Life scares the crap out of me most days. The shear potential of each day overwhelms me. As most of you know I self identify as a deep thinker. I have also told you that I struggle with anxiety and depression. This may come as a shock to some of you but I have also recently learned that I am an empath, a super feeler of my own emotions and others. (I honestly had no idea) Mental health and our each individual nature can look incredibly different for each person. Real talk time, for me, all of this presents as avoidance, rumination, and a lot of the time complete isolation where I feel shame, guilt, and envy. This comes from comparison, but it also come from within. Not knowing myself, not listening to myself, and running toward what I THINK I SHOULD be doing with my life. Can you relate? Recently I have promised myself to work on all of the above.
With photography, especially birth photography, I have seen many people burn out. This looks insanely different, just like anxiety and depression, for each individual. I have written a version of this post a few times now and noticed I kept pushing myself down to provide a lesson to you, the reader. This. Thinking I have to provide a scripted lesson over just sharing my own story is where I am burnt out and honestly a bit lost. I’ve started my business and fueled my passion out of a desire to do more, offer more, and provide what I did not have at any given point in my life. While noble, this "why" is incredibly unhealthy. I did not see what I was doing to myself or who I had become. A giver without regard for myself or even my family. This year I plan to simplify and figure out who Nicole is so I can better serve myself and others.
A powerful part of everything above is the lack of validation and the source of the validation. This is a hot topic word for me right now. The concept and definition I want to make clear, because for all intent and purposes I had it wrong. Validation is the "recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile." (dictionary.com) I’m just starting this journey and I do not have all the answers, but growing up the way I did, I did not get validation from my parents, was constantly questioned my friends, and therefore learned to question myself in everything. This lead to chasing likes, making excuses, pursuing leadership, typing lessons, and honestly doing and giving others what I desperately needed to do and give myself.
Recently, I met with a local friend and told her some of my troubles and she simply told me that I had given everyone else everything but have lost myself. The shirt off my back is gone, so to speak. I say a lot, too much probably, at every turn. I give, take on, and learn so that I can teach others, help, and support others. I got stuck. I’m still stuck. Worrying about everyone else’s business and families, everyone else’s reaction - this is something I thought didn’t affect me. I'm a doer, a change maker - I might be those things but I lost all grace and empathy for myself. I have recently learned this exact thing has held me back. Somewhere along my journey I have stopped creating for myself, for my local community, for my own family. Geez, this is all crazy hard to admit to you and to myself. I don’t have answers as to my next move - what is coming next - other than I need to be doing something different and more simple.
Knowing that ‘you can do more’ can become an excuse, a burden of sorts. Doing more is a big reason I stopped celebrating the tiny victories and chased the next thing I could show, share, and tell each of you who follow me. As much I as I believe in "shedding the should," I have should myself into a hole. The funny thing is I don't do this to others. I have spoken to many people over the course of the past couple of years. Helped many get started, been there for others, all while not really accepting myself. This has to change. I’m scared. I don’t know what this looks like. Asking for help doesn’t come easy. Admitting that I’m struggling is even harder. I’m not even sure what or where I need help most days. I’ve always considered myself the strong one, an island if you will, but as much as I have talked about not feeling lonely, I realize I may have been the most lonely.
You heard that right. I am guilty. I don't reach out or ask for help often because I'm too afraid to do so and my anxiety about life leads me to avoiding everything and everyone. I also don't really know what I need help with other than to say I'm lost. I’m unsure of the questions to ask and conversations to have. Most days I want to sit still wrapped tightly in a heavy blanket. I have no clue if this is a common occurrence for others, so of course this creates doubt, which means I probably again won't reach out for help. Do you see a theme in this entire post. As I have read, reread, tried to rewrite this piece many different times I see how flippantly unsure I am of my own calling. This mental health thing is no joke. I want to talk about it though.
Are you scared of sharing yourself? Do you have anxiety or depression? How does it present itself to you? Do you validate yourself or wait and hope for others to take up the slack? How are you feeling - really feeling?