I used to be a very different person.
I suppose that is true for many of us, but it is especially true for me. I tend to divide my young life into three parts: childhood, life before the breakdown, and life after the breakdown.
I used to be many things – a happy child, a tormented adolescent, a bubbly and devoutly religious Catholic. A brilliant student. People liked me. I appeared to have many friends. Behind closed doors, however, I was slowly falling apart. So slowly, it seems, that even I didn’t realise it at first. I didn’t know anything was wrong until it was almost too late – until I was searching for a textbook among my bookshelves one day. I knelt down, staring down at my hands, and I realised that I didn’t want to be alive anymore.
It was two years before I hit rock bottom. I crashed hard and had no other choice but to seek psychiatric help. It was five years ago that I suffered the breakdown, and I am only now beginning to piece my life back together. After all that I have seen, after all that I have suffered, I know that I cannot return to the life I once led. It was a life lived by someone with a severe mental illness, grasping at straws in an attempt to keep her head above water. Still, for many years, I struggled with the belief that I had to return to the way things had been before. I had to be perfect, I had to be impressive, I had to live up to the persona that I had created for myself when I was too afraid of being who I really am.
It nearly destroyed me.
I once heard it said that forgiveness is not only coming to accept your past, but that it is also learning to give up the hope that the past could be any different. For me, forgiveness also meant coming to terms with who I really am, the person whom I have spent most of my life running from. It also means realising that it is okay if I am no longer the person I once was – that it is okay if I don’t have all the answers, or the right words, or the “right” beliefs.
I am very different now, and I am finally learning to accept that that is okay. I am ready to step out of my past and to embrace my “new” self. I can’t begin to love myself unless I know who I am, and although I know many things about myself, I do not know everything yet.
I woke up a few days ago and realised that I have been hiding this “new” self from all of the people who knew the “old” me – the girl before the breakdown. I have been feeling ashamed of who I am now, ashamed of being different, ashamed of questioning the world around me. Those people who once knew me... they don’t like the “new” me. They keep asking “where Stephanie went”, or “where is the old Stephanie?” Instead of telling them the truth, I began living a lie. I began pretending to be the girl I used to be for fear of being abandoned for who I really am.
I don’t think that is fair. I think I should be free to live life as I am, with all of my quirks and peculiarities. I think I should be free to embrace my doubt, my scepticism, and my curiosity. I think I should be free to grow and to change. I should be free to fly.
I must ask myself, “Do you believe that you are worthy of happiness? Do you believe that abundance, success, comfort, fulfilment, peace, joy and love are part of your birthright, or do you believe they are not?” My life, I think, manifests what I believe, and it is time to shed the burdens of my past and embrace the woman I was born to be. I choose not to live in fear of criticism. I choose not to live in fear of rejection. I choose to be empowered, I choose to dream, I choose to hope. I choose to live.
This blog is a work in progress, an ongoing exploration of self and a quest to discover who I truly am and to share it with the world. Through blogging about my thoughts, my experiences, my opinions, and my beliefs, I hope to find strength enough to break free of my constrains, real or imagined. I want to write it all down, every little thought, hope, dream, and desire. Every mountain, every valley, every stumble and every fall. Only in writing this all out will I come to see the truths peeking out from between these lines.
I hope to become confident enough to be who I truly am without apologies, and, for the first time in my life, I hope to learn to love myself as I deserve to be loved. I am finally okay with the fact that I don’t have all the answers, and that I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself – and that realisation has finally set me free.