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As the New Year approaches, a lot of us make statements that next year is going to be different and our best year yet.
We create a long list of resolutions and for a little while we might stick to them, but we end up quickly no longer keeping up with the actions, habits, and behaviors that would lead us to meet those goals.
This story is no New Year’s resolution. It’s a raw, authentic, and potentially triggering story about my darkest, lowest moment and how as I approach my one-year anniversary of that moment, I’ve arrived at my most favorite version of me.
From the outside looking in, a lot of people would think I have so much to be grateful for, but as we all know, things aren’t always as they appear.
I pursued my childhood dreams of moving to and living on an island—St. Thomas United States Virgin Island, to be exact—and had called it home for nine years. I was married to a Thomian woman with long beautiful locks, and we had the cutest island pup who was a perfect blend of us (ebony and ivory).
I had an amazing career as an occupational therapist, which allowed me to serve others navigating their healing journey with physical, mental, and emotional conditions. I also stepped more into my spirituality and was providing energy healing to myself and others through reiki. I also had the pleasure of sharing the gift of increased physical activity with others by teaching a variety of exercise classes at a small studio on the island. I was tapping into my deeply feeling heart and soul by finishing my stretch classes with a poem or breath work.
But even with all of this wonderfulness in my world, I could not shake the feeling that something was off and not aligned.
I have always been a deeply feeling soul, an old soul many would say. I was held back in first grade because while I was book smart, my teacher said my social-emotional levels weren’t what they should be. My older sisters would describe me as moody, and my father and later my wife would describe me and my feelings as “too much.”
I wore my emotions on my sleeve and sometimes they came out as an abundance of tears, while other times they were a pressure cooker of rage. I was recently having a conversation with a friend that I have a high tolerance for melancholy because that has been my overall feeling for so long. Even before my sister died when I was 10, I experienced significant feelings of darkness, not fitting in, and deep sadness. I have had intermittent experiences of being self-destructive because while I didn’t want to lose others in my life, I didn’t care about or value my own life.
It all came to a head on my 39th birthday.
For the weeks leading up to it, I had, again, fallen off pouring into myself. I was a wounded, boundary-less healer, and I was so worried about people and things out of my control. A friendship was on the rocks, my wife and I were disconnected from one another, I kept forgetting to nourish myself with proper nutrition, and I was so disconnected from myself that I didn’t realize how I had slipped back into survival mode.
On my birthday, I was in Puerto Rico with my wife. It was the grand finale of surprises she had planned for me. The weekend before, we went out on a boat trip with friends. And the night before, we went out to dinner with another lesbian couple on the island.
To this day, I can’t quite recall what conversation or issue led to the complete emotional dysregulation, but I know I was the closest I have ever been to almost ending my life. The pain, loneliness, and isolation that I was experiencing in the moment was so great that I was on the edge of a hotel ledge—literally. In that moment, I just wanted all of the years of pain and grief to end, and I couldn’t access my inner light on my own.
Thankfully I was able to hear a small, faint voice that said, “You aren’t done yet.” With that I was able to pop back into my body a bit, and proceeded to ugly cry and wail like an animal in distress. I pondered the question: What if there really is more?
When my wife and I got back to St. Thomas, I could literally feel the energy cord cut. This wasn’t my first suicidal ideation while with her, but it was the closest attempt. She had frozen me out because she felt like she was always on the receiving end of my anger, rage, and deep sadness, and while I wasn’t always showing up the best in our marriage, neither was she. At the time, her freeze response was ice cold but in hindsight it was the greatest gift because it pushed me to really choose myself for the first time in my life.
Choosing myself led to a ton of self-directed choices and changes:
Step One: Move out of our home and find a place of my own while I figured out my next moves. I lived in an apartment with my wife’s immediate family, and while it was cost effective, we had been on high alert for quite some time due to increased health scares in the family.
I reached out to a friend on the island who thankfully had an affordable apartment that was in a quiet neighborhood. My friend allowed me to rent on a month-to-month basis as I wasn’t certain how long St. Thomas would be home. Once I was in an environment that was calmer and more peaceful to me and my nervous system, I was able to self-reflect on what I really wanted and needed at this point of my journey.
Step Two: Relocate back to the states and temporarily live with my parents for a little extra family support and healing as I navigated my choice to get a divorce. So I moved back to my childhood home after being away from my parents and sisters for 12 years. This phase was a strange experience as I was able to spend an abundance of time with my family, but I wasn’t working for the first time since I received my master’s in occupational therapy.
It felt like limbo, a lot of uncertainty, and not the greatest sense of self because I realized how much of my self-worth was attached to my occupation and professional productivity. I was also readjusting to stateside living after living on a beautiful Caribbean island with crystal clear, turquoise waters for nine years. And then there was the significant grief and sadness about getting a divorce, even though I knew in my heart we had never been compatible or really aligned on our actions, behaviors, and values.
Step Three: Apply for an occupational therapy license in Georgia and find an apartment in Atlanta. For quite some time, I had been feeling a pull to Atlanta but I wasn’t listening. My thinking brain kept saying, “Girl, you have never even been there, and you aren’t a big city girl.” After growing up in a small town and living on an even smaller island, my heart and soul was craving a bigger space that was more progressive.
As a woman who identifies as a lesbian and a lover of nature and art, I wanted to be surrounded by community and opportunities to experience more of the arts and Mother Nature. I began to honor my intuition more, and on a visit to Atlanta for an employment meeting and apartment search, I found a place that felt like home from the moment I arrived. It was like my body was experiencing a full “hell yes” as it felt so cozy and calm from the get-go.
As someone who has had a nervous system on high alert from childhood, this is what full alignment feels like. As someone who identifies as hypersensitive and believes that to live is to suffer, I will share that there will be moments of feeling unworthy, of experiencing peace, calm, and joy if you have experienced distress for a chronic period of time. Our work is to ground and regulate, to expand our window-of-tolerance for peace and joy as this, too, is our birthright.
Step Four: Move and get settled in Atlanta. This is where I am currently at friends—I am a few weeks away from my 40th birthday and I am in the best space I’ve ever been in mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and professionally. I sometimes cannot believe the woman I am today because while I dreamed of one day being this version of me, I never quite believed it was possible.
I am happily still serving the community of St. Thomas as an occupational therapist and providing virtual services. This was my home for nine years and where I began to reconnect with my authentic self; I will forever be grateful and of service to the Virgin Islands. I have a wonderful community of friends here and also there. They feed the depth of my soul by having authentic conversations and holding space for one another’s darkness and light. I am leaning more into my identity as an entrepreneur and putting myself out there as a wellness consultant, workshop facilitator, and energy healer.
I truly feel like I am living my purpose, and life feels like a beautiful flow state right now.
Long story short, choosing ourselves isn’t easy. It isn’t something we are really taught growing up and it leads to many uncomfortable feelings. We will question this choice. We will experience grief and uncertainty, and it will take a lot of work to shed all of that unconscious programming we take in from our childhood, the news, and social media.
The key is to take it one moment, one day, one step at a time. Keep small promises to yourself on a daily basis. Eventually, those habits become a part of your identity. In the midst of the process, we may not realize how much progress we are making. Wemay feel off balance or question why we are going through all of this.
But I am here to tell you that it will be so worth it. Listen to that inner knowing, trust your gut, and walk in your purpose, because a lot can change in a year.