Everyone changes as the years pass, at least that's what's supposed to happen, right? I know for sure I've been changing and evolving as I've gotten older. But it wasn't until recently that I've realized exactly how much I've changed this year alone. While away in Miami, one of my best friends commented on seeing me, essentially, in "full bloom." That observation immediately made me think for a bit. I feel like I've been the newer, calmer Kelly for a while now, maybe she's only noticing because we now live in different cities? Or, maybe it's because we've been drinking a bit (it was her bachelorette weekend after all) and maybe I'm just more vocal than usual? Needless to say, I didn't give it much more thought that weekend.
Yesterday, during an impromptu bit of free time, I went to the mall with my mom to get a rehearsal dinner dress for said friend's wedding. I ended up finding this beautiful boho dress and fell in love with it when I went to try it on. (Changed Me indicator number one is the fact I actually tried something on in the store AND proceeded to walk outside of my dressing room to see it in the full length mirror, even though there was also a mirror in the dressing room - that's a huge deal for me). I started twirling around in it, smiling really big, falling in love with the fabric. The sale's associate, who has worked with me almost too many times before said, "You are working this with such confidence!" I immediately responded by saying, "Oh it's just the dress, it's so pretty! I feel really pretty in it!" She smiled at me. Before she could say anything, my mom chimed in and said, "Yes the dress is pretty, but YOU, make it beautiful."
Before you think anything, I want to disclaim that this post is not geared to be about beauty or outward appearances, but more about the beauty inside you. The beauty inside all of us. Old Kelly was, in the most simplest terms, afraid. Afraid of not living up to expectation, afraid of not being enough, afraid of her worth and the potential of her worth. Afraid of not succeeding. Afraid of not making a difference. Afraid of never finding or accepting love. Afraid of herself. Afraid of her own mind that was convincing her to be afraid to begin with.
I know I've said this before, but I genuinely think my mental illness is the best thing that could have happened to me. Yes I still hate it. I hate the anxiety attacks. I hate the nightmares and terrors. I hate crying and feeling unable to face negative emotions. I hate the numbness and indifference I feel when everything gets to be too much. I hate being unable to communicate the way I'm feeling to those trying to understand. I wish I didn't deal with these things on a daily basis. I wish this wasn't my norm. But at the same time, learning how to deal with these issues, and getting help for them - that I wouldn't trade for anything. Because of these tools, and this experience, I think I've been really grounded. But in a reverse grounding kind of way. Instead of being big-headed and brought back down to Earth, I feel more like I was so scared I used to live underground, thinking every single person in the world was better - more accomplished, more determined, more intelligent, more attractive, more talented, more whatever - than me. But therapy helped me realize we are ALL on this same Earthly level playing field. I met some of the most incredible women in group - mothers, models, future doctors, musical geniuses, film makeup artists - empowering AF women. Women who all thought like me. Women who all thought they weren't worthy enough to look anyone else in the eye. And what a revelation that in itself is. To see all these women, women I would normally be intimidated by, who think just as highly of me as I do of them.
That thought process alone, the mantra of "everyone is fighting their own battles", is what I believe to be the biggest source of change within myself. This new Kelly? She's no longer afraid. She knows she still has a long way to go, but knows she can make a damn difference, and in fact, she's going to. (Okay I can't do the third person thing anymore). I see every person as what they are, just another person. I've gone from "hating everyone" to asking strangers their names in hopes of finding a real connection with them. Like I've said in previous posts, validation is one of the biggest concepts I learned in therapy, and it's the one I try to use most frequently in my relationships with other people. Every single person is doing their best to get by. And even if they feel like they aren't, I want them to feel like there's at least one person out here that gives a shit. And that person is me.
That was one of the first observations my friend noticed about me while away actually - that I asked for every bartender, waiter, manager, sale's associate, whoever's name that we had interactions with. The Kelly she knew in college wouldn't have looked away from the ground when speaking to another person, let alone ask their name. But now, now I'm talking to people like I have a purpose, like I matter, like I believe in myself and the person I'm becoming. And that has been the biggest blessing through all of this.
