As a few of you know, a lot of my blog posts discuss my PTSD and severe anxiety. You can find the details of my personal story here, which is my first post that I wrote where I legitimately felt completely and totally hopeless. When I wrote that piece, I could not handle being alone, even if someone was 10 feet away, and I couldn’t bring myself to get behind the wheel of my car. Here is a bit of an update on this journey to my personal self-discovery.

Over the past six months of my life, I hit rock bottom. Not the type of rock bottom that you say when you’ve had a bad day, are overly stressed, and just want to curl up under your covers for the rest of the week—I’m talking about complete and total rock bottom where you are paralyzed by fear, completely out of hope, and feel like your identity and purpose have died. However, I am on my way back up, and I have a lot to share.

My mother had a stroke two years ago, and up until about six months ago, I was denying what I felt in order to take care of business, help my family, and restore my mother’s health. During this time, I was unaware that my whole belief system about the world was being destroyed each and every day, and the trauma that I was seeing would eventually affect me more than I thought.

I used to believe that the world is safe, everyone has a good purpose in life, and that if you do good, good will come to you. My mother was the one who instilled these beliefs in me, and she always soothed the fears that arose with my panic disorder. When she got sick, she was unable to do that for me, and I didn’t realize that I was unable to do it for myself. I never thought that some day, I would have to be my own safe person, and learn how to comfort myself… and that day came sooner than I thought.

Once my mother began to get better, I was overjoyed, and thought that the worst was over. In actuality, reality sunk in, and it was as if I was going through the whole thing again, but worse. The beliefs I used to have back before my life was turned upside down were gone, and replaced by painful, uneasy ones. I no longer felt safe. The trauma that I suppressed began to resurface, and I was a complete and utter mess. I could not be alone for even a moment; I saw what the world did to my mother—the most wonderful person in the world—and I knew I wasn’t safe like I thought.

Simple, ordinary tasks became impossible. I could not walk my dog because I was afraid I would pass out (or worse), and my dog would get lost. I couldn’t be alone, because I thought that something bad would happen to me, and no one would be there to rescue me. I couldn’t drive because I thought that I would pass out and crash my car, which would put innocent people in danger. I was afraid to take a shower because I thought I could fall and hit my head on the hard floor. The list goes on and on, and although I am able to do all of those things fairly well now, I don’t think I will ever forget those feelings I had, and the fear I felt. I hope I don’t ever forget how hard those activities used to be because I appreciate the little things so much more now, and my perspective on life has totally changed.

After working with an amazing therapist, I have begun to turn my life around, and climb out of the hole that I fell into. I am learning about the world, about myself, about how our brains work and our identities are formed, and I am honestly grateful that I am going through such a difficult stage in my life. If I hadn’t had a severe anxiety and PTSD attack behind the wheel of my car on June 18th, 2015, I would not have realized the limitations that I have on myself, the beliefs I hold that do not serve me, and the unlimited opportunities available to me once I am open to receiving them.

I would not have learned what it means to bring yourself back from the deepest and scariest parts of your mind, to choose your own path in life, and how unbelievably hard life can be. I would have never learned how to truly appreciate the power of self, and how all of our energies connect. I will never again judge another person for a mistake they made or an issue they are going through because I know how it feels to be completely and totally lost. I know what it feels like to hate your mind, to think that nothing matters, to believe that there is no safety, and that you cannot trust yourself. If I didn’t have the amazing friends and family that I do, I would probably still be in that place. In no way am I completely out of this place, but I am one foot forward, and that is huge progress for me.

I have learned how to celebrate even the smallest of successes, which is probably my favorite thing I have changed about myself so far. At first, when I was happy that I could finally walk the dog alone, I felt silly. I was upset with myself that I had trouble in the first place, and thought that I shouldn’t be celebrating that victory. Well guess what—I absolutely should be! It was a huge step for me to walk my dog because it meant that I was learning to trust in myself, and be okay with the fact that the world isn’t safe. It meant that I wasn’t going to allow these paralyzing fears to hold me back forever, and that I was becoming more accepting of the uncertain.

Do I still feel that the world is unsafe? Absolutely. Am I still nervous about my purpose in life, and if I am able to take care of myself? Absolutely. Do I still have trouble with driving and being alone? Yes, but it is so much better. At one point, I could not even drive down the block without crying my eyes out, and spiraling into a horrific panic attack. Now, I am able to drive to many places all by myself that I couldn’t before. I was unable to drive to my college campus for a whole semester, and when I drove there alone the other day, I began to cry tears of happiness because I felt like I was one step toward taking back my life. Any progress is progress. I have included a video of what happened when I pulled into the lot I dreaded so desperately.

As I previously mentioned, I could not be alone at all, and I would be completely afraid of my own company when I was. Now, I actually enjoy staying home alone. In fact, I am sitting alone on my couch right now, sipping the coffee I got when I drove myself to campus this morning. I am so proud of these accomplishments that appear to be ordinary because I know that they are actually extraordinary. I will never again see any step toward progress as small, because the smallest ones are usually the hardest to take.

My recovery is a slow process, and I am allowing myself to go at my own pace. Making my own choices and knowing my limits is the only way I will learn to trust myself, and the world around me. I refuse to criticize myself anymore, and I refuse to feel bad for going at my own pace. I am learning to listen to myself, believe in myself, and work hard to become the woman I so desperately want to be, and know I can be. I know that one day, I am going to have to accept that the world isn’t safe, but I can be my own safety. I am grateful for being given the opportunity to change my life, and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for me.