I’ve spent most of my life wishing I was someone else.
I’ve survived complex trauma and two suicide attempts. I’ve ridden the self-improvement train for decades, searching for a remedy: an accurate diagnosis and effective trauma therapy that would end my relentless anxiety and depression once and for all.
I wanted a normal life. More than anything, though, I wanted peace and contentment. I was convinced that if I could transform the wreckage of my life into a solid foundation of knowledge, determination, and will, I would finally be the fearless woman I had always wanted to be. But I couldn’t ever get there and spent most of my life struggling in silence.
This all changed when my sister took her life in the summer of 2015. She was my second sister to die; I lost my oldest sister 19 years before.
I decided I needed to go back to counseling. As it turned out, my counselor had recently lost her grandson to suicide, as well, so she understood my pain better than anyone else. Unlike most conventional counselors, she was interested in healing all of me: mind, body, and spirit. She believed unexpressed and unacknowledged emotions lead to physical illness and encouraged me to journal, create art, and pursue anything else that would serve as an outlet for my feelings.
For the first time, I was ready to come out of hiding and face my trauma, and through the process, I found myself.
I stopped hiding and started living. I finally gave myself permission to grieve openly. I began writing poetry, blogging, and posting publicly about my grief and suicide loss. I took an online manifesting class and made new connections.
I was setting boundaries and taking care of myself for the first time—surrounding myself with people who made me feel powerful and removing those who were overly critical and judgmental.
I was changing, and my life changed.
The death of both my sisters almost destroyed me, but I’m finally at peace with myself. My personal connections are deeper and more meaningful. I make self-care and my own needs a priority. I’m learning to look at my imperfections and shortcomings with eyes of compassion, rather than judgment.
Recovery isn’t a linear process, and it isn’t always easy. Navigating mental illness and suicide loss is extremely difficult and requires a great deal of compassion, empathy, patience, and resilience. But we need to take responsibility for our well-being and learn to be kinder to ourselves. We have to find a way to listen to and accept our feelings, and we have to forgive ourselves.
This is still something I struggle with: forgiving myself for things I did or didn’t do. But I think this is where the healing process starts. In any given situation, we are doing our best with what we know. We are human beings, and we are messy. And that’s okay. That’s what makes us beautiful.
Author: Rebecca McAuliffe
Image: Bruno Nascimento/Unsplash
Editor: Brooke Breazeale
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Travis May