Going Back

It’s a peculiar thing, self-sabotage. I think by this point I’ve become an expert in it, yet I’m still always surprised or upset once I’ve done something to get in the way of my goals. We do it to keep ourselves rooted in a way, I suppose. Moving forward requires change, and our brains would rather stay right where they are, surviving, even if our existence is flat. Taking chances is scary. I’ve  put off writing this blog for many months now. The vulnerability it takes to put my thoughts down for others to see scares me. I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want others to see how messy I really am. But I also live in a reality where I feel frustrated by a lack of meaning and honesty in the world and I don’t see any other way around that belief than to open myself up and expose what’s really going on. So I sabotage. It’s the easiest and most unconscious way of making sure I don’t have to publish anything. I’m too anxious. I’m too fragile. I have to do this or I cannot do that. I make bad decisions that I can point to and say, “Look at this. Look at what you did. You ARE messy. You cannot share this with people.” And I struggle with being open. But here I am. Here is my chance to connect. To offer something genuine to a world where others want to appear infallible. No one is untouchable. Everyone struggles with something. It’s part of being human. It’s the beauty of our species: in it blooms compassion and empathy. It’s so easy to see this in others and forgive them for it, and so difficult to give ourselves space to struggle and accept our faults, and at times impossible to love ourselves despite. But no one else is going to love us enough or support us enough if we don’t do the work first. It seems like a simple truth, but it’s difficult to overcome the part of the brain that wants us to remain stagnant, safe. You have to argue with that voice in your head. You have to set goals and decide to do what it takes to meet them even when it means coming to a wall and seeing no way around it. You have to get uncomfortable.

A letter to the editor

Dear Sarah,

Maybe it will prove challenging to write this letter, but only because your adorable cat won’t let you type without putting her face in between your hands. It’s pretty cute.

Anyway. Here we are, the many parts of us that we have discovered along the way. The part of us that is a tiny little girl, confused and looking for comfort and approval from everyone around us, to the teenage punk kid who doesn’t give a shit what anyone says and blacks out to avoid the pain that life has delivered unrelentingly for so many years, to the wise woman who quietly sits and observes it all, to the put-together work woman that provides, the brilliant student, the long-term girlfriend, the caring and consoling friend, the fearless beauty, the vixen, the saboteur, the bleeding heart, the truth teller, the socially awkward one, the lonely girl with an eating disorder, and the woman who sits behind the keys, the one where all of those parts are represented equally.

Today I write you a letter, future Sarah, to remind you how difficult this journey has been. And how long. To write from a different perspective of a journey that has been undertaken in the name of mental health. It is easy to think back on the past and come from a place of shame. Shame has underlain almost every suicidal thought and destructive behavior I have engaged in. It is a second home. But it would be a lie to say it is something I have conquered. At least I can say it is something I loathe. But the future is not emboldened by any past behavior. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that. Now I stand at a great forking of my paths. To the right is a future where I envision and make happen everything I’ve ever wanted for myself. I harness all my power. And to the left lies a softer, gentler struggle through the same muddy swamps I have been navigating for years. I am ready to let go. I am ready to become the woman I was meant to be.

I do not write this last sentence with any disregard for how difficult my journey still inevitably will be. If choosing to become the person you want to be was an easy choice, everyone would do it. The world would be different. But I am acknowledging for the first time I am aware of the power I hold in getting to that destination, and reminding you that, no matter how many times you fail from this point onward, it is our responsibility to continue to forgive ourselves and try. Because, of all the lessons that have been learned these past three years, forgiveness reigns supreme if the self truly wishes to grow and continue to move forward. There will no doubt be missteps. A lot of them. Wide ones that last forever. Ones that make us forget what it feels like to really live, unforgivingly so, without doubt about our true beauty and purpose in this life. Thoughts of suicide will come to pass, and with all strength and grace this world offers, we will see them through to the side of safety as we always have. That personal statement didn’t mean anything if I wasn’t honest about seeing others through as well.

I will tell you this, if you will believe nothing else when reading this letter again in a time of desperation or solitude: You are destined for great things. You will figure out what it is you are supposed to be doing one step at a time. You will study whatever it is you’re supposed to study. Become a therapist or a doctor or any variation thereof. Whatever you choose, you will be great. Because you have deep and caring compassion. And whatever is standing in the way of your self-esteem and your goals today are just that: they are obstacles. Life is filled with these. Keep forging on, my fierce and brilliant beauty, and someday the world will feel like home. And if it doesn’t, then at least we may have changed it for one person. One soul. One heart who bleeds the way ours does, who is desperately groping in the dark for answers. Let’s give them all we’ve got. We will never forget what it’s like to be hungry.

I love you.

Sarah