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TRU: The Real U

One Woman With Inner Beauty Can Change the World

Reflections: My Story

Reflections: My Story

Voices in my head told me I was worthless, that there was no hope for me, that no matter how hard I tried I would never be good enough. . . . I choose to share my experience in the hopes that it may encourage others who are struggling to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

By Erica C.

I don’t gaze at myself in the mirror as a general rule.

But this morning is different.

This morning, I stop to smile at the woman looking back at me.

As I stand there, I recall a time when I could hardly stand to glance at myself in a mirror. I had no desire to confront the stranger that greeted me each time I dared steal a desperate look. I couldn’t bear to see those empty eyes and glued-on smile. No amount of makeup could conceal the sadness and guilt that seemed to ooze out of my pores. I was frightened of what I saw.

I am pulled back to the present by a tugging at my leg. I reach down to pick up my precious one-year-old daughter. She giggles at her reflection and I hug her tightly, reveling in the light and joy she emanates.

Many know of my past struggles. Many more do not.

Some know me only as I am now. They are familiar with the positive and upbeat woman looking back at me this morning. Probably few would guess that the person they know today is a result of suffering, of overcoming, of having to pick myself up again and again . . . and again.

Some know of my battles, and were once well-acquainted with the girl who dared not look in the mirror. It wasn’t many years ago that I was at the lowest point in my life. I had been struggling with depression and anxiety to varying degrees for a few years, when a series of life circumstances led me on a downward spiral towards severe mental and emotional instability. I had become a complete stranger to myself and to those who loved me. I was diagnosed with major clinical depression and related mental illnesses that complicated my ability to form healthy relationships and led to victimization by those who preyed on my insecurity.

I was racked with self-loathing, perpetual anxiety, and unrelenting fear. Voices in my head told me I was worthless, that there was no hope for me, that no matter how hard I tried I would never be good enough. They told me that I was a burden and that the people in my life would be better off without me. These persistent voices obliterated my ability to reason properly. Over the course of a few months, I was hospitalized three times for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. To my diseased mind, there was no future for me that did not hold more pain, more mistakes, and more self-sabotage. I saw no point in going on.

It was during my last stay in a psychiatric health facility that I reached a turning point. I was lying on an uncomfortable bed in a cold, cheerless room that felt like a jail cell. I was alone and terrified. The only light in the room was a murky gleam from a small, barred window. I had never felt so completely forsaken.

depression

I was just about to close my eyes, pleading for the respite of sleep, when the setting sun positioned itself directly within the tiny window frame and flooded the room with a soft, warm glow. In that moment, a loving voice pierced the darkness of my mind. “There is a reason you are here,” it said. “You have an important work to do. Do not give up.” I was overcome with the knowledge that God had not forsaken me. I knew I was not alone, even in that lonely place. A feeling of deep purpose enveloped me as something inside reawakened. In that rare moment of clarity and love, I made a deep, inward commitment.

I decided I was going to get better. I decided that no matter how long it took, how hard it was, or how many setbacks I had . . . I was going to get through this. I wanted my life back. I wanted myself back. I wanted to move forward, to put all of this behind me and become who I had I always wanted to be.

Please do not misunderstand me. I’m not saying from that moment on, everything was sunshine and roses. I’m not saying that all I had to do was “decide to be happy.” Like any other illness that afflicts the body or mind, depression is not something you can simply “will” yourself out of. Many other things had to happen before I could become whole again—including finding an excellent counselor, gathering around me the support of friends and family, returning to my faith and devotion in God, learning positive coping skills, improving my physical health, and changing long-held beliefs and patterns of thinking.  However, I am convinced that the deciding factor in my successful recovery was that pivotal moment when I realized that it was up to me to do my part—no matter what.

It proved to be a decision I had to make over and over again. Every single morning and, often, multiple times a day.

I know that without that commitment to recovery, nothing could have helped me—not the best therapy in the world, not the perfect combination of medications, not the most loving, supportive relationship. It was the one thing that got me through the most difficult, heart-wrenching moments when those voices inside screamed, “Give up! Give up!” It was in those moments that one small voice of commitment inside whispered, “Remember. Remember.” When the way became difficult, I remembered what I felt that day as the light broke through into my mind and heart and I made the decision to move forward. That is what made the difference.

With that one choice, I took the power away from my past, from my mistakes, from those who had hurt me, from depression, and gave it back to myself. When I let go of undeserved blame and guilt, while at the same taking appropriate responsibility for my actions, I became empowered. I was able to begin the process of forgiving myself and moving forward.

Over time, I began to heal. It certainly did not happen all at once. It was a long and painful process spanning years—a journey of small but important choices. Looking back, I realize that it was the quiet victories in the small moments that led to the greatest growth.

It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy. Even today, when I am the healthiest and happiest I have ever been, it is still a choice I have to make constantly.

My purpose in sharing my story here is to reach out with love to those who may be struggling with depression or similar issues. Please know you are not alone. I choose to share my experience in the hopes that it may encourage others who are struggling to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Though I have chosen to put aside many things from my past, I have also felt prompted to write about what I have learned and experienced that perhaps it may bless others.

light

To those fighting mental and emotional battles, I want to say that no matter how hopeless and how dark it may feel right now, know you are not alone. Know that you can get through this. You can survive. You are worth saving, no matter what you or others have done. You have strength within you that you do not even realize. And I truly believe that there is a God in heaven who loves you and wants you to succeed and to be happy. There is a purpose for your life.

Everyone has a story. Every person you see is the result of the hardships they have overcome, the battles they have won, and the enemies they have conquered—including you. Let your voice be heard. No matter where you are in your journey, begin to speak. There is power and healing in expression. You do not have to bear your burdens alone. Nothing you have gone through has been in vain. By sharing your story, you just might change someone else’s life, but you will most certainly change your own.

There is always hope. There is always a reason to keep on going even when you cannot see it in the moment. There was a time I could not even begin to fathom the happiness and wholeness I now feel. Today, I accept and even embrace the person I see in the mirror each morning, but it has taken a great deal of time and patience for something as simple as being able to look myself in the face and be okay with what I see.

Today, I am grateful for the trials that have made me who I am. At this point in my life, I am faced with different kinds of hardships, and I know that inevitably there will be challenges in the future. I am at peace with that knowledge because I know that no matter what, I won’t give up. I will get up each day and try again.

So this morning, I kiss my little girl on both of her cheeks and thank my Heavenly Father that I made that crucial decision what seems like a lifetime ago.

This morning, I hold her close and say a prayer of gratitude that despite—no, because of—my past, I am the person I am today.

This morning, I see my reflection in the eyes of my beautiful baby girl and know without a doubt that it was all worth it.

It is always worth it.

Erica C. lives in the Sacramento, CA area. She is a proud Air Force wife, mommy, and BYU graduate. When she’s not chasing after her toddler, she enjoys music, running, and baking goodies with her sister.

1 Comment

  1. Niki Petersen
    Jun 22, 2014

    Thank you, Erica, for sharing this beautiful and inspiring story. You are such a beautiful, strong and inspiring soul.

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