A few days ago, I woke up in a funk that I haven’t felt in months. I felt dread from the moment I opened my eyes. I was surrounded by doom. I started to visualize the dark shadows of depression and anxiety swirling around in my room. I peeked out my window in hopes of seeing the potential for a sunrise, but it was all black. Most mornings I rise and smile, hit snooze and thank God for another day. But this morning, a repetitive sentence was being written across the blank page I created in my mind. As clear as the words that I am typing now. “Nobody loves me.”
I know what you’re thinking. “Stop being so ridiculous. You know you are loved.” And that is true. I do know that these thoughts are ridiculous and that there are people who love me. But that doesn’t make my feelings any less real. I go through my day reaching for the light, but it’s one thing after another batting my hand away. “Not today Satan”, I whisper to myself and I swear I heard a reply. “Not today Laura”. I don’t want to accept that this is happening. This is how it usually starts for me. The plunge into despair. Still, I try to convince myself that I can pull myself out of this one. I’ll use my therapy lamp, meditate, do some stretching and drink some tea. Worst case scenario, maybe I’ll medicate. Whatever I can do to keep this in check, I’m doing it.
I rack my brain to get to the root of the issue. I keep replaying certain memories, painful moments in time when I’ve been hurt or lost out on love. Depression tells me it’s always my fault. Anxiety tells me it will never get better. Both are very loud. I’ve been holding on to these memories and carrying them around with me everywhere I go and they’re getting heavier all the time. I realize that I haul around the “ghost of relationships past” with me, even in new relationships. It’s no wonder I can’t seem to hold on to love. I can’t seem to drop all this junk I’m carrying. There’s no room left for anything valuable. I should know by now that living in the past is only a recipe for self-sabotage. I’m good at sabotaging things. There were a few times I had something real, but I just couldn’t accept it and I fought it, until I lost it. It’s what I do.
It always comes back to love for me. And why wouldn’t it? Love is everything! I only wish my thoughts of unworthiness would stop overshadowing the truth. As much as I treasure my alone time, every weekend at home, by myself, equates to not being loved. If it’s been a few days since anyone has reached out to me, well that just implies that no one cares. Two nights ago, I had a panic attack and found myself lying in bed crying, wondering why no one was hugging me. Reality knows that my friends and family aren’t mind readers. Depression and anxiety says that it’s because no one even thinks of me. It’s ugly, I know.
It’s only a matter of time until I feel like myself again (or at least like the version I can tolerate). Still, I wonder if I’m long overdue for another wellness retreat. The last one healed me in ways I’m still discovering. I spent four nights in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with no plumbing or electricity. I spent my days in yoga class, journaling workshops and meditation. I ate clean and treated myself to a massage. The last night of the retreat, we were told to write down what we felt was the worst part of ourselves. Then we shared with the group, heard and accepted each other and lastly, threw the paper into a fire. Maybe it sounds corny, or even a little cult-ish. But watching that piece of paper burn was so therapeutic. Words like “unworthy” and “unlovable” were devoured by the flames. The ashes of lies danced around in the air. The paper went up in smoke along with my darkness. It smelled of campfire and freedom. Before long I was smiling and crying simultaneously. I knew that I needed to feel this again.
So I took out my notepad and favorite pen and began writing letters that I will never send. I addressed one to the people who tried to love me, which was achingly apologetic. One to the people who didn’t love me right, which was angry because it was never really love. One to those who awakened my heart with no intention of loving me, which was filled with sadness and confusion. All of them carried some form of the question, “what did I do wrong?” And “why wasn’t I enough?” And with that, I wrote a final letter to myself. Again, listing the things about myself that I find so unlovable. Horrible, hideous and shameful words; some used more than once. Depression tells me these words are my truth. Anxiety tells me it will never change. I want these words to go to hell, so I burned them.
I know it’s only symbolic. I know it’s a temporary fix. But I don’t care, because I feel like I conquered something. As the doom rushed in, I pushed it back out. My broken past will never be changed and my future is nothing more than a fantasy. But now, I feel lighter. And right now, this moment, is all I have. It’s all I’ll ever have. And I feel free. Setting fire to the lies I sometimes believe about myself has made me feel good again, if only for a while. I’ll take it. I’ll repeat this process over and over, as many times as it takes, to catch a glimpse of hope. One day at a time, I have to keep going and fighting. And maybe someday, the finality of these words will be as real as the ashes on the ground.