The last anecdote and moral of this post is this. I now believe that if you believe in yourself, and follow your passions, and genuinely want to help others and make this world a better place, karma will allow that to happen. Our hotel actually held a "pop-up-shop" night out by the pool. (Which was an extremely cool concept to begin with). I noticed a jewelry vendor there with some of the most beautiful, hand crafted jewelry I've ever seen. Like seriously, stunning. I was immediately drawn to a piece in particular and the owner totally noticed. We began chatting, as most sales go, and I kept gushing to her about how in love I was with her work. We did the typical sales banter, she put the necklace on me, and showed me my reflection, and I knew I wanted to buy it from her. But before I could say "Yes" to the necklace, Cyd (the owner) started talking about her process and her outlook on her work and wanted me to know that everything was handcrafted by her and that she did customizations as well. Our transaction could have stopped there. I could have said, "Oh that's great, now let me pay." But something in me wanted to get to know her. So I asked her where she was from and how she got into jewelry design and creation. She asked me about myself and it ended up leading to talking about my career and future aspirations. I told her about teaching dance on the side and she told me about her kids and failed marriages. But the thing I kept making note of was how positive and care-free and loving this woman was. How loving this woman IS. Cyd is Latina and totally lives up to that Latina flare stereotype, but more important than staying true to herself, she is one of the most kind and inspiring people I've ever met. You are totally drawn to her, not just through her art but by her spirit. She is the definition of positive energy and good vibes. All I wanted to do was stay and talk with her and her friends all night.
I mention this because somehow we ended up on the topic of me having a blog that deals with mental illness and the power of therapy and self love. Her face lit up when I told her about MI Mentality, and after every few sentences she'd continually tell how much she "love[s] that" and how I will be able to make a difference. This prompted her to grab her friend - the father of Cyd's daughters best friend - and asked me to talk to him. Apparently, his daughter showed him the final self-harm scene from 13 Reasons Why a bit ago. For a week or so, Cyd has been trying to tell him that this was his daughter reaching out for help. I got more information from the dad, and couldn't help but agree. And I spent the next half hour (maybe full hour? I totally lost track of time!) talking to him about mental health and the importance of continually reaching out to his daughter. Of trying to let him know that there's a chance she showed him this scene because it was the only way she thought she could communicate some of the scary thoughts she's had. That she may think she needs help but doesn't know how to imply how serious it is. Maybe right now she doesn't feel suicidal, but has a fear she could be. For me, that conversation was so liberating, because I was that scared little girl for years. For a long time I thought suicide was going to be my final answer. That I wasn't sure how long I was going to be able to keep up the charade of living the perfect life. That I wanted to finally be free from the burdens of society, coaches, parents, and the expectations of the strangers around me. To a teenager, sometimes suicide seems more rational than just being who they are. And that's the most terrifying realization of all of this.
Because I've been so vocal the past few months about this, I no longer feel any shame. If anything, I feel beyond empowered to share my experiences. In fact, and this is probably the most taboo, but I WANT to talk about this. I'm proud of who I am. But I'm the most proud of the person I have morphed into from the flames. I feel exactly like the proverbial phoenix who has risen from it's own ashes. And I want every single person out there to know they have that capability as well. Mental illness or not. Whatever obstacle that keeps you down can be defeated. But the battle needs to be overcome with love and acceptance, not neglect and hatred.
I love the person I am. I love the baby Kelly that was so full of wonder and dreams. I love the kid Kelly that was fearless. I also love the kid Kelly that was bullied and scared out of her mind. I love the teen Kelly that felt like she was an outcast. The Kelly who felt she had to please every single person in order to have a happy life. I love the young adult Kelly, still scared, yet confused on how to be happy. The Kelly who tried harder than anyone I've ever met to put other peoples' happiness above her own. I especially love the Kelly who tried to kill herself. She is everything. And I know that's a weird concept to think about. But if it weren't for her, if it weren't for that final release, that final expression of needing help, this Kelly wouldn't be here. The woman who sits here typing this. The woman who is so proud and confident in herself. Who has a heart full of love. Who wants to help just one person navigate the shit the world throws at them. That is who I am. And this is the woman I am so excited to continue evolving with in the future.
I love myself. And I love you. And I think those are the "two" most important people to love in this world.