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What if it’s OK to “just be”.

by Matt Pappas

What an interesting concept! Allowing yourself to “just be”, to just rest your mind. What if it’s not a bad thing to give yourself a break, relax, and be alright with the idea of having nothing to do and nowhere to go?

To me, that’s about as foreign as asking me to stand on 1 leg for 15 minutes because that means something amazing is going to happen afterwards. Literally it’s the same thing as that, neither one made any sense to me until tonight. Well that whole standing on 1 leg thing still seems pretty ridiculous, so I’m not going to do that. Hell I couldn’t if I wanted too probably.

Talking in a recent session, I was lamenting the fact that the last 36 hours or so have been just unbelievably tough for me. I had some triggers hit me out of the blue that I wasn’t expecting, and then depression started and I was unable to fight my way out of it. This overwhelming exhaustion and feeling low just completely stopped me in healing tracks.

I’m the type of person that needs to keep busy to feel like I’m being productive. If I’m not doing something that occupies my mind in some way, then I’m wasting time. Even if I’m just playing my bass, cleaning the house, or going for a walk, I feel like that’s being productive. I’m using my mind to focus on playing, or I’m exercising to try and get healthier. Cleaning the house yields obvious results; the house is organized and the dust bunnies are fewer than when I started.

It’s the same thing for me in my recovery journey from abuse, bullying, and invalidation from my mother. If I’m actively writing, doing a podcast, reading a book on recovery, or anything like that, I feel like I’m being proactive and productive. I’m doing my part to heal. It’s literally an obsession of mine. I have a future post coming up about obsessions in recovery that I will link here when posted.

That Go Go Go, Do Do Do, mindset leads to me shaming myself when I’m not actively doing something that I feel is conducive to my trauma recovery. That cycle of non stop “doing” can eventually lead to burn out. That is something I cannot afford to have happen, no burnout allowed! More on that in a minute.

My recovery is too important to my overall well-being, my future, and my entire life, to allow myself to fall into any type of burnout and just give up. So something has to give, and that’s what I think I learned tonight. If I don’t learn to “just be” and realize it’s OK to not GO GO GO and DO DO DO, all the time, I will burnout.

Those words hit me like a truck and I’m just now starting to process them so that’s why I’m writing this post.  If there’s one thing I’m fearful of at this point in my life, it’s burnout. However, it took someone else who’s looking at me from the outside in to bring this to my attention. I’m so laser focused on recovery that I might not ever have realized the path I’m going down before it was too late.

I spent 30+ years unconsciously ignoring my past and where did it ultimately get me? Nowhere.  So then starting last summer I went to the other end of the spectrum and I’ve been nonstop healing and focusing on little else but healing ever since. Where could this path take me? Potentially to burnout and the feeling of all those years of not healing being a waste and then all this time of healing being a waste too. This cannot happen so it’s time to alter my approach a bit.

I recently was told, “the real healing happens in the scary middle“. That idea seems so foreign to me but if I stop and think about it for a bit, it actually makes sense. Here’s why…

My mind is going constantly, thinking of what to do next, and I don’t give it a chance to just rest. To just sit there and feel what I’m feeling and accept it. It’s OK to have off days. It’s OK to feel depressed sometimes. It’s OK that triggers hit and I can’t always just power through and keep going. It’s also OK that I don’t understand every single trigger right now, and also that I can’t control triggers. They just happen when they happen.

If I can allow my mind to rest, to take some time to just chill out and accept where I am right now, I can come out of that span of time feeling more rejuvenated, focused, and able to continue my healing journey in a more effective manor. I lower the risk of burnout and increase the chances of continued success.

That’s not to say that I just swing the other way and completely stop doing everything productive in healing, and end up laying around all day doing nothing. It’s about finding a happy medium, finding that scary middle where I have to let myself go and feel what needs felt, and rest.

In reality, and in time, I’ll end up feeling more in control, more rested, and more focused.

So take some time, allow yourself to rest and just chill. Take a nap, take a walk, catch up on your favorite TV show, or whatever floats your boat.  Do something to give your mind a break, because you deserve that. Revel in your healing to date and feel refreshed to keep pushing forward.



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Phoenix Kelly June 13, 2016 - 10:53 am

I’m the same way. And I’m in the same place in my recovery. It’s hard to hear that we need to be ok with being ok. I promise you, it does get better and healing does occur in the “ok-ness” of what we assume is doing nothing. I hear ya friend. You are not alone. Great post.

