the light

The darkness started in November. No, it was before that. But I made the first cut in November. And it took me 4 months to stop. And I really thought that I would be dead before I made it here. Because it hurt to wake up. And to get out of bed. And to go to work.

It hurt to smile. And to talk to people. To spend every second of every day lying.

It felt like my mind was drowning and treading water all the damn time. Never quite reaching the surface.

I didn’t think I would make it here.

It’s one thing to be alive. It’s another to live. I’ve felt joy in the past week. Real joy. Not the plastic smile I’ve worn across my face for the past eight months, crying in whatever private space I could find. But that bubbling feeling in my chest, the one that can’t be contained.

I didn’t even recognize it at first.

And I kept up the motions. Waking up at 5:30am to put in a 12 hour day because it took me twice as long to get everything done. Riding Ubers to the office because I didn’t trust myself behind the wheel. I didn’t know where I would go. Or what I would do. The temptations I had, I could never say out loud.

The only moments with relief were when I drew blood. And for a brief moment, I could feel again. Better yet, I couldn’t feel anything else.

I stopped cutting four months ago. And this week, for the first time, I was happy. It still feels surreal. I’m proud to have made it here. But I still feel like I got lucky, and I don’t know how to reconcile that. Because what if I don’t make it out one day?

Someone today told me “its nice to see you smile again”. I don’t know why it felt so good. But I think I was glad someone said it out loud.

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Taking the First Step

2016 is has been a doozy of a year. It started off okay, got really really good, took a minor turn for the worse, and ended up in the midst of a perfect storm clearing a massive path of destruction. So as I head into 2017, I am partially homeless, driving a car I probably shouldn’t be driving, and a $1,200 laptop out. That, and I’ve called about 15 therapists at this point and still have no appointment.

But to be fair, here are some things that went really well in 2016. I graduated college with a small group of friends that mean the world to me and have held my hand through some really tough times. I had a GPA that wasn’t superb but far better than what I would have imagined for myself a couple years ago. I spent the summer at home building a relationship with my family that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I moved across the country by myself, started a job that I’m actually pretty happy with, and found a supportive group of friends in a city where I expected to be very lonely. And I finished my first rotation in a place that I’m pretty proud of.

So even though 2016 ended up in the throes of a Shakespeare “comedy”, I don’t know if I can say that it was really a bad year, maybe just one of a lot of lessons learned. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

I do know that I have some changes to make going into the new year. Because I objectively haven’t been taking care of myself and that should always be my first priority. A lot of that comes from the fucked up perspective I have about money and spending. And while I know that most of these thoughts are incredibly unhealthy, I don’t talk about them because I feel like very few could comprehend the experiences that led to this. So these thoughts linger and suck me dry, and they guide me toward skewed decisions that put me in terrible situations.

My New Year’s resolution is to stop being so hard on myself and to treat myself well. To make the choices that take care of me mentally and physically. To splurge on me when I’m down and out. Because I’ve learned that in the long run, trying to skimp on these things costs me more in the long run. Because I wake up at 5am and work 65 hours a week and deserve nice things once in awhile.

Because I deserve to be happy.

I can see the light. I know that everything that has happened is fixable. Soon, I’ll have a home. I’ll sign my lease over. I’ll get my car and my laptop fixed. I can stop commuting 80 miles  a day. I’ll go see my family and we’ll spend a week in Taiwan together. Things will look up.

2017 is going to be a good one because I’m going to make it a good one.

I don’t know when it happened

I don’t know when in my life I somehow convinced myself that I wasn’t worth it. That I would never amount to anything. That I didn’t deserve anything. So I stopped trying, doing the things I loved, striving, being who I was. I guess it was fear of inevitable failure. I’m not exactly sure what led to this. I mean I have a vague idea, but it wasn’t one thing in particular. And anyway, it doesn’t really matter.

I’ve turned a corner recently. Actually it was a really long corner. Razor sharp edges. But somehow I made it. I began to realize that this life was mine to live and striving for failure is inevitable. It is a rarity in life to be the best at something or to be perfect or to be the person that you want to be. But being able to experience and grow and change, that is living.

Life is shaped by those tiny glimmering moments, when a smile creeps up your lips unexpectedly. When you feel that little flutter in your gut and that warm glow in your chest. It’s the anticipation in your beating heart before you do something exciting or nerve-wracking. Life is sitting down with a cup of tea after a long day’s work and being proud that you went out and did it. Or spending the day in bed curled up in a blanket because its your life and fuck it.

