Going back through the past and owning it as part of myself has been a hard journey. However, I think it is completely necessary to face all of the ugly parts of ourselves but also truly feeling good about the good parts of yourself. Admitting all of it has been very healing and has broken some of those walls I have put up in my mind from repressing what I thought was bad about myself.
I have really been dragged through the mud these past few months. Though I may have reached a low point in my life, I feel that it accelerated the uphill healing that I needed. This is because for most of my life I felt numb. I would see horrible things and have horrible things occur to me and my family… but I felt nothing. Because of this numbness I started to self harm. I was about 13. I thought for some reason that it would open up whatever was blocking my emotions. Plot twist… it didn’t.
Self harming made me more closed off and I quickly fell into one of my first long depression spells. I did not care about what I looked like anymore. I blanked out for most of the day at school. No one ever mentioned anything, or maybe others assumed something was going on at home. I was just floating through life.
I remember the adults around me were always explaining to me how my life was going to go and how I have to do this and think about a college major. I most definitely needed to heal before I could run but no one knew what was going on in my head. I barely knew because it was my normal. I was starting to feel overwhelmed. Then came my anxiety.
I kept feeling like my heart was going to explode and though I was fit, I was running out of breath even going up a flight of stairs to a class I was stressed about. When I would hear heavy critiques from my mom or if a random guy was catcalling me at the mall, I would get this same feeling. The only things I felt at the time was this void or the feeling I was having a heart attack.
One day the dark cloud went away, and I went along with my seemingly normal life like nothing had ever happened. Years passed and I was suddenly 16. By this time, I really pushed away any thoughts I had that might upset the people around me, like my family or mentors. I looked like how I thought they wanted me to look and I did what I thought they wanted me to do. I received a lot of positive praise for this as well. I had this false feeling of peace. I still had the void and this numbness but life was good, I had no complaints.
When I went away to college and spent more time alone in my single dorm room, the dark cloud returned. Combined with stress and being at a college I did not want to be at, surrounded by people who had completely different views than me at a small catholic college, I became depressed again. I would just study and go back to my dorm without eating to just sleep in the dark. I performed well in school my first year but felt I was barely hanging on. I think my summer job as a lifeguard with all of my best friends that summer truly saved me to return me back to my “normal” self.
Up until this point, I thought it was completely normal to have constant negative thoughts abut myself. I did not like a single thing about myself and I did not know why. I constantly wanted to (and still do most times) be invisible. I thought I was not worthy of anything I wanted and I was not excited about life.
Sophomore year, the depression came back. Classes were difficult, I was realizing more and more I did not align with anyone I was spending my time with. I did not feel I had a safe space anywhere. Though shit was bad, this time the depression came with all of my emotions. I felt as if all of my repressed emotions over the years were spilling out and were out of my control. I was crying all of the time. Lying about why I was crying because it would come out randomly in class or in meetings. I was having constant migraines, neck and back pain, and grinding my teeth. My health was at its all time lowest point.
And though I was experiencing emotional roller coasters all day, deep down I was happy because I felt more human. I felt so much better to be able to genuinely cry and experience emotions other than that void. There was still so much fear in me but I was beginning my healing process. Memories from my past were coming up and I felt like I wasn’t blacked out all day. I felt present in my body. Through this intense period of my life, I decided to make major changes. I transferred colleges and made the decision to go against my parent’s wishes. I hung out with people I liked and decided to cultivate a life I wanted.
Beginning of junior year. A friend from life guarding committed suicide. I grieved. It was a wake up call that I need to do everything in my power to help myself when I am feeling my mental health is not quite right. I told myself I would not be ashamed anymore or tell myself it was not a big deal. I would reach out for help no matter what my pride and ego told me. I learned how powerful our connections with other people are. I slowly scraped myself off the ground and decided to keep moving forward.
Senior year. I was appreciating myself more. I was setting boundaries with the people in my life. I felt so happy this year. I was feeling accomplished and I felt ready to bloom into my next self. However, I was still unsure about what my next self would look like, and I thought the answer would magically come to me if I waited long enough. I was going to therapy. I was taking care of myself.
Now. I have been learning, healing, taking steps forward and steps back for the past two years since I’ve been in grad school. I have accomplished things I never thought were possible and I am excited about the future. I am thinking about peace corps and yoga teacher training and more schooling and just how to live my life the way I want to. I understand my depression will always come and go but I can always rise above it. It can be a part of me but it does not have to define me. I have permission to grow. I have permission to heal. I can be whoever I want to be.
I love my thick afro
I love my skin
I love my hairy legs
I love my arms
I love my scar on my breast
I love how flexible I am
I love how far I can run
I love my voice
I love my eyes
I am smart
I am worthy
I am whole