The past few years have been significant in my search for who I am. This is not anything unique to me; all teenagers are forced through this uncomfortable phase of self-discovery, and I’m positive that I still have a way to go. I think our whole lives are like this in a sense; we’re constantly finding out more and more about the world around us and ourselves, and that shapes us. I think self discovery is the most essential tool to transitioning. But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. From about the time my age was double digits, I have very intensely been in this stage of life. I’ve gone through the depths of self hatred and toxic friendships and depression and angst in its purest form— phases that are unfortunately deemed as normal rites of passage for preteen girls. Those phases are hell, but they were crucial to the ultimate path that I am on. I would not have found confidence or love and respect (for myself and others) had I not been through those times.
Life is highs and lows. For a while I could not understand why some days sucked so bad; I believed the universe was in a conspiracy to break my spirit by seeing how much weight my weak muscles could carry. But now I am glad, even for the horrendous. It used to seem like the majority of my days were more worth mourning than celebrating. (This wasn’t reality but how my eyes saw it.) I would count how many “bad days” I had experienced in a row, and they would add up to be the whole week. It felt like every twenty days or so I would have a breakdown that consisted of tears, overeating, and lashing out at myself. I would certainly not choose to relive those days, but I wouldn’t have been desperate enough to seek the dramatic change that is now my life without them. And also, intense emotions of any kind are fuel for honest writing. “It is when we feel the weight of our hearts the most that we are able to hear the truth most clearly,” probably some ancient proverb, but I find it true.
Middle school was when the nasty truly began. These years were definitely not the worst in the magnitude of what I was feeling, but they were the worst in the sense that at this point I was bottling up all of my emotions, dealing with everything in secret, and hating myself for it. I saw everybody else living their simple 13 year old lives, but I vividly remember not being able to imagine enjoying life. It sounds ridiculously dramatic thinking about it now, but these emotions were as real as anything. I wasn’t educated about mental health or what I was feeling. I didn’t hear anybody else talking about the things I felt, which contributed to further feelings of isolation and not being able to share. I took out the anger towards the stupid person responsible for this mess— I spiraled into more intense self-hatred until I was convinced that I was worthless. No one knew.
I was so anxious, and I set up impossible standards for myself to reach to counteract how bad I felt. If I made perfect grades and was in the starting lineup for my competitive soccer team and always looked perfectly put together, then I couldn’t possibly hate myself, right? It was almost the opposite of a cry for help. I desperately wanted to hide and avoid honesty.
I’ve gone through rough patches with anxiety over the past four years. It’s sucked having that be a major part of who I am, but it’s something I can’t ignore or hide from. For a while I tried to push it away and just clean up the mess after panic attacks; that method is exhausting and ineffective. Particularly in the past year, I’ve learned preventative methods of dealing with anxiety that have helped incredibly and left me with much more energy for things I enjoy.
Having anxiety unfortunately makes a lot of life more difficult— you have to be much more mindful of your activities and work load or face the consequences. School work is one of my top triggers because I’m not satisfied with anything but the best grades, and I’m also a huge procrastinator. I’ve been forced to start working towards deadlines earlier, and simple steps like that help me feel much better.
Some coping mechanisms I’ve found useful are writing, music, and being vulnerable with people I trust. I try to journal every single day to chronicle my emotions and good and bad moments. Making playlists for each mood can be so cathartic to me. One of my most important things is having people who I’m able to be open with. I don’t want to hide who I am anymore, but I want to share the details of my life and mind without being ashamed.
Right now I feel like sunshine. There are days that aren’t the best, and that’s always going to be the case. My brain chemistry is balanced! I’ve taken Anne-Michelle’s advice (via Warsan Shire) and filtered friends out who aren’t “sweeter than my solitude.” In the past I’ve had good friends, but now I’ve solidified my closest pals to a group of truly great people. To be successful and believe in yourself, you need to spend time with people who want you to move mountains, people who have lofty dreams of their own and the motivation to reach them, people who are creative and passionate about what they love, people who radiate kindness in the most honest way. Now I have that. It helps me not only improve as a human, but as a friend to them because I want to return what they put out.
I’m more focused on things that I actually enjoy instead of tasks I feel obligated to complete. This includes reading books and underlining parts that stand out to me; asking to pet all of the cute dogs I see in public; working towards improving my writing; stopping to soak in the sunset and capture it on camera; spontaneously meeting up with friends. I’m on my way to becoming the best version of myself, and that means embracing the highs and the lows.