I think I spent a lot of my life changing myself to be someone I thought I wanted to be. Trying to find a sense of belonging and self-worth. Maybe it was there all along. Because I’ve never been happier. I’m working hard, doing the things I love, and soaking up the moments.

I guess I’m writing now because I’m heading into a semester full of unknowns. Things that could go fantastically or horribly wrong. I’m taking a risk and doing something that tore me apart physically and mentally years ago. I’m afraid, but I hope that this time, I’ll be able to face everything gracefully, with my head held high, just there to enjoy the moments. But who knows…

The Final Stretch (i.e. goals, revised)

I’ve been pretty happy with 2015. I think life is meant to get better and happier as time goes on, and it’s a good sign when this happens. It means that you’ve learned from the past and incorporated it into the present. Of course, it’s impossible to be perfect, to be perfectly happy as things are… but in a way, that just makes the future more exciting. So I’ve set a few goals for myself to focus on as I enter senior year, not for the purpose of achieving them fully, but to give me something to strive toward. They center around a quote by one of the most random people on earth, the North Pond Hermit, who lived in solitude for 27 years. When asked about his reflections on the human condition (following arrest for burglary), he stated:

I did examine myself […] Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing – when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.

My goal is certainly not to become a hermit, but to live for myself, independent of performing for others, independent of the need for affirmation. As I’ve gotten distance from my internship, I’ve realized that these past few months have helped me to take a big step in this direction, but I’m still not quite where I want to be. So here is me solidifying my goals:

  1. Be happy, truly happy with what you have. With who you are. No matter what your physical conditions are.
  2. Take care of yourself wholeheartedly. Focus on doing things that you want to do, not things that you feel pressure to do.
  3. Be accepting of the happiness of others. Practice some metta.
  4. Feel as intensely as you can feel. Love as intensely as you can love. Don’t hold back and don’t be afraid to get hurt.
  5. Remember that you are dealing with something that does make your life a little more difficult than the lives of others. Understand what that means, and accept it. Know your limits and respect them. Be grateful.
  6. Don’t be deterred from your ultimate goal. It’s okay if it changes or evolves. Just remember to stride toward it as wholeheartedly as you can.
  7. Take ten minutes for yourself every single day, whatever that means.
  8. Don’t limit yourself or be afraid to take risks. That’s what life is about.
  9. Love love love yourself. Don’t apologize for being you. Work everyday to be the best version of yourself. And don’t look back at those who didn’t care enough to cast you a second glance.
  10. Celebrate failure.

I guess with that, I head into the first day of my senior year of college.

Thoughts…

I haven’t written in awhile. I’ve had a lot of thoughts, but I haven’t written. So I guess this is my stream of consciousness.

A year ago, I was not in a good place. I was filled with anxiety, self-hatred, guilt, restlessness, negativity. My memories are vivid because you remember things most clearly when they are very good or very bad and this was the latter. And things only went downhill from this time. 2014 was not my year.

I stumbled onto this internship by accident. It happened in a time when things had started to turn, but I didn’t believe in anything, I didn’t trust. Not in myself and not in that mysterious force that I somehow always believed made things happen for a reason.

Things happen for a reason. This internship was a blessing that I never knew I needed. Being here. I didn’t think I would like it. I really didn’t think I would like it. My experience isn’t even half over, but I have learned more in the past four weeks than I probably have over the past year. About myself. I’ve gained a sense of confidence and self-respect that I never had before. And I’ve realized what has held me back.

There are still things that I need to work on… But I am learning to be patient with myself. If I can’t hold back the critical thoughts, I can at least acknowledge that they are critical thoughts and work on a way to make them less internally harmful. My thoughts aren’t gathered. They will be. I feel good. It’s a new kind of good. The kind that isn’t artificial. I’m not afraid that its going to leave, but I know where it comes from and I know that it comes from myself.

But I know its important to watch out, because I know that in a way, this happiness is logic derived. And sometimes, when other things take over, its hard to be logical.

My thoughts are clumsy and disorganized right now. Its good. Managing uncertainty is one of my focuses right now. Doing things that have no planning, no purpose, no structure. Just thoughts – unedited.

