When I was 12 years old, I woke up one morning and told my mom I didn’t want to go to school because I was sad. She eyed me suspiciously and felt my head with her cold hands. “It doesn’t feel like you’re running a fever,” she said. With tears in my eyes, I replied, “No mom, I’m just sad.” Her face remained impassive. “Sad? Honey, that’s not a sickness. Now go get dressed; you’re not missing school today.”
At 18-years-old, I experienced the same feeling of immense sadness again, this time hindering my ability to get out of bed in the morning. After it occurred for a week straight, I was unable to find the energy to get up once more. My mom knocked on the door that morning and I heard her say, “Luann it’s almost 8:00! You have to leave soon!” I turned over, flipped the sheets off my head and said, “Mom, I’m not going to school. I don’t feel good.” The same protocol of checking my head for signs of a fever occurred. “You don’t feel hot.” I looked up at her, begging with my eyes for her to understand the sense of torment brewing inside of me and said, “I don’t know what it is, but I’m sad.”
Since then, there have been moments throughout my life where I’ve fallen into deep bouts of inescapable darkness. When I know it’s coming, I hide out in my apartment, in my room, under the sheets, protecting the thoughts from seeping out of my head. The thoughts in my head are my worst enemies and simultaneously, my best friends. They torment me with words of negativity – “You’ll never be good enough”… “You’re worthless”…”You can’t write”… “You’re not smart”…”You’re too fat”…”No one will ever love you the way you want to be loved.” But those thoughts also comforted me at my most vulnerable times. “We will always understand your true identity”…”We will never wake up one day and say we don’t love you anymore”…”We are here, only for you.”
I remember meeting a woman for the first time in March, and though it was our first time meeting, I opened up to her about my internal conflict over my graduate program, my fear of being onstage, the anxiety over my introvertedness, and honing my skills as a writer. The one thing that she said that resonated with me the most was this: “If you’re an introvert, embrace it. If you’re a writer, starting today call yourself a writer. You ARE a writer. And when you start believing all of these ideas you will, eventually, become it.” This person helped open the door to the beginning of my road to self-actualization.
But what was still hindering that journey were my conflicting thoughts. When they started to become too noisy or too difficult to sort out through methods of self-care, I finally gathered the courage to make an appointment at the health clinic at school. I told the on-site therapist about my polarized thoughts, my history of internalized abuse, my history of verbal abuse from peers and family, and finally, my fear of being vulnerable. That was May of this year.
I’ve been in therapy since June working to sort through my depression and social anxiety disorder. Though the premise seems very basic, that I should be better in no time, the process has been anything but elementary. One time my therapist asked me why is it now that I’ve decided to give therapy a chance. I told her that I’ve spent some time reflecting on the times when my mom told me that I wasn’t sick, that everything was always in my head, that all I needed to do was pray that God will help me get through the pain. But no matter how hard I prayed or how many times I went to church or how many times I asked God to help me, I never got better. I never felt whole. I never felt understood. When that feeling of misunderstanding came to a peak earlier this year, I felt that there was no way that I could get out of that dark place again unscathed.
Since starting therapy, so many changes have happened in my life. I feel a new sense of purpose, as though a world of possibilities has finally revealed itself to me. I started writing for me again. I stopped trying to sound like anyone other than me. I opened up about my past experiences, and I stopped thinking about what others might think about it. I took a chance and I helped produce a comedy show, without any kind of experience beforehand — just the willingness to learn and potentially fail. I then helped a kickstarter campaign reach its goal, using my ability to write stories and my enthusiasm for music. I was able to help connect more people with the album. Soon afterwards, I took a staff writing gig with Persephone! None of these things would have ever happened had I not taken those first few steps into being completely and utterly, vulnerable.
So it’s now 2014 and I have come to realize that this is my year of being fearless. Now, this is not just another New Year’s resolution. This is not another “new year, new me” mantra. This is the year where I continue searching for me; where I discover new things about myself and push myself into a zone of discomfort. This is the year, where I tell myself, “Ok I may have never done that before, but I’m going to try it out and see if it works for me.” This is the year I stop being afraid of myself.
This is also the year I continue to embrace my unique qualities and traits. This is the year I work to stop thinking that I’m not good enough, and start believing that I am and more. Because for too long I have refused to believe that I am deserving of true happiness. This is the year I start to do things because it makes me happy, not because I’ve come to a certain age, because society says I should, or because my family says I have to. This year, I’m doing things because it feels right to me.
There is a lot to work to do this year and in the years to come. While the challenge initially seems daunting, I think I have been waiting for this feeling for a long time. Because, really, this is the year I challenge myself to be the person I am meant to be. I’m finally ready to live.