When I think about telling my story, I typically have the thought, “I’m a completely different person than I was ten years ago.” But the truth is, I’m ME now. I’m so much more ME than I was ten years ago, and I’m becoming more ME every day.
Over a decade ago, before I started my own healing journey, I was trapped in my own mind by relentless obsessive, ruminating thoughts (trying to figure out what other people thought of me, how not to say something “stupid,” etc.), and I didn’t know the way out. Paralyzed by trying to be perfect, I hid my true self from others; and honestly, I was so caught up in trying to make others like me that I didn’t know who I was. My self-worth depended entirely on what I assumed others thought of me. I wore masks and changed my behavior depending on what type of “Liz” I thought each group of friends might like that day. I lived to help others and tried like hell not to let myself be vulnerable; I certainly couldn’t let others see all the stuff I thought was wrong with me. Who’d want to be in a relationship with me then?
Because I didn’t know how to live another way, I developed symptoms of extreme anxiety and panic attacks, depression, self-harm, disordered eating/exercise, and suicidal thoughts.
My dream was to have an amazing partner, and also awesome girlfriends who really knew and loved me. I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted (you know, the ones we all have), and it included feeling secure in myself, belly laughing with my partner and friends, giving each other tons of shit, and sharing inside jokes.
My dream was to be loved, seen, and safe with the people I loved. And to feel good about me.
But my reality then was that I didn’t have any of that, and I didn’t feel anywhere close to attaining it. I was incredibly lonely, isolated, and no one really knew me. I didn’t know myself.
I was ready for help.
So, I plucked up the courage and got help. When I started grad school to become a therapist in 2009, I started seeing my own therapist. This is where my world started to change. The work was really freaking hard, really interesting, and then.. really cool… and like, life-changing in the best possible way; all of these things, over and over again.
And as I continued in my healing, the more I noticed a return to myself. I started trusting my own inner voice. I started noticing how much less anxious and depressed I was feeling; the obsessive, ruminating thoughts were lessening each day. I felt.. good (wtf??). I felt good in such a way that couldn’t have comprehended just how bad I had felt before. I started knowing what it felt like to love myself and feel comfortable in my own skin. I started just being ME - no matter who I was around - and I practiced not changing who I was to attempt to please others.
It was hard at first; really, freaking, hard. But when I noticed how much more aligned (and a-MAZ-ing) I felt on the inside, AND how much the people around me started really SEEING me, it got easier. It started feeling really good.
And, I started having the relationships I wanted.
My relationships transformed; some strengthened, some ended completely, some transformed into something new, some entered my life because I was ready to have relationship with healthy people. I noticed very clearly that when I changed how I felt on the inside, my outside world reflected it in the form of healthy, loving relationships.
I was drawing people who could see and love me well.
I’m still FLOORED by my transformation. I have an amazing husband and friends that I connect and belly-laugh with (tons of shit is given). I no longer have the symptoms I mentioned above, and I know how it feels to love myself. It’s more than I ever thought I could have; the gratitude and awe still overflow.
I’m not exempt from hard times - by any means; I still strugle and am just as wonderfully human as always (therapists mess up, too!). The difference is that I’ve learned to navigate the hard things differently, in a way that I don’t lose myself or sacrifice my wellbeing.
And I know that I am where I am now because of the work I put in. I changed my patterns and created my new reality.
And I believe you can, too.
(Nice to meet you!)