The last few years of my life have been rocky. I could unpack grief, past trauma, family issues, mental health issues (survivor of PTSD, diagnosed with OCD and GAD), or even general work stress, but that's not why I'm here.
I chose to write this article because it finally clicked. After five years of consistent therapy, meditation, yoga, affirmations, medications, and yes, even crystals, I finally understood what my therapist has been trying to tell me. It isn't about holding on or even letting go. It's about sinking.
For years I struggled to tread water. I was using every coping mechanism I could learn to get through my day-to-day, which is what I needed at the time. It wasn't a question of thriving, but rather surviving.
Fast forward five years, and I was in the same spot, just better equipped. Even though I had made a lot of progress, I still needed help coping when I wanted to start rebuilding and growing. The space in between felt murky, undefined. The prospect of flexing every skill my therapist had taught me for THE REST OF MY LIFE felt exhausting. I never vocalized it, but my greatest fear was that I would run out of motivation to cope and end up right where I started, very depressed.
Unfortunately, treading water isn't a sustainable state. It takes an enormous amount of energy, and it can be a bit panic inspiring because we're taught to fear sinking. So I decided to rig the game in my favor, and I allowed myself to sink. Now I must be very clear with what I mean. I didn't descend panicked and thrashing, but instead, I peacefully fell into my feelings. You see, I had spent years avoiding my emotions. They were confusing and overwhelming. I feared that if I allowed myself to feel the very worst trauma, it would gobble me whole. Instead, I was astonished by what I found on the bottom of my proverbial ocean. I found the little girl who didn't know what to do, who to trust or how to heal. The shadow version of myself was the anchor of it all. I needed my adult mind to acknowledge the very real emotions and experiences I had gone through without analyzing and critiquing the past through my adult eyes.
When we look back at the hard things we've gone through, we tend to view the past through our present, making the experience opaque, at best.
When I allowed myself to feel what I had been hiding from, I validated my past self's experiences and emotions. In complete transparency, it sucked. It hurt. It was confusing. I felt overwhelmed. But the secret part of the sauce was the fact that I allowed myself to feel. I didn't run from the truth or discredit myself.
Now, I am able to sympathize with my shadow self, but more importantly, I no longer fear sinking; in fact, I prefer it to treading water. I don't need to be afraid of the unknown because I have survived the discovery process. Don't get me wrong, I still have bad days, I still go to therapy and use my coping mechanisms. But, the most significant difference is I'm not afraid of what happens if I can't "pull myself together" because I know if you allow yourself to sink, you can still choose to swim.
If you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out for help. It's okay not to know how to do it yourself; it's okay to struggle. Try to remember, everyone needs to be taught how to swim, but many also need to be taught how to sink.