I never would’ve thought pain would set me free until I was standing in the bathroom stall at work, holding on to the walls while burning knots of fear invaded my stomach.
In arduous moments, it’s not easy to shift your mindset to the opposite emotion, but when you do, it’s easier to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I’ve written about my separation anxiety. It is very real, and no matter how old I am, it still gets me every single time. Some days, I feel like it might kill me. But, I always find a way to muster up some strength no matter how hard. We will always have days that we hold it all in, fake it, and try our best to be present and engaged until we are alone in our car or bedroom and let it all go as life-size crocodile tears roll down our cheeks.
But, see, the very moments that we think are killing us are actually saving us. The layers of strength that were just added to my exterior (in that bathroom stall) for facing yet another fearful moment of potential loss reminded me that I will always make it on my own. It took years of living to get here and I will probably never fully arrive. It’s a journey, right?
A couple of years ago, I was walking in the park with one of my lifelong friends. I was telling her how my very first magazine story was going to be published. Prior to that year, I was in a very dark place. I stayed in bed for almost a year, barely ate, and was the keeper of one emotion and one emotion only: gloom. Maybe one day I’ll have the courage to share why I spent almost a year of my life in that state.
But that moment in the park was when around the time the year-long cloud lifted and I found my shine again. I had been interviewing celebrities for a while, gaining more writing opportunities, working on a voiceover demo, and in college for journalism. All of these milestones, in contrast to my somber past year, were such a shift. My friend said to me, “You went from zero to 100.”
Zero to 100 sounds like a compliment, right? And I’m certain she meant nothing less than that. I learned something different from her well-intended words: My zero was my 100.
I learned, after so many broken hearts (not just limited to relationships), my zero moments will do more for me than my 100 moments ever will. Success is magical. There is nothing like being with the one you love, holding his hand, thinking that it may just work out. There is nothing like seeing your name on the byline of interviews with A-list stars that became your stories. There’s nothing like seeing your work published in a magazine. There is nothing like a Hollywood publicist raving about your writing and giving you an outstanding recommendation. There’s nothing like finishing degrees. It all feels so darn good. But never good enough to save you.
Those magical moments don’t have the same way of testing your strength as those I-just-want-to-crawl-in-a-hole moments do. Those magical moments will come and go. Those magical moments truly are fleeting. One day, you’re on top of the world, and the next day, you are rejected. I don’t want to diminish success. I appreciate it more than anyone will ever know. But…
My point is it takes the most brutal, knife-to-the-heart moments to make us more than headstrong, but rather lion-strong. They make us roar. That makes us more than humans. They make us beasts.
Your saving grace is always at your lowest point — the point when you just can’t do it anymore. I remember when my dad got deported, I thought I couldn’t go on. At 16, my world came crashing down on me in the most brutal way. I didn’t know how to process it. All I knew was terrifying, almost otherworldly pain. He was my everything. Years later, as the pain and circumstances became my new normal, I would always say to myself, “If I lived through that (my dad’s deportation), I can live through anything.”
Never think of your lowest moments as your zero. It is those very trying, almost- impossible moments to live through that are your 100.
Trust me, I have my days when I don’t feel that way. Last week, it took everything in me to turn the shower handle on and get ready for my last week of work. A time that is supposed to be joyous was crippling for me. But, it was the moment, in the bathroom stall, when my anxiety and pain was eating me inside out, that I quietly told myself, “This very pain is what will set me free.” I was facing one of my worst fears and I was living through it which meant that I could live through it a hundred times more. Strength was wrapping its sweet arms around me in that very moment simply because I was facing it and living through the wretchedness, while still breathing… even if barely.
Fitness experts say that the more we utilize our muscles in the gym, the stronger we will become. Well, I have an inkling that the more we keep on keeping on, even when we’re certain we can’t, our whole being will become stronger. If all else fails, trust time. When I was 20, this loss would have kept me in bed for weeks. At 31, I know all too well that I will find a way to be okay. Time shows you what you need to know. However, our journey through time is unique from person to person. Where I am today is a place you may not reach until you’re in your 30s or 40s, and that’s okay.
For me, I chose to write this story. For me, I choose to go to the gym today instead of sinking my sorrow into my mattress. Maybe I’ll pray a lot more today than I usually do because some days, we need faith, more than others.
But whatever we do, we must always know that our lowest point is our highest point.