I was at a potluck today and was speaking to an individual there about the idea, which I believe is quite true, that as humans we have this amazing ability to manifest. We can create in the physical world that which we believe to be true in our internal world. When enough of us believe in creating a different reality, it will begin to become possible, and indeed, inevitable.
The gentleman I was talking to quoted Confucius, who said,“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”
I’ve heard this quote before, but never did it hit me like it did today; I experienced a moment of understanding and realization. This is why the work I have been doing over the past year to learn to care for and love myself has been so important. I cannot possibly contribute to creating the world I want to create if I am not at peace with myself. How can I manifest love when I don’t love myself? How can I cultivate unity when I’m out of touch and disconnected to my own body and mind? This is what I have been working on recently, and what I’m so passionate about sharing. I feel the changes I have made in my life to prioritize accepting and connecting with myself working and affecting my life in a positive way every single day.
So today, I’m going to be brave, and acknowledge the work that I’ve done and how far I’ve come. A friend of mine recently posted a blog entitled What I Don’t Want You to Know About Me. That language really resonated with and inspired me. I always want to put my strongest foot forward and hide the struggles I’ve faced in the past. But I think to properly celebrate where I’ve come, I need to acknowledge where I started. As well, I think if I want to really share my journey with other people in a meaningful way, I need to share the hard bits too.
When I started university five years ago I struggled with mental health issues. I suffered from uncontrollable anxiety that was most often triggered by stress, but could just as easily arrive unexpectedly because of a strange and annoying ticking sound my fridge was making. It was unpredictable and usually arose along with situations that I didn’t have a whole lot of control over. I would become overwhelmed by everything I believed I needed to accomplish in a day, or in a lifetime, and I would shut down. Most often this left me on the floor, alone, shaking and in tears. Sadly, often it led me to lash out at the people in my life who I loved and cherished the most. In my deepest and darkest moments I would have little to no control over my actions or words. I said things I didn’t mean, and then didn’t even remember saying. I punched a hole in a wall. I hurt myself. I tormented the people around me with mind games that I didn’t even realize I was playing. I damaged many of my closest relationships. I would get into a panic state and become completely unaware of who I was and what I was saying or doing.
That all being said, I managed to accomplish an awful lot in this period of time. I kept my grades up. And I volunteered extensively and did a fair amount of on-campus organizing work. But it always felt like it was so much more of a struggle than it should be, or than it had to be.
This is hard to write, to admit publicly. Not because I am ashamed, but because it is so different from the person I am now. It is so hard for me to identify with who I was back then; it feels as though I am describing a different person. But that was me. That was my reality. I recently wrote a poem reflecting on these experiences, which you can read here. I think it’s the best way I’ve been able to express what was going on in my mind and body during that time. It also speaks to where I am now, and the freedom that I feel.
I say all this recognizing that I am deeply privileged and that my lived experiences are in no way comparable to the terrors that many have felt, seen, or heard. I have always had a family who has cared for me and supported me, and I realize that this is not something that can be said for everyone. I would like to acknowledge that anything I write here is based only on my own lived experiences and I in no way intend to make assumptions about the experiences of others. I know that this experience, for the two years that I struggled with it on an ongoing basis, was no where near as challenging as what may have occurred to, or is currently occurring to, other individuals. But for me, it was still very real, and made up my darkest moments.
When I was in my second year of university and my anxiety, and everything that came with it, had for all intents and purposes ruined my relationship at the time, I realized that I needed to get help. I began to seek out counselling and toyed around with a couple different counsellors. Although none of them ever really felt right for me in the long term, I am still very grateful for the resources they did offer me. I treaded water for a couple of years, working hard to keep my anxiety under control, but knowing that it was lurking in the recesses of my mind and body, waiting to re-emerge.
It didn’t always express itself in its fullest form. Often it showed itself as neediness in relationships, or the inability to feel complete and satisfied with my life. It drove me to hide from myself, to numb pain with alcohol, food, and relationships. I didn’t know how to be alone, how to be happy with who I was. For the longest time, I didn’t think I could change. I thought I was stuck. I thought the anxiety, fears, judgment, doubt and pain that I experienced were so ingrained in who I was that it was impossible to remove them from myself while still maintaining my own integrity.
Finally though, somehow, I shook off that old coat of fear and anxiety. It had become so comfortable, so warm. It had worn down in all the right places to better fit the curve of my chest and the movements of my arms. But it was ragged. The fabric in the elbows was beginning to wear thin and threadbare, and the collar, frayed. I looked in the mirror and what I used to see as safe, comfortable, cozy, and even sometimes elegant and beautiful in it’s raw, vicious, violent strength, now seemed ugly. Looking in that mirror, at that old coat, I tried to unbutton the buttons and tear it from my shoulders. But I couldn’t. The seams had become sewn into my own skin. I rummaged through the closets and drawers of my mind to find the shearing scissors or sharp knife that could easily rid me of its suffocating presence. But I had nothing; I had no sharp angles, no strength. So I had to create it, from scratch, from nothing. A needle here, a pair of kid-sized scissors there. I tried to saw through the thick fabric with a butter knife, its blunt end nearly useless. But the more I tried, the more I worked, the sharper it got and soon I was able to start to cut away the layers piece by piece. And now, remnants and tatters still cling to me. There are still scars where the needles that sewed the coat also pierced my own flesh. But beneath it all, I’m beautiful. And even without that coat, I’m all the things I thought I was with it on, and so much more. I’m safe, comfortable, cozy. I’m whole and complete. And above all, I’m free. I can be whoever I want to be and do whatever I want to do.
So that is why I am writing this blog and sharing my story. Because I really believe in it. I believe in all the little tools and tricks, the ideas, the thoughts, the affirmations, the truths, the spirituality. These practices are the whetstone that allow us to sharpen the blade within us to cut through our fears, our ego, and all the other barriers that get in the way. They are what allow us to access the love, gratitude, forgiveness, joy and potential that lies beneath. It will look somewhat different for you, then for me, but I think it’s possible for anybody.
Whatever battle you’re fighting, I believe in you.