I don’t know what you’re going through, but I’ll be damned if you’re going through it alone. I used to write as a way to deal with my inner demons. Most of the time, these demons consisted of insecurities over my body type or wondering why every guy I actually held feelings for seemed to find something wrong with me. I have hundreds of journal entries just wondering what exactly was so wrong with wanting to talk at the end of the night. What made liking YOU so undesirable?
Gradually, my writing flourished. When I fell in love, I wrote about the fall. When I struggled with my career, I wrote about how frustrating it could be to compare yourself to others on social media who seemed to have life perfectly figured out. When I felt the massive, destructive force of grief impale my schedule, I wrote about the sting of losing someone you loved. When I got divorced, I wrote about how shitty and empowering the dating process was. When I thought I would never be able to carry a pregnancy full-term, I wrote about it because infertility affects over 6 million women in the United States alone. For all these stories, you’ve been by my side. Because writing about your problems is giving a voice to those who feel like theirs is buried.
My life is pretty shitty at the moment. My dad has cancer and lives with me. My husband and I have started arguing out of frustration at our lack of privacy and hectic schedules. I try to maintain my job, my education, my house, my composure, and some semblance of a social life. I hate my in-laws on and off. I feel like less of a woman because I’m not ready to have children, despite nearing 30 years old. Like everyone else, I have financial woes.
Outside of the “norm,” what’s really bothered me over the past few years has been feeling the ever-present reality of growing further from myself. Growing up, my dream was to move to New York and become a writer. Now I look up apartment rentals in Florida on Zillow. I vacationed in Florida a lot growing up. My family — Disney addicts at their core — visited at least once per year. My husband and I follow in that tradition, sometimes taking spontaneous day trips to the House of Mouse just to get away from the daily grind. Within there lies the foundation to my latest motivation: I don’t want to work toward the goals etched in chicken scratch in my journal; I want to get as far, far away from my current life as possible. I want to move to Florida.
I once read an article that talked about the illusions of escape. Your problems will follow you through any destination in the world if you don’t address them. I will still be plagued with grief every November 29th as I blow out the candles to my dead mother’s birthday cake regardless of whether I live in New Jersey, Florida, or Scandinavia. That aching, hollow feeling on Christmas mornings and Thanksgiving dinners will always persist. My angers and frustrations and hurts will flood my thoughts when I least expect them, popping up and spewing vengeance over a single text message or a Facebook post or when I’m having a particularly vulnerable day. Your problems — my problems — will persist, and they will follow you unless you resolve them. But there’s a flip side to all this.
You can’t work on yourself when you’re pummeled. You can’t heal — from grief, from being hurt, from depression — if you’re thrown four steps backwards after taking a single step forward. When I was struggling with the immense anger and trying to plan for my wedding after my mother died, a friend of mine reminded me that I can’t escape feeling bad. That’s true. But I can start over.
I don’t know what you’re struggling with right now, but I know it’s something. Maybe you’re struggling to love yourself. Maybe you’re struggling to fall in love with an idea — a lifestyle — you think you should have. Maybe you’re struggling with a loss you’ve never recovered from. Maybe you’re struggling with crushing guilt. Maybe you’re struggling to know what your next move should be. Maybe you’re struggling with identifying how to get there. Whatever it is that’s plaguing you right now, you’re not alone. That’s the beauty I’ve found in writing. Our shared experiences serve as a gravitational pull that draws us in. Regardless of the individuality of our shared foibles, we need to be reassured that whatever plagues us isn’t isolated. No one gets through life unscathed. No one gets through life without loss and death and grief. No one gets through life without regret. No one gets through life without self-doubt and the need for reassurance.
I used to think that there was weakness in starting over, that somehow that signified an inability to grasp or handle whatever complexities of life were handed to us. That is, indeed, incorrect. There is power and strength in starting over. Sometimes you spend too much time in a place or an environment or with people that are toxic to your mental well-being. If you’re not mentally healthy, how can you work toward the goals you feel so passionate about pursuing? If you’re not mentally in a good place, how can you be expected to work through it? Our society has ironically become a safe haven for mental health awareness. The stigma that it’s not okay to not be okay is slowly shattering. Layered in its foundation are more and more people speaking up and speaking out to remind the world that it IS okay not to be okay. More importantly, it’s okay to start over.
Each of us deserves to live with peace of mind, but speaking more truthfully, we all deserve a fair chance to live, to love, to enjoy our day from the burgeoning light of morning until the sky turns a deep purple. We deserve to make our dreams become a reality, even if that dream is nothing more than just having the ability or the freedom or the opportunity to smile or feel like life is finally working out in your favor.
In the past three years, my life has been far from easy. I watched my mother slowly die over the course of six and a half years. When she passed, I mourned not just her death but all the times I held strong just trying to keep a brave face for her. I take care of my father. I endure nothing but worried chatter about cancer, cancer, cancer. For the longest time, I stopped writing because I had nothing of value to contribute. Regardless of the hobbies I tried to pursue — writing, painting, interior design — I felt a constant struggle and inability to be happy because the constraints of my grief, my anger, my resentment, my responsibility with my father’s uncertain future that carried more weight than anything else that was important to me. I’ve been trapped by carnivorous situations that have devoured me.
So I need to take a step back and change my scenario, at least for a little while, to help repair myself. I deserve to be living a life where I can have control over my situation. I need to detox from the grief. I need to heal. I need to start my life instead of allowing it to be perpetually on hold. Maybe that’s what you need, too.
Starting over is not the same as giving up. Giving up is remaining in a situation that is not healthy for you. It’s putting your needs on the backburner continually so someone else can have the life they deserve. Life has to be about more than that. Our society pressures women to believe they need to be mothers, caregivers, and selfless beings who just find happiness in their children’s smiling faces, always doing the hard stuff because no one else in this world is capable. It’s because of these nonsensical pressures that women suffer from a higher rate of depression than men.
We need to take a break and remind ourselves that it is okay to take one. We need to know and be reminded that we’re more than women but individuals who can carve a path for whatever kind of life we want. Ladies, you are not unworthy of love from yourselves. Starting over doesn’t need to translate to a new zip code. Starting over means identifying your triggers and slowly removing them from your life. Starting over means putting your foot down. Sometimes it means a blank slate. Your struggles right now are not easy, and sometimes it’s not as simple as canceling everything, packing your bags, and getting the heck out of it. But, when the time is right, you’ll know. Trust that there is a light at the end of your tunnel. Let’s find strength in our recovery of reclaiming ourselves. Let’s find power in knowing we’re not alone.