Cathy found it fascinating how I measure my progress by leaving markers.
I told her one Friday morning during our video call therapy session that I was afraid of 2023 turning into a year where I lost all the progress I’ve made. I was already entering the year with some challenges, and I was foolish for thinking the turning of a new year would ease those challenges. So I expressed this to Cathy, to let her know I had this unsettling feeling that my progress would not continue to be linear; the way that it was last year.
She told me she had never heard someone use years to measure progress. “It’s like you leave markers that you refer back to. You take those markers and they define your progress, but why not take ownership of the progress instead and not let time do that?”
How do I not honor those markers that have shaped me in this exact moment?
I am who I am because of 18-year-old Liz. She’s a version of myself I still try to protect because I remember her lowest of lows; when she truly felt alone. A part of that outcome was simply the fact she made dumb decisions, and she paid for those consequences. But, she also let all of those people walk all over her, and she tried her best to not let it get to her. But it did. She wanted to die. She wanted to disappear. She deemed herself a horrible person that deserved the worst to happen to her.
“Is that what you tell people when they ask what made you who you are today?” Yes.
I also mention grad school Liz; the 22 to 24-year-old women that tell the story about how they entered grad school with everything they ever wanted and left it as an outpatient at our local behavioral health clinic. I think back and remember sitting in the college’s library one night reading 100 pages the night before one of my classes, crying because I felt so anxious beyond repair that I thought about dropping out a semester before graduating. It was the first time I experienced what it was like to not take care of myself due to academics. I was so use to putting physical, living and breathing humans before myself; even that was easier to grasp than the fact that my studies was what was making my mental health deteriorate. It was the first time I told my doctor that I needed to seek out therapy and that I was not okay.
“And for you, what does this marker mean to you? What does it symbolize?” How I began my journey to understand myself deeper and relearn who I was as a person.
Cathy pointed out at that exact moment that even this journey was never linear. “Even with therapy, understanding and unlearning all the behavior is never linear.”
I was 25-years-old when I decided I needed to walk away from a person that defined most of my teenaged and young adult years. I remember crying the night before in my kitchen on the phone at 1 in the morning, knowing I was starting my first ever job the following morning. I wanted to die. I felt my heart ripping. I was losing a part of myself; my identity. But I was letting go of an identity that I could not identify with anymore. I needed to find myself after years of living behind other people. That’s a mother’s daughter. A sibling’s sister. Another girlfriend’s side chick. A person’s disposable friend. Up to this point, I was never just Liz; I was whoever people wanted me to be.
“Is that the marker you’ve placed where you decided to find yourself and honor yourself?” Not exactly. I mean. I’ve had ups and downs with people even after that so—
I had weight loss surgery when I was 27 years old. There was a moment I had the night before where I saw myself in the mirror for a couple of minutes. Sure, tomorrow I will still look the same and feel the same, but I knew that the next day would be the start of the physical changes to come. My face will not be as round anymore. My collarbones will pop out. I will drop down clothing sizes more than I could ever imagine myself dropping to. It was this butterfly effect once I made my choices. I was able to change my life because of my choices. Up to this point, I was able to make my own choices and live by my choices.
“So your markers are of all of the choices you’ve made throughout your life?”
My markers are my choices.
I continue to choose my path whether or not they were good or bad. My choices in 2012 are the result of what I experienced when I was 18. My choices in 2017 are the result of what I experienced when I was 23. My choices in 2019 are the result of what I experienced when I was 25. My choices in 2021 are the result of what I experienced when I was 27.
The choices I make now in 2023 will be the result of what I experience while I am 29.
My choices have left me alone at one point in my life; I realized that when I sat by myself at our school’s talent show where all of my former friends sat together in one spot in the auditorium. My choices led me to understand my mental heath after years of feeling like something was legit wrong with me. My choices led me to take care of myself, whether or not I need to define myself, reinvent myself, and honor myself.
Hi, my name is Liz and my measure of progress is leaving markers; typically of my choices.