the right place. So, let’s start with a basic explanation of who your inner child is . Essentially, as we grow up, previous versions of ourselves don’t just phase out of existence. We carry them with us. They are an eternal part of us. So your inner child is simply the child version of you, always with you. If that child was wounded in some way, then those wounds stay with you too, and because the pain happened in the past, it’s tempting to believe that there’s nothing you can do to fix it. But even though you can’t change the past, you can change the wound. It’s possible to heal, even if it happened decades ago. Let’s talk about how. How to Tell If You Have a Wounded Inner Child I know my inner child is wounded because she makes herself heard, loud and clear. I hear her when I’m upset. I hear her crying even when I’m trying to be “strong” and “good” and “not so dramatic.” I hear her when I’m so focused on being productive, I’ve completely forgotten what it feels like to be happy. I hear her all the time now, and to be honest it’s overwhelming, but the only way out of all this is through, and I am determined to get through all of the hurt done to my inner child and learn to love her properly. So, what does this look like on a practical level? If you have a wounded inner child, you might notice some of these signs: When you’re upset, you belittle yourself or speak to yourself in a very negative way. Seemingly small incidents send you spiraling because they remind you of countless times something similar has happened. You constantly seek validation from others because you don’t know how to validate yourself. You struggle with free time because you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. You have a hard time trusting others. You just get the sense that they will let you down or hurt you if they get too close. On some deep level, part of you feels inherently unlovable. If you relate to these, then you likely have a wounded inner child. But how did your inner child get wounded? Childhood wounds can come from a wide variety of sources, from outright abuse to the more subtle and insidious emotional neglect , and of course our society can wound our inner child as well. If you aren’t a straight, white, able-bodied man, then odds are your inner child was wounded in some way by feelings of rejection from society. Why It’s So Hard to Heal a Wounded Inner Child There are a lot of reasons why healing your wounded inner child is hard, but at its core, the problem is this: the people who hurt you will never heal you. The people who hurt you will never heal you. That’s hard because the child in us, the child who trusted those people so completely, expects the solution to come from them as well. After all, when you’re a kid, pretty much every solution to your problems comes from the adults in your life. But it just doesn’t work that way when it comes to healing a wounded inner child. Adults are often loathe to admit that they hurt you as a child, and if they can’t admit that there’s a wound, they certainly can’t heal it. Instead, the responsibility falls on you to heal yourself. Luckily, there are ways to do it. 4 Strategies for Healing 1. Be the adult that you needed as a child. When you were a child, part of you was wounded instead of cared for, and it can feel like that damage is permanent and irreparable. But the truth is, you’re an adult now, and you have the ability to take care of yourself the way you deserved back then. If you were used to hearing harsh words or a belittling tone, your inner child might be craving a kind, supportive adult who speaks to them with respect. You can speak to your inner child that way now. Go somewhere quiet and, out loud, tell your inner child all of the things they deserved to hear back in the day: “You’re so special.” “I love you so much.” “You were right.” 2. Get to know your inner child by quietly listening in the hard moments. Another common wound from childhood is not feeling seen. Even if we knew intellectually that we were loved, we simply didn’t feel like people saw who we really were, or just didn’t care. So now, as an adult, you can do a lot of healing simply by listening to your inner child. How do they react when things get hard? What are their fears? What makes them happy? Learn to pay attention. 3. Indulge your inner child, do what they want to do. Once you have a better understanding of what makes your inner child happy, do those things as often as you can. We often deny our inner child in favor of being the adults we feel expected to be, but when our inner child is ignored, their needs only become more pronounced. This might look like feelings of restlessness, identity confusion, irritation or hopelessness, all of which are the direct result of the disconnect between our needs and our behavior. When the two don’t line up, we are sure to experience discomfort and despair. 4. Stand up for your inner child when others say things that insult them. You can also make your inner child a high priority by standing up for them when they are insulted or belittled in some way, even if it’s indirectly. If someone calls you “too sensitive,” and that is something your wounded inner child is all too used to hearing, let that person know that you disagree and don’t appreciate hearing that. Let your inner child know that you won’t be silent in the face of their diminishment anymore. Loving Your Inner Child Dealing with childhood wounds is hard, but it’s absolutely possible. On a basic level, healing a wounded inner child is all about learning to love the child that you used to be. Even if you were weird or shy or loud or “difficult.” You were still lovable, and it’s possible to reach back in time and show that child the love they deserved. You have that power. So let’s get started. If your childhood wounds make you feel like you don’t know yourself, check out my “Who Am I?” Bundle . Sign up to get access to a completely free worksheet and video training on figuring out who you are. A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted .

How to Know If You Have a Wounded Inner Child From Trauma

If you’re here reading this right now, you probably already know, on some level, that you have a wounded inner child. Even if you aren’t totally sure what your inner child is, you can tell they aren’t OK, and you are ready to figure it out and start healing. If that’s you, welcome. You’re in exactly the right place. So, let’s start with a basic explanation of who your inner child is . Essentially, as we grow up, previous versions of ourselves don’t just phase out of existence. We carry them with us. They are an eternal part of us. So your inner child is simply the child version of you, always with you. If that child was wounded in some way, then those wounds stay with you too, and because the pain happened in the past, it’s tempting to believe that there’s nothing you can do to fix it. But even though you can’t change the past, you can change the wound. It’s possible to heal, even if it happened decades ago. Let’s talk about how. How to Tell If You Have a Wounded Inner Child I know my inner child is wounded because she makes herself heard, loud and clear. I hear her when I’m upset. I hear her crying even when I’m trying to be “strong” and “good” and “not so dramatic.” I hear her when I’m so focused on being productive, I’ve completely forgotten what it feels like to be happy. I hear her all the time now, and to be honest it’s overwhelming, but the only way out of all this is through, and I am determined to get through all of the hurt done to my inner child and learn to love her properly. So, what does this look like on a practical level? If you have a wounded inner child, you might notice some of these signs: When you’re upset, you belittle yourself or speak to yourself in a very negative way. Seemingly small incidents send you spiraling because they remind you of countless times something similar has happened. You constantly seek validation from others because you don’t know how to validate yourself. You struggle with free time because you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. You have a hard time trusting others. You just get the sense that they will let you down or hurt you if they get too close. On some deep level, part of you feels inherently unlovable. If you relate to these, then you likely have a wounded inner child. But how did your inner child get wounded? Childhood wounds can come from a wide variety of sources, from outright abuse to the more subtle and insidious emotional neglect , and of course our society can wound our inner child as well. If you aren’t a straight, white, able-bodied man, then odds are your inner child was wounded in some way by feelings of rejection from society. Why It’s So Hard to Heal a Wounded Inner Child There are a lot of reasons why healing your wounded inner child is hard, but at its core, the problem is this: the people who hurt you will never heal you. The people who hurt you will never heal you. That’s hard because the child in us, the child who trusted those people so completely, expects the solution to come from them as well. After all, when you’re a kid, pretty much every solution to your problems comes from the adults in your life. But it just doesn’t work that way when it comes to healing a wounded inner child. Adults are often loathe to admit that they hurt you as a child, and if they can’t admit that there’s a wound, they certainly can’t heal it. Instead, the responsibility falls on you to heal yourself. Luckily, there are ways to do it. 4 Strategies for Healing 1. Be the adult that you needed as a child. When you were a child, part of you was wounded instead of cared for, and it can feel like that damage is permanent and irreparable. But the truth is, you’re an adult now, and you have the ability to take care of yourself the way you deserved back then. If you were used to hearing harsh words or a belittling tone, your inner child might be craving a kind, supportive adult who speaks to them with respect. You can speak to your inner child that way now. Go somewhere quiet and, out loud, tell your inner child all of the things they deserved to hear back in the day: “You’re so special.” “I love you so much.” “You were right.” 2. Get to know your inner child by quietly listening in the hard moments. Another common wound from childhood is not feeling seen. Even if we knew intellectually that we were loved, we simply didn’t feel like people saw who we really were, or just didn’t care. So now, as an adult, you can do a lot of healing simply by listening to your inner child. How do they react when things get hard? What are their fears? What makes them happy? Learn to pay attention. 3. Indulge your inner child, do what they want to do. Once you have a better understanding of what makes your inner child happy, do those things as often as you can. We often deny our inner child in favor of being the adults we feel expected to be, but when our inner child is ignored, their needs only become more pronounced. This might look like feelings of restlessness, identity confusion, irritation or hopelessness, all of which are the direct result of the disconnect between our needs and our behavior. When the two don’t line up, we are sure to experience discomfort and despair. 4. Stand up for your inner child when others say things that insult them. You can also make your inner child a high priority by standing up for them when they are insulted or belittled in some way, even if it’s indirectly. If someone calls you “too sensitive,” and that is something your wounded inner child is all too used to hearing, let that person know that you disagree and don’t appreciate hearing that. Let your inner child know that you won’t be silent in the face of their diminishment anymore. Loving Your Inner Child Dealing with childhood wounds is hard, but it’s absolutely possible. On a basic level, healing a wounded inner child is all about learning to love the child that you used to be. Even if you were weird or shy or loud or “difficult.” You were still lovable, and it’s possible to reach back in time and show that child the love they deserved. You have that power. So let’s get started. If your childhood wounds make you feel like you don’t know yourself, check out my “Who Am I?” Bundle . Sign up to get access to a completely free worksheet and video training on figuring out who you are. A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted .

