Finding freedom in facing pain: Amy Dalton at TEDxLaJolla


Translator: Paulina Segovia
Reviewer: Denise RQ Søren Kierkegaard once said: “Life can only be understood backwards
but must be lived forwards.” With these words in mind,
I want to tell you my story, and the pain, shame, anger, and fear that I had to walk through
in order to move forward. For the first 21 years
of my life I self-medicated. Food, drugs, alcohol, anything to cope with my stress, my fear, and my painful memories from my past. And it nearly killed me. Growing up in an alcoholic family, I was taught early on to keep my mouth shut
and to hide my true feelings. There was an unspoken pain
that we all knew was going on, but nobody was talking about. Little did I know
that the repression of painful emotions is so common in our society today. It can be linked to depression,
addiction, and even suicide. According to stress statistics,
77% of us are stressed out, and over 40 million people
are suffering from depression in the US. And 50% of those 40 million
will never get help and won’t even talk to anybody
about it. 25 million people
are suffering from addiction, and only 2.5 million will ever get help. We have a problem,
and the problem is pain. And by pain, I don’t mean
physical pain, I mean emotional disease, those uncomfortable, overwhelming,
icky feelings all of us want to avoid. We’re all here together tonight,
we’re dressed up, we’re smiling, some of us are probably a little bit cold
and tired at this point, but if we scratched
just a little below the surface, in every single one of our lives,
we would find some form of suffering. It’s a part of being human
and the bottom line is that none of us want to face
these painful emotions such as deep sadness,
grief, shame, and fear. So we avoid them. But unfortunately,
with all of our self-medicating efforts, there’s still a deep rooted pain
and fear that are buried, and it is only until we uncover that pain, let it surface, and walk through fear, can we begin to find healing, relief, and maybe the enjoyment of being alive. Now, if there were a PhD
in feeling avoidance, I would be magna cum laude. Some of the ways I’ve avoided my feelings are by being a perfectionist,
being a control freak, overspending, overworking, overexercising, overeating, doing drugs, drinking, hiding behind humor, sarcasm. And of course, spending hours stalking
people on Facebook and watching Netflix. This is what my pain looks like. At age 9, my home life
felt out of control, so I didn’t know
what to do with my feelings. So I ate. And I ate a lot. Fearing of being unaccepted, I wore the mask
of the outrageous fat girl because I figured
if I can make fun of myself first, then maybe other people
wouldn’t make fun of me. But no matter how much food
I ate, the pain was still there, and my insecurities only grew. Starting highschool, overweight,
self-esteem was low. I was a prime candidate for crystal meth. You know, the fat girl’s drug. But, I’m not alone. 9 out of 10 people
with a substance abuse problem started before the age of 18, and I was one of them. I lost 25 pounds in a month. For the first time
all of my insecurities were gone. I felt cool, and confident, and beautiful. I had new found hobbies like, organizing my drawers all night
and color coordinating my clothes. But really what meth did is it eased the pressure that I felt
to be perfect, to get straight A’s, and to get into a good college. I remember I would stay up
until 3 in the morning smoking meth and practicing SAT booklets. So I graduated high school
at the top of my class with a full ride scholarship to college in a 95-pound emaciated body and a massive drug addiction. In college, everything fell apart. I know you’re probably shocked, but meth wasn’t enough
anymore to ease my pain, so I added heavy alcohol abuse
and binge eating again. And I entered into a very dark and shameful period of my life. In order to hide and support my addiction I lied, I cheated, and I stole. By age 21 I’ve failed out of college, I’ve been arrested multiple times
from airports to shopping centers, and I’ve lost literally everything. The only thing I gained during this time, was an extra 80 pounds. That’s another picture. But you know what? Skinny or heavy,
the emotional pain that I was in could no longer be avoided
by anything external. The gig was up. I admitted I had a problem. My immature ways of coping
with my pain were not working. Although I was terrified
to face all of the feelings that I’ve been spending my whole life
running from, I was faced with two options. Dying or living through my pain. And I chose to live. You know, I always thought
if anyone knew the whole truth about me, like the whole truth,
they would never love me or accept me, but what I found was
that it was actually the opposite. The more that I shared honestly,
and openly, and vulnerably, the more I healed, and I helped other people
to open up and share, and heal, too. The truth is we need each other. And once you know it, as I found healthy ways
to cope with my emotions, I didn’t need to binge eat anymore
and I naturally lost weight. Change is painful,
and change is messy, and we each have our own messy story. I stand before you tonight
as a woman in long term of recovery from a past of addiction, shame, and fear. Over the last six years, I’ve done a lot more sharing and feeling,
and a lot less numbing and hiding, and I’ve dedicated my life to helping other people face
their fears and find freedom. And I’m here to testify
that my feelings have never killed me, even though there are still times
that I swear that they might. But living an honest life deeply connected to myself
and the world around me is all that I ever wanted,
I just didn’t know how to begin. For anyone who is currently living
with depression, stress, secrets, shame, or anything that is negatively
impacting your life, there is a way out. Over years of working with other people and learning
lots of hard lessons on my own, I’ve come up with
5 action steps for getting free. Number one, you have to admit
that you have a problem, you can’t go any further
before you do that. Number two, reach out to others
and come out of hiding. Don’t let fear and shame prevent you
from getting the help that you need. And number three, have
the willingness to recognize the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are preventing you
from reaching your full potential. Number four, be fearless
in seeking solutions, and number five, be courageous
in sharing your story with others. That is why I am here sharing
my journey with you tonight, because in doing so, it reinforces
my desire to keep growing. I am not ashamed of my past anymore, and I want to help others
to come out of hiding. We each have our own story, with fears, secrets, and pain unique to each of us. I want to present a challenge
to anyone with whom this resonates, to have the courage to face
what is blocking you from living the life that you were put on this Earth to live. If you are willing, open and honest, true freedom,
an unlimited potential, awaits. Thank you. (Applause)

10 thoughts on “Finding freedom in facing pain: Amy Dalton at TEDxLaJolla

  • It takes courage to stand up and be honest about oneself in front of a crowd. It takes a big heart to want to reach out and truly help others learn from your mistakes and look for nothing in return. You have both…courage and heart. Thanks for all you do Amy!!!

  • I understand . Pain all the same , The 12 steps , lack of power was my dilemma . Now power filled Gods Grace . My expirance most powerful program in the world . Simple . Thanks .

  • I have had feelings of passing out when in therapy or just talking to someone. I have real reasons for this from my upbringing. I started to read Primal Scream the book and gave it up after not even the first chapter. Yet I have read all the way through Alice Millerbooks . I remain intact because I recently discovered I cannot truly go direct with my repression as it does have to do with my almost dying from neglect ( and a couple of my siblings as well & almost my son from my parents) I know that repression can kill you . My doctors well know after almost 25 years of therapy finally told them what actually happened when growing up. It was a gross sense of shame that kept the truthfrom expressing itself in me and the fear. That particular fear that would regenerate what happened in my past so yes 25 years   I hope to God that you all see how powerfulyour mind is! And vulnerability is not the enemy and that the opposite is true since Iand some of my siblings were truly not wanted at birth I also have learned a few yearsago. If I ever have the time – – – – I will get better however I really believe it won't happen in this life. Although I'm not giving up.*

  • Thank you for your honesty, vulnerability and courage is sharing your story Amy! As you heal your life and share it, you are healing others too. What a beautiful spirit!

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