Today has been hard. Actually this whole week has been. It’s not because I don’t have amazing people in my life. Because I do. It’s also not because I’m not the special, intelligent, and lovely human being that I was last week. Because I am.
It could be a plethora of things; because work is drowning me, or because school is overwhelming me in a way that I haven’t experienced in a while. It could be because I had the privilege of watching a key note speaker today that really reminded me of all the reasons I’m so passionate about Mental Health. It might also be because I (after six years i might add) finally might have some insight into why i carry anxiety and depression around in my everyday life.
For a long time, I attributed all of my mental health to a relationship that very obviously destroyed me. I blamed him for my anxiety because I lived in fear everyday. They were things that terrified me to think about. Would he start beating me up? Would he overdose? Would he leave me? Would he move away again? Would he cheat on me? These might not carry a lot of weight with someone else, but to me, they were the most horrifying thoughts at that time. They controlled my life, and they were all things that i had no control over.
One time, i remember driving with him in the vehicle. We got into an argument and he sped up. He kept speeding up and speeding up until i finally just gave in so he would slow down. I've always had a hard time not being in control, but this was different. It was a control tactic. It was a way for him to make me feel worthless and helpless. It was one of the hundreds of building blocks that created my home at that time-it was a home with a cracked foundation and rotting ceilings. It was a home with boarded up windows and it was a home that wasn't full of love, but coercion, fear, and infatuation. That's what it was to me. To everyone else though, to the people that looked into our lives, the house was beautiful. It was big and prosperous and shiny and clean. I was living in a home built of secrets and illusions. It was a place that i never felt safe. It was only ever a ward for my insecurities to flourish. It was a place for me to feel comfortable in a world that i was brainwashed into believing was too much for me-too overwhelming.
I'm coming up on the anniversary of the end of that relationship. I remember the day that it happened like it was yesterday. It was on Valentines day in 2013. Almost five years ago now. I did something id never in my life done before. I went through his phone. Not because he gave me an outright reason not to trust him, but because of a gut feeling. I remember thinking "Jesus Christ, what if I'm wrong?" I didn't think i could live with that guilt or the possible repercussions if he found out. But, i did it anyways, thinking that i could be wrong but knowing that i wasn't. And, it just turns out that i was right just as my gut had fiercely been telling me all along.
That day, i kicked him out of my life. I did it with no hesitation. It was in that moment that i finally realized that this was no longer for me-that it had broken me enough. And, for the rest of the day, i sat in a chair cuddled up to a blanket in a dissociative state, staring at a television that wasn't even on. I had no more thoughts. I had no more tears. It was just a silent room, in a silent mind, and a blank stare as i sat in the memory of the house that could have been.
I admit, it wasn't always like this. There was a charming blueprint of that house. It was something i always believed could turn into something special. I know now though, that it wasn't my responsibility to make it that way. Just like it has never been my responsibility to carry around this anxiety and melancholic angst.
Until Monday, i thought that he was the reason why i still did and for this whole time, i believed it.
On Monday, my therapist said "which of these cognitive distortions run your life?" She showed me a list. There's a page full of them and i looked at three of them and told her that two in particular are me, but one in particular gets me every time. It's the one where people say that they should be doing something or that they have to do something. It's where people beat themselves up over the things that they believe they "should be doing" or "should have done." She asked me what i do that with. I said i do it a lot when it comes to the gym- that i should be going and that i feel particularly guilty when it comes to that one. She asked me why i thought i held so much guilt about that. This made me, for the first time, actually say "because i think I'm fat." She asked me about my eating habits and where me thinking that might come from. I, without hesitation, told her that if i wasn't so stubborn and if i didn't have the rational side of me, that i would have an eating disorder. She paused for a second and asked me again why i thought i held so much guilt about that particular distortion. Then i paused for what felt like eternity. I shook my head and looked down at my lap. Then i looked up at her and said "oh my god. I just realized why i have the problems i do." She looked at me and asked the obvious question at hand- "and what do you think that is?" I sighed and said that it's likely because a part of me still has no self esteem. I remember getting angry for a second, knowing that it stemmed from that damn house that i once called my home-that one relationship that tore me apart for everything i had. The one that left me in pieces on the floor. There were pieces missing that i never got back. In that moment, i finally realized what those pieces were. They weren't my happiness, or my ability to be calm. They were the pieces of my self worth and confidence. The pieces of me that never made me who i was, and the pieces that i didn't need to make me into who i am, but the pieces that made me proud and confident to be the person i was then and that i would later become.
After my bout of anger, my eyes filled up with tears. I coughed and took another big breath of air and just said that it all made sense now. I laughed and told her that even last year, i wouldn't have been ready for that realization. I needed the last five years to come to terms with all of the things that happened to me. I needed time to acknowledge the hurt and the anger. I needed time to mourn the loss of the home that i had adored despite its shortcomings. But, mostly, i needed the time to forgive myself- for all of the times i was unkind to myself- all the times i destroyed myself for my mistakes and for obsessing over the things that i never could have controlled.
So, i sit here now in my living room of the home i built for myself. I sit here, five years later smiling through some of the tears that are falling onto my lap. I'm smiling because this is the home I've built with my own potential filled blueprint. It's the home i built, with my own two hands, by ripping the boards off the windows, painting the walls, hanging paintings, and laying out the welcome sign for all kinds of new and special people. It's the home i always had the potential for, but just recently started believing that i deserved. It's the home i built for me, from me, and to me. It's the home I'm finally accepting as mine. And, despite its imperfections and bumps and cracked tiles, its the one that I'm proud to own.
I'm not telling you that its not okay to have regrets or to dwell on things that you can't control. It is. It's what makes everyone reading this a human being. What I'm saying is that you should never allow someone to trap you in a house that's never felt like a home to you. That you should never be scared of putting that work into you-that you should never feel guilty for that. You're worth the work. You're worth the time. The paint. The sweat. The tears. The effort. You are never going to be perfect. There might be cracks in the floors and holes in the walls, but you have control over your own house, and your own potential for growth deserves your attention. Because that potential is there shining right onto those boarded windows- you just have to let it in.
My name is Morgan and I have a passion for writing, just as I have a passion for supporting those that suffer from various mental health concerns. I fully believe that each day is brand new and we can do with it as we wish. Mental illness is crippling, and you may lose the battle but that does not mean that you will lose the war. Keep fighting and know that you are not, and never will be, alone.