I have been at war with myself for the last three years. For the better part of two decades if you count a general struggle with depression and self-love.
Part of it is environmental and part of it is genetic (like most everything, I believe there is no nature versus nurture, it is almost always a teaming up of the two).
I know I am not alone in this fight.
I think when we get down on ourselves, our lives or even humanity as a whole it is so important to remember that even though we feel alone, and may be physically alone in that moment, there are actually scores of us going through the same thing.
The battles aren’t the same, but the war is.
That being said, I don’t subscribe to the “some people have it so much worse than you” mentality. It has never helped me (different things work for different people), but the general awareness that I am not alone in my pain, loneliness, doubt and fear helps a little to put things in perspective.
Some days I win the battle. When I win, I am kind to myself, give myself credit and take steps (no matter how small they may be) in the right direction. When I win, I take care of myself. I don’t allow myself to have certain detrimental thoughts, or if I do I calmly and gently tell myself those thoughts are harmful to me and try to redirect them. I have patience when people are unkind and don’t let it wreck my day.
Other days aren’t so great. I feel like I fail at everything and make too little progress. I get stuck in the past and wallow and cry about it, sometimes to the point that I want to revisit bad habits like cutting my skin and daydreaming of suicide. I let those who have hurt me do so over and over again by putting those memories on repeat in the miserable slideshow my brain has become that day. It is torture.
The struggle exists outwardly, too. We can choose to see the hope in the world and the good in people, or we can feed the fear that the media perpetuates so well, only broadcasting violence and everything that is wrong with our world.
I have gone through so many cycles of varying degrees of trusting people. When I was going through my divorce, I let anyone in, desperate to feel like I could still connect with someone. Some of those people kept me holding on just barely, and I am so thankful for them. Others devoured me entirely and left me worse off than when I had arrived.
I went through a period where bitterness took over and I tried to convince myself I didn’t need anyone at all. That all positive interaction was only temporary and not worth the effort and inevitable loss.
On countless occasions I would try to pick and choose who I let in based on too little information and snap judgements that I got wrong more often than I got right, which would send me back to wanting to shut everyone out completely.
At the end of the day, I am a loving, affectionate person, and I realize now that I won’t (and don’t want to) be able to keep myself guarded from others. People need people. What I can do is work on how they affect me when things happen to end badly. I can be smart in choosing how long I stay in certain situations and wise in knowing that whatever happens (and whoever it happens with), I will be okay.
I can’t express how huge this realisation is. It takes patience and practice and time, but the sooner the belief is put into place the sooner progress starts to register. Once any sort of progress blooms, it will slowly start sprouting in other areas of our lives, and the fight will get easier.
It may take weeks, months or years depending on how a person operates and their circumstances, but take it from someone who has been struggling for years—it will happen. We just have to keep moving.
It is okay to have bad days. One of my dear friends who stuck with me when I was going through my divorce would tell me that on any number of days I felt like I couldn’t continue existing. It is such a simple statement, but its truth is profound. It’s okay to have days where it seems the only option is to cry ourselves into exhaustion, as long as we acknowledge it and know that we will come through it.
Something else that helps me a great deal is acknowledging all that I’ve gotten through thus far. I have survived so many awful, soul-obliterating days. And when another one comes along to knock me on my a** again, I will survive that one, too.
The light and the darkness are present in us every day. That is natural and simply the way things are. What is important is that we are always working to nurture the light in ourselves. What sparks us will vary, but when we find something that does, we’ll know and that is when we need to act. That is when we grow stronger—when we get closer to winning not only the battle, but the whole damn war.
Author: Lea Perunko
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr