by Angelique Campo, FINDink Contributor
I spent a lot of my years trying to get to the bottom of who I am.
At a young age, I taught myself how to be small, in every essence of the word.
When I became aware of all my flaws, aches, and growing pains that I didn’t like about myself, I began to learn what it felt to be insecure and suddenly, being small became progressively easier.
There were parts of me I kept hidden away. I pushed everything I felt down, hoping that one day those feelings would disappear. I thought I was just being dramatic when I was younger. But then it started following me for longer periods of time. My mind took one, little thought and ran with it, and it wouldn’t stop until I was hyperventilating. It was such a stark contrast of what I felt versus who I portrayed myself to be to everyone around me.
You never want anyone to know, because it brings an onslaught of shame and guilt. Like I’m not allowed to feel this way. Because there’s no reason to. It’s not real and I’m not actually suffering.
You have this, and you have that. You’re so lucky compared to others. Stop complaining.
So, I stopped.
I made it so that it was small; so tiny that it was insignificant.
Because if it were small, I wouldn’t have to deal with it.
If it were small enough, it wasn’t real. And if I brushed it off like I learned to, then I would be fine.
I hadn’t realized what a disservice I was doing to myself by invalidating my own emotions. I was shrinking myself to fit into an outdated cultural narrative that was brought down from generations before me. I didn’t understand it until I got to college. I couldn’t run from it anymore. I couldn’t ignore it when it started seeping into my life during the day and putting italics on my sadness at night.
When I finally got diagnosed with anxiety and depression, it was such a weird sense of relief. Like I could breathe now that I knew what was wrong.
But at the same time, it opened doors to conversations I still was not ready to have, with people I loved who couldn’t quite understand why, and trauma from growing up that I had to relive over and over again until I accepted it for what it was: trauma.
For me, healing meant having to peel myself down to the very core, everytime, in hopes to get to the bottom of it all. You make a valiant effort to explain it to other people, and yet, it still doesn’t get any easier.
That’s why this month in particular is very special to me. It’s the first one that’s allowed me to feel valid. After a year of not being able to recognize her, she was able to build herself back up.
Once I faced the fear that became my own truth, I made some room, instead of shrinking.
I finally felt the gravity in kind words. I started saying them to myself. I said it out loud. It was then that I decided this is where I begin again.
And I will start over every time if it means getting the opportunity be better than I was before.