"To me, this ring symbolizes a rebirth in the form of self-love. With my tribe, my new home, and my new ring, I slowly put the pieces back together and become the girl I lost over the years- the girl beyond the hardened facade."
"To this day, I can’t remember a time that self-love wasn’t something that felt impossible- unattainable. Growing up, I paled in comparison to my brilliant, older sister. While she took her high school classes at Ohio State and scored a perfect on her SAT, I grasped at anything noteworthy about myself. I sat in silence as high school teachers familiar with my very Italian, very unique last name quickly went from excitement to slight disappointment when they discovered that my brain just didn't work the same as hers.
As I learned that I would never be someone who went to MIT or broke ground in coding and mathematics for women (all fantastic things she has/ does do), I turned to anything at all that made me worthy or unique. As I searched and drowned in her accolades, one theme seemed to persist. When she was labeled brilliant and extraordinary, I was often simplified to a singular, vapid adjective- pretty. Since then, I have struggled every day with the way I looked and destroyed myself to fit everyone else’s idea of what I should be. In my quest to be that skinny, pretty girl that couldn't be hurt (a fool's errand with a heart like mine), I became destructive. I did everything in my power to literally shrink myself into a being that maybe someone would love- often resorting to dangerous, unhealthy measures.
It wasn’t until I started losing everyone I cared about I decided I could no longer be that person. So I stopped. I overcame my addiction- or really one particular addiction. I started a workout regime. I ate to fuel myself, not to lose weight. I found supportive and loving friends and a committee of remarkable women on Instagram. I, for the first time in my life, I began to value myself for what I could change and not what I was born with. This is where I wish the story ended. I wish I could say it ended in triumph and self- love but it didn’t, or at least it hasn't yet. My recent experiences with heartache and sadness were plagued by manipulation, lies, sexual coercion, and, again, comparisons and value solely in the way I looked. When this amounted to my body being violated and my health being threatened, I spiraled back into my addictions. The last year of my life was riddled with pain and heartache. I felt an overwhelming amount of shame and confusion and the weight of the world- and nursing school- on my shoulders. Good nights, I spent restless hours in anger and fear, finally falling asleep to my own crying. The bad nights, I tried to find reasons to continue, collapsed on the bathroom floor, trying to keep myself from permanently giving up.
It was with those particularly bad nights, I finally accepted that I can not do this alone. No matter how much I try and how much I want to isolate myself and pretend I can fix it, the universe does not work that way. I don’t need, and I shouldn’t allow myself to feel pain on my own. Accepting others help does not make you weak. In contrary, finally asking for help was probably the strongest thing I have ever done. As a new maternity nurse in a new town, I'm putting my best warrior face on and rediscovering my truth. With the help of 120 days of sobriety (woohoo! small steps), I have been introduced and made friends with incredible, awe-inspiring women. As I take steps in finding myself, I thank them for the light that they have given me. I also thank my real savior in this all my best friend, Meghan.
Meghan is the reason that I am here writing down my story. Not only has she introduced me to incredible self-love resources- see Forever35 podcast, intention journals- her pure energy and beauty has truly saved me from myself. Meghan, thank you for firmly (but gently) guiding me to AA. Thank you for unwavering love, understanding, and compassion. Thank you for our matching self-love tattoos, our other matching tattoo, and if you have your way, soon to be dolphin tattoos. Thank you for being my best friend for over 24 years and making me your maid of honor. Thank you for saving my life.
To me, this ring symbolizes a rebirth in the form of self-love. With my tribe, my new home, and my new ring, I slowly put the pieces back together and become the girl I lost over the years- the girl beyond the hardened facade.
I reenter the world with gratitude and happiness and the resilience to fight another day. Because despite it all, I have discovered that I am so much more than my physical features, my weight, my addictions, and my mistakes. And even though I will never be able to do complicated math problems in my head, my strength and purpose go far beyond the shape of my eyes or the thickness of my hair. My purpose is to bring light, love, and new human life into this world. My purpose is to help women excel outside the rigid walls of society, the idea that our value is only found in our outside features. Remember, "pretty is not the rent that we pay to exist in the world as a woman." If anything comes from this story, I hope you remember that. You are so much more, so much more significant than any physical feature. You are a warrior. You are a survivor. You are a woman. Nothing and no one person can take that away from you."
--Kathleen, Traverse City, Michigan
Want to share your story with us? Click here.