I am amazed
By how I can feel so lost in a room full of people
Without anyone else being able to see it
– high functioning
I am amazed
By how I can feel so lost in a room full of people
Without anyone else being able to see it
– high functioning
“Talk about it. Even if it gets repetitive, if you need to, just talk about it.”
My friend gave me this advice the other day when I was opening up about coping with trauma and mental health issues. I am happy to announce to no one in particular that I have acted on that advice.
It has been hard opening up bandages that have been wrapped so tightly for so long I chose to forget some wounds and scars were still there.
I was ashamed of my pain – I always attributed it to poor decision making or an attitude problem. I am revisiting my pain and with each encounter I am removing a layer of guilt. I have let guilt and fear control me for long enough. Strength and courage have kept me going but it’s time for them to take the steering wheel.
It took a long time – 6 years – to finally properly confront what happened. I am now prepared to recover. I am prepared to absolve myself of responsibility by doing the responsible thing – loving myself.
I want to love myself. I was always afraid of giving myself any praise because even the smallest positive note felt indulgent. I now start with “you are strong.”
You are strong. You’ve had to be to survive, to keep living. Every day you get up and continue living is a display of strength. You are strong.
I try my best to maintain a generally positive tone, I do. Having dealt with some trauma and depression, I feel like I have had to paint my perspective a happy shade of rose simply to motivate myself to keep living.
But there are days where the backlog of emotions come crashing onto me. There are days when the ripples of bad decisions past become waves, and they often engulf me whole. That’s the problem with the past – it comes back. So long as you have the capacity to remember, it comes back. In recent days I have been reflecting on all the choices that have brought me to this point. It has been somewhat of a whirlwind. Some choices were made unthinkingly, some impulsively, some a result of having waited so long that the decisions made themselves. The emotional effects of these choices creep up on you, and before you know it your heart is completely in their clutches.
I am having a pretty rough time right now, sifting through the emotional backlog, and dealing with new obstacles – new decisions, new information. Through this process I find myself in a constant state of introspection. I find myself resenting the way I have been handling my affairs. I sometimes force myself to project happiness, in part influenced by the positivity cults I encounter in the virtual world. In doing this, I invalidate and often alienate the part of myself that is suffering. I do not acknowledge her struggles enough, I simply tell her to plaster a smile on her face and keep trudging forward because “other people have been through worse”.
Today is a bad mental health day. There is no real way around it. It’s the kind of day that makes me want to tell positivity to go screw itself. Today I feel bad. Yes, it will pass. Yes, “it gets better”. And you know what? In a few minutes I will likely “suck it up” and carry on with my life as if this never happened. But I need some time to simply be overwhelmed. Because that is what it is – I am overwhelmed by thought and emotion and it is only fair to acknowledge it, and allow it to have a moment.
A year older.
It’s funny – today I was thinking about the arbitrary feeling surrounding birthdays. If we were following a calendar other than the Roman one, today would not have been commemorated as my day of birth. We create and reinforce structures with the ritual of the birthday, and as clinical as that can sound, birthdays as ritual are really quite beautiful.
Birthdays are an opportunity to show love to the people whose existence and presence we appreciate. Birthdays are also a chance to reflect on our growth. So much change occurs in the span of 365 days, and it can be a wild, emotional ride. People always tell me that their birthdays are a “good break” from routine, and stress. Birthday rituals are a rupture in the flow of everyday life. It is good to have a fixed point in time which allows us to step away from the fray and look inwards; appreciating where we are, where we came from, and where we want to be.
Having said all this, I have been bitching uncontrollably about the negative effects of birthdays i.e. the sense of entitlement and excessive consumerism cultivated by birthday culture. But cynical ol’ me can be sentimental too.
When we sense a void within ourselves, we look externally to fill it. We turn to all manner of vice, we turn to people we love, we turn to a Higher Power…
The pills, drinks, sex – those things are no remedy. They are merely distractions.
The people we love – there is only so much we can expect them to do for us.
A Higher Power – simply asking for a quick release cannot bring peace back into our hearts.
Each and every time we turn to these things we are asking “Please, make me whole again.”
But how can they?
We look outwards for support, for validation, when really we need to turn inwards.
It is inevitable that in our lives we experience pain, we experience loss. The love, support, and solace we receive from outside of ourselves is important, and likely necessary, but healing is an inside job, and it is hard, hard work.
It takes work to confront the experiences that have scarred you. It takes courage to face the guilt and shame that haunts you. It takes work to accept our daily realities. It takes courage to get up every day and simply live.
Sometimes we just need to give ourselves some credit. We have bad days, difficult days, but we choose to live through them anyway. We may not match the image of success we have in our mind’s eye, but every day that we continue to try is a triumph.
If you struggle with these things, know you are not alone. Know you are a success even if you don’t feel like it sometimes or at all. Give yourself some love because you deserve it. You have been through hell and you deserve to give yourself time and space to heal. It is hard work.
