“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” -Bernice Johnson Reagan
We all face struggles in life—times when we feel broken, hopeless, and lost. It’s during these moments of hardship that we have the opportunity to discover our true selves and find the strength to carry on. This is my story of how I faced the end of my rope and managed to pull myself back up.
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A Struggle Unveiled
During my first year at college, I battled depression and anxiety. The weight of it all made me contemplate extreme measures. But something deep inside me urged against it, and I’m grateful that I listened.
It all began on the day I moved into my dorm room. An argument between my parents before they dropped me off shattered the illusion of a perfect family. The reality of their turbulent relationship hit me hard. This newfound awareness amplified the loneliness I felt that first night, as I cried myself to sleep, worrying about their relationship and my uncertain future.
Little did I know that the challenges I faced would continue to intensify. Only weeks later did I come to the painful realization that I had been a victim of sexual assault. At the time, I didn’t label it as such, blaming myself instead. I questioned my choices, my clothes, and my actions. The weight of shame and self-disgust settled heavily upon me.
Lost and Struggling
The difficulties didn’t end there. Adjusting to college life further compounded my anxiety. The sea of unfamiliar faces overwhelmed me, leaving me feeling invisible and disconnected. Doubts about my chosen major and my own abilities added to my growing sense of identity crisis.
Isolated within the confines of my dorm room, I sought solace in tears and sleep, craving escape from my pain. This was not the college experience I had imagined. In my despair, I believed that sharing my struggles would only invite judgment and shame. So, I kept my darkness hidden, rejecting the support of friends and family.
The Power of Writing
But amid the darkness, I discovered a lifeline—writing. Relying on pen and paper, I poured my heart out into a journal. Page after page, I confronted the overwhelming emotions that threatened to consume me. Writing became my voice, my outlet for unexpressed pain and fear.
With time, I found supportive friends and confided in them, as well as in a wonderful guy who became my boyfriend. Speaking out about my struggles empowered me, strengthening my voice and helping me reclaim my power.
The Journey to Healing
Graduating from college six months ago, I can’t claim to have conquered all my battles. However, I have confronted each one head-on, armed with the knowledge that only I can truly help myself. It has taken years of self-discovery, seeking, and learning to navigate my path to where I am now.
Writing has been my steadfast companion on this journey. It has allowed me to lay bare my struggles, identify them, and find ways to overcome them. But writing is just one step in the process of confronting your hardships and helping yourself.
Steps Toward Healing
Here are some steps you can take when faced with your own struggles:
1. Acknowledge Your Struggles
Don’t deny or pretend that everything is fine. Admit to yourself that you are struggling, and affirm that you have the strength to overcome.
2. Write It Out
Identify your specific struggles and feelings. Take note of what you need to feel better and care for yourself—be it time alone or support from loved ones.
3. Embrace Your Emotions
Allow yourself to feel, even the negative emotions. Resisting or ignoring them only prolongs the pain. Give yourself permission to experience your emotions fully.
4. Know Yourself
Recognize the triggers that lead to stress, anxiety, or depression. Pay attention to your coping mechanisms and replace negative strategies with positive ones—meditate, exercise, spend time with loved ones, or listen to music.
5. Seek Support
Share your struggles with someone you trust—a friend, family member, counselor, or partner. Opening up releases negative emotions and lightens the burden you carry.
6. Create Your Plan
Prepare a list of actions to take when you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed. Choose what works best for you, whether it’s deep breathing, painting, playing basketball, writing, or talking to a friend.
7. Be Your Own Encourager
Write a letter of encouragement to yourself, using gentle and kind words. Keep it in a special place and refer to it whenever you need a reminder of your strength.
Remember, you are never alone, even when it feels that way. Opening up and asking for help is a testament to your inner resilience. Embrace the truth that pain is temporary, and growth is everlasting.
Your struggles are not weaknesses but stepping stones to a stronger and more resilient you. It takes courage and determination to confront your hardships. So, when you find yourself at the end of your rope, remember that you have the power to pick yourself up and carry on.
Photo by Hartwig HKD