Don’t Wait to be Happy

Not too long ago, I found myself a complete and utter failure down in the depths of despair. Being abroad had done a number on my body and my soul. And, as I began looking for internships to apply to, I realized that my once flawless transcript had become something that I was less than proud to call mine. I found myself on a college campus with no idea who I was and beyond that, I was more or less utterly alone. To summarize, I was a self-pitying, depressed pile of poop.

Now because I was still on a positivity kick blah blahblah. Here’s what I told myself. In fact, this is what I wrote on tumblr:

I keep thinking that because i’m a failure today, i’m going to continue being a failure for the rest of my life. but then i remember how much has changed over the past year. How much i’ve changed. And i have a little sliver of hope, that maybe if i start changing things little by little in the right direction, in a year or two from now, i’ll be a completely different person. but this time it’ll be for the better. Who i am now isn’t who i’m going to be forever.

So basically, its okay to feel negatively about myself because one day, I’m not going to be this person anymore. And that’s the problem. Why wait for the future? I feel like we do so much of that. I will be happy when I get into college. I will be happy when I graduate and get a job. I will be happy when I lose 10 pounds. I will be happy when I get married and have children. I will be happy when I retire and have all the time in the world.

Looking back, I have rarely ever been satisfied or happy with where I was. Sometimes for a brief moment or two. Like the day I returned from Japan, proud of what I had accomplished and delighted to finally have a bed and my own room and functional legs. But this satisfaction never lasts. I am always left wanting more.

But I have discovered that there can be positivity in every moment, but sometimes it is harder to find than others. Take right now for instance. I wouldn’t say my life is particularly in order. And if asked, I could list infinite things that I are horrible right now. I feel more alone now than I’ve ever been before, but its also hard to say for certain. It’s easy to be negative, to pinpoint things that you wish could improve even if you believe that they will. But that doesn’t really do any good. Instead, I choose to breathe, take my stress in stride, be proud who I am. It doesn’t mean I can’t look to the future. It just means that I can also look to the now and be happy with where I am on my journey.

I’m writing this because I often see posts where people talk about how their lives are going fantastically now: they are married, expecting their first child, and have their dream job, when only five years ago, they were severely depressed and self-harming. And these posts are wonderful no doubt, they give people hope, hope to keep living because of the prospect of such a future. But it doesn’t address the depression that people are in now. The depression that sucks someone in because their life actually is in shambles, because they feel alone and abandoned and like a complete failure. And I wish someone had told me that none of these things make you a failure. That everybody experiences these feelings no matter how complete they look on the outside. And that you don’t have to wait for things on the outside to get better in order to be happy on the inside. Because these things do not make a person a failure, it makes them human, a little too human.

I know this isn’t really a complete thought because I’m still learning myself how to be happy with who I am right now. But its just a thought. Yes, things will get better. But that doesn’t mean that things right now are bad. You are not a failure. You are a success for living and for being brave enough to keep going.

Reminders for Me

Wrote this a while back. Reminders for the bad days and the good…

1. Things won’t always be this way. If you put in a little bit of work each day, things will get better. Doing that one little thing each day that’s a challenge for you will go a long way, but know that it will take time. Nothing is instantaneous.

2. Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Focus on doing what you can do in the moment. That’s how you get where you’re going. Things happen. They aren’t your fault. They’re part of circumstance, or fate, and bad things happen to everyone. Don’t look back, look to the now.

3. Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. Anyone else at all. You don’t know who they are, or what they’ve been through. Misery loves company, but looking around doesn’t help you at all. Nobody has a perfect life, no matter what it looks like. But you can’t understand or see someone else’s pain.

4. Things move up and down. Remember that. Having a good day? Take it all in. Having a bad day? Know that that’s all it is. A bad day. And when that happens, take every chance you get to start over. There’s no reason your day has to stay bad.

5. Don’t give up. Don’t give up for that day in the future when you can look back and see what you’ve become, but always remember what it took to get there.

6. No one has a perfect life, but the people who are truly happy being themselves? It wasn’t an easy journey getting there. Happiness isn’t a matter or whose life is better. It’s dependent on perspective and outlook. The hurt that you are experiencing now? It’s all part of your journey in getting there. Don’t ever think that its a waste of life. Nothing is a waste of life. Everything leads you somewhere, and wherever you are, its where you are supposed to be.

7. Always be appreciative of yourself and the things that are going well for you. Its easy to be dismissive, to focus on the negative because they seem so horrible, but give yourself credit, affirm yourself. That’s worth more than anything else in the world.