I Don't Hate You Anymore
After doing two different pieces on mental health, I ironically realized that this week is mental illness awareness week. As a personal advocate for myself and for people in general, I think it is terribly important that we begin to normalize the conversation surrounding mental health. What better way as a writer than to discuss my own interactions with mental health. By no means am I trying to "put my business out there" but I am trying to start a narrative. I'm hopeful that after reading these pieces that at least one person won't feel ostracized by their mental illness.
As October quickly rushes by, I can't help but be reminded that homecoming is quickly approaching. I'm in a group comprised of alum, I'm bombarded by university emails, and it seems as if everyone is returning to their alma mater for a good time. I love my university and the thought of being able to connect with friends is always a plus for me. I can't also deny the fact that my alma mater serves as a trigger for feelings that haven't been fully processed. I don't think I'll ever think of the school and not reflect equally on how much my life changed for the better but also for the worse.
After 2010, I felt like a public spectacle at the university which made me feel like public enemy number one. Outside of those within my circle, it was a cold world and I was doing what I had to do in order to get out. It seemed that as though once one point of conversation died down that another one was quickly birthed. For every person who supported me, there were 5 others who openly spilled their hatred for me on whichever platform was the best fit. I was in a place of constant turmoil of not only questioning myself but questioning God. I hated the idea of meeting new people because I didn't want to have that dreaded conversation about "who I was". Some new acquaintances expressed their sympathy and others informed me that they already knew my story. Whatever that means. To be honest, I couldn't wait to leave and start fresh with the hopes that I could begin to build something new and more grand for my life.
I moved to DC and was able to live again. I was no longer that girl but instead I was a graduate student, a young professional, and a southern girl in a big city on her own. I had done a fairly applaudable job of leaving that girl behind in NC until a special aired last year on a popular television station detailing the accident and the aftermath that followed. I watched with my then roommate although it had been suggested that I don't watch it at all. I wanted a front row seat to what everyone else was watching instead of having to hear about it later. My inbox flooded, friend requests filed in, and anger washed over me. My former life and this new one that I had patched together had collided with one another. Abruptly. The partners that I worked with professionally started to contact me and it was like I had been discovered to be a fraud. Someone who had pretended to have her life together, someone who hadn't been reborn from the core of unthinkable pain.
I remember crying that night. Crying to God, crying into my pillow, and really trying to figure out exactly what God had in the works. I quickly moved forward with my life because that was my only option. I would return to my alma mater for homecoming a month later to fellowship although the wounds hadn't healed from being reopened. I was approached by someone who had been in my life while in school and felt the need to spill their soul. I don't hate you anymore. These were the words that came out of their mouth and I was so perplexed. Everything else seemed like a blur as they tried to justify their feelings. Hate me? For what? To me, her life had been a cakewalk in comparison to my past few years. The next moments would go down quickly as the worst few moments of tailgate history ever(in my head).
I was mad. Outside of my family closest friends, family, and my linesisters, I had felt more alone than ever after my accident. I think since I was survivor that people thought I still didn't feel pain. I think people thought that because I smiled that I could easily absorb their continuous punches. I think people made up stories that my life really hadn't been changed that much. It changed and I'll live with that for the rest of my life. I remember letting her talk and saying, "I never hated you and I'll pray for you". The truth was that living with a mental illness had made me hate myself. I hadn't been able to handle other people hating me until I realized that this wasn't my issue. Once I forgave myself, I realized that I didn't need the approval of those who "hated me".
The power of forgiveness is an amazing thing. It opened so many locked doors and closed those that had remained cracked open for years. Most importantly, it had opened the one that I had closed to myself and given me a glimpse of who I used to be. It had given me a glimpse of who I could be again with dedication and grit. The one thing that living with mental illness had taught me is that not everyone wears a sign with their condition written across the front in legible cursive. The reality was that I had no clue what life had been like for her the past 5 years so I reserved my judgement. In the same breath, she had no clue how her few words could have changed the trajectory of my progress.
One of my first steps in healing was realizing that I didn't have to become my pain. I didn't have to walk around like the girl who had the world on the shoulders even if I often felt I did. I had every right to laugh, to party, to reminisce, and to make no apologies about going on with my life. The one promise I made to myself was to constantly strive to life a life that I won't regret. To live a life for those who can't and ensuring that I am unapologetic in doing so. My mental health is a direct contributor to this promise and I can't allow anyone to interfere with that. Choose you even if it means allowing others to pass you over.