When I arrived in New York City I found that bliss-point in life where you are constantly pinching yourself.
Is this my life? How have I manifested this incredible apartment, friends, job, office, and an intense and passionate new relationship—all within six weeks?
It was a series of extraordinary synchronicities that landed me my dream life living in New York City. I had developed the cliché love affair with my new home, the type you hear about in novels or see in “Sex and The City.”
Upon arriving in New York, I felt the vibration of the city: it buzzed with adrenaline and cortisol and filled me with energy.
It was exciting yet slightly overwhelming observing the impatient cab drivers and the people of the city yelling, singing, dancing, spitting, strutting…it’s something I’d never seen before. I observed everything with open eyes and an open mouth.
As spring transitioned to summer, my calendar was filled with brunches, rooftop sun baking, Mexican restaurants, cocktails, beach trips to Long Island, and plenty of baseball games…watching my new special man play first base.
I rehearsed the same line over and over as people asked me about home: “No, I don’t see myself ever going back to Australia. This experience has been something like I could have never dreamt of. I don’t see why I would leave?” I exuded confidence as I had found my dream life and saw it as indestructible.
Summer turned to fall and the trees lost their leaves, the colourful flowers died, and Central Park lost its luscious life force.
The wind blew ferociously through the tall buildings and it became clear to the people of New York, summer was gone.
The city vibrated on a different frequency. It was no longer buzzing, singing, and dancing. The oncoming traffic of people wore angry looks on their faces. I knew it was getting cold because the spit on the sidewalks had transformed to little ice blocks. Winter was upon us.
Just when New York seemed to lose its vibrancy, my body seemed to follow suit. I no longer wanted to sing and dance; instead I became very ill.
I approached several doctors desperate to know why my hair was falling out, why I had developed severe acne, and why I was uncontrollably gaining weight. My doctors were able to identify the diagnosis, although they offered no solutions, leaving me feeling hopeless and alone.
And as my body began to deteriorate so did my enthusiasm for life. I became sicker and isolated myself from everyone I’d known over the last seven months.
And then, an unfamiliar darkness crept over my entire being, which shadowed my every thought.
Weeks went by that felt like a lifetime. My days consisted of hiding behind a smile at work and getting straight to yoga. I would try to make it through to savasana without a release of tears streaming down my face due to self-hating thoughts and exhausting comparisons to everyone else in the class.
My weekends no longer consisted of partying with the people I used to see regularly. I didn’t feel like myself anymore, therefore I didn’t feel like I should try to be me around others. My physical appearance had diminished and I truly believed I was a burden to lay eyes on.
Although my body had broken down, it was really my mind that took the biggest toll. Sneaking hatred into every thought and every action, I felt exhausted and ready to give up. On a rare occasion, I would feel a fleeting moment of love and joy. It made me remember who I was.
Then the darkness would tug on my feet and pull me down to the familiar landscape of fear and doubt, where I would live most of my days—disconnected from life, disconnected from people, disconnected from myself.
I had forgotten who I was and was wondering if there would come a day that I would remember. I scrolled through photos from the past, wishing that I could return to my former healthy and happy self.
What I didn’t understand is that I was basing my entire existence around a photograph of a human body.
But we are not just our bodies. We are pure love and light inside a human body, having a human experience. And the human experience contains both intense beauty and intense suffering.
Within the depths of my suffering, something beautiful started to emerge. A deeper level of consciousness that allowed me to witness my attachment to my body and my attachment to the way other people perceive me.
I had become sick, which forced me to detach from the physical identity I had based my worth upon for so many years. When this identity was threatened and I fell into a deep depression, I had no choice but to find a light within me that can never fade.
This was no coincidence. As much as I had hoped I would heal and return to my former ways, I was never able to return. Because through the loss of my physical identity, I had to force self-love from within.
Learning how to love ourselves deeply without any alterations to our weight, hair colour, or clothing, are perhaps the most important things we can learn in our lives. Because our looks will fade. Our organs, tissue, and cells will oxidise, leaving us wrinkled and grey. But how we show up every single day in service to the world is what really matters.
As my armour started to fall away, a beautiful vulnerability rose up.
The tough exterior I had worn for 25 years began to soften, and through that softness, I found an unshakable strength. Through the depths of feeling empty, pointless, and alone, I found meaning.
I started to feel moments of joy again through meditation and yoga. Although, this joy didn’t feel like anything I had experienced before. It was not dependent upon someone or something. It was radiating from an eternal steady force within me. It felt sturdy and peaceful. It felt like home.
The human experience is comprised of both beauty and suffering. You can’t have one without the other. And we are allowed to have both. It helps us to better understand ourselves. It helps us to better understand each other.
The light can only be present with the existence of the darkness. And through suffering, rich, unimaginable meaning is born. Within those darkest moments is where we need love the most. When it arrives, welcome it with open arms. Tell these thoughts and emotions what they are longing to hear:
You are loved.
You are accepted.
I do not resist you, I support you.
And when they arrive, again and again, you continue to welcome them, you continue to love.
And eventually, the darkness will turn from months to weeks, from days to moments. We can never completely conquer or defeat the feelings of loneliness or depression. They can only be welcomed and nurtured.
Give yourself permission to radically accept your emotions. No judgment, criticism, or frustration. Change nothing about the emotion. Just feel it and offer love in return, instead of judging or punishing yourself.
As I began to understand that the universe is an infinite loving place and wants the best for its children, I understood that my experience living in New York City, in fact, was perfect.
It was never supposed to be easy and enjoyable. It had offered me something much greater than I could have ever imagined.
It offered me a look into my soul, into my real self. That look saved my life.
I understood the darkest parts of myself by holding up a mirror and learning from the lessons and teachers of life. It helped me to understand the suffering of those around me and to find infinite compassion and love for every being that will cross my path.
Remember, we live in the dark and the light.
The stillness and the chaos.
The trust and the distrust.
The acceptance and the resistance.
Both are always present. Because we are human and all humans experience this. It’s what we signed up for when we entered this life.
When you are in the dark, you are being offered a guide to better understand yourself.
Life has offered you a precious compass for within, which in turn helps you to navigate your way through life.
Author: Sarah Armide
Image: Kevin Lee / Unsplash
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Nicole Cameron
Social editor: Waylon Lewis