Can I Go to Therapy Even If I Don't Know What's Wrong?

OK, I won’t leave you hanging in suspense on this one. If you’re asking yourself “Can I go to therapy?” the answer is: absolutely yes. Therapy is for everyone. Therapy is for people with mental illnesses and people looking to break generational cycles and people struggling with self-esteem and people who want to improve themselves. Therapy is for literally everyone, and if you ask me, there’s never a bad time to start therapy. It’s OK Not to Know What’s Wrong Some people start therapy because they know they’re depressed. They can’t get out of bed, they can’t feel anything and they just know it’s depression . But that isn’t the case for everyone. And that’s OK. You don’t have to know all the answers to get started. Let’s read that again: you don’t have to know all the answers to get started. That’s actually the therapist’s job. Not to figure out what’s wrong with you because there’s nothing wrong with who you are as a person, but to help you identify your biggest struggles (and strengths) and equip you to overcome them (using your strengths). The truth is, most people don’t know their exact diagnosis or anything like that when they start therapy. They just know that they’re miserable or scared or dysfunctional in some way and they want help. It’s OK if you’re in the same boat. Whose Approval Are You Seeking When You Ask “Can I Go To Therapy?” Something you might want to ask yourself if you’re wondering “Can I go to therapy?” is this: whose approval are you seeking? A lot of people want to know that they won’t be judged if they start therapy, and sometimes there are very specific people whose judgment we fear the most. Sometimes it’s a parent or a caregiver, sometimes it’s a partner, it can even be a close friend or coworker. We love these people, and we want them to think highly of us, and because there is still some societal stigma attached to therapy, we worry about what they’ll think. It’s OK to care what others think, but I just want to remind you that your own approval is enough. Seriously, if something is good enough for you, it’s good enough, period. If this doesn’t feel true, try placing your hand over your heart, closing your eyes and saying it out loud. Take a few deep breaths and say it again. Try to feel this truth in your body. Your approval is enough. 7 Journal Prompts to Prepare You for Your First Therapy Appointment If you’re still unsure about whether it’s really OK for you to start therapy, try using these journal prompts to help you sift through your thoughts: 1. If it went perfectly, therapy would look like… (describe). 2. What kinds of strengths are required to start therapy? How does therapy make me strong instead of weak? (Hint: therapy requires a lot of strength, and you can do this!) 3. My ideal therapist is… (describe). 4. What are 10 possible benefits of therapy? 5. Why am I hesitating to start therapy? What am I afraid of? (It’s OK to be afraid; this prompt is just meant to help you to explore your feelings, not to shame you for them!) 6. What struggles am I facing right now? How could therapy potentially help with those struggles? 7. My approval is all I need. If I think something is good for me, that approval is enough. (Continue affirming yourself, maybe exploring why your approval doesn’t always feel like enough, even though it is.) You’re OK, Therapy Is For Everyone If you’re still unsure about starting therapy, that’s OK. I get it. It’s a big step and the stigma surrounding therapy doesn’t make the choice to start any easier. It’s OK to be struggling with this decision. But I promise, no matter what’s going on, no matter your reason for wanting to start therapy, it’s OK. Your problems may not be the biggest problems in the world, but why does that mean they don’t matter? Why does that mean you don’t deserve help? You are just as deserving of help and guidance as anyone else, even if you don’t know what’s wrong or feel like nothing’s wrong at all. Therapy is an amazing tool for growth, peace of mind and healing, and it’s open to everyone. If you need a little more of a push to start something so new and scary, why not join the Finding the Courage to Try 5-Day Email Challenge ? It’s completely free and it can help you find your courage so you aren’t held back by your fears of failure (or of success). A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted . If you’re ready to start therapy, check out Mighty Contributor Allison Faraclas’ guide for how to find a therapist.