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by Katherine Sapio, MS, NCC, CHC
Beginning at a young age, I always felt like something didn’t fit. That I didn’t fit. I spent many years attempting to find reasons why and desperately attempted to comprehend why happiness did not come easy for me and why I felt such a deep sense of anger and loneliness. These feelings lead to a series of poor choices in my life including surrounding myself with people who didn’t love or accept me for me and yet I for some reason idealized. I felt as if I needed to fit the mold of who they wanted me to be while losing site of who I was meant to be and, falling short every time. I sought validation from all the wrong people and consistently challenged my own morals and values and who I truly was at my core. With each value, moral, and belief I silenced in my head, the more the hatred for myself grew. I was always raised to love myself, trust my gut, not allow others to take advantage of me or treat me poorly. But in my mind, I wasn’t worthy. I felt as though I didn’t deserve happiness or love and believed that I had to be this perfect person and just being me was far from good enough. I wasn’t necessarily a rule breaker, disrespectful to authority, or rebellious. I instead engaged in self-sabotaging behaviors making sure that I didn’t directly or intentionally upset or hurt anyone in the process.
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Although I have never been one to hide my emotions, my screams were silent. All the feelings and thoughts that burdened every aspect of my being led me to punish myself. I began spiraling into deep forms of depression as a result of daily anxiety and paranoia. Instead of being able to understand why I was feeling the way I was, let alone, verbalize it, I began to take my feeling of worthlessness, anger, loneliness, and loss out on myself. At a young age, I began my self-punishment through self-mutilation and eating disorders.
As I was a prisoner in my own mind, I watched as my family desperately attempted to shower me with love and support only for me to be numb to the very thing I had been seeking all along and in all the wrong places. I watched my mother attempt to comfort me daily while holding back her own tears and my younger siblings struggling to understand what was happening and who I was becoming and my father, constantly appearing angry and confused as to why I was this way which only led to a greater divide between us.
I became more and more of a stranger to the ones I loved and attempted to conform more and more to the ones who would never truly love me the way I thought I needed them to. With the support of my family, I sought professional help. I spoke with therapists, school counselors, social workers, religious figures, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. only to find that oddly, I already knew what they were telling me. I heard their words like it was something I already knew but may have felt couldn’t solve the complicated questions and feelings I was experiencing.
As I continued to spiral down my own personal dark hole of self-loathing, I was put on endless amounts of medication in hopes of “pulling me out” of this dark place, only to lead me into an even darker one. I wondered over and over who would save me; who could take me out of this nightmare, where would my answer be? I sought instant gratification from alcohol, negative people, and continued to attempt to find some way to magically “see the sign” or “snap out of it”. The things I was good at slowly slipped away and the people I loved and who truly loved me back became strangers. I was desperate and tried every clinical approach possible to pull me out of this darkness.
One day, as I sat alone in my room, watching my family prepare for a trip, a trip I would have normally gone on, I truly saw that I was letting my life pass me by. I saw that my family was so desperate to continue to keep their strong bond and let love be the foundation of our family. I watched them as if I were watching a movie. It felt as though I was no longer a contributing factor to the happiness and love and that through my darkness, I had brought the people who loved me the most into my nightmare. I vowed to myself that at this moment, enough was enough, and the one piece of advice I was going to take out of all the clinical and psychological feedback I was given, was that happiness is a choice.
For all these years, I continued to choose to not be happy because it was what I felt I deserved. It was a place that I knew and I was oddly comfortable in the familiarity of my own darkness. I knew what to expect when I was unhappy and I was able to control it. But what if I tried to pick myself up and choose the harder road which was to make better choices for myself, take a risk, and choose the healthier options in order to attain what I was seeking all along. I didn’t have to punish myself or feel not good enough. I could start with one small decision at a time. One healthy choice after another. I could begin to heal myself and the ones I loved.
At this moment, I chose to live. I reached out to the proper people to help me with this process to ensure that I would take my time in order to be successful. I began to make amends with those I hurt and realize that those who hurt me were only struggling within themselves and facing their own battles. This journey was not an easy one as I was still walking towards the light out of my darkness. It was in my decision to choose happiness and health that I was able to attract the right people into my life, find the decisions that were right for me, and truly uncover what my soul had been so desperate for me to hear and see.
The decision to choose happiness is so much more than just a choice. It’s accepting that life is not always perfect and sometimes taking a risk can lead to hurt and undoing previous patterns will often lead you to feel like being out of your own skin. Making this choice does not mean that things won’t go sour or that there won’t be road blocks ahead. It means that through the storms and through the difficult days, the decision to love yourself can bring you true clarity, comfort, beauty, and determination to embrace who you are and who you are destined to be.
Making a choice to embrace health and happiness is one that needs to be made every single day because unfortunately, for those of us who do struggle with Mental Illness, this doesn’t just go away. It is part of who we are but we don’t need to let it become our identity. It is in each day that we decide that the past will not continue to chain us and drown us over and over but we will make the decision use our tools to break free and breathe regardless of the demons we carry and the hardships life will throw our way. We will make the decision each day to survive and fight because it is in that decision that we continue to live.
About the author:
Katherine Sapio is a Certified National counselor who recently obtained her Health Coaching Certification, and will be applying shortly to become a National Wellness Practitioner. Her website is: https://theapblog.wixsite.com/