Worth Living Ambassador Haley Tiffany
I’m a social work major in Boston, USA. I am a mental health blogger, an empath, and I have the rarest personality type (INFJ). I am commonly found with my fluffy cat, writing blog posts or poetry, taking yoga classes, and dancing around my kitchen in my pj’s. People often say I am silly, happy-go-lucky, kind-hearted, a goofball, and a “chill” person.
My most favorite word I have been called, though? Resilient
When I Discovered Life Was Worth Living
At this point in my life I wake up every morning feeling blessed. I see my life with a purpose and I know exactly who I am, and what fuels my fire.
I did not just wake up one day and see things this clearly. It took work. It took strength, time, and energy. There were tears, heartache, and self-doubt.
There was a time when I would not wake up in the morning and feel blessed. I would not see hope. I did not believe my life was worth living.
I have social anxiety. Many people would never notice, but the truth is I have worked my entire life to contain it. I never felt good enough, smart enough, anything enough. I had a great group of friends, a loving family, but I still battled with myself each day.
I didn’t know who I was or how I fit into this world. I never conformed to a “clique.” At school, I would bounce around different lunch tables trying to find my fit. I wasn’t much of an athlete, I hated to be the center of attention, I wasn’t the top of my class, the cheerleading captain, not even the bookworm. I was often told by my teachers that I should participate more. I would just sit quietly in class and just “be.” That was comfortable for me. I was highly anxious, an over-thinker, and a terrible test taker.
As I grew older, my anxiety turned into bottled up feelings from traumas I had endured. I realized this once I started experiencing anxiety attacks every single day. I missed many days of school, had frequent doctor appointments, and even blood tests to figure out what was wrong. I had no idea what was happening and why it was happening now. I felt I had no control over my body. My anxiety made me sick. I missed too many days of school, and nothing was getting better, so my mom made me go in. I would go to a bathroom stall and cry or sit in the nurse’s office. I barely ate. I was losing weight and becoming ghostly pale.
While this was going on, my grandfather passed away. My anxiety then joined a depression. I thought my world was falling apart. I was hating myself for being unable to sit through my classes, go into public, or go to work without my anxiety taking over me. I took out all that negative energy I was feeling out on myself. I was self-harming until it became an addiction. Every day was a walk through fog and I forgot what it felt like to be me. I didn’t see how I was going to get anywhere in life with such crippling anxiety. My social anxiety would never land me a job. I felt like a disappointment to my family, and everyone just wanted me to “snap out of it.” I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be happy. I was too busy hating myself for my weaknesses, to be discovering my strengths. Luckily, a path led me there.
Growing up, I was very intuitive. I would write stories, spend hours exploring in the woods, and I loved to be around adults more than kids my own age. I often felt misunderstood and alone with my imagination. I didn’t think the way my peers had. At a young age, I was recognizing qualities of a healer within me. I had no idea my sensitivity was a gift and that my level of intuition was rare for my age. I had no idea that the reason I struggled in school was because I learned best through life experiences, and self-reflection. I was very right-brained, and creative, and I never felt equations, and circling A, B, C, or D, on an exam was serving me.
I had all these people behind me, who believed in me. I just didn’t believe them. As a high school student with depression and anxiety, I knew the logical thing to do was to seek help from a professional. I even believed I wasn’t good at that. I couldn’t give eye contact, I was petrified of being judged, and I couldn’t find words to explain how I felt or what I needed. I thought I was wasting their time, and I fell even farther into feeling absolutely alone with myself.
I spoke to the one person I could let see, hear, and understand me. I wrote letters to myself. I was no longer writing stories for fun, I was writing as the only way to express myself. To save myself.
My journey to healing came following realizations. I wish I could say I did this all on my own, but I had support.
I am ever so grateful for that support. Sometimes it takes guidance from another who truly cares in order to see yourself in the same light.
That guide, for me, was my high school social worker. She read my writing, she visited my blog site almost every morning, and emailed me with the insights she picked up on. One morning I was sitting in a Psychology class when I read an email from her that gave me hope.
“You are SO smart for realizing the things you do. Most people your age do not (and cannot) make such insightful connections! I know in an earlier post you mentioned some self-consciousness surrounding intelligence, so please know that when it comes to this stuff in particular, you are smart beyond your years.”
When I read those words I could not hide my smile. A friend noticed and said, “I have not seen that smile in a long time.” It was true. That genuine smile came from someone, not just believing in me, but helping me to recognize there was more to intelligence than grades in school and confidence in public speaking.
It was like everything I had been looking for was unwrapped for me before my eyes. These negative beliefs I had been carrying that I would get nowhere in life if I could not help myself to be seen. I started to accept those parts of me, instead of comparing myself to others. For someone who has always wanted to help others, to study social work, to counsel, I had no idea that with that passion came a gift of incredible intuition, insight, and an empathic heart that would allow me to excel. I could be genuine. I could be me. I could live my dream. This discovery wasn’t the end of my downfall. It was just the beginning. What came from here took work. I realized now that in order to heal others I need to make sure I get the healing I deserve as well.
I have been on that healing journey since. I have overcome a hospitalization, I have not self-harmed in over a year, and I still attend therapy regularly for an additional support.
That email from my school social worker was inspired by a blog post I had written, where, at the time, she was my only reader. Today, my blog is public, my story is being shared, and this is due to my being reminded of who I am and why that is special.
Mental illness is tricky and often we lose ourselves along the way. It is important to find people who will stand by you, who remind you of your greatness, so you can find your very self again, and why you are worth living.