When I was 18, I was a lost girl out in the world, verging on a crisis, completely unaware how to handle it.
I was hiding all of my pain, fear and hopelessness. In some ways it was right there, in the form of excessive drinking, constant pot smoking, inability to hold down a job, repeated failures in school and choosing to sleep with and date people who rejected me.
At 20 I attempted suicide. This moment was one that built on itself in its own way. Some people knew, but most people in my life didn’t. They wanted to know why I’d retreated even further and seemed to disappear. I couldn’t tell them. I couldn’t speak of it.
I was ashamed of how weak I had been. Of how much I’d completely lost control.
People who did know were hurt because I’d kept so much from them. People were scared and stressed out over what I’d do next. My pain caused other people pain, and this created guilt inside of me. The guilt didn’t help anything. And because I was already ashamed, I buried as much as I could even further inside of me. I sometimes tell people now, but not everyone, and this creates more guilt inside of me. I feel guilty I’m hiding this big, cataclysmic part of my life from people, and this guilt creates shame, and, oh what a fun spiral it is.
There are many moments when I wish this wasn’t my story.
There are times when I wish my story was one of heroics, where I went through life soaring to my full potential, lifting everyone around me along the way. Maybe you think that’s silly, but I think it’s true of most people—we’d rather be the hero, the person loved and adored, than the cautionary tale, the person who scares people with their truth. It’s not so silly though when you consider it comes down to feeling a sense of belonging versus a sense of rejection. We all want to feel we belong. And for the most part, we all want to feel we improve the world with our presence rather than make it worse. I was not the hero though, but for a long time, the black hole, sucking everyone down that got within my vortex.
That’s getting into some heavy stuff. Let’s all take a deep breath right now.
One part of me embraced my journey, and knew there was much good to be mined from it. I created guided meditations to uplift, heal and awaken others who were struggling as I had been. This is the part of me that knows, no matter where you are in life, you can find love, joy, happiness and peace. It’s the part that saw my life go from just getting through the day without cutting myself to living with more joy, passion and courage than I knew was inside of me.
Then there’s the other part. The part that’s ashamed of all that darkness. The part of me that feels because I was such an out of control mess, no one should listen to anything I say.
It makes me afraid that the things I do can’t be trusted and have no value.
It really surprises me how far I was going to hide this conflict from myself. I’m amazed by how important it was to me to appear strong and together. The fear that we will be seen as weak and incapable is universal. Nobody wants to feel humiliated. Nobody wants to feel ashamed and like they let others down. We all want to appear perfect. You’d probably think I would have been liberated from the fear of people seeing me at my worst. The funny thing is, the opposite happened inside of me. I became even more afraid of appearing weak, lost or unsure because I felt I had something to prove.
“Look at me juggling these balls while I sing and dance! Look how together I am! You see, I’m just like you! I’m okay, you’re okay!”
I wasn’t okay though. I was still hating that part of me that had made me feel so ashamed and vulnerable. As I built my website and shared my meditations, my shame, guilt and fear joined with a new friend: feeling like a fraud. I posted quotes about being brave, authentic and really loving yourself. All the while, I was cracking inside again. The very thing I was building to give hope and inspiration to others was like a stick poking my deepest wound over and over.
Something had to give.
I either had to take my whole site down, stop writing and go live a life that felt safe but unfulfilling, or just come clean. I feared doing this because I had tied a lot of my identity into the spiritual path I had been following. Many people saw me as their eccentric spiritual friend, the one into meditation and energy healing and Om Shanti. I loved this identity because it was sure better than my old one—the black hole.
In my mind, a spiritual person has learned inner-peace, self-love and to be completely centered at all times. I had refused to admit that flaws and weaknesses are generally what inspire our spiritual path, and once again, denied I was allowed to love the shadow aspects of myself and my story. The irony that embracing my spiritual path caused me to dig my fingers even deeper into my ego has not been lost on me. Life is quite comical when we stop taking it so serious.
I’m ready to be done with this conflict.
It’s only causing me strife, and for all the judgment I fear over who I am, I am more scared of living in this self-made prison forever.
I want to embrace who I was for several reasons. For one thing, it’s holding me back in everything I’m trying to do. I created guided meditations because of who I used to be. Because of things I felt that you might be feeling now. Depression. Self-loathing. Loneliness. I found my way out, and now I want to go back and leave little lights along the trail for you. I want you to find your own way, to build your strength also, but I don’t want you to feel you’re doing it alone. Nobody should feel alone in this life.
And yet, if I don’t love the person who catalyzed this, I have broken all of those light bulbs and left nothing.
I’m in the process of repairing the light bulbs. I’ve gone back into the darkness, plunged headfirst into the cloud surrounding me, and started to relight them, one by one.
I can’t ask you to help me with this. I’ve got to learn to light my own inner light, and I have to know only I can keep that lamp burning. This, above all, is a lesson I keep coming back to. It’s okay though. Mastery comes from repetition. I am learning that although I want to be loved and accepted by others for who I am, all I’ve ever really needed was to love and accept myself. All of myself. That’s freedom.
I’ve come to a beautiful realization from all of this, which I’ve been meditating on lately:
“My greatest strengths are also my greatest weaknesses. By valuing and embracing both, I explore the true meaning of self-love and purpose in my life.”
Author: Melissa Field
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Travis May