I used to think that I needed to be perfect, and being perfect meant that I wasn’t allowed to struggle or feel pain. I knew that I could never measure up to the standards I set for myself or the ones society set for me, so I hid what I was feeling from everyone, even my family and closest friends. I hid my struggles with depression, anxiety, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts for years, and I pretended to be happy so no one would suspect a thing.
When I was going through some of my deepest struggles with depression, it was as if I saw everything through a dark cloud that blinded me to anything good in my life. All I could see was my pain. I could no longer imagine a life that was not filled with this darkness, and my feelings of hopelessness and despair made me think that suicide was the only way out. But even when I was suicidal, I never wanted to die. No, I didn’t want to end my life. I only wanted to end my pain, and I thought there was no other way for my pain to go away. I felt broken beyond repair, and this made me lose sight of my true worth. I fell into a cycle of self-hatred: I hated my pain, and I hated myself for feeling that pain in the first place. I thought that if I were honest, my friends and family would stop loving me just as I had stopped loving myself.
Almost three years ago, on the night I decided to take my own life, I heard the song “You Are” by Colton Dixon on the radio. It reminded me of a time when I had been happy, and it helped me believe that hope might still be possible for me. Instead of attempting suicide, I decided to work to create a better future for myself, and I finally began to open up about my struggles.
When I finally began to open up to my friends, the complete opposite of what I expected happened: I saw how much they really loved me. I could see them hurting with me, and they showed me that loving someone means not being afraid to share in their pain. Because of their love for me, I not only learned that it’s OK to not be OK, but I also realized that I needed to love myself enough to get the help I needed.
When I first started to get help for my struggles I learned about something called radical acceptance. This means that we don’t need to like certain things or even agree with them, but we need to accept them for the way they are. Part of my recovery meant accepting that I was hurting or that something was wrong, even if I didn’t like that fact.
Recovery has been a long, hard journey. It’s still difficult for me to admit that I am not perfect, and I’m still learning that my scars don’t define me. I’ve made it to a point where I can say that I do love myself again, but I am still learning what that means. When I have hard days, it takes a lot for me to admit that it’s OK to struggle. But I think this all comes down to one simple fact: We’re all only human. There is no such thing as a perfect person or a perfect life. We all struggle in our own ways, and we all know what it means to feel pain. And that’s OK because pain is just a part of life.
We live in a society that values perfection and holds it up as something attainable, but it’s time we break free from that way of thinking. We don’t need to like the fact that we hurt and feel broken at times, but we need to accept it in order to heal. The only way we will ever be able to find healing is by accepting ourselves wherever we are. My hope is that we will come to love ourselves even in the broken places. My hope is that we will learn to love each other even in our pain. After all, we don’t need to be perfect to be loved.