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Healing is Not Linear

I started my mental health journey, as I’m sure many people did, in 2020. I’ve always struggled with self-esteem issues, and those issues manifested as depression in my adulthood. Paired with a yearslong relationship that was going nowhere and mind-numbing substance use, I finally hit a low that gave me no choice but to seek therapy.

The moment I booked my first therapy appointment was nothing short of a rebirth. It signified the first time that I felt like I was actually taking care of myself, listening to myself, and believing that I was capable of something better than I was experiencing. Therapy changed my life and allowed fora sincere self-love to inhabit my mind and heart.

I learned about inner child work. I journaled and started to read tarot. I learned about breathwork and meditation. I read Adrienne Marie Brown’s book “Pleasure Activism” and worked to heal my damaged relationship with sex and pleasure. I made genuine and sincere progress, to the point that I was able to stop therapy and maintain a more or less stable lifestyle without therapy. I felt like I had broken through, I was a changed person, and I knew exactly what to do to fight my depression and intrusive thoughts. I had let go of a decades-long held breath. I was liberated, and I was so grateful I could sob.

Until I suffered real, out-of-my-control loss, loss that pierces through you and completely changes how you see the world. I fell apart, not all at once but gradually. I had the same tools I learned in therapy, but I wasn’t employing them. I didn’t meditate, I didn’t soothe my inner child, I pushed my feelings away, I indulged in self-loathing, I isolated myself, I allowed my self-trust to dissolve. I felt disconnected from a universe that I had finally felt held by, and from the loved ones I had finally felt understood by.

It was a terrifying feeling, because it was so familiar. I knew about this anxious, overthinking, self-doubting and distant space, this fog that clouded my mind, this hardened wall around my heart. I had felt this way for 10 years. It felt like a return to before my rebirth, like I had undone the liberation I was so grateful for.

Instead of seeing my mental health journey as a process, I saw it as complete. So, when those same depressive tendencies cropped up again, I spiraled. Not only did I feel bad, I felt bad about feeling bad. I was depressed and I was ashamed that I was depressed. I hated myself for hating myself. I knew what tools I could use to make myself feel better, and I just didn’t use them because I told myself that if I was a normal person, if I was better than I am, that I wouldn’t have to work so hard just to not be a wreck.

Unsurprisingly, this mindset made things so much worse, and what started as an inkling that being a functional and loving adult was difficult snowballed into the absolute belief that I was not good enough to handle being a functional and loving adult. There was no “best self” I should try to emulate; all of my selves were bad, and therefore putting in the work to feel better was pointless.

Of course, I was wrong. That breakthrough I experienced in 2020 was still relevant and useful to me, and I was able to snap out of it and recognize that I felt so bad because I had forgone simply taking care of myself. I talked to some friends about how I felt, I started meditating, doing yoga, and journaling again, and, lo and behold, I felt better enough to start slowly pulling myself out of the hole.

Things have changed over the last few years, but I’ve now learned that when life inevitably knocks me down, it will take work to pick myself back up. But I can do it, every single time. Sometimes it’ll take a little longer or look a little different from the last time, but I will get up. I will heal, as long as I remember, time and time again, that the solution to hurt is love.

The truth that I was unable to face, the ignorance of which pushed me deeper into a depressive spiral, is that we each have a responsibility to put in the work to be okay every single day. For those of us with depression, OCD, ADHD, PTSD, or other mental disorders, that doesn’t mean we need to be cured or free from these ailments, because we won’t be. It means that we need to learn to cope in ways that are loving, to ourselves and to the people around us. When we inevitably falter, we can pick ourselves up, give ourselves a hug, and just try again. There is no end goal of being healed. There is only right now. Pick yourself up, give yourself a hug, try again. If you can do it right now, you can do it forever.