It’s been a year.
When I first started, I wrote a lot about my struggles with anxiety and PTSD that I’d managed since my teen years. And it’s not a secret, but when I began to share my story last March, I was in a shitty place.
It definitely feels strange when I recall that, just a year ago, I was:
- Married (unhappily) and about to put a contract on a house
- Disconnected from many of my closest friends
- Struggling with stomachaches and severe anxiety in a way that was so constant and cyclical, I was unsure which one caused the other (with bonus insomnia)
- Living in a place I loved but had wanted to leave years ago
- Unable to drive more than an hour from my house
If you’ve ever seen “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” I have a mental image of me from the present showing up in a phone booth and telling me from a year ago what my life is like now. Of course, me from the past loses her shit.
As time went on, and I made major changes in my life for the better, a (semi-coherent)message that I’d never planned on conveying to others emerged:
You deserve good things, and if you’re in a shitty situation, please know that it’s not forever.
By “good things,” I mean (and some of these bear repeating):
You deserve a partner who will treat you with respect and give you the space you need to grow as a person. If your partner doesn’t make you feel like an equal member in your partnership, you’re not a bad person if you get the fuck out and go it alone. You are not the sidekick in your own life story.
(This applies to family and friends too, not just romantic relationships.)
You deserve to live in a space where you can nurture your own happiness, and if you feel like a town, home, or living situation isn’t working for you, you don’t have to continue living there out of obligation. We all have different relationships with the places we’ve lived and are from, and choosing to stay or leave doesn’t make you a better or worse person.
Ultimately, you deserve to not be defined by your past, no matter how much some of your experiences haunt you. This might mean outgrowing people, places, states of mind, phobias, that one band you loved when you were fifteen but can’t bear to listen to anymore. Your old relationships with yourself and with others are only a small part of you.
It’s easy to feel like you’re doomed to repeat mistakes and go through the same cycles of unhappiness. I used to pick through specific instances where some miserable event happened to me the same way multiple times in my life. I’d sit there and completely ignore all the times things worked in my favor and only remember the times I’d done wrong or been unlucky. Sometimes, I still do it, but it helps to see the pattern and stop myself.
I’ll never understand why so many people go through life telling themselves that they don’t deserve happiness and all of the good luck that comes their way. There have been times I’ve told myself I don’t deserve things even after I’d put in work that I could measure.
Writing about all of the ridiculous thoughts I’d been mired in for so long has been one of the best forms of therapy.
Without this outlet, I may never have realized that thinking I didn’t deserve to enjoy life was the driving force behind the anxiety and phobias that followed me for years. I had convinced myself that I deserved my situation and that, because of this, there was no exit. Once I started hearing from other people I admire and care about say that they often have the same doubts about themselves, everything started to change.
I never thought I’d be the kind of person to champion optimism and positive affirmations. Sometimes, it still feels like wearing a dress that doesn’t fit quite right. I grew up on a steady diet of skepticism and sad-sack paranoia, so it wasn’t easy to convince myself that there was another way to look at my place in the world.
But if it’s true for me, it’s true for you: You deserve good things, and I hope you know that they’re out there.