Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not happening. I’m talking about those everyday or even situational battles people are fighting to win everyday. It’s not only about mental health issues or financial struggles. There’s so much complexity to the whirlwind of worries that overwhelm us everyday, yet we show up to our jobs, meetings, and deadlines like we’re completely fine. You could be dealing with extreme anxiety and look like you’re thriving at work. There’s unfortunately no mutual exclusivity at play here. Only an exhausting front we put on to spare others the second-hand trauma.
I went through some semi-traumatic shit in the past five years, to the point where my body was constantly stressed and on high alert. I got so sick I could barely eat and would ironically feel sicker if I didn’t. I hated my life, and I felt incredibly trapped in my circumstances. It got even worse during the global pandemic, while some of my loved ones also became suddenly seriously ill…during my first year of grad school…that I did remotely.
Somehow, I managed to pull myself together and was soon plunged into the “real world” within 6 months of falling ill. For my second year of grad school, I moved across the country to attend my college classes in-person in California. I knew no one, had never traveled there before, and my panic disorder was beginning to spiral out of control. On top of that, I had a chronic illness that appeared to spin-off into a new illness like a low-budget TV series no one even wanted.
Convinced I was dying, I still decided to stick it out in Cali.
And it was the BEST decision I ever made.
It was here that I learned I could stand on my own two feet. I could feed myself, pay my own bills, and take care of my physical and mental health. It may not seem like a huge deal to a lot of people, or some may even call it by its better-known name, ‘adulting.’ But for me, after everything I went through and how sensitive my body was to anxiety and stress, moving across the country and actually succeeding was a revelation to me. I never thought I was capable, never thought I had it in me.
However, if you think I was successful from the get-go, you’re sorely mistaken. It took a lot of therapy, trying some new medications, and a whole lot of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I had to confront my massive social anxiety, lack of self-esteem, and internalized homophobia head-on. I broke down and cried a million times in the last year and had panic attacks every other week of varying degrees. Thankfully, putting myself out there in the last year meant I made a bunch of close friends. I allowed myself to be vulnerable with this new support system I was building and with my friends back home. It made me feel so loved.
I will be eternally grateful for the amazing people I have in my life now. But through it all, the most dependable person I could count on was me. Glennon Doyle was right all along that “we can do hard things.” I didn’t feel the full power of that statement until I went through everything I did recently. I always played down my accomplishments when I was younger, because I was uncomfortable with the attention and didn’t have any confidence. But I’m writing this blog post to specifically celebrate myself and everything I’ve achieved despite the difficult personal hurdles I’ve had to overcome.
Our life experiences like the collective traumas we faced during the pandemic change us forever. I think the first feeling we have once we get through the rough patches in our lives is relief. But I think I’m past that stage now. Yes, I’m relieved my life looks and feels better now. However, I still struggle with anxiety and chronic illness everyday. I just try to zoom out and look at the bigger picture now to see how resilient I truly am. It took me years of suffering to finally see my seemingly ‘invisible victories’ for the real accomplishments they are. They might not seem like much or even anything at all to others. Visible or not though, every personal victory deserves to be celebrated.