Broken for a Reason

Broken for a Reason

by Stephanie Cardamone

Stephanie-C_0.pngLast year, I shared my personal anxiety struggles with the world. I talked about the importance of self-love and acceptance. I wrote that I accepted where I was and what I had been through. Looking back, I was a little ahead of myself. Acceptance for me is truly a journey. Vital, but never-ending. Last May, I had 263 people reach out to me. People that I knew and loved, people that I hadn’t spoken to in years, people that I didn’t know at all. 263 people contacted me to thank me for speaking up; to ask me for help. I was so extremely grateful to know that by sharing I was benefitting others, but true to form, my anxiety reared its ugly head. Only two months after I pled to you about acceptance, I had arrived at the worst day of my life. On July 6, 2017, I attempted suicide. 

My definition of anxiety has changed a bit since July. Anxiety for me is extreme negativity, a general sense of aching. Not like a muscle aching, but an aching in my soul. It makes it difficult to appreciate myself. How badly I just want to accept it, but no matter how hard I try, what I achieve, or how much I improve, it is steadfast. Like a deep burning. A dull ache in my childhood grew into a nagging soreness in my adolescence, then spiraled into a throbbing pain in adulthood. It was always there. I couldn’t escape. I couldn’t avoid it. 

The few people who knew about last July asked me why. What got you to this place? To elaborate on last May’s article, I spent my life chasing perfection. In my childhood, I was surrounded by people who always wanted more from me. In my teenage years, I looked up to people who tried to mold me into someone I wasn’t. Who tried to change me to reflect their standards of perfection. Who told me that who I was wasn’t enough. In adulthood, I faced physical trauma. I was surrounded by loss. I was isolated. I hurt someone I loved so intensely. In a moment of selfishness, I made a mistake. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I hated myself. 
 
After that article came out, everything I had spent that last few years trying to accept came back with a vengeance. I spent the weekend prior to July 6th surrounded by people I loved, and I was still miserable. The temporary avoidance wasn’t enough. I spent the minutes dreading going home; dreading having to confront the pain; dreading being alone. On my way back, I prayed for my plane to go down. I prayed for the pain to be taken from me. But when I landed, it was still there. The agony transformed into a hole in my chest; an emptiness in my heart. The emptiness became unbearable. The mistakes I made were irreversible. The person that remained was irreparable. I was finally done. 

This year of my life is not something I have an easy time sharing with people, but I write this because July 6th truly changed me for the better. It gave me purpose, it revealed my calling, and I learned lessons that I need to share because if I didn’t, I would be doing the world a disservice. I was on the right path last year with self-love and acceptance. Those are two very important and therapeutic things, as is speaking your truth. I learned about transparency. I know that just because you struggle with something, doesn’t mean you aren’t strong. It doesn’t mean you’re vulnerable. It doesn’t mean you are any less than anyone else. I learned about resilience. I saw how low life can take you. I know exactly how it feels and exactly how long it takes to repair a soul that is broken. I discovered how strong people can be in those moments when life is telling you to surrender, but you choose not to. 

The most touching lessons are those that I learned from other people and how they reacted to July 6th. I learned selflessness from my family, who dropped everything to be with me and stayed by my side until I could stand on my own again. I learned empathy from my friends who constantly checked on me, who flew out to be with me, and who sent me care packages to let me know they were thinking of me. I learned it from my Aunt who still, to this day, sends me texts of hearts that I wake up to every morning. She hasn’t missed a day since July. My most important lesson, and the one I struggled with the most, was forgiveness. I learned this from my best friend and the person that I was in love with, who forgave me for my mistakes, even though he didn’t need to. I learned this as I forgave myself for my faults, for my slip-ups, and for years of torture that I put on myself.
 
If you have ever felt like me, please hear me- the pain you feel is not forever. It is not irreversible. You can come back, and you will come back. Find your community and immerse yourself in them until you can stand on your own again. If you look around and think you’re alone, you’re not. I am your community. ADAA is your community. The people who have written their personal stories of triumph are your community. If you can find the courage to admit that you are struggling, the people will manifest before you to support you. I am here with you. I will stand with you. That’s what people did for me- my family, my friends, complete strangers. They stood with me, whether they realized it or not. 

I grew up believing that we need to go through things alone to avoid being viewed as weak. To the 263 people that wrote me last year- you showed me that I’m not alone. There are lessons learned in isolation, but there is far greater strength in community. You can succumb to difficult days, you can succumb to your mistakes, you can surrender to negativity, or you can use them. You can let the things that have broken you fuel you. You can realize that you were broken for a reason, and then you can put yourself back together. 

Gratefully, 

Stephanie

Watch Stephanie on this February 26, 2018 CBS news story about teens and anxiety and depression. 
Read The Many Ways Anxiety Affects Those Who Suffer From It

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