By Sharka Waite
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Kahlil Gibran
I recently read an article about reaching rock bottom being a good starting point. Although it may seem counterintuitive, I must agree, at least partly. As there is nowhere else to go but up.
Teen years and early twenties may pose challenges for any healthy and well adjusted individual. All the hormonal, bodily, mental and emotional changes we must decipher, embrace and adjust to. Add to it constant movement, changing schools or jobs, countries and friends, and, for good measure, let’s add DNA predisposition, temperament and personality. Especially when one is a shy introvert, things eventually tend to pile up and overwhelm one’s ever evolving psyche.
I have often throughout the years spoken about my extensive travels. However, very seldom have I disclosed all the sorrows and losses I have experienced. Although I mostly concentrated on all that I have gained, all the gifts my adventures offered me, there still are parts of my heart with void filling them. And even when the path on my journey became extremely dark, somehow I found a way and survived. I am not talking about a natural disaster, flood, a disease to overcome or a car crash to survive (although I did happen to be involved in a car crash once), I am talking about surviving the destructive monologue in our mind. Surviving our inner critic; the challenger who never has positive reinforcement to present. No matter how much we overcome, how far we travel and how much we learn, it never seems to be good enough. I wonder why we can at times be our own worst enemies and make our life so difficult for ourselves! Does it really have to be so hard? Couldn’t we appreciate life as is without almost ruining it first? Isn’t kindness supposed to be the best teacher? Kindness to ourselves and others. So, why do we have the tendency to destroy before we grow?
I hit rock bottom in my early twenties. On the outside, I had it all, or almost all, for a twenty-something year old. I already lived in a few countries, I was healthy, I had a job and a few friends, but on the inside I was absolutely drained. All the traveling alone, all the adjustments to new ways of life in every country, on one hand so refreshing on the other became too overwhelming. I used to be a people pleaser and so I said yes to everything and everyone. Little by little I grew emotionally exhausted, almost lifeless. It wasn’t long till I completely shut down. My poetry changed its hue too, my drawings were dark, my life became hopeless. I felt I experienced everything there is to be experienced. I knew I can’t travel the world forever as a hiker and temporary visitor, which began to resemble running away more than settling down. I knew I had to put my roots down but I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t have a husband, I didn’t have a child, I lived in a foreign country with not enough money to buy a house. Soon, after the self-inflicted pressure to fulfill the pre-destined role of a woman, wife and mother, I developed anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. I feared I failed my parents’ expectations. I felt as if I failed myself. But I wasn’t sure why. Not many peers of my age experienced as many countries and sites as I have, making a life for myself, overcoming language barriers and adapting to different cultures. Why did I feel like a failure? I had no idea.
“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” ― C.S. Lewis
It wasn’t sudden, it was all gradual. Life wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t joyful anymore. I became more introverted and more isolated, and then, slowly, instead of planning my life I began to plan my death. And that’s when my spirit hit the proverbial rock bottom. The actual “hitting” the bottom wasn’t the worst experience however. I learned very quickly who was there for me and who disappeared before I could even blink. Was THAT the bottom?! Or was telling my parents that my life was worthless THE rock bottom? As I was re-learning new beginnings, I realized one of the biggest lessons. After throwing everything away, with all my material possessions gone I learned that, as long as one has a beating heart one has what it takes to survive. It took years to rebuild my healthy being, but I did…somehow.
To this day I wonder why we drive ourselves crazy with all the expectations, competitiveness, busyness, and seeking approval from others. Why can’t we enjoy what we already have and trust we are enough? Do we truly have to go through hardships and suffering in order to appreciate our life? I know for myself I am a survivor. I know I am more whole than I was before but, I also know, life doesn’t have to be as difficult as we sometimes make it to be. I regret all the years I threw away and how harsh I used to be on myself, for I can never get those young years back and the scars were hard to heal. I can only hope my Soul will forgive me for all the abuse I’ve done to it. I was able to break my own heart! I hope I’ve never hurt anyone as much as I hurt myself. Compassion is not only to have for others but ourselves as well! We are all human and we all deserve to be loved. And so goes one of the most important lessons in life; LOVE FOR ALL!