"STOP hating yourself for everything you aren't. START loving yourself for everything you are."
Saturday, January 12, 2013
"No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side.
Or you don't." Stephen King, "The Stand"
I've been doing a lot of reflecting recently, given the new year, on my last year and the years leading up to where I am now and the struggles I've found along the way. When doing this, I have to acknowledge right off the bat that 2012 was hard for me. As I'm sure it was for many, many people, including a lot of people I know personally. But it's part of human nature to find difficulty in understanding other peoples' struggles when our own feels so much more real; when every day feels like the very flesh of your soul is being sheared from your bones. So, until recently, this is how I viewed the world: it was a world of pain, but it was also a world in which my pain was more unbearable than anyone else's, because hey, no one could understand like I could.
Feeling this way after months and months brought me to the painful realization that I don't have it that bad. It's ignorant of me to assume the problems I go through are larger, or smaller, or of any different significance than the struggles that any other person in the world deals with day in and day out. Plato sums it up perfectly: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
Yes, very hard things have happened to me. But, as you'll all notice, I'm still here. Nothing has killed me. None of my bones are broken, my organs are functional, my grades last semester were good, and I have a job, transportation, and access to food. My life changed drastically, but it is still my life. I am still in control of my actions, emotions, and most importantly, my perspectives. Which has led me to declare 2012 to be not a year of struggle, but a year of Survival.
For each and every road block I have faced in the past year, there has been ample opportunity for me to face it, survive it, and surpass it, though I have not always seen it this way. When I was forced to withdraw from my college during my senior year it pulled the rug out from under my feet. I found my future altered and my plans destroyed, and my head was spinning so quickly that I had no idea where to start rebuilding my goals. I moved back home, and with that distance I learned that many of my friends at school were no longer interested in keeping contact through the summer months and beyond. I felt an overwhelming amount of guilt over the money I had wasted that my parents didn't have and an embarrassment over the fact that my own naivete about my graduation requirements led to my dismissal. It had been my own fault, and I couldn't handle that sort of responsibility.
I came home, got a job, loved it, hated it, quit it. I signed up for a local college to complete my degree, got a job on campus, and made plans to follow my dreams to become a physical therapist. Then the school year starts, I can't make friends, I feel alienated, garner abuse at home from a father that is mentally ill, eat eat eat and eat my feelings away, my anxiety returns, I miss the English degree I'd been working toward, my friends that I had lost, and professors I admired and knew I would never see again. It all fell on me at once, and I admittedly allowed it to. I thrived off this cloud of despair I had around me, breathing it in and out and letting it fill my vessels, my lungs, my heart. I made the worst out of every situation. Started fights with my boyfriend when they were unnecessary simply because I was scared, because I felt I wasn't worthy of the affection he gave me or the confidence he had in my abilities. I feared I had far too many problems to be admired or loved, that I was a hassle, not a help; a weight on his own struggles.
And today, I am here to say that none of that is true. None of those things that happened to me, even though they hurt, have defeated me. Honestly, the only thing keeping me from being content in the face of these bumps in the road is me. I am the one who decides how I will treat a problem. Because problems in life will always happen. As I said earlier, everyone--be they happy, sad, frustrated, weak, strong, yearning, or content--all of these people will deal with pain and hurt and frustration in their lifetime. Sometimes once a year, sometimes once a week, sometimes more than once a day. Yet, the difference between the despairing, such as myself, and those we view as content is not what happens to them, but how they deal with it when it does happen.
Until now, when faced with an issue, I reacted as if it was the end of the world. Oh God, something else, how can I handle all of this? Why am I being punished? What does God have against me? Everything, no matter what it was, came down to "why me, why me, why me." I pitied the very thought of myself, let alone my own existence. And it wasn't the instances in life that had beaten me down to this point; I had done all that dirty work on my own. I was the one who laid back and decided I wasn't worth it. I was the one who felt I didn't deserve the love that an incredibly supportive and patient partner was willingly giving to me in abundance. I was too fat, too ugly, too poor, to irresponsible, too loud, too crass, too everything for the impossibly high standards I had set for myself, as if I expected perfection and couldn't handle not being able to achieve it. I made mountains out of molehills. Canyons out of potholes in the road.
And yet, in spite of all these thoughts and negative actions and beliefs, when I reflect on them--I mean truly, meaningfully reflect on them--one fact about myself stands out: I will survive. I survived last year. I emerged at the start of this year with a new perspective, a new focus to thrive off that survival and the survival of years past. Because I have gone through things that many people don't go through, but I do not have to focus on these for negative purposes; these instances of survival are things that make me exceptional and unbelievably strong. They do not make me damaged goods, or pathetic, or an embarrassment. They do not reflect on me negatively as a person. I am a survivor of 20 years of domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse, ovarian cancer, years and years of changing schools and homes and states, and a horrendous car accident that left me unable to walk or even shower by myself for almost 4.5 months.
With each of these things, I am stronger. With each of these things I am forced to face myself and my own demons to learn just who I am and what I stand for. With all of those struggles came something positive, and for once I am going to nurture those positive things and thoughts and actions into something wholesome and purely me. When I left my school, I found another. I finalized my plans, and I know where I'm going in the next year--with room for detours, should they arise. I work in a job that doesn't earn me much money, but I am beyond thankful that I found it when I did. I love where I work, who I work with, what I do, and the institution that I belong to and what it stands for. I may just be a student, but I love the upper-level education environment and the positivity that can be found there when its employees truly believe in what they do and love doing it. I am not ashamed to say I found a counselor in my area who is helping me get back to the positive person I was when I was living away from home, and is teaching me ways to cope with living in a negative environment until I can once again become fully independent in December. For once in a very long while, I am proactive. I am breathing clean, cloudless air. I am supporting my health by running again and really focusing on my stamina and the joy that can be felt with each thud of perfectly fitting tennis shoe. I am finally beginning to remember how pleasant it feels to be soaked with beads and droplets of your own sweat and struggle and desire to succeed and push yourself beyond what you think you're capable of. I catch myself in the mirror and I think of a positive aspect of myself that I really admire before I continue on with my day (and I'm vain, so let's say I have to do this a lot! ;)
My 2013 began with a list of 50 things that I am looking forward to, and as the days go by I am determined to see them through. But most of all, I am going to be forgiving of myself as I work at it. If I do not respect myself and my efforts, how can I expect anyone else to? I believe that this change is possible, but I also know that it is going to take me time. "Rome wasn't built in a day," and perspectives don't change overnight, particularly when they've been engrained in you for years and years. Just like with my weight-loss journey, my journey toward mental and emotional health is a marathon, not a sprint. I have to take the time to really make some changes if I want things to stick. I will have many great days, but I know I am going to have some bad days, too. And that's okay. I'll do my best to deal and to support myself, and I'll move on. Simple as that. I'll help what I can help, and I'll accept what I can't, because more often than not, things are not in my control. I cannot control everything in my life, just as I can't control things happening in the lives of anyone else: not my parents, not my brothers, and not my boyfriend. I can only deal with me and support those I love to the best of my ability. They know I love them. I don't have to beat them over the head with it to prove it to myself that they love me back. :) So. Here's to a year of success, a year of healing, and another year of survival.