“You want to write a guest blog for me about the challenges of becoming a bold, fierce, independent, confident woman?”
When I received that text from my therapist, I was grateful. The gears in my head had already been turning since the written word has always been my most cherished coping mechanism. The year leading up to it was filled with more personal development than I was sometimes ready for, all culminating in a month and a half of full-on crisis mode. My therapist’s offer would give me the chance to organize the mess in my head while providing me with the opportunity I needed to express myself and make even more internal discoveries as I continued to deal with those aforementioned challenges.
As I began trying to get a grip on my racing thoughts, I realized more and more how many patterns had emerged since I had committed myself to this journey. On my way to figuring out and becoming the person I want to be, there were truths that consistently presented themselves in order for me to come to terms with them – some more difficult to learn than others.
The shape my path took is unique to me. As a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, I know that the way things unfolded had to happen and I wouldn’t trade anything. That being said, there were some lessons I learned that I wish I had been more prepared for.
Reputations are hard to overcome.
As a child, before I knew that the root of most of my issues was my chronic anxiety, all my worries, fears, sadness, etc. manifested themselves as anger. I was labeled a hothead with a bad temper and a short fuse. My parents and siblings could barely talk to me and rage was a state of being I was all too familiar with.
Maturing into adulthood, I started to recognize that anger for what it really was, and I began putting the effort into not being so quick to that emotion anymore; however, it seemed as though the damage was already done. Those closest to me already had an image of me in their heads and I had to use every ounce of strength I had not to just wash my hands of the whole damn thing. For a long time, I thought anger was just all bad all the time. I felt like I was not allowed to ever be angry because even if I’d gone days, weeks, or months without an outburst, one “relapse” would make all of that progress disappear – for me and for those around me. The more this kept happening, the more I came to terms with a different lesson.
You’re allowed to feel _________.
Fill in the blank with literally any emotion you can think of. For me, it was anger. Even though I had landed in a place for a long time in which I believed anger was 100% unacceptable, 100% of the time, I started to understand that it was just one emotion in a world of endless feelings – not one more valid than another. Getting angry was and is an honest and natural response to many situations and just because I struggled with it for most of my past didn’t mean it had to be completely taken off the table.
I wanted to make everyone see the progress I was making. I wanted them to notice when I did better and change their perspective, but that wasn’t up to me. The only thing I had control of was my own perspective. No one thing/emotion defines me. I was never an angry person. I was a person who got angry.
Settling into victimhood accomplishes nothing.
For the better part of my journey, I felt like I was the only one doing any of the hard work. I grew up completely enmeshed. Well into adulthood, I found myself feeling like I would never be able to physically or emotionally live without my family, more specifically, my parents, and even more specifically, my mother.
This mindset was a contributing factor to the relationships being unhealthy and at times, even toxic. When I decided to try to “fix” my relationships, I didn’t consider the other halves. To some, I looked ungrateful, disrespectful, and like nobody really knew who I was anymore. Instead of having the patience I wanted/expected everyone to have with me, I let myself fall into a breeding ground for resentment. I repeatedly told myself, and anyone who would listen, “I’m the only one this,” and “I’m the only one that!” I refused to see anyone else’s behavior as their own unique effort because it didn’t look exactly like mine. I became a victim because I felt lonely and at times, resentful that I was working so hard, and nobody seemed to notice or care.
Perhaps the most difficult thing for me to come to terms with was the fact that even if I did end up being right someday that nobody else was really “doing the hard work,” that shouldn’t have interfered with my own work. After all, I was doing it all for myself – for my own betterment and emotional well-being. That should have always remained a source of pride for me, regardless of whether or not anyone else recognized it, or was putting in the same amount of effort.
Space hurts and heals at the same time.
For a very short time, I was estranged from the people who matter most to me. As someone who had previously been overwhelmingly codependent, this was absolutely devastating. A confrontation got ugly, and things were said that none of us are likely ever to forget.
A long time ago, I was taught that forgiveness doesn’t mean giving up or admitting you’re wrong. It’s admitting you care more about the relationship than the argument.
Obviously, that’s easier said than done. I’ve always had issues with forgiveness and that is, woefully, what has led to far too many stubborn hold outs and cold wars. The only remedy to this has been time and distance. Time apart allows for spaces to clear, wounds to begin healing, and truths to become more evident. Even as I cried myself to sleep every night during that time apart, things were still being put in motion, attitudes were adjusting, and progress was being made – how ever unwelcome that progress seemed to feel at the time.
The universe knows what it’s doing, even when everything feels hopeless.
I know sometimes it sounds corny and overstated, but the universe truly delivers. For a long time, I mapped out next steps and told myself I felt “ready” to actually take them, but then I didn’t make the moves. Only when earth-shattering, life-changing events unfolded was I forced to actually dive in. All the times I threw in the towel – or felt someone else was throwing in the towel with me – the universe delivered the lesson. It delivered the perspective, and it was my job to understand that none of these things would be happening if they weren’t supposed to be happening. Sometimes lessons are ugly and painful, but we probably wouldn’t learn them if they were presented to us in any other way.
These changes in perspective taught me possibly the most important lesson of all…
Lead with gratitude.
I’ve gone through some shit. I’ve also experienced what I’m sure is some of the purest happiness available to us as human beings. There is gratitude to be felt through everything – good, bad, and ugly – that comes with a lesson. I’m even grateful for the lowest of the low points I experienced because it helped shed light on things I was keeping in the dark, either subconsciously, or on purpose.
I’m grateful for every scar on my heart and mind because those experiences helped make me who I am. They helped me understand how important it is to be honest with myself and with others. They taught me that I’m allowed to explore my current boundaries as well as set new ones. They taught me that not everyone’s journey will look like mine, but to move forward on my own with grace and understanding, regardless.
Many of these lessons were initially met with resentment, but as I let myself feel everything I needed to feel, that resentment slowly morphed into gratitude. In addition to adopting these truths as my own, I held tightly to the ones I’ve always known to be there. I love my family. I love my partner. I love my therapist – without whom these lessons may never have been able to be absorbed. Most importantly, I love me. I love the person I am, and I will continue to love her as she changes, stumbles, hurts, and grows.
To connect with Corinne for freelance writing or connect with a part of her story, you can contact her via Instagram at https://instagram.com/bycorinnesantiago?igshid=vcz4mstc8ssp or via email at: [email protected]