From birth to 15, my life was spent looking for acceptance. My father was a functioning alcoholic and my mother MIA. We were financially well off, but my clothes were worn, tattered, and filthy. As a child, I was abused both physically and emotionally. The pain of feeling neglected, abandoned by my mother, not having any parental affection, and so ashamed and embarrassed by my appearance and fear that people would find out about my situation at home, I kept my head down, stayed quiet, and rarely spoke unless spoken to. For 15 years I grew up thinking my voice was not important, my thoughts were worthless, and my life had no value to myself or anyone else. After a series of traumatic events, I attempted suicide twice and was hospitalized. I was diagnosed as depressed and put on medication. I hated that feeling of being on medication. I couldn’t have ups and downs. It was all just…blah…
There was this little spirit inside me that demanded I fight for my freedom, so I did. I decided that I didn’t want to feel blah. I wanted the opportunity to feel ups and downs and to deal with them. So I stopped my medication, did some research, and fought like hell to be free. I started an exercise program, changed my diet, changed my circle of friends to positive supporting people, and started doing things that inspired me. I have never needed medication after that. I’m not saying depressed people reliant on medications should stop their medications. All I am saying is that it was a personal choice that I was able to make and follow through with.
When I was 30, although I was no longer “depressed” I always felt a little anxiety when in social situations. The lack of self-esteem and fear of rejection from childhood was so strong that my tendency was to shut down and avoid social events at all costs. People called me “shy” and an “introvert”. I had liked those labels because it gave me an excuse to not have to get out of that comfort zone. Yet it was so lonely and I didn’t want to feel lonely. So I decided I was going to stop having this social anxiety and just start saying hi to people and make conversations and go to social events. Similar to when I was a teen, the transition was hard. It took so much work and determination (and a few rejections) but I was absolutely, positively committed to bettering my life. As a result, I made tons of friends, tried things I’d never do, and am free from social anxiety.
There are tons of examples of how I saw something I didn’t like about myself, or felt insecure about, and decided I didn’t want it anymore, and determined to change it. But the key to achieving it all was simply determination and a changed mindset.
Here’s a story (not sure of the author) that reiterates my point:
One day, a child was walking down the street and saw a dog on a porch that was just sitting there, whimpering, whining and moaning. The child was curious as to why he was whimpering, so he went and knocked on the door and an older woman came out and said, “Can I help you?” The child said, “what’s wrong with your dog?” The older woman replied, “What do you mean?” The boy went on,”he’s sitting here moaning and groaning.” The older woman said, “Well, he’s actually sitting on a nail.” The boy was startled, “What! Your dog is sitting on a nail!? Why doesn’t he get off?” The older woman replied, “Well, it just doesn’t hurt him enough.”
I loved this story and is one of the reasons why I was able to turn my life around. I was in pain. For years. I was in so much emotional pain I thought it was worth it to end my life. I hated that pain and I didn’t know what to do with it. I had no adult role models, and no one even noticed that I was suffering deeply inside. For years, I did all kinds of manipulative tactics to get people to notice me, give me attention, validate my existence, show me some affection. I wanted people to prove to me that I was lovable. I don’t say this because I was not lovable. I say this because I didn’t feel lovable and was always looking outside of me, desperately, for someone to take on that job of loving me. NEVER in all my years had I thought that I could be the first person to love me…
It hurt so bad, but I stayed on that nail for a long time. If I whimpered loud enough, someone would surely come to my rescue! If I moaned deep enough, someone would surely feel pity for me and give me the attention I wanted and needed. If I cried and whined about my sad, sad stories, someone would swoop me up and save me from my woes and loneliness… I had hoped.
And it never happened. And the pain just kept getting deeper and deeper.
There is a way out of suffering, and it isn’t through something outside of you. It isn’t found in others, it isn’t found in food, drugs, alcohol, sex, anger, fear, and violence. There is a way out of suffering, and it isn’t through preoccupation, distraction, social media, your cell phone, and definitely NOT located in simply working harder towards your goals (yeah, you read that right…).
The only way out is through
and because the problem is within,
you GOTTA GO WITHIN.
I spent years and years in therapy. I looked actively for positive and loving mentors, and I took their advice to heart. I tried things I didn’t think would work. I read things I didn’t fully agree with. I kept an open mind. I did things that made me feel like a fool (like meditation circles). I had to get immensely honest with myself, intimate with my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I had to learn to be humble and say sorry. I had to own my mistakes and make amends when possible. I had to get vulnerable… I did the work required to find what I needed to free myself from suffering and inner turmoil. I had to fight my inner demons, the ones that were screaming distraction, to take the easy way out and blame others or expect others to change.
You see, when I finally took personal responsibility for my life, my goals, my happiness, AND MY PAIN, I had found freedom. Being accountable for who you are, where you are, what you are, how you respond, what you think and feel… it’s an extremely empowering and positive place to be. You can be that dog sitting on the nail, complaining about how bad it hurts… or you can look deep inside yourself, and do whatever it takes to turn that inner turmoil into inner peace. BOTH of them are not easy. BOTH of those paths probably come with some discomfort. But if you wanna stop suffering… get off the nail.
After that is the healing process. Healing is hard work. Healing is NOT distraction and forgetting how bad it hurt. Healing is not “F*** him! I don’t care!” It means cleaning up the wound, so that it is not susceptible to future contamination or infection. It means figuring out why the hell you wanted to sit on that damned nail for so long anyway! Honestly! Why!? And then, CHANGE your thinking, your daily habits, and behavior. Commit to it. Commit to yourself
The whole moral of the story is this: THIS is YOUR life. Literally, only YOU can decide how bad you want it to hurt and how much longer you want to suffer before you… (gulp)… gotta own it and change.