This past year has been the hardest, craziest, and most rewarding year of my life. I say it constantly, I've written articles about it, and I remind myself of it all the time. It all comes back to the fact that I feel everything so much. I love extra hard, I care extra, but, most importantly, I hurt extra too. It was always honestly something I was ashamed of, but that's who I've always been. During the hardest times of the past year, I wouldn't have wished my pain and struggling on anybody, but now that it's all said and done, I believe that everybody should have to experience 'losing themselves' because it truly is the best way to find yourself.
I lost myself because I never truly took the time to figure out who I was. Deep down, I knew who I was, but I spent my teenage years covering it up with insecurities and the image of what my life is "supposed" to be like. I wanted the perfect friends, the perfect relationship, and the perfect life. I honestly didn't care how much pain these caused me, as long as they looked perfect on the outside. I wasted the time that most teenage girls spend "finding themselves," covering myself up to fit this image that I had created in my mind—constantly apologizing for caring too much, giving way too much and not getting the same in return, and settling for being mediocrely happy. I let myself feel this way for way too long.
Halfway through college and the beginning of the hardest semester of my education, I started seeing that this "perfect image" meant nothing because I wasn't actually happy. I started losing people and found myself not begging for them back. I started pushing people away. I started not caring about school because it was just one more thing that was falling apart. None of this was me, but I didn't really care anymore.
During the Fall semester of my junior year, I hit my rock bottom. I was constantly sick and had a never-ending headache. I stopped eating and struggled to get out of bed on most days. I stopped making an effort to see my family, and I slept all the time. I was failing nursing school, and I was so ashamed. My self-confidence was low and every day I had to add to the list of things I "needed" to do, but I never did them. I was mean and negative and started to not care about anybody or anything. I was losing the parts of myself that made me most "me." My family and friends tried to help, and try they did, but there's only so much they could've done. I was lonely and unhappy and miserable, but I had to get through it on my own.
I spent a good two months at rock bottom desperately waiting for things to get better until I realized that things don't just 'get better.' I am the only person that can fix this for myself, so to wait around for someone or something to fix this for me was a waste of my time. So, every day I started to pick myself up off the floor, piece-by-piece. I started studying more and staying up late. I started making an effort to eat. I started talking to people about how I felt, and I drowned myself in the company of the few good friends that I still had. I started identifying the parts of my life that didn't bring me happiness and I changed them. Some of the changes were small, but some were huge changes and they hurt like hell for weeks. Weeks that I thought I would never recover from, but I knew that someday happiness would come from the pain and loss I felt. One day I found a quote that read, "keep making time for you until you're you again," and that's exactly what I did.
You see, I thought 'finding myself' was a linear, quick process. I thought every day would get better until I didn't have to try to be happy again. I thought it would happen in a couple of weeks. But healing isn't linear. Weeks passed and I didn't feel any improvement. Some days I felt like 'me' again, just to be followed by days that caused me so much pain and stress. But slowly, I started to find myself again. The days started getting brighter and I didn't cry as much. I started singing along to the radio again and meeting people and feeling happy without even thinking about it.
Eventually, I was finally putting the work into school and was proud of myself again. I started to be able to look in the mirror and point out the things that I hated about myself only to be able to say "that's okay because there are more things that I love about myself than I the things that I don't like." I started making an effort for my friends and family again. I started feeling excited about things—getting to watch the sunrises, coffee runs, and small things that I used to find to be inconveniences. I started being able to walk away from people who didn't give me happiness and not feel contempt towards them, but instead say "those aren't my people, but it doesn't mean they're bad people." I started demanding respect because I worked hard to show myself that same respect. I started surrounding myself with people who saw how much I cared and who cared just as much as I did, and I started becoming picky with the people I spent my time with because I spent too long not doing that. I started talking about the struggles that I used to be so ashamed of because it made me into the person I am.
I found myself again after a long, exhausting 6 months.
I found myself after I realized that life is too short to be mediocrely happy and that life is meant for surrounding yourself with things that give you butterflies on the inside.
I found myself because I saw the parts of my life that I didn't like and I built up the courage to change them.
I found myself when I learned that I'm allowed to be selfish.
I found myself because I realized that I'm thankful for every terrible, painful thing that's ever happened to me because it brought me to the happiness that I feel right now.
I found myself in knowing that every single bit of my life has changed since this time last year, but I am more myself that I've ever been.