2018 was a train wreck. I crashed. I crashed hard. My self-confidence was non-existent and my cycle of shame and hatred was sending me deeper and deeper into depression. I just didn’t know it yet.
In the middle of that year, I attended Mental Health First Aid Training. The training was extraordinary - our facilitator, Bill, who volunteers for Lifeline was an inspiration. I learnt so much about Mental Health and how to support those dealing with it in those two days...
And I also learnt in those two days that I was broken.
By the end of day two, I had used the skills I’d learnt to help others, to finally help myself. I booked a GP appointment for the next morning.
By the end of that year, I’d worked through therapy with my Psychologist. I learnt that I have Anxiety, Depression and Avoidant Personality Disorder. I had struggled with the labels, but more than that, I was struggling with what I was learning about myself.
Therapy was hard - it was ripping me apart. I am a logical, analytical and data-driven being. I like to research, to learn and understand. Quite a difficult thing to achieve when you are learning about yourself.
I watched so many videos, read so many books and articles. I was filling my head with data, but so overwhelmed that nothing was adding up. And then just before Christmas of that year, my wife called it out - “everything you’re doing is chaos”. I had no self-awareness - but that word… Chaos. Resonated so perfectly. It explained how I was feeling. It was the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life. Anxiety and depression had its cold hands right around my neck. But I found a quote at the time that I grabbed onto…
"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star..." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Time to embrace the chaos and create change.
I learnt two important things during this period of self-discovery - I hate myself and I’m ashamed of who I am.
I have always lived in awe of those who I perceived to show up every day with authenticity. Those confident and courageous human beings who can simply just be themselves.
What I thought about being my authentic self - was this desire to be my true self. Sounds great - to be myself. But it still wasn’t adding up. I’d been soaking in shame for decades, so simply being myself just didn’t seem that simple at all.
But what I learnt next was life-changing. I couldn’t be myself, until I could share myself.
This, is vulnerability.
Vulnerability is putting yourself at risk, opening yourself up to feedback, to judgements, to stigmas and sitting with uncertainty. You can't be truly authentic, without being vulnerable.
Vulnerability sounds like truth and looks like courage.
The truth - I’m bisexual. And when I shared that with my wife, after hiding it from her and myself for over a decade, at the time, felt like weakness, not courage.
Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.
Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen - letting our true selves be seen. I had to looked some of my biggest fears straight in the eyes as I told them to bugger right off.
And I can appreciate now that sharing my true self with myself and my wife took courage. And that is vulnerability, it is truth, it is courage.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” - Brene Brown
Comparison is the thief of love, belonging and joy. I couldn’t keep comparing myself to other people’s stories, wishing I was as confident as them, as strong as them, and as authentic as them. Sitting to the side and waiting until I was ready before I could be myself. Waiting inside my pitch black closet.
This is why learning about vulnerability was life-changing. What I know now, is that vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging and joy...
Now, I feel like I can be myself. Simply from sharing my true self with myself and my wife. Vulnerability requires you to take risks for sure, but it doesn’t need to be some grand gesture or big announcement. Just start where you are…
Don't go it alone. Please reach out for help.
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au
Qlife: 1800 184 527 or qlife.org.au
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 or kidshelpline.com.au
Headspace: 1800 650 890 or headspace.org.au
Written by Ben ... just Ben.
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