I made peace with it, but how?
The first time I tried therapy, I remember sliding into the building as smoothly as possible, looking embarrassingly from left to right with the hope that no one I knew from school would recognize me and learn that I was seeking help. Thinking retrospectively, at the time, I still struggled with what society thought about people living with depression.
Finding peace is a process that can seem fancy on the outside. People always say, ‘go for therapy,’ ‘introspect,’ ‘engage in shadow work,’ etc. But what does that all mean for you as an individual? Here’s a story about my journey to finding peace. Spoilers, this journey is unending, and the words in this piece cannot and do not replace therapy (I am not a therapist). Before peace comes chaos, but yes, there’s an upside; after chaos comes peace.
The Light Bulb Moments
My first big light bulb moment was realizing in a small therapy room at GU that I could and should ask why. The therapist had asked me a random question, to which I’d given a basic answer, one I had shared with family and friends before, and she asked why. Her question threw me off-guard because it wasn’t one I often asked myself — why.
Why do I hate my birthdays? Why did I skip stats class and come to therapy today? Why did I hate Mondays for about six months of my life? Why does so and so action or person trigger certain emotions when I experience them, or they come around? Etc.
At this time, I had been abroad for roughly two months. Everything was new, the educational system, the weather, the food, the housing, and the neighborhood. I had a lot of adapting to do. I was also constantly afraid that my grades would drop and I would lose my scholarship. Finally, there was the guilt of watching my family go broke trying to see me chase my dreams. International students get the gist.
The first few times I asked myself some of these questions, I came back with blank answers, like the ones about people triggers, mainly because I had not come to terms with how certain people made me feel. For some, the response was more direct, like skipping stats class. I needed help, and I knew everything I cared about would suffer if I didn’t literally drop everything and find help while I still had some strength. For some, like the birthday, it took me back to a memory that happened when I was about I was between 5 and 7 years old. These responses or discoveries are what I refer to as my light bulb moments. They were some of the first few times that I went past the emotions to explore the reasons behind the feelings, reasons rooted in past experiences that I had chosen or failed to come to terms with.
What I took from my Light Bulb Moments
First, the truth hurts. LOL. The best example that comes to mind is suspecting someone is cheating on you, and you go through their phone and confirm your fears. Now fam, I suggest you have conversations with each other before you go a-scooby-doing because the truth hurts. Some answers might leave you feeling too helpless, small, afraid, weak, or confused to deal with the root cause of certain emotions. But, on the other hand, some answers might make you realize that some things are more clinical than physical, and some will give you the strength and clarity needed to forge ahead. I’ve come to understand that it’s all part of the process.
Second, everything you don’t deal with eventually comes back to bite you in the ass, so pick a coping mechanism and face your challenges and emotions head-on. My favorite thing to do is cry. I often ask my friends if they need a group cry sesh where we don’t even have to say anything else but cry. I’ve learned that my tears are not a sign of weakness. So on your own, in your spare time, understand your preferred coping mechanism and apply it as you face your challenges head-on. My golden rule is never to cry or break in front of your oppressors. Remember that everything you don’t deal with eventually comes back to bite you in the ass.
Finally, it taught me to name my triggers and fears so that when they come for me, I can call them by their names no matter how they manifest. I’ve learned to dig into my past experiences and recall how I have successfully dealt with situations or lessons from similar previous encounters. Naming your fears means that when you meet them in another phase of your life, you are prepared to deal with them, and trust me, some of life’s stages are a bit familiar. But how can you deal with trauma when you’ve kept it neatly locked away?
Let me end by saying, ‘finding peace is a journey.’ Sometimes you think you’ve found it, and then something happens that makes you realize that you must pack your things once more and travel on. The road stretches farther than your mind’s eyes can see. But occasionally, even for a bit of time, we get answers that help us understand why we’re in our late twenties but loathe birthdays so much.