Tricycles to Bicycles: My Three Legs

It’s no secret, but I struggle big time with self-love. I know I’m not alone in it, I know I’m definitely envious of people that are able to be confident enough to look in the mirror and like what they see back. I get self critical, for every one thing I see that I like I’ll point out 12 to match and it’s taken me 22 years to turn to myself and realize: dude, this isn’t working. So I’ve made it an actual goal of mine to work on self-love, self-acceptance, self-care…I need to make me a priority because I fill that gap of insecurity with caring for other people and leave no time or space for myself.

I’m going to put my psychology hat on here, and diagnose myself. Toward the end of my elementary school years, I got bullied. I know this is how every sad novel starts but I really just didn’t fit in with the people I was around, I’m a person that thinks with her heart and I’m the furthest thing from impulsive and it can get annoying. It was struggling to figure out my identity, I didn’t know who I was I just knew I wasn’t finding that understanding with the people I was surrounded by and those people didn’t understand me. Those two years were potentially the most difficult, it’s when I began to get sick and it’s when that chemical imbalance in my brain finally manifested itself into two monsters: an anxiety disorder, and a vicious, vicious cycle of depression. I sat face to face with these two assholes, in questionnaires, in long, drawn out appointments, in tear soaked piles of tissues that I often fell asleep in. I seemed to have lost myself, and lost myself quickly because at that age I shouldn’t have been wishing I didn’t exist anymore, I shouldn’t have been wishing I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I knew something was wrong with it, but I didn’t say anything because I’ve become I managed to convince myself that there wasn’t anything anyone could do anymore. I was just stuck thinking like this and the meds only created this fake happiness that I managed to believe enough to get me through each day.

Adding all of this to transitioning to high school, a new set of friends, and then a failing body it all became too much. Fortunately, my story doesn’t end here and it doesn’t end tragically. I began to make real friends, hesitantly of course, as I knew people left as quick as they came. So once I made friends, I almost became obsessive about keeping them. I was afraid to say no, I was afraid to not do things in fear of that “no” being taken as “never again”. I hid my emotions from my friends, and was selective about who I opened up to so I guess that would explain why I had best friends in seasons. My friends in high school were great, they were as great as they could be with a friend who was more often absent than she was in school. They visited, they tried to understand, and they did. But being isolated in the hospital, I didn’t have much physical connection with people other than my nurses so I became the greatest at analyzing relationships and people via social media and the ways we would talk. I tell you, I became obsessed over these things. Then after high school my best friend died from cancer, it was on my second day of university so I didn’t have friends yet so I called who I knew: my friends from high school. To this day I still remember, there was only one friend that showed up that night and let me cry in her arms. She didn’t even know what was wrong, but she came anyways. I left university and was left in a world where I was stuck between two worlds, and I was alone. I was in my own head more than I was in the real world, I ached for company and for understanding but instead I mourned and grieved the life and person I once was. Once people started to come back into my life, I latched onto them and I didn’t let them go.

I developed deep, intimate relationships with people very quickly. I loved and trusted people so quickly, and found my way through their families and them. I built my identity around them and their families, I built my plans around them, I built my happiness and identity around them. I was the happiest I had been in years, I felt like I finally understood my place in this world and I had finally understood how to keep people in my life. I never said no, I did things even that were beyond my comfort level not by force but out of fear of losing the person that brought my happiness and life back to me. Eventually the inevitable cycle continued, I lost that person and in doing so I lost myself. Now this isn’t a physical loss, but it may as well have been nor is this at fault of this person. Truthfully, I owe this person so much of the knowledge I surround myself with. I learned so much, and developed so much as a result of that friendship. It’s one I’ve never experienced before, but one I’ll treasure forever. This was my first clue that there was something wrong here, but it wasn’t with anyone else but me.

Now my illnesses, my disorders, all of this medical crap has taken it’s toll on me…it’s worsened my depression, it’s aggravated my anxiety, and it’s created many pockets of trauma in which both of those things like to hide in. I’ve developed serious and severe anxieties about the world around me, and the people I’m around and the most harmless of trauma can trigger an entire panic attack, borderline manic episode that can lead to hours of crying, hyperventilating, vomiting, flashbacks, panic attacks, scratching, screaming, and just about anything to try and get out of my own head. I truthfully didn’t realize how desperately I wanted to get out of my own head, until I was left to my own devices. I’ve gone through quite the list of social workers, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and everything in between. I’ve been a patient, a member of a study, a guinea pig and just a plain depression, anxious teen. I’ve taken medications, done CBT, ABT, mindfulness, psychotherapy, family therapy, counseling, talking therapy, body talk therapy, biofeedback, CAM, CRT just about all there possibly could be out there…I have yet to find the combination that works for me, but I know that it will be out there. I recently began a new program, with a new team, a new approach, a new medication and we’re tackling a whole new set of issues that are incredibly difficult for me to work through a cope with working through. It’s opened up a whole new can of emotions and responses that my mind has worked to hide and bury under years and years of trauma, I’m uncovering things I once have only thought to be dreams or stories to be truthful experiences. I am growing, and changing, and hurting, and falling, and breaking, and mending all at the same time and most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing.

All my life I have navigated through life thinking I have three legs…think of this analogy as a tricycle. I know I was born with two legs, with those two legs I have crawled, walked, ran, danced, and been carried through 22 years of highs and lows. When the bullying and the teasing started every aspect of my life was questioned and picked at, and in defense I distanced myself from those parts and resented them too. That grew into a great deal of self-hatred. I told myself that I was a failure, that I would never be good enough, that I didn’t deserve happiness and couldn’t find it in myself. I hated who I was, even if I wasn’t sure of who that was. Thus came the development of my theoretical third leg, I was so broken that I was convinced I couldn’t walk through life with my own two legs so I depended on everyone else to help keep me upright. I relied on that third leg more than I want to admit, I relied on people to make me happy, make me feel loved, make me feel like I had worth and purpose. I put my well-being in the hands of people who loved me, and I expected that to keep me safe. And it did, well sort of. It’s just that every time distance was put between me and whoever I was close to I almost went into a state of grief because I didn’t have a foundation in my own mind of who I was, and what made me tick. I would fall into depressive lapses, I would question and contemplate my existence and my life. I literally lost pieces of myself when I lost friends, and that’s no ones fault but mine.

Recently, I went through this again. I lost someone I loved, and someone who I thought loved me. But this time…I didn’t fall apart. I didn’t blame myself, or question what I did wrong, I didn’t lose my sense of self instead I made sense of myself. I learned that there’s a reason why we are born with two legs, I learned that there’s a reason why learning to ride a bike without training wheels was a milestone. I learned that there’s a reason we express love and support by holding someones hand, instead of carrying them through. I learned that until I love myself, and I whole heartedly believed in that love and the fact that I deserve to be loved I will never be truly enough for anyone. So for the first time in 22 years I stand here unapologetically on my own two legs. I know that these legs may buckle, I know that I may stumble with them, that I may fall. I know I’ll get cuts and scrapes, and bruises and bumps but I’m ready for that. I’m so ready for it because I know that these two legs will always help me to get back up. I know that these two legs will always be there.

I know that with these two legs I will always be enough, and I will always be okay. I’m ready to start living this life on my own two legs, understanding the love that I deserve and not settling for less out of fear. I’m ready to find happiness in myself again. I’m ready to learn to walk again, I’m ready to do this life one step at a time.

My worth will no longer be dictated by those around me, and my happiness will no longer be in the hands of anyone but me. I’m on a journey to learn to love myself again. I am terrified. I am content. I am prepared. I am enough.

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