When I think of a person who has gotten me through the most, his face comes to mind. Not because he picked me up and carried me when I fell, so to speak. He was there for me, without a doubt. But the thing about this man that made a difference was that he taught me to believe in myself.
“Bottled up. Felt the pain before, but not this much. Oh my God, it’s real. How will I ever heal?”
I remember a lot of late night conversations that took place a little over a year ago today. I sat outside on the front porch swing of a Florida bungalow, hugging the phone to tear stained cheeks as I listened to the calm voice on the other end reminding me of who I was, and telling me I was stronger than I think. It was so hard then to believe him. At that time, I didn’t feel strong at all.
“So will you hold me? As I’m crushed, my heart is in pieces. And although I’m strong when I bleed, right now I’m just too weak.”
When I was a kid, I learned the art of survival. To duck, dodge and deal. But I never learned to face the things I went through. Eventually, everything had to surface. All of the emotions, all of the memories, all of the pain. For years I held it in, and it would affect me in ways I didn’t fully understand. Certain topics would make me shake just talking about them. Something as simple as a word or a tone of voice would cause me to hyperventilate, and I’d start to cry without ever knowing why. Nightmares plagued my sleep. Lies that were said to me years ago replayed in my head, trying to convince me that I was selfish, worthless, helpless. I dipped back into a bout of depression that left me feeling like a stranger in my own skin.
On top of it all, I felt crazy.
“Peace come over you.”
There was one voice of reason during that time, and it came from a boy with a southern drawl that stood by me even when I was a chore to deal with. He would spend hours listening to me talk, holding me when the tears got the best of me and telling me over and over again that I had to face this head on. That these things didn’t own me, and I was stronger than the demons I carried.
At first it was like trying to describe the color blue to a person who had been born blind. How do you make someone understand what they’ve never experienced? But I trusted this boy, and so I tested his reasoning. It was a long process. I failed a lot. My emotions often got the best of me, and when anxiety or triggers hit I’d have to ride them out. But slowly, steadily, his encouragement whiddled through my doubts enough to make me start to believe in my self, and my self-worth. This newfound confidence gave me the strength to override the lies in my head, which I eventually learned were the root of much of my fear, and anxiety.
Today, I’m leagues ahead of where I was before. I’m learning how to release the things that get pent up, and work through the emotions when they surface.
I won’t be so bold as to say I made it this far on my own. I didn’t. My faith, my family, my friends and even strangers have played a part in my story.
However, I can look people in the eye, smile and say with confidence, “I’m stronger than I thought.”
*Lyrics quoted from Peace Come Over You by The Rocket Summer