On My Terms

“Self-knowledge is a rare and self-sustaining prize. Hard-won and elusive. The greatest warriors are those who know when to ask for help. Pride can blind a man or a gargoyle. Denying him the power of living the truth.” -Goliath, “Gargoyles”

It feels strange to admit this given everything going on in the world right now, but I am so happy. What I mean is I am so content with myself and proud of the person I am. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point and I feel like especially in the last year I’ve grown and changed so much. It seems almost cruel in light of our societal circumstances. But nonetheless it’s true. It feels like I was just on the verge of being a person again after so long, and then the world started falling apart.

I’ve written before about my experience with depression and anxiety,  especially after my extended period of health issues. After my last shunt malfunction it was as if my brain was a completely wiped computer. In the process of building myself back up I dealt with mental health issues I had been able up to that point to largely ignore. As you can imagine undoing so much damage, self inflicted and otherwise, was a struggle. But I finally reached a point where I was able to realize I needed help and then ask for it.

To put it bluntly I never thought I’d get here. That’s mostly because I didn’t realize I had anywhere to go. As I mentioned the mental health issues I’ve been working to address more or less went ignored during my college years and before. All of my focus was on doing my work and just living my life to the best of my ability. I thought that meant I was growing as a person, and in some ways it did.

But you couldn’t have convinced me I’d end up learning so much about myself in the next five years. From where I sat I had just spent five years of college doing what I thought was self discovery. And like I said I was right, sort of.

The end of high school and all through college allowed me to grow as an advocate and activist. And I’m forever grateful for those experiences. They were some of the happiest times of my life. They showed me what my passion in life is and introduced me to a wider disability community.

But it’s been these last five or so years, and even more so the last year and a half that have shown me who I am outside, or maybe alongside, being a member of the disability community. I now have names for parts of me I couldn’t accurately describe before. It’s explained parts of my past I didn’t fully understand. I feel like I finally have a complete picture of myself and I like what I see.

Regardless of which aspect of myself I learned about, neurodivergence, sexuality, gender, the process of gaining self knowledge has involved a lot of research. I set out to find language to describe my experiences and people who could relate to me, much the same way I did when first making connections with the disability community. Social media has been crucial for this. My online communities have been so welcoming and open as I continue to discover more about myself, and the relationships I’ve gained have become invaluable to me. The support I’ve received from my online friends and a few of the people closest to me has been so incredibly validating.

Having this level of self awareness is so freeing. But it also makes me want to do even more work on myself. As content as I am, I know there are areas of my life that need improvement. It may take me a while, but for the first time in a long time I feel up to the challenge. I finally feel like I can take on my life on my own terms.

 

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