Hi, my name is Sarah.

I have always struggled with articulating the lows points in my life because I never felt like I really deserved to feel the way that I felt. I grew up with an amazing family, a beautiful roof over my head, all I ever needed and wanted, but I still didn’t feel 100%. As a pretty driven and motivated person, I was able to fill my days very full and wasn’t really forced to check-in and see if I was truly happy. I didn’t really know what it felt like to be happy, I knew what I did and didn’t like to do, but it was a long time before I felt a tingly feeling of joy in my stomach. The first time I felt it I was quite shocked by it and couldn’t really understand what was happening. It sounds crazy when I type it out because I had great friends, lots of events, sports, extracurricular activities, etc. in my life and I was overall very fulfilled, but it was still different from that tingly feeling I got in my stomach.

A couple of times throughout my junior high and high school years I would be pulled aside by teachers who saw how well I was achieving but also noticed a more numb side to my personality. An ability to fill my plate but not actually enjoy what was on it. I have spent years working through the layers of who I was, who I am, and who I want to become. There would be moments when that elusive happiness would show itself and I would feel absolutely unstoppable, and then in an instant, I would feel a weight on my mind knowing that that creeping, heavy, dark pain would come back and pull me back under. The hardest part was feeling like I had absolutely no control over it. I felt helpless to these highs and lows and didn’t know what could contribute to a permanent beneficial change. It was an incredibly helpless feeling and I remember wondering if I would have to accept this reality for the rest of my years.

Then one day the darkness just lifted. At first, I thought it was because I was seeing someone new (my now husband) and then I became incredibly fearful that once the novelty wore off, I would have to revert back to “my real self”. As it turns out, my hormones were super out of whack and because I had started going on birth control once I met my partner, it was able to balance them out enough for me to gain some perspective. While this helped me it doesn’t work for everyone and I am off it now (something I was also fearful to do because I wasn’t sure who I would become). As I went off birth control I started to put in some serious work to feel my best and to understand myself more. Some seasons were better than others, but I noticed that when I dedicated time to my mindset practices, incorporated the right foods, and made moving my body a priority, I felt stable and happy (for the most part, it took me a while and is still taking time, to understand the lows of my period but I am learning to lean into that rather than resist it).

Now that I am at a really good place in my life I still find myself working through the guilt and regret of those years I “lost”. My rational mind knows that it was all part of my journey and that it happened for a reason, but I still can’t help but get wrapped in the what-if thoughts every now and then that question who I could have been if I wasn’t consumed by the darkness I felt.

Something that I have found to be incredibly eye-opening is how I have had to “retrain” myself to be who I was before this all happened. I have had to work really hard to build my confidence, to interact with people properly, to smile during conversations, to make sure others know how I am feeling in a positive or negative way, etc. All of these innate human skills took a serious hit when I was experiencing these highs and lows because the lows messed with everything. They caused me to feel timid, shy, reserved, the list goes on. It took a long time to notice this correlation but I’m so glad that I did because I now know that I have to actively work on building these skills and making sure not to revert to my “small” self if I’m having an off day or am distracted or overwhelmed.

My hope is that my story, my journey, the ups and downs of it all can help others feel not so alone. It can be hard to feel justified in the way we feel when everything in our lives is so “good”. We can tell ourselves that we don’t deserve to feel this way because others have it way worse. But mental health doesn’t discriminate. It isn’t reserved for a “certain person”. There is so much more to it and sharing our stories is the first step in leveling the playing field and making sure everyone has an opportunity to feel heard.