I am, however, a human being who has suffered at the hands of depression. I am someone who has blanketed myself in self-hatred and self-loathing. It's hard. It's not an easy road. I think that finally, at 40 years old, I have shed that debilitating mindset and found a way to love myself and love myself first. Flaws and all, I am me and I need to be proud of that.
When I was young, I was abused. Emotionally and physically. Those scars have followed me my entire life. I internalized that trauma by coming to the conclusion that something was wrong with me. Why else would these terrible things be happening? I was also brainwashed into hiding it. (We don't talk about this and no one would believe you anyway.) I do not share this because I want you to feel sorry for me. I share it because this set up a life time of self-hatred, self doubt and extremely low self-esteem for me. I also know I am not the only person in the world who has been affected at length by someone else's words.
The most ironic thing is, many people who know me would tell you I am completely full of myself and think I'm better than other people. I don't and never have. However, people have taken my push and drive to be better and prove to myself that I'm worthwhile and enough to mean that I'm competing against them. No. In reality, I've just been trying to silence the voice in my head that said I sucked and wasn't worth anything.
Recently someone shared this graphic on Facebook and I was floored.
I think what struck me the most about this graphic is how true it is. In November, 2018, if someone passed me in the hallway at work or saw me somewhere else and they asked how I was, I would have lied through my teeth and told them I was fine. I wasn't. I was fighting a major internal battle with myself. I was full of self-loathing and literally just going through the motions as anxiety and depression waged its war on me.
Today if I said it, I wouldn't be lying. But how would you know the difference if I didn't just tell you? You wouldn't. And that's the crux of it.
We never know what someone else's story is. I really hesitated to share on the blog here before because this blog is linked to every professional venue I've attached my name to. Did I really want every future employer or business partner to see my struggles? Not really, but I also realized, again, that I have the gift of the platform(s) I use to be able to share and let people know they aren't alone.
From the outside, most people would likely believe I've lived a privileged life. I certainly have had some great things happen to me, but I have also suffered. Most of the time that suffering happened in silence. I would imagine most people who suffer deeply don't share and that's why mental health is at such a critical place. We have to use our experiences, raise our voices and share so that others know they aren't alone, that there is support out there and that they can get through it.
I think of global icons like Robin Williams and Kate Spade, two incredibly important people in our world who succumbed to their depression. With they money at their disposal, they certainly had the ability seek help, but no one knew they were suffering until they had chosen to take their lives.
We have to speak up, we have to speak out. We have to practice self-love, self-care and make mental health a conversation we speak to our children, our spouses, our lovers, our neighbors, our friends. It has to become normal to share our struggles so that people don't have to go to extreme measures to try to end their suffering.
I think that for me, it does come down to love. Self-love to be specific. I have spent most of my life hating myself. Hating what I thought I had allowed to be done to me...but working through my trauma with a licensed professional, I finally realized that I had to love myself before I could really expect anyone else to love me. It has been a long road and it hasn't always been an easy one.
When we were counting down to 2019, I wrote about my One Word for 2019. The word I selected was renewal. I even warned people that I was probably going to make them mad because I was going to learn how to say no when previously I always said yes. In my quest to matter, to make a difference and be seen as enough, I always said yes.
The problem with always saying yes (well, one of the problems) is that when you are always saying yes to everyone else, you're always saying no to yourself. And I vowed that was going to end.
In the 2 1/2 months of 2019, I can safely say I have made some people upset. I have stood firm and said "no" when I didn't believe in the work or knew I was being asked to do something on my own time that wasn't necessary. Work has gone unfinished and guess what? The world hasn't ended. Alongside of that ability to say no and set boundaries, I have found some inner peace. Alongside of that inner peace, I have found the ability to love myself. To accept that what I do contribute is enough and that I do not have to be everyone's (or anyone's) hero or savior. I just have to wake up every day and be the best version of myself I can be. That's all I can promise anyone I can be from day to day.