I distinctly recall a scene in the movie “As Good As It Gets” where Helen Hunt realizes how bitter she allowed herself to become.  The scene sticks out in my mind because of how Helen recognized the bitterness within her.  In a tearful confession to her mother, she admitted that she found herself envious of a happy couple holding hands on the subway.  Upon reflection, she felt that everything in her life was moving in the wrong direction. It wasn’t about the couple but the loss of the dream of being happily married and that not happening. While this watershed moment revealed a deep loneliness, it also illuminated her need to heal. Hence, healing shifts bitter to better.  As you begin to heal your wounds, you release the pressure valve that traps your pain inside.  That release exhales freedom as it unearths a thick layer of agony.






Have you ever had a moment when you saw yourself from the outside and grimaced with embarrassment recalling this pivotal memory?  In 7th grade, I remember that my grandmother pointed out the constant scowl contorting my face wherever we went out together.  One day, we went to a mechanic shop tucked away in a barren field with tires and rubbish to get my grandmother’s car fixed.  Being off in a wooded area away from my friends at the mall, I felt annoyed and bothered by this inconvenience.  To be nice to me, the mechanic tried to make polite conversation.  In response to his questions, I rolled my eyes and stuck up my upper lip in disgust.


To this day, the hurt on his face by my rudeness remains etched in my memory.  But, for the first time in that interaction, I saw myself from the outside looking in.  Although I didn’t like it, that frown reared its ugly head on and off for a decade.






As I travel back to that time in my life, I realize now that I felt bitter about all of the changes in my life with no acknowledgment from my family about how everything in my life fell away. In that time, my hamster died, my parents finalized their divorce, and my body changed with the onset of puberty marking the end of childhood.  Because talking about things with your children wasn’t the norm in the 80s, my family continued life as usual.  Here is an article that reflects that style of parenting:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/talking-about-death-to-kids/2021/08/13/2c2fbcf2-efd1-11eb-a452-4da5fe48582d_story.html



But my inner self didn’t continue. Frozen in time, I remained angry and confused into my early 20s.  Not able to identify this pain within me, I endured life with a seemingly happy persona on the outside that steeped negative feelings on the inside.  And, from time to time, the pain bubbled up to the surface and shot out. But mostly, it remained corked.  Although healing shifts bitter to better, not being able to identify that you are in pain leaves you clogged with rage.  Without knowing you are in pain, you cannot heal.  Read more about this time in my life here:  https://tracinicolesmith.com/the-spiritual-awakening-emergence/






Fast Forward


Upon my graduation from college, I added “being confused” to the recipe of the disaster brewing inside.  In many ways, the fact that college life ended doused me in raging inferno of denial. As I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, the fire scorched me as I crossed the finish line.  While some people feel unconquerable as they embark on the voyage of young adulthood, the vapors of uncertainty disintegrated my ability to transition.


That summer post-graduation, I had weeks of darkness in my room as the honey-drenched sun tempted me with its sweetness to venture out. Unlike other earners of a B.A. who felt proud, I felt regretful.  Although I had a strong second half of college, overall, I worked at half-mast.  I skipped classes, turned in lackluster assignments, and ignored opportunities to learn about different professions.  As I tossed and turned in my bed 23 hours a day that season, I felt darkness, despair, and deep regret for my actions and non-actions.


With each passing day, I felt heavier and heavier.   The sounds of excitement and anticipation about the future that most graduates feel alluded me.   Disappointment resounded within the corridors of my broken heart.


Eventually, my now-departed best friend found me a job.  With a reason to get out of bed, I popped up and braved each day.  Unsure of my next right move, I took any move, which propelled me to keep moving forward.




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Although the load became lighter, the rock of Gibraltar still uncomfortably rested upon my chest.  Within that year, I started graduate school, accepted a job teaching children with Autism, and sought out my first therapist.  Not realizing at the time that taking these crucial steps forward after graduation fueled the flow to commence, I started living again.


In the beginning, venom spewed out of me during every session with my therapist.  Without realizing it, I had industrial strength anger tucked away that burst out at the first chance it had to breathe.  Recounting my pain, old tears seared my cheeks every session as I began to feel all of the repressed feelings.  Naturally, as the universe so aptly provides, triggers danced around me in the school system daring me to feel more.


Over time, the anger subsided. The tears rained week after week as I relived some dark times.  These new tears represented the pain of past and enlightened me as how long I suffered.  Healing shifts bitter to better.  And, it is the toughest thing you will do. But it also releases you from a life-sentence of living in pain. And, I wanted to live unencumbered.


Therapy is not for the faint of heart.  As you drain the emotional charge out of the past, processing and feeling your emotions catapults you into the present. In truth, living with the past tangled into your present will affect your future.  Although a laborious task, healing opens the gateway to living your best life and is the pathway to your freedom.