Love Yourself First: An Open Letter to Anyone Who’s Hurting

This post is for all of us who feel like we’re not enough.

It’s for all of us who feel somehow unlovable, unwantable, or invisible.

It’s for those of us who, in our everyday lives, manage our depression beautifully and live like the rest of the world, but in times of hurt, we crash and can’t get up off the floor.

I find so much joy in being able to encourage and support others who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other hard things, but part of doing that is also allowing myself to be open and real about the fact that I still struggle. Yoga has helped me more than anything or anyone, and Judaism continues to be a source of comfort. Exercising and meditation have also done wonders for me, but none of this means that I’ve been magically relieved of hurt. On the contrary, actually.

Things like yoga and meditation instill within us a deeper awareness, a deeper connection to our Selves, which often means that instead of stuffing our emotions and pursuing distractions, we find ourselves facing the pain head-on. That pain can be excruciating, but our awareness allows us to sit with this discomfort. It allows us to cradle our own hearts, to take the time and space we need to acknowledge our pain and treat it with tenderness.

Sometimes pain just needs to be heard.

Now, I know more than anyone how uncomfortable this can be. When we’re hurting, the easiest thing to do is to deny it to both ourselves and others. It’s easy to mask hurt with anger and blame, to put your middle finger up at the person or situation that hurt you, and to defiantly declare, “I don’t care anyway!”

I don’t know what it’s like for guys, but when girls are broken up with, their girlfriends tend to say things like, “It’s his loss!” and “Fuck that, you’re too good for him.” These platitudes are well-intended, of course, and they may even be true. But that’s beside the point.

The point is that by replacing our pain with anger or indifference, we aren’t really acknowledging it. Sure, we may be moving on and we may even forget about it for a long while, but it will still be there, unresolved, and crying out to you the next time something difficult happens. This is still something I frequently struggle with. Facing my pain can be the most difficult thing in the world, and sometimes it feels like I’ll get lost in it or never reach the bottom. It can be embarrassing. It can make you feel like you’re crazy.

I ran out of the house and literally sat in the middle of the street last night, sobbing. Contrary to what the staring passersby on the sidewalk and the drivers skirting my huddled form probably thought, I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I was just touching the pain. I was letting myself feel it, letting it have its moment to speak instead of silencing it. Eventually, my hurt realized that it was being listened to and it started to quiet itself. I gathered myself up and managed to make it back to the sidewalk. Since then, up until this afternoon, the pain ebbs and flows. It’s not gone, but I’m not fighting it. I know that by letting it say its piece, I am treating myself and my feelings with respect.

Depression is a really hard thing to understand if you’ve never experienced it. I know that before my struggles with it began, I thought it was “all in their head”, and I wondered why they couldn’t just “try harder”. Even after nine years of struggling on and off with depression and anxiety, I have had these thoughts about myself.

Why can’t I just get it together?

Why do I feel these things so deeply? Why are tough situations, that would be hard but surmountable for other people, so debilitating for me?

Why do I still feel like there’s a cloud that follows me, one that I can’t ever seem to shake?

I’ve come to a conclusion: I’m probably always going to have issues with depression.

Some people would say, “No, Emily! Don’t say things like that! You’re wonderful, you’ve got a great life, and you have so many things ahead of you.” I don’t disagree with them. I like who I am, I agree that I have many wonderful things in life, and I am looking forward to a lot. However, I am tired of depression being a dirty word. I am tired of depression being something scary and misunderstood. I might be on medication for the rest of my life, but you know what? That is okay. It’s so okay! I would so much rather take a small pill every day and feel like myself than suffer through life because I’m scared of identifying my chemical imbalance as depression.

Depression is nothing to be ashamed of.

And, whether you struggle with depression or not, we all feel sadness. We all feel hurt and have to go through pain in our lives. At some point, we will all feel that sinking feeling of despair, that voice that tells us we are unlovable, unwantable. I’d be willing to bet that a lot of us spend big chunks of our lives feeling like we somehow aren’t “good enough”, that we can’t measure up. Me, too.

But you know what? You ARE good enough. You are SO enough.

You are incredibly lovable. You are extremely wantable. You are awesome beyond all belief. You’re the only YOU that will ever exist in this world, just like I am the only Emily. It doesn’t matter what your talents are or what you look like or what grades you got or how many relationships you’ve had. Those things are completely irrelevant. You are you, that is your only job, and you are fulfilling it perfectly.

I felt pretty unlovable this week, I’ll be honest. I keep getting jolts of it, even now.

There’s something you can do with me, though. When I go home, I’m going to wrap my arms around myself and look at my face in the mirror. I’m going to really look at the person who is there, not in judgment or scrutiny, but in love. I’m going to say, “I love you, Emily, and I approve of you completely.”

Yeah, it feels a little silly at first, but who cares? We must start by loving ourselves; this is the foundation.

Know that I am right here with you, that I get it, and that I believe in you. Feel your pain, allow yourself to grieve, and then tenderly cradle your heart like you would a crying baby. Be here for yourself unconditionally.

Namaste.

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