“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept responsibility for changing them.” ~Denis Waitley
Even though I am just 20, I’ve always been one of those people who is constantly waiting for my life to start. “When I’m older I’ll do this” and “In a few years I’ll do that.”
My Dad took his own life when I was very young. Due to my age and the fact my family struggled so much with the loss, I grew up thinking he died of natural causes and learned the truth by accident when I was a teenager.
At the time I told one friend, who was my age. In hindsight she was too young take on my burdens as well as her own, and I was too young to know how to handle finding something like this out. The way I viewed my family, my Dad, and myself completely changed.
For a few years I dealt with it very destructively.
I couldn’t make sense of all these new feelings I was experiencing and constantly viewed myself as worthless and unattractive; in my head I must have been if my own Dad could leave me like that.
I suffered with depression and an eating disorder that would continue for a long time.
A lot of my friends never knew about the way I felt. I was always “the funny one” and became loud and overconfident to mask what I was actually feeling. Food became comfort for me, and always in the privacy of my own room.
High school soon ended, and I welcomed that with open arms. I saw the next stage in my education as a new beginning. I loved my friends with all my heart, but I thought a change of scenery and a chance to meet new people would help me change the way I looked at myself and my issues.
But nothing really changed.
I met some amazing people, discovered my love for music again, and had some wonderful times. But I was still burying issues and hiding behind jokes and overconfidence.
When I didn’t get the exam results I needed to progress onto college, I started heading toward that horrible place again. I felt worthless and anxious about what I was going to do with my life.
Soon enough I found a job to get me earning money while I decided what I wanted to do in the future. The job gave me freedom, independence, and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
The role, however, was target-driven. Although I enjoyed this pressure, and the money it gave me at first, it slowly began to creep up on me.
As that year progressed I slowly sunk back into my old ways and I was suddenly taking my performance at work incredibly personally. Everything I had felt over the past four years crept up on me and I eventually hit a wall.
I left my job, abandoned the amazing plans I had to travel the world, and became the old depressed me. I was never suicidal, but I stopped caring about whether I was living or not.
I was at an ultimate low for a good few months when an old friend reappeared. Despite four years of not seeing each other, she knew something was wrong and immediately suggested we meet up for a coffee and a catch up.
When we met, we chatted for hours about our lives. It felt wonderful to get these feelings off my chest to someone who was impartial and who wasn’t judging me, and it also felt good to listen to someone else’s problems for once. Then she said something that I will never ever forget.
“This too shall pass.”
My friend told me about this phrase that she found so soothing and how relevant she felt it was to pretty much everything. I immediately fell in love with these words.
I realized all the horrible feelings I was feeling will eventually go away.
I needed to stop feeling so sorry for myself and actually want to change. I was an incredibly lucky person who had come from a family who loved and supported me my whole life.
I had to be the one to make the decision to change my way of thinking.
I also came to understand the other side of these words. All the good things and all the wonderful people in my life would pass eventually too. While I was feeling miserable, my life was still going on and I was missing out on appreciating those precious moments.
I’m not saying I magically became a happy and healed person that day. I will always struggle with self-esteem issues and my eating disorder still rears its ugly head at times. I will always love and miss my Dad and have to deal with the way he left us.
But we all have horrible things happen to us that will affect each of us differently.
The important thing to remember is that our problems aren’t what define us. What defines us is how we deal with what has happened to us; how we change the way we think about it.
We can either let it become us or we can use our new found wisdom to change the little bit of world around us all.
I now realize those things aren’t what make me who I am. Nothing about my past is any different, but I have changed the way I think about myself and my surroundings.
There’s something much bigger than us and our problems. I think it is always important to remember that there is always someone who is in a position much worse than our own.
Nevertheless, I am well on the way to becoming the person I want to be and I have goals and expectations of myself. I am now aware that my life has started.
It started twenty years ago and it’s not nearly over yet. It’s happening right now. Yours is too.
Photo by Only Sequel