This post may be a tad erratic and wild. Please bear with me as I spill my heart onto the page.
The past two weeks have been a period of reflection, and in fact turmoil for me. And the conclusion I have come to is this: in my darkest hours, everything I have been practicing and striving for have in fact proven useful.
A family member recently cut me down like a knight fells a mighty dragon. This person wasn’t some distant cousin twice removed, either. I’ve respected and adored this person for as long as I can remember, and with the exception of my beautiful fiancé, I’ve never been closer to anyone. You might indeed say I’ve always had a certain degree of hero worship where they are concerned. To me, they could walk on water. And I’m the kind of person who wants to make every stranger I meet like me, and am devastated if I ever accidentally offend someone. So imagine how much stock I invested in this person’s opinion.
I thought my love and respect for this family member was more or less mutual… As it turns out, my opinions and life choices are less than respected. I am a very “live and let live” person. I have strong ideals, certainly, but above all I believe that everyone should be respected and valued regardless of their background/religion/race/orientation, what have you. This doesn’t make me special, of course – this should be the very basis of human interaction. When it came to light in recent weeks, however, that I was not to be afforded the same courtesy, I was so deeply hurt it felt like a knife to the heart.
It forced me to reevaluate some things in my life, though, and I did in fact learn from it.
Firstly, there was once a time when I would have just rolled over and taken it. Kept my mouth shut to keep the peace. Even going so far as to rearrange my entire life – we’re talking HUGE life changes, by the way – in order to please this person. My self-worth was intricately tied to this person for years, and I would have done anything to make them approve of me. So what if they were a little rough around the edges? A little withdrawn, a little conservative, maybe a tad judgmental? They had so many other amazing qualities! I didn’t even realize I’d been jumping through hoops my entire life, each one growing smaller and tighter, lined with teeth and lit with gasoline-fed flames.
But I’ve learned too much, grown too much in the past couple of years to allow myself to stoop so low. I gathered every ounce of self-respect and dignity I possessed and chose myself over their approval. I thought it might kill me, being so rejected. But for the first time in my life, I decided I wouldn’t bend over backwards when I had done nothing but what was best for myself. If they wanted to maintain the relationship, they would have to come to me. And I desperately hoped they would… I’m still waiting. But I won’t cave. If they won’t choose me, I will.
The second thing I learned was that I no longer felt that I NEEDED them to feel good about myself. Taking a step back, I took a good, long look at all the strides I’d been taking to do and feel better. I have said it before and I will say it again, mental illness cannot – at least at this point in modern medicine – simply be cured. But I’ve fought so hard to get where I am, and that was the difference between make or break in this situation for me. Everything I’ve established, and written about here on this blog, gave me the strength I needed to survive. I had done everything right. I had been consistently managing my medications, eating and living healthier, participating in activities I enjoyed, keeping up on chores and errands, staying in touch with my awesome support system… No matter how depressed I became or hard the bad days were, I struggled through and came out the other side better for it. And more than a few times, I felt completely hopeless that it would ever get better. I did all of these things and saw little to no change a lot of days. I wanted to give up so many times.
When shit hit the fan, though, and I found myself grasping for a lifeline, for maybe the first time in my life, I didn’t have to look far. Suddenly it wasn’t a life or death consequence that I wasn’t good enough for someone who was supposed to love me unconditionally. I was good enough for me. I knew – I just KNEW, in the pit of my soul – that I had done everything I could to make this person love me and that there was nothing more I could have done, and that at the end of the day I hadn’t failed. I hadn’t failed them, or myself. Emphasis on the latter. I had loved myself for months, using every tool I came across, honing my skills of self-care like an adventurer hones their survival skills. I had been training for this battle, like the hero trains for his greatest enemy. And what should have sent me spiraling into the abyss – and would have successfully done so in years past – suddenly didn’t have that power over me.
Don’t get me wrong, it still hurts like a bitch. But it didn’t destroy me, and it could have. And if you walk away with nothing else from this post, or this blog in general, remember this: Never stop loving yourself. If that means researching meds and self-care routines, using trial and error methods to find out what works for you, and failing again and again to get there, so be it. But do not ever forget that you are worth it. Even if others can’t see it, be worthy to yourself. Because in the end, even with the best support system in place, that’s all you can truly count on.