At RIVA, we are fortunate to be surrounded by strong women at every level of the organization. This year’s Women’s History Month theme, Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope, is an opportunity for us to pause and thank our frontline healthcare workers who have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. In honor of these incredible women, we asked our Portfolio Support Analyst, Samantha “Sammy” Wahl to share her thoughts on what providing healing and promoting hope means to her.
Throughout history, women have stood steadfast in the face of adversity with courage and strength. Their stories have inspired many to overcome their own personal struggles, and to not fear the challenge or the pain, but to accept them as an essential piece of the puzzle composing our lives. Fitting with Nora Ephron’s mantra, so many women have “be[come] the heroine of their li[ves], not the victim”, and used their darkest moments as inspiration to heal and rise like phoenixes to new heights. I find these words greatly resonate with my own life story as I consider the pain of my past, the joy of my present circumstances, and the excitement for my future.
In my past, I experienced traumas that drastically impacted the trajectory of my adolescent and teenage years. As a result of my pain, I developed mental health struggles that led to physical health damage and necessitated significant treatment. Though my scars ran deep, the healing I found enabled me to discover that a willingness to meet your inner darkness and to develop an understanding of it can lead to the most glorious peace, self-respect, and compassion for others. To speak metaphorically, through healing, the pain of the night fades and meets the joy of the morning.
As I now live life healed, I frequently consider ways in which I can share the hope I have found with those around me. To advocate for the mental health of others, I share aspects of my own former struggles and how I found healing, along with participating in awareness walks sponsored by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). When speaking to others, I emphasize the importance of speaking about one’s pain – not keeping it hidden or attempting to numb it. To find healing, it is essential to be gentle with oneself and to not shy away from support – but to instead embrace it wholly by those who offer it.
One of the keys to healing is connecting to compassionate and empathetic healthcare providers that understand pain and can provide encouragement on the journey to restoration. Our frontline workers – healthcare providers and caregivers – act selflessly each day to ensure those who are hurting receive the support and medical care they need to recover. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all how rapidly and radically life circumstances can be altered, and that mental health can suffer at the hands of unexpected and distressing change. Frontline workers in physical and mental healthcare continue to fight to bring awareness to and understanding of the hidden battles that have rocked the nation during the pandemic – which are those of increased individual mental health emergencies.
With an increase of mental health emergencies in our society, it is vital to recognize that our frontline workers are not immune to the struggles impacting so many. In fact, some of them are hurting the most. Now more than ever, we must prioritize kindness and compassion and recognize that many around us could be experiencing substantial mental health challenges. If you feel able, be a listening ear for others. Show up for those that you know are hurting, and do not be afraid to share your care openly. Similarly, be there for yourself as you are there for others. Do not try to pour from an empty cup; find peace daily through moments of stillness in meditation, prayer, and/or deep breathing exercises. As you open your heart to learning of the pain others are facing, recognize when you yourself need additional support and do not be afraid to ask for it. At the end of the day, remember that we are all connected in some way. As we heal ourselves, we heal those around us.
Join us in thanking Sammy for her beautiful words and courage sharing her story in hopes of inspiring others around her. Read more about Samantha’s journey in pursuit of mental health awareness and healing here.