When I was about five, I remember my mom taking me to swimming lessons – well, one swimming lesson. The instructor wanted us to jump in the water. I don’t fully remember what was going through my mind, but I’m sure it had nothing to do with my control issues – yes, I had control issues at five. Since I wasn’t jumping, the instructor, without warning, pushed me into the pool. I don’t really remember the panic attack that I’m sure happened immediately following that push, but I do remember that I refused to get back in the pool, and I never went back to swimming lessons. I still suck at swimming (and probably everything that represents right now). I like to be around water, but being in water causes a high amount of anxiety for me. I will hardly ever go into water unless I can touch the bottom. Yet, there is something calming about water, and something that fittingly describes how I feel right now.
I have four main pictures hanging in my apartment. Three of those four are water scenes – a lighthouse, a dock, and a bridge in the sunset. I love these pictures, and they represent calm and relaxing scenes. Maybe that’s because I know I don’t have to actually touch the water. Of course, I might as well be in the water because I feel like I’m drowning.
I made a conscious choice recently to live differently – to live without allowing fear to dictate my actions; to live without keeping everyone at arm’s length. I knew that it would not be easy to make that change, but I am finding that I jumped into the deep end of the pool. The question I’m facing now is do I allow fear to cause me to pull myself out of the pool or do I trust myself to figure out how to swim. My hope is that there’s another option – that I can trust there are people around me who are willing to help me, to teach me, to swim. I’m having a hard time believing that, though.
I know that I am in a totally different place than I was a year ago. In a lot of ways, I’m a different person than I was a year ago – more myself than I’ve ever been. I know that the progress I have made has been significant. But to this point, it’s all been internal. For the last couple of months, I have been fighting to keep my head above water. I feel like nothing around me has changed, which was always the point of changing what was inside me – the voices and my perceptions. I still struggle with feeling invisible, used, and not good enough. I still feel isolated and greatly lacking a support system. I’ll leave out details for now, but there has been so much that has happened in the last couple of months that has made me feel like most people still don’t notice me (or more, care about me) unless I’ve made a mistake or they need something from me. It just reinforces all the voices that have always told me that being alone is the only thing I deserve.
I feel like I’m drowning right now, and I’m getting really tired of fighting. I’ve lived my life without hearing much positive reinforcement. The only time I got attention was when I didn’t do something as well as expected or when I could do something for someone. In the last few years, I’ve had people in my life who have started telling me positive things, and it’s been really difficult to believe them because I’m not used to hearing them. But the scales have not even come close to balancing, and it seems like most people forget that I’m human and need to hear some sort of positive reinforcement along the way. In certain settings, I know that I come across as being very confident – which is really funny to me because there is not a time that I don’t still have serious doubts about my abilities. I get the feeling that a lot of people would be very surprised to know just how much I struggle with self confidence and seeing anything good in myself. It’s really hard to see good in myself when most of the people in my life have always only pointed out the negative. I’ve made huge progress in that area. A year or two ago, I could have never written this – at least not in a forum for other people to read. But I feel like I’m coming to the end of my strength and am looking for a little help. Unfortunately, I was always taught that I shouldn’t need help, and that I don’t deserve it.
I’ve taught myself a lot throughout my life, and I could probably teach myself to swim eventually. But I don’t think that’s the best thing for me – or what God intends for this current struggle in my life. So it comes down to trust – trust that I won’t drown if I allow myself to stay in the water, and trust that there are people around me even if I don’t currently see them.