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The Art of Trusting Yourself


Trusting in yourself takes faith. Faith is a sticky business, one that requires allowing things to unfold without a guarantee. Faith isn't a toaster and it doesn't come with a warranty and I find that highly aggravating because I often miss the point of things. Trusting yourself is especially nuanced when you move against conventional norms. Several years ago, while trying to function under the weight of things I didn't understand - the way I absorb and haul other people's emotions around with me, the end of a ghastly relationship, being laid off, depression, and a bit of a drinking problem - I made the choice to get my shit together. I felt like Humpty Dumpty after he'd fallen off that brick wall. Completely shattered. With no King's Men riding to the rescue, I had to put myself back together again. I put that decision over everything else - career, relationships, and, yes, eventually even over drinking and those salted caramels I loved so much.

I put myself back together slowly and painfully and with a few side excursions into black-out booze consumption and smashing picture frames against the wall and watching the glass shatter around me. There was a reasonable swathe of 2010 where I was depressed enough to have friends tell me I needed medication - and maybe I did. I'm a big fan of medication when it helps. I've seen the magic proper pharmaceuticals can inspire. Four days a month, Midol is my best friend. But I had the very strong feeling that medication wouldn't fix what was wrong with me. And I trusted that. It wasn't a popular choice, but it felt like the right one.

Four years later, I've realized that the unpopular choice was the right one. Even though I wasn't always sure I should be trusting in myself, the me who was pretty darn broken. But I did and I'm glad. Because what I've learned since is that most of what was dragging me down wasn't even mine. I'm very sensitive to other people's energy and emotions. If you're sad or uncomfortable or in pain and we're in the same room together, I will take that on as if it were my own. Often without even realizing it. I sucked up people's negative energy and added it to my daily routine. I walked through life toting everyone else's stuff with me, like I was Ebenezer Scrooge's orphan-punting business partner, doomed to drag chains of his misdeeds for an eternity. It's hard to know what's yours when you're carrying around pieces of everyone you've ever spent time with or even passed on the street. It's hard to get shit done when you're being pressed under the weight of everyone else's emotions.

You'd think that would be useful, that I'd be more loving and caring if I understood what people around me were going through. But it wasn't. I was just socked in. A less adorable version of Eeyore, walking around under a gray cloud that had a habit of turning black and stormy before it consumed me. I was so buried, I couldn't love anyone, especially myself.

Learning how to separate myself and my emotions from those of everyone around me meant I could operate in the world on something resembling a normal level. Without the crush of everyone else's feelings, I was able to find my own emotions and deal with them. Without the dark weight, I was able to find sweetness I hadn't been able to access in years. Crawling through that gave me compassion for people who are in the midst of their own darkness, whatever it looks like.

Sometimes I wonder if medication would have helped, shortened the process or made it smoother. But then I look at my life now and I'm happy with where I am. I worked hard to get here. So I can't regret trusting what felt true. Because that was the one thing I had to cling to in the darkness - the small light of that tiny voice that said it would get better if I just kept moving.