I was 13 when I first realized that my sadness was different. It didn’t go away; I would lie in my bed at all hours of the day, trying to find a way out of my own head. It was worse than hurting, it was numbness. At the time, I felt old enough to handle it on my own. When I look back, though, my heart breaks for that child – the one who lost her youth at much too young an age.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer that year, and I didn’t know how to process it. I did my best to keep the act up; I stayed involved in school, kept good grades, made all of the varsity teams. And yet still, I’d come home and lay down and wish it all away; I was convinced that I couldn’t live without my mom, and that if she survived, she’d be better off without me.
I started cutting myself that year as a way to regain control over my emotions; instead of the overwhelming exhaustion of depression, it was a breath of relief to feel pain. I felt pain because I made myself feel pain – it was the only way for me to take the reigns of my own life back.
It took me four years to ask for help. The vast majority of my young teenage years were filled with long, sleepless nights of wishing I would fall asleep and not wake up. I hated myself, I hated my scars, and I hated the lack of control. As I grew older I went to therapy, but I also turned to prescription pain medication as a source of relief and took more steps backwards than I did forwards. I was sexually assaulted at a college party my senior year of high school, and at that point my world turned upside down – I forgot what it felt like to trust, and I lost any resemblance of comfort I once had in my own skin. I started all over again.
The important thing is, I never gave up. I never stopped trying to find ways to make it better; some ways were detrimental, sure, but others were positive. I started reaching out to friends, I told my family what I was going through, and I slowly began to learn that my deepest fear was not in fact a reality – despite knowing the truth, they all still loved me anyways.
Pain is relative. We all have different measures of what hurts us and what doesn’t, what takes us past the point of being “okay” and what we are able to cope with. We all draw our lines in different places. And when something happens to us beyond our previous comprehension, that line gets moved and everything that happens from that point on gets put into a different perspective. With every painful event, we grow stronger; those things that may have hurt us before don’t seem to hurt so much anymore. But if pain is relative, that means love is relative too. You think you know love until someone comes along and lights a fire in your heart and leaves it burning in your soul. And then, well, that line gets moved too. Life is about changing; it’s about growing. With every pain, with every heartbreak, with every love, our lines get redrawn, and we emerge from the darkness better people because of it.
Our pieces fall apart and get rearranged, sharpened, and put back together – and through it all we must never forget to love them. Our pieces are our story, they tell of the times we grew stronger and of the times we didn’t give up. I am still learning to love my story, but I will never stop loving my pieces.