I remember sitting in the dirt with my knees hugged into my chest. I had pulled over near a canyon close to my home, and I was staring across it trying to absorb everything from my conversation with the woman from suicide prevention hotline (I wish I could remember her name….).
I was exhausted. Mentally, physically….. I just stared over this canyon into the mountains (for what seemed like forever), wondering how I was going to pull myself out of this one.
This beautiful stranger had ignited a tiny piece of hope in me. She lifted me out of that dark hole just enough to see the light, although…. I wasn’t sure how I was going to move forward. Her words rang over and over in my mind “Who you are RIGHT NOW is good enough. You have worth. You are worthy of love and happiness despite your perceived ‘flaws’ or mistakes.”
I believed her. Even though this was an entirely new concept to me…. I believed her – and I clung to those words like a lifeline.
My Breaking Point
I think it’s important to share what my life was like leading up to “the call”. It wasn’t just a bad week, or month, that drove me to delirium…. This breakdown was the product of years of insecurities and feelings of shame. Years of negative self talk and perfection seeking – fearing I wouldn’t be loved or accepted for anything else. Years of an eating disorder/addiction that I thought I could keep under control and stop anytime I wanted to. I might as well have tied a bag of bricks around my neck and dragged them around with me everywhere I went. That’s what it felt like I had been doing all along…. until the bricks became too numerous, and I couldn’t take one step further. I was suffocating, and something had to give.
I had reached my breaking point.
Can I make a suggestion? If any of you are struggling with feelings of unworthiness, shame, low self-esteem, addiction, depression, frequent anxiety, anger, bitterness, and ALL OTHER THINGS THAT DESTROY YOU, and you’re not seeking change or help, because “I’m just fine” or “Things will never change”…. PLEASE consider yourself at your breaking point RIGHT NOW. Don’t wait until you find yourself driving circles in your car, wondering how you can possibly take the mental and emotional torment one more day. That place is dangerous. That place sucks. DO NOT get to that place.
The Turning Point
I knew something had to change if I wanted to get better. You know that saying “Nothing will ever change until you do”? or “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome”. I hadn’t really done anything different in the past 5 years to help me get out of the dark place I was sinking further into. I literally just relied on medications and my own shallow, fragile willpower to pull me out of this nastiness. No skills, no professional direction, very little change whatsoever in how I thought about myself, the way I did things, the habits that enslaved me…. It was such a vicious cycle. I had finally reached a point where I needed to do something different to upset that pattern.
I HAD to do something or I would break….
And the first step I decided to take was publicly open up about my struggles. To start this blog. I felt like this step was the most crucial (for me), because addiction and shame flourish in the dark. The more I tried to keep it hidden, the more shameful I felt…. and the more shameful I felt, the more engrossed I became in my negative thoughts and patterns…..and I spiraled faster and faster down that lonely path. Keeping it hidden meant I was accountable to no one. Zero support system. Just my own distorted belief that who I was is despicable, that I wasn’t capable of change, and that there was something deeply and profoundly wrong with me.
Eat the elephant one bite at a time
I used to really struggle with the “All at once” or “All or nothing” mentality. I thought everything had to change RIGHT NOW, whole package, BOOM! done. It took me too long to accept that change happens over time – in small, steady, and simple ways. I had to learn to be patient and forgiving of myself and to be truly proud of my progress – though it seemed slow and hardly significant. By being consciously mindful of those little successes, I was re-wiring a part of me that had been neglected and broken for so long. The part that was positive and hopeful. The part that felt a sense of accomplishment and pride.
The part that liked who I am.
My self perception had been skewed. I didn’t understand mental illness like I thought I did (and I thought I understood it pretty well). I had this concept of myself where all my ‘flaws’ and attributes were uniformly stored into a little box labeled “identity”, and I was unable to see that there was so much more space of ‘me’ to explore. I wasn’t aware of that space, because I was giving all my thoughts and attention to my ‘flaws’ – to all the things I didn’t like about myself, and all the things I did ‘wrong’.
