I know, it’s crazy. You’re probably thinking, “How could a girl I knew for years and years (or just met) have changed? What could possibly have changed about her? Why is she letting me know publicly?” Well, I can answer that. What you see from person can have very little to do with what you know about a person. In other words, I have a story that most people I have met don’t know. I am working on changing that story every single day.
I don’t purport to play the victim, or make my story seem bigger than anyone else’s. In fact, what this experience has taught me is incredible compassion for others. I learned how to stop judging and accept more because my story was unbelievable, even to me.
I won’t get into the details of the story yet because I’m still not 100% ready to share it. Here’s what I can tell you. Because of that experience, my self-esteem went from really high and undulating there to really, really low, and undulating there. I was ashamed of myself all the time. I couldn’t really appreciate my own beauty. I didn’t value my body. I felt poor and broke. I regretted many of my decisions. I was hopeless.
I told myself that I’d bounce back. There were times in the last few years I didn’t think I’d make it because the voices in my head were so loud. I didn’t even know how I was still standing, able to go to work, and smile to the world, let alone do my job which was to confidently shake hands and smile at hundreds of people all the time in a business suit.
I learned an important lesson: you really can fake it until you make it. No one knows behind a pretty smile and a nice suit how much you’re hurting inside. Only you do. I had to stop living my professional career for a while because I decided to face myself. I risked losing my professional rapport and being broke so I could journey within, take new risks, and find myself on the other side of my problems.
I was really afraid everywhere I went that I would expose my weaknesses and other people would discover my weaknesses and deconstruct my intelligence, professionalism, and even my pain. On the outside, it could really seem like I’m a normal person. On the inside, I was dying. I struggled to find a connection between me and the world, me and good, me and my path. Everything was upside down, out-of-order, and I had no idea how I would put everything back together.
I went to church a lot. Some of you who have known me as a Buddhist your whole life, may have noticed that I honor spirit, God, or even the divine. It seemed like I joined a cult. It’s because meditation wasn’t enough for me. I needed a savior. For almost a year, I religiously went to Agape Spiritual Living Center and followed Michael Bernard Beckwith. My closest family and friends were sometimes concerned that I was being manipulated by some cultish new age religion. No one ever said it, but I felt it. But Agape was the only place where I felt I had the freedom and messages I needed to heal.
Agape gave me a choice to start believing in faith and good in humanity again. So I became dedicated to living and breathing what I was learning about god, good energy and the law of attraction. It sounds hella hokey, I know. But if you’ve never lost yourself, you may not understand how dark that place is where you feel absolutely nothing. Every time I read about or watch a story related to PTSD, I harken back to the moments when I was crushed. Faith in a greater power and purpose kept me focused and strong, especially when I was most lost.
There’s a part of me that’s dead, I promise you. I don’t know if it’ll ever come back alive again. But I can assure you: recently, more parts than I came remember in a long time have started to sprout again. I’ve started to feel a confidence I haven’t experienced since high school or college. This familiar, happy-go-lucky girl, is starting to come back. I see it.
But this time, it’s different. This time, I am back but I’m more compassionate. I’m stronger than I was before I was broken. My colors are deeper now because I can’t be broken again. I’m not angry with my past, I’m making peace with it. Making peace with my past felt like a long road ahead at one point. But I made it. I’m here, at first grade, the beginning of my new chapter. It feels so good.
I know what it’s like to be lost and found again. I know what it’s like to hurt so crazy, you want to rip it out. But the beauty of this story is that I didn’t rip it out. I just let love spread all over it, all the time, until finally it stopped hurting.
If my announcement that I have changed surprises you or makes you curious. Trust this: you know a Carina – an old Carina. The Carina writing is a different Carina, a Carina who is more patient, compassionate, more loving, and caring. I have broken, and fallen but I have put the pieces back together in new ways!
I want to tell you my story because I don’t want you to think of me as the “wholesome Asian American [or fill-in-the-blank] girl” you’ve always known. Inside many people who hide it well, there is pain. I just ask you to acknowledge that you see it in me and you welcome my stroll after the storm. Maybe you’ll look at someone who seems a little off, and maybe you won’t judge them negatively.