I’ve never liked those words. They hurt. They’re frightening. They hate.
But without them, you can never heal.
Everyone has a period of time in their life that’s darker than all the rest. In my life so far, my darkest moment occured a few years ago.
And it was all my fault.
For what felt like a lifetime, I carried a burden of self-doubt and even a bit of self-loathing bordering on self-hatred. I quickly became accustomed to it, lived a relatively normal life with it imprinted in my mind, but that didn’t mean it stopped hurting.
After a few years of shame and guilt building up inside of me, I just wanted to feel okay again. So last year, when my English teacher assigned us an essay where we had to write about an event in our life that disproved a cliché, I decided to write about my darkest moment.
I didn’t want to at first. I came up with multiple other ideas, tried writing them, but something inside of me just wouldn’t let me. So, knowing that only my teacher would read the essay, I gathered up all of my courage and poured out the pain that seared my mind.
The first draft was a disaster.
It was the first time I’d ever written something that terrible for a first draft. I was terrified of how bad it was and nearly gave up on the idea. But I knew I couldn’t. The idea was already rooted in my head, and I just couldn’t give it up.
I reread that draft dozens of times, reworded sentences, reordered events, but it never sounded right. It took me forever to realize the problem.
In that first draft, I tried to make it sound like I had already forgiven myself, like I was okay. I hid important details because they hurt to think about. I lied because I was scared to face my true emotions.
So, the next draft, I tried a different route. As I wrote, I felt the fear set it, and I took advantage of it. I let it reflect the fear I’d felt that night. I let it draw out the anger and shame and guilt I’d carefully hidden behind a mask for years.
I gave into my brokeness and just wrote. I poured out my true emotions.
I let myself be vulnerable.
At first, it hurt. I read back through that draft and wanted to hate myself, wanted to hope that I’d never be okay and would forever live in misery. But I just couldn’t. It was like I was listening to someone else yelling insults at me, and all I could do was accept it. All I could do was feel empty.
But then I started working more on the draft, and the more I worked on it, the more I wanted to delete all the hatred from the essay. Not from reality, just from the essay.
It wasn’t until the third rewrite that I realized it was because I was forgiving myself.
In writing it down on paper, I’d managed to pull the event and all the shame it carried with it straight out of my heart and mind. The burden was no longer on my shoulders, resting in my mind for only me to see, but written on stark white pages in a permanent black ink.
By the time I had finished my final draft, I felt happier than I had in years. I felt almost free.
I still won’t let myself forget, but not out of shame. Rather, I don’t want to forget everything I learned from my mistake that dark night.
I’ve grown a lot since then. I know myself better and am more careful when making choices. I’m clearer and calmer in mind. I’m no longer the naïve, ignorant child I once was.
The written word is powerful. It can change lives.
You can read the finished essay here.