Basically, I was too preoccupied with watering my weeds, rather than growing my garden. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it doesn’t take a whole lot for weeds to take over any garden or yard. They grow almost effortlessly, whereas it takes time, patience, and a lot of care for the beautiful and fruitful substances to bloom and flourish. Just like you would pick or spray weeds from your garden, it is equally important to remove the negative thoughts in your mind before they overpower all that is good. The most effective way to do this ( and I’m just going to regurgitate a concept I’ve frequently mentioned in my posts here) is……wait for it….. MINDFULNESS. Be aware of how a certain action or habit makes you feel, take notice of and feel all the sensations associated in that moment, then move on. Don’t dwell, don’t talk negatively about yourself, and don’t absorb it into your identity. By doing this, you’re training your brain to get rid of ‘weeds’ and give more of yourself to your garden. It takes time and practice, but this method has been a game changer for me. Go take a class or read a book about it if you’re unsure of how to do it, or why it’s so effective!
I’m also going to take a sec to recommend (once again) this book by Brene Brown (I’ve heard they’re all great, and I intended to read many many more)! This one, “Men, Women and Worthiness” was also a huge game changer for me. I was finally able to pinpoint the root of many (not all) of my issues. My anxiety, my low self worth, my anger…. It all came back to how I viewed myself as a person. I had no idea I was harboring so much shame and self hate.
There’s one part of the book where Brene’ says that shame does LITERALLY NOTHING to help us become better or happier people. It does not inspire change, it does not activate positive thought patterns, and it does not direct us towards progress. The only thing it WILL do is generate more shame. “Shame breeds shame” until we view all our flawed actions and habits as part of our identity – allowing little hope for change. That type of thinking is crap you guys! Trust me, I spent years with that tunnel vision not understanding (or believing) anything else. But there is SO MUCH MORE to you – to your life!! There’s so much more space of your identity to be explored, and your identity will change with every season of life. I’m not completely the same person now as I was 10 years ago…..and thank goodness 😂 You’ll let go of some things, pick up different traits, develop new beliefs and understanding, and discover new talents. It’s such an exciting and beautiful concept to finally grasp
Creating a Purpose
This past year has been a whirlwind for me. I’ve been recovering, discovering, understanding, progressing, stumbling, falling, picking myself up again,
moving…. slowly inching forward…., standing still, and rediscovering all over again.
Good hell, life is hard.
But, as hard as it gets, I’ve learned (and continue to learn) the most valuable lessons along the way. The funny thing is; I never would have had the privilege of being the recipient of such beautiful, meaningful lessons and experiences had it not been for the unique and specific trials in my life.
I used to think everything happened for a reason. I thought God had personally handed all of these things to me for a very specific reason. And I was just waiting to figure out the purpose behind my experiences with mental illness. Like, someday I would be totally cured of all things mental, and there would be a moment where the light bulb would flash on and I’d say “THAT!! That’s the reason why I went through all that crap!” It took me until a year ago, at 31 years old, to realize that I may never be completely rid of these invasive thoughts, these anxious and sad feelings, or obsessive tendencies… and, while yes, I believe God has a plan for me, sometime life just happens, and God doesn’t always intercept because that’s part of our mortal experience and growth.
I finally realized I didn’t HAVE to have a ‘reason’ behind the trials. Instead, I could take what I’ve been through (what I go through) and create a purpose for them. Take the bag of bricks – the darkness, the struggle, the hurt and sorrow – ALL of it – and give those suckers a calling in life.
Once I was able to find/create something positive from the negative things that plagued my life for so long, I slowly felt their grip on me loosen a little. It was so empowering!
And, just like I mentioned earlier, it didn’t just happen overnight. It’s been one ugly, painstakingly long road. Slow. Full of mistakes. But DANG! It’s one worth taking.
It’s beautiful, unique, thorny, broken, unexpected….and it’s mine. It makes me who I am, and I have become a better person because of it. And through it, I have been able to empathize and connect with people in ways I never imagined.
You may be going through something right now. Maybe it’s similar to what I’ve been through. Maybe it’s something completely different. It doesn’t matter…. What matters is the hurt and pain associated with your experience and how you’re getting through it. Believe that you’re strong. Believe that good things will come. Maybe not immediately, but they WILL come. Believe in change. Believe in discovery that will lead you on a path full of experience and growth and a deeper understanding and love for the people around you. Believe that you have something to offer this world, and that your experience will prepare you to help others who struggle the same.
Believe all these things because they’re true.
Who you are is beautiful, this journey is uniquely yours, and you have something no one else has to offer this aching world. If you haven’t got it figured out yet, that’s okay 😊 Take time to discover what it is….
Then go create your purpose.