This Is What Life Is Like When You’re Recovering

PRONathan Congleton
PRONathan Congleton

Last night I revisited feelings of distress. Feelings I’d long avoided out of fear, shame, inadequacy. It’s funny that a movie, something made-up and fictional, could catalyze this and end up making me feel so uncomfortable. But Whiplash didn’t feel all that unreal to me. Instead, it felt deeply familiar.

I had to pause the movie a couple times to take it in, breathe deeply, and not let the panic take set in as I processed. Unlike the main character, nobody had really pushed me to the brink. Not like that, anyway. I mostly did it to myself.

I know what wanting—no, needing—to be perfect feels like. In fact, I know it too well. I know the desperation of trying to succeed, even at the cost of running yourself to the ground. I used to have tunnel vision. Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll develop it again.

I resented the people that wanted “my well-being.” I didn’t see it that way. It felt like they were telling me to settle, that I wasn’t good enough. Fueled with anger, I only tried harder.

I didn’t realize how unhappy I was—until I did. The realization hit me like a terrible blowback, but only once everything around me had already crumbled.

The hardest part wasn’t giving in, it was the shame I felt after proving everyone right. The first feeling was disgust, feeling so weak and hopeless, and sickened with myself.

Happiness didn’t start for a while. Sometimes I think I’m still chasing it. It felt like a long endless tunnel. The sun couldn’t touch my skin. I had to get up in the morning and set small goals, get through the day. I wasn’t even telling myself not to cry. That wasn’t a goal; it was survival.

I remember the light at the end of the tunnel being a mere hypothesis. I remember how faint it felt: the exit very far ahead. I wasn’t sure there would be light out there, because I’d pushed myself so very deeply into darkness… I just had to hope, keep going, not look back, and most importantly attempt not to judge myself so harshly.

Writing now, I realize I haven’t fully healed yet. I did find hope. I’m a different person, but I also leaned back.

Today, I still struggle; I’m still scared. My legs still buckle under me, my feet still fight me over the steps I take.

I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for things to settle, to pick up, to be better on their own. Today, I’m not saying patience isn’t the key, but you have to help yourself.

“No fate, but what you make.” It almost feels ironic to think of this quote, right now, right here, when I’m in this state.

I’m sharing this because I think there is a life after you think you’ve failed yourself. And then you have another setback, and you look up, assess, keep going, and learn something new about yourself; the obstacles you can face and overcome, the limits that may be for your well-being. It’s a long road ahead and the learning never stops.

Life is, after all, a great big giant lesson that leaves you altered. Somehow, as hard as it appears, it’s also kind of fantastic we can keep developing endlessly, test ourselves, expand.

But expansion is, irrevocably, tied to entropy. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Lyla Michaels

I write to make sense of what’s in my head; no more, but no less. The rest of the time, I’m a normal girl living her life.

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