I gazed deep within that speckled mirror, and I saw a stranger.
She seemed empty, the tears streaming down her freckled cheeks and the regret crushing her heart.
She had bruises all over her limbs from yet another blacked out night, and it seemed as though her life was spiraling out of control in an ongoing cycle of shame and regret.
A lot of my childhood is a blur.
It’s as if my brain has trained itself to forget everything, but there are a few memories that always stick out.
One of the most heart breaking moments I can remember came from a young, naive, 11 year old me. Ollie’s sickness was crippling him, grasping his every breath.
Those were the times of yellow school buses and cute lunch-boxes, and life was simple for most of my classmates. My brothers and I rode the same school bus together, but life wasn’t as simple for us. Ollie’s little body had gotten so fragile he had trouble walking, so he always sat in the very front seat.
One sunny September morning he asked me to sit next to him, and I scowled at the thought of not sitting with my friends, in the back, where the cool kids were. That memory haunts me, and I wish I could take back my selfishness every single day.
I wish I appreciated him more while he was here, while I could still hold him in my arms. Words can’t describe the incredible sense of guilt that has sat in my stomach all these years. It consumed me, and I did everything in my power to forget it.
Then of course, as I grew older (and not much wiser) there were all the other regrets.
How I limited my self-worth so much that I continued to hurt myself one day after another. The tremendous negativity I felt about myself, which showed up in my life as blatant disregard for my own well-being. My continuous concern with how others saw me, how perfect my makeup was, and always caring about the wrong people in all the wrong places. The awful things I said to the ones that loved me the most—the ones who continue to support me and the ones who have always been by my side.
The regret itself was leading me do the very things I always regretted.
I didn’t know how to end the cycle.
I recognized that I needed to change. I realized that I desired more, that I wanted to lead a happier and healthier life. I tried to make decisions that furthered journey to health and wellness.
I began to let go of the party animal life, and tried my best to take myself out of triggering situations. I began a yoga practice. I tried to eat better, to shed a few of the thirty pounds I had gained over the years of self-destruction. I wanted to heal so badly, but I somehow always ended up failing.
It was as if I wouldn’t let myself heal—I didn’t think I deserved it.
Then one day, I glanced into the mirror at that sad stranger, and suddenly became aware of how hard it was for me to look at her.
I didn’t recognize the person I had become and I had an instant understanding that I could not live my life this way anymore. I could no longer allow myself to drown in the guilt and to refuse to let myself heal. After years of growing, learning, appreciating and loving, I finally recognized what I needed to do.
I needed to forgive.
I had to learn to live with the person that I used to be and appreciate that without all of those painful memories, I wouldn’t be standing here today.
I have started to live with the fact that I have grown into who I am, and that I had to start somewhere, even if it was a sad somewhere. I had to learn to free myself of the cocoon I once felt trapped inside of, and open my heart to the transformation that was about to unfold.
Forgiving myself was the best decision I ever made, even though I’m still learning how to.
We may still look back on unhappy moments in our lives and abruptly feel that heaviness in our chests, but the important thing is that we realize we are all human.
Human life was never meant to be perfect, and we are all here on this planet continuing to grow and flourish—and learning from each and every day.
We are all here with our own stories, our own triumphs and our own disasters.
If we can appreciate how far we have come instead of fretting over how lost we once were.
If we can learn to be here, in the present, instead of worrying about the future or agonizing over the past.
If we can forgive ourselves—the healing will follow.
Author: Jessica Tibbles
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Holly Lay/ Flickr