Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you didn’t fit in? Like you’re out of your element, sticking out like a sore thumb and you can’t wait for the setting to pass?
That’s how I felt. Simply being on planet Earth.
This feeling of not belonging has been with me as far back as I can remember. One of my earliest memories of it was when I was being dropped off at preschool; clinging to my mom’s leg like a little koala bear begging her not to make me go inside. I was 5-years-old.
When I started preschool, it was obvious I wasn’t comfortable around others. My teachers expressed concern telling my parents I wouldn’t talk to anyone, or participate in any group activities. My parents sought out the opinions of specialists, who all echoed the same feedback; it was a “phase” and I would grow out of it.
30 years later, I still sit in social situations tongue-tied, heart pounding, mind racing, trying to make myself invisible and planning my escape. There are many days I would love to go back to ask those “specialists” to see exactly when I’m going to grow out of this “phase”…because I’m still waiting for it.
I was diagnosed with social anxiety and major depressive disorder in high school. I had been in therapy ever since my parents divorced when I was 9, so much of what I was going through got attributed to that. Being told “how much I had going for me”, and how “everyone would love to be in my shoes”, it felt selfish to say I hated myself and my life. I had constant thoughts playing like a soundtrack through my mind: “you’re not good enough. You’re not kind enough. You’re not pretty enough. No one likes you. You’re not loveable.” Not wanting to be self-centered or a disappoint anyone, I never spoke up and learned to hide what I was feeling.
It wasn’t until I was in medical school, and I started to learn more about mental health conditions that I realized how much I was struggling. I began seeking help again; combining therapy with holistic treatment such as homeopathy, and it truly redirected my life. My anxiety decreased and I began to be open to the ideas of peace, acceptance and self-love; words that would never have entered my vocabulary years ago.
Three years ago I opened my own holistic medical practice where I have the honor of supporting others on their own personal healing journeys. In the beginning I was ashamed to let people know I struggled with my own mental health, especially since I was now a mental health provider. I thought by being a professional I had to pretend that I had it all together. I quickly reminded myself that mental health struggles can affect anyone, no matter their profession and by hiding it I was only adding to the stigma. So now, I talk about it! I also recognized that going through my own struggles is one of the greatest assets I have as a practitioner. I have a greater understanding, compassion and desire to empower others to live their best life than I ever thought possible. I have seen first hand with my family, that while they can have the best intentions, they don’t always know what I need in terms of support. Keeping that in mind, I try to show up as the practitioner I wished I had when I was younger so that those in need of support get the sense of acceptance and empathy they’re seeking.
I often get asked how I overcame my anxiety and depression and am tempted to give a simple, encouraging answer, but the truth is that I haven’t fully overcome it. It is something that is still there, to varying degrees, on a daily basis. But there are things I do regularly to support my healing - animals bring me joy, exercise brings me fulfillment, homeopathic medicine brings me stability, guiding others on their healing journey brings me purpose. My mentors bring me inspiration, and seeing others strong on their path toward self-love brings me encouragement. So, I fill my life with as much of all this as possible.
There were years I was suffering in silence, hating myself, wishing I were no longer a part of this Earth. Today, I am able to recognize that it wasn’t my choice to get ill, but that it is my choice to get well, and I want to do everything I can to live my best life and encourage others to do the same. I truly don’t think I would be here today, had I not spoken up and shared what I was going through and believe speaking your truth is the single most important thing someone can do both to help themselves and to inspire others to get the support they need.
#dontcallmecrazy. My name is Courtney and I have #socialanxiety and #MDD, but they do not have me.
- Courtney Pare, 2018