* Written by Mai Nguyen for YettiSays 8th Annual Self-Love Month | “Shedding Layers” Post Series
Dear Brittle Mai – It Does Get Better After It Got Worse
“Look how far you’ve come. I’m so proud to see how much you’ve grown. I know it’s not easy for you to see this or recognize it but I promise you, you are in a much, much better place, and I can see it.”
It’s not unusual for our therapist to hype us up (I mean, we do pay the big bucks for someone to be our personal ego boost, right??). But every now and then, when she drops this gem–and she does pretty often–it really sinks in differently depending on where you are in your healing journey. Right now, you’d be shrugging this off, amidst the snotty tissues and ugly crying over another virtual therapy session, where these words might as well have been as banal as ordering your usual bagel sandwich on a hungover weekend morning. But a few months later, it’ll really sink in, and beautifully so. Maybe it’s the soft-spoken tone, the ease of her saying them, or the way your mind and body will welcome the words in as they are heard, but on a particular Tuesday morning and two months after coming out of this seasonal depression you’re in, it will be exactly what you need to hear to validate your own tumultuous growth.
Right now, you are in a deep pit of dark and ugly things that are consuming you to no end. I remember how our mind keeps convincing itself there is no coming out of these shadows. The light at the end of the tunnel–a visual representation we’ve deeply ingrained as a mantra into our body–feels too far of a stretch to believe you can get there in one piece. You’re praying into the void asking if we could just skip to the other side of this hole. I remember this, too. It feels easy to surrender to the anxiety and become your worst enemy. It feels easy to dissociate and detach from the world around you because it all feels unfair that life can just move on when you’re not ready to be on your feet. Life is pretty damn unfair. But soon you’ll realize the difference between this fact as a weapon to tear you down and believe the world is out to get you, or this fact as a personal advantage to just doing your own thing without burdening yourself with guilt.
Later on, a friend will ask you how you’re doing since the last time we had a gathering. And you’ll know she’s referring to how you’re feeling compared to the first time we had the same group gathering when you burst into tears out of nowhere in a room full of women, half of whom didn’t know you were going through something. You were brittle and barely a shell at that time. You were completely hollow and had swallowed your emotions so far down that you could no longer decipher them from each other. This time, it’ll be our second gathering with the same women and you will feel the astounding contrast–as night-and-day, black-and-white, a complete-180–of emotions and mental energy since then. You’ll tell her that what you’re feeling now is like the other side of the same coin. Yes, you’ll feel just as emotional, just as uncertain of the future, and just as vulnerable as the first time, but instead, you’ll know that they’re all coming from a place of excitement, hope, and a simple lightness of being. You will be the same exact person as you are right now, but you’ll understand that one person has the power to transform the same feelings into new meanings. You will flip to the other side without ever losing who you are.
As much as we hate to hear things like “it will get better,” “time heals all,” “you will get through this,” (yes, they are all valid and true), what you really need to embrace is the inevitable reality of it being the absolute worst before you’ll begin to feel the slow progress of it getting better. You can’t experience the greatness of your own existence without acknowledging the fullness of your lowest moments. And you can’t look forward to good days ahead without expecting it to never be this hard, again.
So Mai, I’m not going to promise it’ll get easier or less hurtful, or that it will always be an upward movement (because it won’t), but what I can tell you is that it does get better after it gets worse. If not for the sake of convincing yourself this into belief, at least for the simple fact that life may be unfair but it also works in balance, and your greatest joys are always waiting on the other side of your biggest pains.
Look how far you’ve come. I’m so proud to see how much you’ve grown.
Love and light (the one at the end of the tunnel),