This I Believe

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I believe in self-cultivation. I believe that the only way to be truly happy is to look inside and stare down your demons instead of drowning out their voices.

My first year of college was tough. I had chosen to go against what was popular at my high school and attend a university where I knew no one. And I was happy with my decision, full of excitement at the thought of a fresh start, proud that I hadn’t taken the easy way out, and so eager to make new friends. But then everything stopped. My parents left, my room was done, and I found myself

Alone.

I’ve always been shy and introverted, but during high school I was surrounded by people who loved me, so my anxiety didn’t have an opportunity to show itself. It sat bubbling beneath the surface, biding its time until I was vulnerable. That first month, it came bursting forth with a vengeance. The first sign was grinding my teeth, then insomnia and near constant feelings of dread and worry.

After class, most days, I would retreat to my bed and stare at my laptop screen for hours, drawn not by enjoyment, but habit and lethargy. I never felt quite good about it, but I could never place why. Then I realized that what I felt was not a feeling, but an emptiness. No pain, no sadness, no worry. No joy, no creativity, no contemplation, no peace.

Numb.

The time I’d spent trapped by the seductive glow of my MacBook was time I hadn’t spent writing, knitting, thinking, healing. It had become almost an addiction, in the way an alcoholic cures his sorrows with a bottle. I was blocking out my worries, but also blocking the ability to think and grow.

Opening my mind makes me vulnerable, but once I allowed it to happen I discovered that with it comes the ability to truly face myself and work through the feelings of sadness, anxiety, and helplessness. I still fall prey to old habits, particularly when I’m feeling vulnerable or tired. It takes strength to break them. More and more, however, I’m finding myself working through my worries instead of avoiding them and hoping they’ll solve themselves. And if they simply cannot be solved, I try to busy myself with activities that expand my mind or force me to be completely concentrated. On my worst days, these things seem terrifying, but the mind is a powerful weapon, and every tiny victory adds to a new stock of healthy habits.

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