I had a conversation with a new acquaintance a while ago. They made me consider many things I hadn’t thought about in a while. In the early part of the conversation something struck me as familiar. They shared the concern that in doing the work that they do, living the way they need to, they sometimes feel like they might lose themselves – the values that ground them.
This person has been to so many places, had so many homes, lived more lives than the average person. From the outside looking in it must look like the only constant for them is change and movement.
I think their spirituality, their connection to something bigger and beyond this life is what grounds them – or at least has to potential to ground them in times of moral or emotional haziness. That’s the beauty of spirituality isn’t it? So long as you maintain that connection to something bigger than yourself (whatever that may be, and through whatever means) you can make a home within yourself anywhere in the world.
That part of our conversation reminded me of a time I was lost, almost completely. It was a difficult time, and I was making bad decisions. It may have looked somewhat exciting, but it was a dull, monotonous routine of pain. It acquired a stale rhythm devoid of real connection to the people around me, and more devastatingly, to myself. I remember one night catching my own eyes in a mirror and for a second not recognise the person looking back. It was such a surreal moment of internal displacement it left me horrified. One night as per my routine I went back into my room. The windows were wide open and the wind touched my face. I looked out through the open windows and for the first time in a long time felt something. I felt ready to begin making a home within myself again.
Talking to someone new about spiritual journeys triggered some deep feelings on the subject. Not because I don’t have these conversations, but because I felt a spiritual resonance, and recognised something in them that I have not in another person in a long while. I wonder if I can find more like-minded people elsewhere. I wonder how that might feel… to find a community of spiritual resonance – of people who feel they belong within themselves.
Must feel nice.
“If Heaven made him, Earth can find some use for him.” – Chinese Proverb
I recently came across this translation of a Chinese proverb and it touched a rather sore spot in my heart. Much like many of my peers in their mid-to-late twenties I feel like I am searching for a reason for being, and I feel like I need my career to fulfil or enhance that life purpose.
Not too long ago when I expressed this to my mother, she suggested that my feelings were a result of a generational difference, saying that my problem was a very “millennial” one. She said that at my age she did not struggle as much with the desire to find an emotionally or even spiritually fulfilling job. A job was just that – a job. You got a set of tasks to accomplish and it was simply your duty to do them well.
For many urban dwellers in developed economies, we live in a world filled with platforms and technologies which encourage individual expression as well as offer avenues to monetise interests and passions. We also live in an environment where entrepreneurship is lauded. Just look at the number of Insta-preneurs and YouTube celebrities making a living off of or through these social media platforms. Perhaps this contributes to a social/economic environment which allows us young people to feel as though we have the option do whatever we want to do. We can identify our passions and make a living off of them because the available technologies and new markets give us this choice.
With opportunities abound it seems as though young people are freer than the generation before them. They have a fundamental freedom – choice. Choice can be seen as a form of empowerment, a luxury even. But choice can also be debilitating.
The thing about a world filled with apparent options is that the choices may be accessible, but not all of us necessarily have real means to make successful decisions. This world of choice is also an unequal one, and not all of us have access to the capital (social or otherwise) to successfully live out and off our dreams. There exists a gap between people’s goals/expectations, and the structural realities in their way – despite recent innovations.
As a young person I know what some of my dreams are, and understand that I can make use of the platforms around me to achieve them. And yet, I hesitate. Fear of failure stops me from making certain decisions about my career, and the road out of my twenties seems pretty hazy. I want a real reason for being, and dreams are not enough. I am driven by a desire to leave a helpful mark, however small, in my community or perhaps others before my time here is up.
And yet, I hesitate.
One year of cultivating a consistent yoga practice.
I went for my first class as a broke freshman in 2011. Then, I didn’t see yoga as anything more than a physical workout. Having no money to pay for classes, I turned to YouTube and was never very consistent. Yoga was not a big part of my life, but I kept coming back to it.
As it is with many things in life, sometimes a voice or a feeling from within tells or compels you to do something. It tells you what you like and what you don’t like. It tells you what you need – you just have to sift through the other internal noises to hear it. I needed yoga. I needed to carve out some private time for myself to heal, to grow. I needed structure, I needed discipline.
A year ago, when I had some money and time to spare, I joined another yoga class. This class was different. I was made to reflect on my breath, and made to be present in my practice. I started to understand the value of yoga beyond asana. I went for classes, briefly joined a studio, and started a personal weekly practice. I started to develop structure and discipline. I started to heal.
12 months later and I am so grateful for this practice, the knowledge it has given to me, and the people it has brought into my life.
12 months later and I am stronger in every way.
Twice I have been to Luang Prabang, Laos, and both times I have felt at home. I say I felt “at home” not because I felt “like a local” but because I felt at peace. I was full with love and connection, my mind was active – people were teaching me a new language and there was just so much to learn, and my body was put to work. My mind, body, and spirit were being fed and there is no feeling quite like the one you get when every part of you is full, is content.