Person sitting alone on the floor in a crowded hallway.
Mental Health

Finding My Way Home: A Journey of Self-Reflection and Acceptance

Country (Adopted) of Origin: Canada

My childhood was broken up into pieces, with parts of me left in different countries around the world.  These memories are blurry, like faded pictures in my head. 

I see faint echoes of my younger self in my mind but many events and memories are dull. But the feelings that I experienced still linger; there was discomfort, embarrassment, and this overwhelming feeling of loneliness. I remember crying and not understanding so many things and the fear that came with these emotions. 

My family lived together in Australia for six years until we had to go back home to the Philippines. The family split apart three years later when my dad’s job took us away again. My parents, my older sister and I were heading off to Belgium. My two other older siblings, who were about to enter college, decided to stay home to pursue their studies in the Philippines rather than start from scratch in a new place. Since they were much older, they were allowed to make this choice and live away from us.  At the time, I didn’t understand the friction and tension that this decision brought upon us. It was hard for everyone involved, but being as young as I was, I felt like an outsider to it all. Plus, I didn’t realize how much this separation would impact my relationship with my siblings as we got older. 

Looking back now, I wondered if this unstable family situation was the catalyst for many of the anxieties and doubts I felt growing up, and it was only recently that things finally clicked. This sense of displacement, of never belonging somewhere is a feeling that followed me my whole life. To add to that, I’ve always been shy and full of nervous energy. I never felt comfortable with my own existence but I never understood why. 

I grew up with this idea that my family saw me as a shy, nervous mess who needed help with everything. I don’t know if this is true or if this was a self-inflicted preconceived notion but it has negatively impacted my self-esteem and mental health in the long run. I felt like there was nothing I can do that will help me escape from this image I have of myself.  

My growing pains morphed into a cocktail of self-doubt, unease, and later on, depression, unknowingly due to the difficult relationships in my family and our overall living situation. 

It seemed pointless to connect with other people because we would be leaving them sooner or later. This belief bled into my friendships at school and even into the relationships I formed in adulthood.

We would always end up moving away, so I never understood the point of social interactions. Why would I open up my fragile little heart to these friendships if I had to let them go at the end? If I had a hard time making friends in one place, how could I guarantee that I would have friends in the next? 

I just couldn’t believe that people would choose to love me even after I left, or that things would be the same if I ever tried to reach out. These thoughts not only impacted my view on friendships but the perception I had of myself as well. I couldn’t believe that I was worthy of being loved. 

This negative outlook made up a significant portion of my teen years and even my early twenties. Even now, I’m still learning to move past this mindset. 

When I did decide to open my heart to people, I loved intensely and the thought of losing their friendship, especially in moments of self-doubt, scared me.

I later understood that these feelings stemmed from the fear of rejection. My self-defense mechanism was to immediately reject people’s attempts to befriend me. I can vividly recall, in fifth grade, a group of people in my grade came up to me and asked if I wanted to be friends since I was always by myself and I said no. If I rejected people before they had the chance to reject me, it would spare me the heartache. 

It wasn’t until my family moved to Canada that I finally started to see a change in my mindset. I started to crave human connections. I reached a point where I knew for certain that I wanted to stay here for good. We found a community and for once, I could see myself having a future with these people. I met most of these people in a youth group at my local church, and while I didn’t have high hopes about making any connections, these people eventually felt like home. It wasn’t just because we had similar views or beliefs, it was because they were so welcoming. I felt I was accepted, and even wanted. 

This strong community that kept building me up no matter how much I broke down is what helped me the most. Even if I tried to shut people out, they kept coming back and didn’t give up on me; they checked up on me and invited me out and truly wanted to get to know me. I felt safe sharing the broken parts of myself because they continued to show me that they loved me. It wasn’t that they saved me or anything. Rather, they helped me see that I am worthy of love and that it’s okay to love people back. 

This is what gave me the courage to keep working on myself. 

Knowing that I am loved and believing that I am more than what I used to be is still a struggle, but I am proud to finally have the courage to face these doubts head on. 

Growing up, I could barely look at myself in the mirror because I was so uncomfortable with my own existence, but now, I am fighting these negative thoughts and truly living. 

It is my hope that people find a place that they can call home and receive the love and encouragement that they deserve. Everyone should be given a chance to grow, be loved, and have a community to support them. 

By sharing this part of my story I hope that people will know that there will be a safe space for them too where they can heal and grow at their own pace. Your healing might look different from mine, and that’s okay. Whatever it looks like, I hope that you find the kind of community you are looking for.  

As for me, I will keep working on taking care of my mental health, my friendships because I deserve it. 

Thank you to Hazel Koritzer, Christina Lee, and Apurva Makashir for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Mental Health team.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to the DG Sentinel, please visit our submissions page here.

Margaret L. M. is finding more reasons to try her best every day. She is trying to be more vocal about her mental health struggles in order to heal and hopefully help others in the process. She currently lives in Toronto, is obsessed with buying books and hopes to have her own corgi named “Peanut Butter” someday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *