As I browsed through my flash drive’s gallery a couple of hours later, I took a trip down memory lane and it was a beautiful thing. I looked at the two pics I DO have from my childhood, pics highlighting my “glory days” in high school, and several photos of my college career in FL. It’s crazy to think that in every single picture (excluding my childhood pics) I was almost dead inside. There was me holding a bouquet of flowers as I stood for a Homecoming Court flick. There was me celebrating goals with my teammates at Lynn. There was me lookin like a whole snack with my poppin tan, and the classic party pics where I stayed with a drink glued to my hand. My age in these pics ranged from about 16-20. I appeared fine on the outside, but with each new year I carried the weight of the last one. My mind was constantly cluttered and my soul was inflicted. I was heavy. I was burdened. I was (still) mentally ill, and during this time period, I didn’t even know it. Fast forward to age 23 at Rutgers University, and I’m holed up in my room writing my most troubling and darkest piece entitled “If I Were to Die Today” (see previous post) which I hadn’t released to the public until now.
Earlier today, I had the privilege of hearing the prolific Dharius Daniels preach a message about “Collateral Beauty.” In essence, it was a Word that explained how the collateral damage we are dealt with in life sends us in a downward spiral, but ultimately ends up benefiting us. Even though the traumatic experiences we find ourselves in that are caused by other people seem inexplicably unjust and unwarranted, we receive beauty in return for our ashes. Man, I was soaking it all in. It was as if Pastor Daniels was speaking directly to me.
After church, I sat in my living room with my boyfriend and began to show him pictures of me from my high school Yearbook, photos from my senior year varsity soccer gift, and an All-State award I had received. I unfortunately don’t have many pics from my childhood (which is what he wanted to see), but I do have a number of pics from my teen years to midway through college stored on my flash drive that I told him I would send to him when I got the chance.
I guess you could say that hearing that sermon, then looking back in retrospect in hard copy and in thought, I couldn’t help but reflect on how I went from suicidal, to barely surviving, to shining. I was formally diagnosed with Depression, Anxiety, PTSD and Bi-Polar tendencies at age 22. And now, I can proudly say that at age 24, I attend therapy about once every three months. Before, I would be on the fritz if I missed a weekly appointment. I haven’t had a depressive episode since “If I Were to Die Today” was written (May 2016), and my anxiety has decreased drastically. I am in a healthy and heaven-sent relationship with a man who exceeds my expectations on the daily (and for those who REALLY know me, you know how significant this is), and although my plate is constantly full with all that life is feeding me, I have never felt so empowered and optimistic for what it is to come.
I said all of the above to conclude with: keep going. It’s easier said than done, but it is feasible if you have faith. Faith is the fuel of life, and is the foundation in which we are able to advance towards better days, even if they don’t appear to be anywhere in sight. What I learned in coming out of my lowest points, is that my tumultuous journey wasn’t about me. We aren’t on Earth alone, so why go about your days acting like it? Our stories can save a life. Our pain can provoke a newfound happiness in someone else, just knowing that another person feels what they do too. We all have something to offer the world around us. We were all born with gifts; after you recognize what they are, you just have to figure out how to use them. Don’t bask in guilt, or shame, or helplessness or fear because of your past or your present. “Damaged” is a temporary state, not a life sentence. And in the words of Ebonee Davis, “Plot twist: your so-called “dark side” is actually the light.”