I was sitting on a big, red rock with my big, black furry dog and my journal—just up in the foothills outside of my hometown.
It was late afternoon in early January. Cold. Windy. Gray. I was silently watching the sun start to set over the skyline of the city. Watching tiny, yellow and white lights pop up in the surrounding neighborhoods. People turning on their kitchen lights and TV screens.
I had my journal sitting next to me but didn’t open it. My life had fallen to pieces once again. I was homeless, broke, broken. It felt like the cycles I had been living in were restarting. Like I was looking back on the last decade of my life full of dread for my future.
Is this what I have to look forward to, again? What am I even supposed to write about in this stupid thing?
I remember feeling cold and depressed, heavy, and heartbroken. Not heartbroken by anyone else, in particular, just myself. Was there a time when I used to be happy? I reached back into the recesses of my memory—I can’t remember what happiness feels like.
Is happiness even real? Is it an actual thing that people experience?
I sat there for a long time, considering this philosophical question. It was at that moment that I realized I had been living in cycles. Cycles of self-destruction, of victimization, of self-loathing. And that if I didn’t make some sort of change, I was just going to fall into that same cycle—again.
Then, I imagined myself another year from then, maybe two years, after another failed cycle, sitting here on this same godforsaken rock, thinking about how I broke my own heart, how I disappointed myself—again. And that image in my head, of my future self, felt like a dagger through my soul.
I can’t go through this again.
At that moment, it felt like I had two options. Change or death. These cycles and this never-ending trauma I had been experiencing was killing me. So without any background emotions leading me through this internal conversation—no anger or rage or overwhelming sadness—I logically went over my options.
Death felt like the easy way out. I had battled suicidal tendencies before, but at that moment, it felt like an actual, real solution to a problem. I had no fear of death, but it was really only a way to not have to deal with my own mess anymore.
Change was the other option. And to change meant that I had to heal. I thought back to when this all started—to my scared, traumatized, 15-year-old self.
I have to figure out how to heal.
This was a totally foreign concept to me. All I wanted to do at the time was die or run away. Healing meant I had to face my past. Face my demons. Try to make sense of my life. Try to make sense out of senselessness.
Years ago, a friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went to visit her, and as we talked through her fears and her treatment options, she said to me, “When a doctor tells you that either you do radiation and chemo, or you’ll die, you choose the radiation and chemo. It’s not about being strong; it’s about choosing not to die.” That hit me hard.
You could have zero strength left—like I did—sitting on that rock, but when you have no other option, you choose to keep living. And for me, at that moment, it meant I had to figure out what healing and happiness really meant.
Every major change in our lives starts somewhere, and reflecting on these moments, I believe, gives us some insight into who we are and who we strive to be.
And what happened after that moment?
A long and windy and exhausting and liberating healing journey. One that has allowed me to open up and give myself permission to sit with my suffering. It has taken me to deep, soulful places within me that I hadn’t met with before.
I may not have had much strength left that January day, but I am grateful that I didn’t have another option.
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