By Alexandria Court
“I am the one thing in life I can control
(Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it)
I am inimitable
I am an original
I'm not falling behind or running late
(Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it)
I'm not standing still
I am lying in wait (Wait, wait, wait)”
-Wait For It by Leslie Odom Jr.
I think I shock people when I talk about my struggles with my mental health. They see this extremely positive woman out in the world- not realizing there’s this voice in my head. And this voice is screaming at me everyday about everything I’m doing wrong in my life. For so many years I let this voice control my life. If I had a bad day at work, I would go home and cry about everything I did wrong. Whenever I got stood up on a date, the voice would be there telling me “see no one could love you”. I couldn’t ask for help without it commenting “see you’re a failure”. On and on this voice would keep telling me to be small, no one will love you, you’re not enough. Yet everyone in my life would reflect something different- telling me how I’m a hard worker, have the biggest heart, biggest supporter, the kindest person in the world. None of it mattered because that voice was louder, so I never believed in myself. Even with all the self healing I couldn’t love myself.
Then last year on my 29th birthday I came to a crossroad. I either stop living my shell of a life or I decide to really Live and fight for everything I want in life. I went with the second option. Yet choosing to live meant I had to learn to live with this stupid voice in my head. So I had to reevaluate my life and the aspects in it. And one pattern I noticed throughout my life was this idea of “should”. I should do this, I should be like this, this is what other people do so I should do the same. And that simple word “should” was giving that stupid voice in my head so much ammunition against me.
It would start off as something simple like going to gym. The idea of “I should start going to the gym because it would help me be healthy”. My family members were working out so I should do the same. No one was forcing me to go work out. They just offered to come join them. But I was so self critical of myself that if I only went one time a week or took a lot of breaks or did anything that wasn’t perfect I would spiral. Suddenly working out was associated with shame. Yet I boxed myself in with this idea that I have to keep going because that’s what I should do. This is where the voice in my head would take those beliefs and ideas to attack me.
I would picture it like the voice was holding a cat-o-nine tail and with everything I felt shame around it would whip my soul. I didn’t go work out- CRACK! I couldn’t finish the workout- CRACK! And over and over this would happen until I would picture my soul as a bloody mess. I had built these boxes of “should” that trapped me until I was emotionally self harming myself. And there were so many situations in my life that I had built these constructs in my life. Even things that I started out of a deep desire and love to do had warped into a box of “should”. Because it felt like my soul and spirit was so damaged those things I loved had shifted to things I should keep doing. And once I noticed this pattern everywhere in my life is when the anger surfaced. I was so angry about everything in my life. My inner child was furious that I allowed things to get this bad. I was angry at myself that I couldn’t even do the things that bring me joy without feeling shame. Even the things I knew would make me feel better would now make me angry- because I attached a “should” to it.
The only emotions I could feel were shame or anger. Joy and happiness was so buried under the shame and the anger I couldn’t see it. I knew I had to stop handing that stupid voice in my head the whip. So I stopped everything that I attached a “should” with. Some of the things I ended messily. Some things I just stop responding or coming to with no explanation. There was so much shame that I couldn’t even communicate with people without spiraling. There’s some relationships with people I’m not proud of how I left things.
I had to step away to let the shame disappear. I wanted to live a life without anxiety and shame. I wanted to discover what my life could be like when I moved by desire and happiness. I wanted to discover who I wanted to be versus who I thought I should be. So on the outside it might have looked like I was giving up on everything. Yet this is how I fought for myself for the first time in my life. I made the commitment to myself to Fight for a beautiful life. A life I only had ever dreamed of. And that stupid ugly voice doesn’t get to have a say in my life.
I had to relearn all the things I love in life and why I love those things in the first place. I had to wait. I had to wait for the shame to drop away. I had to wait for the burning anger inside to abate. I had to wait for my desires in life to awaken. Because I wasn’t going to restart anything without coming from a place of desire. I couldn’t live like the old me. I had to trust and believe in the new me. Who could create the life she wanted. I just had to desire it.
Over the summer I dipped my toes back into working out. My co-worker was looking for someone to go to the gym with her. And I was like “yeah, let’s try this again”. I was determined to come from a place of joy and happiness instead of being self judgmental and critical. So we planned to go together when our schedules matched. I never weighed myself. I didn’t have a hard routine. If we had to reschedule I didn’t beat myself up over it. I didn’t compare my level of weights with my co-workers. I didn’t track my eating. And I knew myself well enough to have a go-bag in my car in case we got inspired to go to the gym last minute. A trainer offered to give me a session and I declined knowing I would use the moments against me. I wanted to go to the gym, have fun and love so I would keep wanting to come back. Having a friend there helped, I was less in my head. We would encourage each other and it made the gym less scary.
Our schedules ended up not matching anymore and it dropped lower on my priorities- so I did stop going to the gym. It is a goal for 2023 to rejoin and go back by myself. And I know since it’s coming from a place of desire, it will be less scary to go back.
There’s this saying people like to talk about. No one can love you until you love yourself. At least for me I find some truth in that statement. I could never believe anyone loved me because I didn’t love me. I would pretend to love myself because that was what I was supposed to do. But I’m no longer going to live my life with the false idea of who I’m supposed to be. I’m not going to love myself just because I should. I’m going to love myself because I do.
So this year has been a year of healing and some waiting. Because I know when I dive back into my passion projects it will be full of love and passion- and not with an ounce of shame or should. And as I look back at this year it has been mind blowing. I have more flow and abundance than I have ever had in my life. I had more work-life balance. I didn’t spiral or panic around my finances. I was able to pay my bills. I took 4 vacations this year. That is more than I have taken in the last ten years. I have a huge support system- both local and out of state. I no longer feel like I have to do this all by myself. And this was kind of my hibernation year. I didn’t start any huge passion projects, it was more of a year of stability and healing. It was a year to learn to trust and believe in myself. To trust that no matter what life throws at me I can handle it. That I’m in control in my life- I have to just decide what I want and then go after it. So keep an eye for me in 2023- I feel like I’m going to be a force of nature this upcoming year.
I’m not going to let anything stop me in this life. And nothing should.