Healing is not a straight path. It’s also not a destination that you reach or a milestone you achieve. As you get better, there’s no checkpoint to say, “good job, now keep going, only five more steps.” Healing is a commitment to getting a little better every day, and the results may not immediately show. You can think you have moved on from something just to be triggered again and learn you have more work to do. Prioritizing your mental health is about making it a necessary component of your life and then figuring out what works best for you. Everyone’s mental health journey and healing look different.
My mental health journey has been happening for a long time. The first time I can remember committing to my mental health was in college when I desperately wanted to get over being shy. If healing is an iceberg, our reactions to things are at the top. It’s what we can see, what our friends and family experience, and usually where people place their focus. I focused on acting more outgoing, getting more involved in the school clubs, and pushing myself to go into new environments. It worked for a little while. I felt more confident and less shy when on campus. I even became a leader in various organizations. However, my confidence was bound to the school.
I thought I had healed my “shyness,” but that wasn’t true at all. I’d had social anxiety since a child in elementary school, and there was way more below the tip of the iceberg. When I knocked off the first top of the iceberg, the rest just took a little while and then came back up to the surface again. Once I graduated from college and moved back home, my shyness presented itself also, and I couldn’t understand why it came back. The truth is my issues never left me. Underneath the iceberg’s top was the trauma of being ridiculed by individual family members as a child. I never felt like I could do anything right because I was always picked at when growing up. If I did well in school, it didn’t matter because that was “what I was supposed to do”. If I was helpful around the house, it got overlooked because I didn’t like doing the dishes. My family told me what I was doing wrong but never what I was doing right. This created a need for me to be perfect at all times. I was afraid even to exist authentically because all I wanted to be was who they wanted. I wanted to be loved.
No matter how hard I tried to be perfect, I wasn’t good enough. I was never going to be good enough for the people that gave me so much grief because they aren’t enough for themselves. My older family members had their trauma imposed on them as children. They internalized it, rationalized it, and then began to shape their perception of the world and themselves based on those experiences. They grew up thinking their behavior was normative and then projected it onto me. By choosing to heal, I’ve decided that their story passed down to them doesn’t have to be mine.
My brilliant friend Brittany painted me this quote, and it sits on my wall in my bedroom as a constant reminder to always be myself. I’m good enough for the people that love me unconditionally. I am good enough for myself because I love all of who I am. I don’t have to change and embrace my flaws and full humanity because no one is perfect. This journey started in 2012 and almost a decade later is something I still have to remind myself. Healing is an inside job. It takes looking at what makes us upset, angry, what we dislike about ourselves the most, and putting a magnifying glass on it to see a bit closer. I can sum up why mental health is essential in one sentence; you’ll be happier. I’m way happier now than I’ve ever been in my life. I have a clear understanding of who I am, and though I have more to unlearn to work through, I know it’s a process I’m capable of doing. Healing takes hard work, confronting uncomfortable truths, and giving ourselves the space to evolve. If you are looking to start or further your mental health journey, I suggest finding a therapist. We don’t have to do all the heavy lifting alone.
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Marielle M. Community Engagement Manager (BIPOC) @ B Lab Writer published on Blavity, Illumination, Synergy, Bo’Soul, BtheChange, and more
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