Don’t believe everything you see. Every picture that is posted, every word that comes out of someone’s mouth, every written article is subject to what the author wants the reader or viewer to believe. It works. I’m no marketing major, but I believe that’s how things work. We are all guilty of this act. We want people to believe we have our shit together. We want the world to see our happiness and we hide our struggles. I’m guilty of this act. At first glance these photos look pretty similar. It’s a picture of me at the beach. Same sunglasses, toes in the sand, laughing with a big smile on my face. In the moment that these pictures were captured, I was happy. I was enjoying life and embracing my travels. What makes these pictures different?
The photo on the left was taken at the end of April. My toes were in the Pacific Ocean at Haystack Rock. It was freezing that day but this East coaster wasn’t going to cross the country and not put her toes in the water. My hair was long, my chest and stomach were flat. What is invisible to the eye is my façade. My smile is hiding the depression. I had built up emotions with no outlet. I was loved and supported through my divorce and then dropped by that same person who build me up. For the first time I was standing alone and frankly, it scared the hell out of me. The photo on the right was taken just a few weeks ago. This time my toes were in the Atlantic Ocean at Cape May. There was not a cloud in the sky, the water was refreshing, and I was ecstatic to travel to both coastal oceans within the same year. My hair is short and I’m about 10 pounds heavier. Unlike the picture on the left, my smile lasted throughout the entire day not just in the moment the picture was taken.
In the months that passed between these two pictures my life completely changed. Right before the picture on the left was taken I knew that I didn’t like who I was. I needed to make changes. I needed a healthier mindset and I needed to learn how to truly be independent and not rely on a man as a safety net to feel valued and appreciated. I began embracing who I am and loving myself. Over time and with unbreakable commitment to my mental health I started to see changed. I started to view people differently. When situations arose that would typically send me over the edge into a fire of emotions, I began noticing my reactions begin to soften. Retreat, rethink, respond has become a repetitive phrase I tell myself when difficult days arise. It has not been easy. There are still days where I get anxious, I get angry, and I even cry. There are days I want to quit. Days that I want to let the hate and pain of the world engulf me in sorrow, take over my spirit and break me down. Days where I give into the role of victim and feel sorry for myself.
What has inspired me recently is that in the past two weeks the people who know me the best have started noticing the changes in me that I’ve been working so hard to achieve over the last few months. The first instance was from my mother, the very day that the picture on the right was taken. She hugged me and told me that she was proud of the person that I’ve become. It made me happy, but she’s also my mom. I know she’s always going to love me and support throughout my life. When I met with my therapist a few days later I was surprised to hear her reiterate my mother’s words back to me. As my therapist, she knows every little detail about the past two years that I’ve been seeing her. At the end of our session she said she was proud of me for doing the work. She said that “there were plenty of people who sit right where you are desperate for a change to get through hard times, but never put in the effort.” She looked at me and said, “but you, you have persevered. You have taken my homework, my advice, and done the work and I can see that you are not the same women who walked into my office scared and weak two years ago.” I began to tear up. To hear that support from two women I admire most, my mom and my therapist, utter those words of support and recognition of my efforts solidified the feelings that I had within myself.
About a week ago I was blindsided by a very unwelcome part of my past. My best friends were the ones that I turned to first. I talked through the situation, how I wanted to handle it, and how to continue moving forward . It was through these discussions that my best friends of 10 years saw my progress. After our conversations had ended regarding the topic, I received one of the best messages from my friends. “I’m proud of you. Just so you know. A lot of people like to talk about ‘oh I’ve changed, I’ve grown’ but idk how many people really do. YOU have. I’m just so happy”. Reading the messages from my friends, hearing the words of support and pride from my therapist, as well as the love and encouragement from my mother all validated my hard work. These people who know my life, my story, my heart, and my soul better than anyone on this planet, these people who have loved me at my worst, have walked through hell with me, and continue to stand alongside me while I’m out of the storm are the ones who recognize the work that I’ve done. It’s so rewarding to say that the girl in the picture on the left doesn’t exist anymore. Last night my best friend’s husband said, “that Kait (the picture on the left) didn’t know how she was going to get out of bed in the morning. I really like the Kait that’s sitting here now.” I simply smiled at him and said, “I love this Kait too”.
I am no longer the person I was just 4 months ago let alone 6 months to a year ago. I am stronger, I am healthier, I am happier. I love my life. I love my family, my friends, my therapist. I am reaping the benefits of a positive mindset. I will continue to persevere through the difficult days, through the highs and lows, through the unexpected twists and turns of life. I will stay on my journey to happiness because it’s working! I saw the progress first, now my friends and family, and soon the rest of the world. There is no more façade to maintain. I can say I love this Kait, the picture on the right, and whole heartedly mean it!