What Recovery Taught Me About Bravery

I used to think the bravest thing I could ever do was endure the flames that surrounded me. I thought the burns were what made me beautiful. To be beautiful, to be brave—what more could I want? All I had to do was set myself on fire enough to be warm, but not too much to turn to ashes.

I thought to myself: What a small price to pay for all I ever wanted. I should be grateful. I should always remember that without this pain, I would be nothing.

Invisible.

“I made you visible,” the darkness hissed.

I listened.

And I smiled.

I wore my new visibility with just enough self-hate to make me funny and likable. But not too much, because to be too much of anything would take away my worth. Because the entirety of my value existed somewhere between the gap of my thighs and the burn marks under my sleeves.

Alas, what sounds too good to be true often is. Soon, my visibility turned to panicked looks. My willpower was now in the form of sunken eyes and transparent skin.

My beauty had made me bald.

Suddenly, beauty didn’t feel so beautiful.

I lost and I lost, until I lost it all—even myself. And at the very bottom of my rabbit hole when I looked around and I was alone, unseen, and flirting with death.

My eyes could still not see the danger I lived in or the worry others felt.

I was nothing.

Empty.

Eventually, I stopped suffering. There was nowhere left to sink.

But somehow, existing seemed worse. I was too far forward to slip backwards into the dark with the same rush of free fall. Because now that I could see even the smallest fragment of truth, I could never forget the agony in the eyes of those who loved me, the terror as they watched as I faded away.

So I existed in limbo for quite a while.

Paralyzed. I couldn’t go back, but my legs no longer knew which way forward was.

So I sat. And it was in my sitting that I got to know my memories and feelings. I came to know them more than I ever wanted to and more than I ever thought I needed.

They visited me one by one. And I listened to their stories and slowly accepted them as part of mine. I met my trauma and her friends.

Anxiety.

Shame.

Anger.

Pain.

Grief.

And then something odd happened. One day, my pieces came to visit, and I welcomed them with acceptance.

They started to bring me other pieces.

Joy.

Peace.

Authenticity.

I asked them, “Where did these come fro and why didn’t you bring them sooner?”

They responded, “They’ve been here along. You just weren’t able to embrace them yet.”

After that, the sunshine started to reach the depth of the dark hole I had sat in for all that time. And I began to grow. I grew and grew; strong roots, thorns, strength.

But it wasn’t until I started to bloom that I realized what beauty and bravery really felt like.

The bravest thing I have ever done was give myself permission to bloom. Without rules, without limits.

No longer such a thing as not enough or too much.

About the author
Dog mom | B (EA) U (T) Y | Keep fighting the good fight | Follow Natalie on Instagram or read more articles from Natalie on Thought Catalog.

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