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  • JennaMarie

A decade. A dream. 10 years of transformation.

As I sat to reflect on the past 10 years, it dawned on me that 2009 was the start of the end. It was the year when my life didn't make sense and I couldn't decipher why. It was the year that I realized what depression was, how anxiety affected my social life (or lack there of) and how out of touch I was with my inner world that would soon consume me. It was the year I quit soccer, the biggest and toughest decision I made in my young adult life, and the year that I began to discover how loved I truly was. Albeit I couldn't yet comprehend what that meant. This was NOT the year that I learned how to cope. I had to spiral out of control and live within the confines of my mind before I could reemerge and fight for the life I dreamed of.

The reflection in the mirror I see today is worlds away from the girl who couldn't even look herself in the eyes back then, yet contains the same sadness embedded in the depths of her soul. The difference? I now embrace every etching that was carved on my ribs, across my sternum and down my forearm.

The road to the present was anything but straight and easy. I was all of 16 or 17 with the best mom in the world and an older sister who I longed to hang out with every second of every day (still true). My perception was that we were "the Hanlon girls", the ideal girl gang of a family who could tell each other everything. So why was I unable to express the turmoil I felt inside? I began to shut down emotionally from my family, so as to protect them from the burden of my confusion and no longer sunny disposition. THIS WAS NOT part of the power of the girl gang, this would bring shame and a divide to our family bond. Oh how backwards this thinking was.

I ruminated, I shut down, I became a deadened numbed version of the once charismatic wild flower child. The spark was gone from my eyes, replaced with fear of failure and the societal pressure to conform, but I always knew, I was different. I preferred to wear baggy comfortable clothes, come home with mud in my hair, and push the limits, giving my mom a heart attack by jumping out of a tree or bombing down the mountain at lighting speeds. My soul was free in the wild and this piece of me could never be contained.

As the depression deepened and suicidal thoughts heightened, all I wanted was to feel like I belonged in a world where cliques brought comfort and family meant safety not abandonment. For several years (a number I don't actually know) I continued to spiral down, landing myself in the hospital in the psychiatric ward. For me, shockingly, I don't refer to this as rock bottom. This was a moment of safety. It was simply the week before my end of the year dance recital and a moment in time when I needed walls to hold me up.

The following years were consumed with dance and enduring the remainder of high school, graduating and going on to college. Remaining okay enough to continue on, clutching to a secret I was ashamed to share. I still couldn't process what I went through nor why, but I learned how to cope. How to move forward and bury the past.

My 4 years in college were some of the toughest but most rewarding and impactful years of my life. It's where I met lifelong friends, soon to be colleagues, collaborators and mentors. These years showed me who I was, what I was capable of becoming and provided me with a safe environment to expand my vision of my life and who I was to be. These were the years I picked and chose which parts of myself I wanted to embrace and cultivate. It was years of questioning with few answers in return, but the time of foundational growth for a spiritual path.

It wasn't until after I graduated that I realized I needed to begin to truly heal. A process that I am still experiencing, working out and living every day. It's a process built on a foundation of love and support for myself and all that I am on this earth and in the spiritual realm. It is my purpose in this universe. I still tend to sway towards the edge of deciphering my demons in solitude, inviting them to dinner and questioning their existence, rarely sharing the direct results with others, but rather allowing my future actionable responses to speak for the work I continue to explore. Is this a recommended way to go about it? No, but it is what intrigues me the most.

As I take the time with myself, I can whole heartedly say I have no regrets. I do not wish away my past, I instead choose to embrace every crack, carefully exposing the wound and mending myself with gold plated love. I am filled with the utmost gratitude and overflowing love for my family, my mom and sister of course, but every family member who never gave up on me or questioned my journey, yet simply stood by my side as pillars in the night.

My advice to you? This life is your journey, never judge, simply experience. Grant yourself permission to heal, permission to feel and don't stop until you get what you came for. My journey in healing is far from over, but oh how beautiful it has been.

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