This year has been a year of change. Between January and June, I went from being a weak, sickly, depressed girl, to a strong, empowered, positive woman. I figured out that I am very sensitive to changes in diet, sleep, and exercise, and that the constant depression/bipolar symptoms I had struggled with, could actually be minimised with the simplest of things. My regular acupuncture sessions, and the simple act of treating myself with respect, brought out a person with qualities I never knew I had. I would look back at the sad being I used to be with pride, and often comment how I used to not be able get out of bed - and how far behind me that phase was. I almost felt disgusted with who I used to be. "Thank goodness that's over," I'd think.
But pride comes before a fall.
I went to the USA in August, with high expectations of New York City and a slightly naive view of my newfound life changes. Each time I have visited NYC, it's swallowed me whole and spat me out a different person. I was expecting to grow even more in the city this time, with the newly improved self-esteem, constant strength, and zest for life that I had finally discovered within myself at the beginning of this year. Boy, was I wrong! I relapsed straight into old habits, and all the progress I had made seemed to be a distant memory, another person, another life. I ate badly and infrequently, slept all day and stayed up all night, didn't exercise at all, and worst of all - accomplished very little of what I had planned to do. My feelings of failure, when looking at my unticked to-do list, were amplified even more by the fact that I had literally pushed myself down into depression again with my own actions. So, not only was I a failure, but it was all my fault!
It reminded me of an anecdote I heard from a mentor of mine. A man who had been sober for years relapsed and told a counselor he had failed his 20 years of sobriety. The counselor turned and looked at him, and told him he wasn't a failure - he had simply forgotten for 20 years that he was an alcoholic. In the same way, I had forgotten that depression is a lurking part of me, a misunderstood aspect of myself that deserves love and understanding - not disgust, anger, and disappointment. We are raised in a culture that punishes us with less love when we do wrong, but this isn't unconditional love. How do I expect to gain love, acceptance and respect from those close to me, if I haven't even learned to love the seemingly unlovable aspects of who I am? How can I peacefully be in control of every part of who I am if I shut out and disown the parts that conveniently don't suit me?
The worst part is that I constantly felt overwhelmed and out-of-control. How does one stop oneself from plummeting into sadness when it feels like it's happening outside one's force of control? How does logic get through to an emotional wreck who cannot remember how simple it once was - only weeks ago - to get back to being strong? Where does one find willpower when the supplies within seem depleted? All these questions, as well as the constant foggy feeling in my mind, helped pull me into chaos even further. I was doomed to fail, I felt, and that was just the way life was. How else had ten years since my little stint of fame gone past, without a single music product to show for it? How else was I 24 with nothing to my name but preparations and plans? If music was for me, then why on earth was my craft not appreciated by more people, and why had I somehow delayed coming out with an actual album? (The answer to that question is within that question, by the way)
I'm not sure what got me out of it, but just like the first time I started healing at the beginning of this year, I suspect it was a combination of the new people I met who showered me with fresh love and a dose of understanding, as well as the slap in the face I gave myself when I realised I was being an idiot and wasting gifts that I had no right to throw away in the name of past failures. My body, my mind, my emotions, my music - these all DESERVE love, respect and attention from ME before I can even dare to ask for those things from others. As much as other people are there for me, I need to learn to be there for myself.
I often feel like my depressed moments are akin to walking in a foggy swamp at night, but with voices all around, taunting and teasing and mocking me. I frantically flail around, looking for light or a clue to give me direction, but there is none. Suddenly, a hand comes out of nowhere, in the form of the love given to me by those close to me. In my panic I slap it away and lose my direction even more. But the hand is constantly there, cut and bruised from my abuse, all the while letting me know that its support is unconditional. For that, I am eternally grateful. One day I hope to be that hand in others' lives, as well as my own.
I decided a few weeks ago to stop running away from myself. I have been hiding under a brand name for my photography, and a stage name for my music - as well as a brand name for my personal stuff ("She Does It All"). Thanks to a wonderful person, I realised that self-love should be extended in every area of my life - including work. I decided to start rebranding, and merge my brands into one: Melissa de Blok. That's me, and I've done enough self-loathing for a lifetime - it was time for me to get to healing my brand as a direct extension of myself. On paper this seemed easy, but in practice, it was hard trying to figure everything out on my own (especially being a perfectionist). I worried for weeks, and felt more and more overwhelmed, until the Universe sent me a sign. I found a wonderful branding specialist, and I am super excited to start working with her in the coming weeks, as we seem to inspire ideas in eachother and think along the same wavelength. For too long, I have been working under the "she does it all" umbrella, and spreading myself too thin.
Becky (the wonderful angel who is helping me rebrand) told me today (and I'm paraphrasing):
"Melissa, right now your brand is split up into pieces, and by the end of this project it will all be whole again."
She was speaking about my brands, but she was telling the truth about me as a whole.
I'm excited for the future.