Louisa May Alcott stated, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Last year, I found myself in a dark place and made the decision to confront issues from the past in order to move forward fulfilled, happy, confident, and fearless. Years of internalizing pain left me with a lack of confidence and a debilitating case of self-doubt. I was resistant to the idea of therapy because I didn’t want someone putting me on medication, psychoanalyzing me, and writing down what I was saying instead of actively listening—until I met Dr. Murphy. She told me something I’ll never forget: “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult undertaking that more than anything else will determine its successful outcome.” She put everything in perspective, and I was finally able to let down my guard and allow myself to be vulnerable, to be human.
I’ve met with Dr. Murphy regularly since February 21, 2013, and she’s taught me how to make better decisions and set healthy boundaries. I was always afraid to be vulnerable, and I struggled to let others, including family, see this side of me; now I’m open to fully experiencing this emotion. I’ve had to fight through it and redefine my identity, my values, and my priorities. This led me to find deeper meaning in life. I recently watched a TED.com talk by Brené Brown (“The Power of Vulnerability”), where she states, “Believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable, and imperfect.” I believe that this is advice we can all apply to our lives.
Ultimately, I needed professional guidance to help me manage the fears and anxieties of the past, present, and future. Even with support from family and friends, I sometimes felt isolated, alone, and angry. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was anger that ignited my emotional healing. I thought I’d never break down my walls, but if Germany could do it, so could I! Along the way, I had a couple of breakdowns and breakthroughs. Sharing my anxieties and fears made me realize that I couldn’t avoid them; I had to go through them. Now, I’m in a healthier and happier state of mind. Therapy isn’t a cure-all; I have to work at it constantly and use the tools I was given to keep focused. Our happiness is rooted in ourselves, not in others. I believe that finding the balance of happiness requires having a positive attitude and keeping good company.
I’d like to think I’ve made tremendous progress in how I deal with adversity in my life. As long as I’m moving forward, I’m moving in the right direction. While my problems may seem small by comparison, I hope to inspire others to have a positive attitude. I firmly believe that no matter what a person experiences in life, there’s always hope—hope that things will eventually get better—and that it takes only one person to help you get there.
Sarah Tompkins lives in Rancho Cucamonga, California
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