Matt June 13, 2016 - 11:05 am

Thanks so much Phoenix! I’ve never been very good at Just Being. When I try to do that I still find my mind just racing and thinking about what I should do, could be doing, or will do. I’ll figure it out eventually because it’s important for me. Thank you for your inspiration and being such an amazing survivor! #YouRock

Lori June 14, 2016 - 1:49 pm

Thank you for sharing your post, Matt. It’s what I needed to read/hear this morning. It has always been very hard for me to just relax and allow myself to do nothing but relaxing activities, things that don’t seem very productive. I have to learn to “let go and let God” handle things, especially things that I have no control over. I realize how fearful I am of going through “burnout” again. I need to accept the fact that I cannot DO Do Do, Go Go Go anymore like I did when I was on those 30+ years of prescription drugs that kept me going and doing all the time because I felt I just wasn’t good enough and no matter what I did or how much I did, it just never seemed to be enough. I really need to be careful not to fall into that same mindset again, so that burnout does not happen. Giving myself permission to “just be” and feel what I need to is something I must remind myself to practice………….. learning to “just be,” and that it’s okay to do that.

Matt June 14, 2016 - 6:22 pm

Thank you Lori for sharing some of your story! You are so right, we do need to just accept and enjoy down time and give our minds a break. Like you I’m always just going and going and I end up crashing hard and just wearing out. Thank you so much for the validation for being honest and genuine. You are amazing and inspiring!

Kathy June 13, 2016 - 9:19 pm

As I read your post, I could feel my mind racing to read, until you slowed down. I am constantly on a roller coaster of thoughts. First it’s one thing then another. Whether it has to do with work or recovery, my mind races. I have found that “time off” is essential to my recovery and my brain. Thank you for a positive post validating my thoughts.


Matt June 13, 2016 - 10:33 pm

Kathy my friend, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Yes I most definitely validate you and you are so not alone. I find it so hard to just sit and be, I really struggle with it as I talked about. If I don’t overanalyze and plan I feel like I’m not being productive. Then I sit and just be and then the cycle starts all over again.

You Rock Kathy! Support and Encouragement to you!

Inspiring Yourself and Others in Trauma Recovery - Surviving My Past June 15, 2016 - 10:44 am

[…] yes, I am laser focused on my recovery but that it’s also important to take care of yourself, give yourself a break, and practice self care so you don’t burn out. I know I’m not expert on self care, in […]

Tina June 16, 2016 - 10:51 am

What works best for you? Planning those times in advance to rest or waiting until your mind/body tell you it’s time for a break and honoring that?

Matt June 16, 2016 - 5:00 pm

I think I’m still determining that to be honest. The planner in me tells me to schedule time to rest and do nothing, but that doesn’t always work out the way I think it will. On the flip side, I can tell when my mind has had enough, totally drained and my brain is mush, in which case I know it’s time to chill for a bit and rejuvenate. I would like to say that I will be able to successfully plan to do nothing, but who knows.

Joy Richardson June 17, 2016 - 7:07 pm

This is good, I support you in giving your mind some rest. Resting is productive too!

What being a survivor with OCD feels like - Surviving My Past June 19, 2016 - 10:01 am

[…] important, very important, but I’m just not great at it. Yet! I’ll get there though. Otherwise I will risk burn out, and that is not an option I can afford to have […]

Don Shetterly December 6, 2016 - 1:15 pm

One of the things that trauma does to us is it speeds up the nervous system – well, maybe Revs it up is more appropriate. We learn to run from the tiger and to flee the tiger out in the jungle, but even when the tiger is no longer actually chasing us, our mind and nervous system and body act as if it is. This is a very real and biological impact that begins when the trauma started. It is the process of healing that un-revs us and brings us into greater peace. If you’re noticing it, that’s a good thing because the more we notice, the more we can learn to make different choices like what you are doing and contemplating.

To me, to “just be” means that instead of fighting everything that I see as deficient within me or that I hate, I start to look at it from a different viewpoint. I see it for what it is and begin to detach (not disconnect or numb) from it, so I can objectively say, “is this working for me”. If it is not working, then I say, “so, what will work – let me try something different”. Believe me, I kept repeating the things that didn’t work for me until it brought me all the way down to nothing.

I still remember talking with someone one time about my memory. In the Conversion Disorder, I lost my memory completely and had to get it back. To this day though, I struggle with the little things. Yes, I realize we all struggle as we get older, but I actually fear what my memory is going to be like in a few more years. One therapist looked and me and said, “can you be okay with that”. Of course, it is a difficult one for me to answer because it really frightens me at times and it frustrates me. Some days it is better and some days I am slow on recall. I’m learning to “just be” okay with it because the more I stress about it, the worse it gets. This is not an easy one for me and something I face frequently.

“Waking The Tiger” by Peter Levine is an excellent book that explains more of what I’m referring to with trauma and I think it really puts healing in a healthy and balanced perspective.

TheWorryGames June 14, 2017 - 5:24 am

Inspirational post Matt. Great reminder for all of us, especially those living with mental health issues.


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