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It’s crazy how one person can literally change your whole life, and even in some cases, save it. For me, that person is Hayley Kiyoko, Japanese-American Lesbian pop artist, songwriter, dancer, actress, director, who for me personally became the key to my self-discovery. Hayley’s the person that gave me the courage to finally be me, unashamedly me, and I cannot wait to celebrate by meeting her in person, sharing my story, a few tears and laughs and smiles with her in person on Sunday, July 29.
“I love myself.”...Three words that seem simple, but for girls like me, that’s not always true. Tonight, in what is hands down the BIGGEST recovery victory of my life, I said (more than once, out loud, texted to friends), “I love myself.” This is a place I honestly never ever thought I’d get to. I’d said it over the years as therapy homework, but it never meant anything. It was simply hollow words, said in monotone from a nearly dead soul, meaningless. Finally. It’s happened and I cannot believe I am finally at such a hallmark place for people in recovery from anything, mental health or substance abuse-wise.
Telling myself, the grown up me and most importantly that little girl inside, that I matter, that I’m worth it, that I’m deserving of love, of happiness, of validation, is a place that honestly is mind boggling as I truly didn’t think I’d ever organically, honestly, truly get to this place.
This comes from years upon years of trauma, of heartbreak, of chaos. Of being told by people that were supposed to love me, to protect me, that I was worthless. Disgusting. Fat. Lazy. A slob. An embarrassment. Stupid. Not good enough. That I’d never be anything, I’d never succeed, that bad things happening in my life were my fault, that I could do better, that I was a sorry piece of shit, that the only way I’d get love was through “perfection,” but that perfection was never enough. Over time, those words, those thoughts, those judgements, became my own voice inside my head. Constant, loud, abusive, berating. It became where I couldn’t separate their words echoing in my own head from the conscious thoughts I was thinking.
Every time something bad happened, I took on the shame and blame and believed more and more that I was the most worthless piece of trash on earth, that the abuse was my fault, that the fights were my fault, that if my body were different the abuse wouldn’t have happened, and I kept teaching myself more and more to hate myself, and move further and further from even trying to believe that I was worthy of self-love, deserving of it.
When my eating disorder and self harm addiction took hold, this took my mind to a deeper and deeper place, to seeing myself in ways and saying things to myself I would never ever say to another person, yet I fully believed I deserved the shit I told myself. When my mom got sick and then died, that became my fault. When I was bullied, that was my fault. When family conflicts happened, that was my fault. When I tried to deny myself of my identity as a gay woman, suppressed it and my related ways of self expression in the closet, that fermented my self hate and made saying and believing, truly believing, that I loved myself, seemingly impossible.
This last month, I have been on a journey unimaginable, something that I heard of, dreamed of in recovery but 100 percent thought it wasn’t happening for me because people like me don’t deserve it, but it’s happened. I’ve cracked those walls. I’ve embraced my flaws, my uniqueness, what I like, what I don’t like. I’ve started listening to what I like, dressing how I like, expressing myself in my way, letting go of those “expectations” I have for myself and others have for me, and living, truly living, in the moment, in the present, as I am, a flawed, unique, and beautiful human.
Allowing myself to connect to the music of four strong women who have been “secrets” because again, that made me not perfect and even more worthless, if I even so much as acknowledged I love their music. I find hope, strength, courage, faith from them, women I used to be ashamed of admitting I loved, but now, I scream from the rooftops. I’m open with showing their videos in public, where before I kept it under lock and key, because this part of myself made me even more worthless, even less deserving of love, if that was possible.
Now I know, as a huge, unbreakable, genuine smile crept across my face watching a video of Hayley Kiyoko’s live performance of “Girls Like Girls,” that thought, that feeling, came deep from within like an avalanche. I love myself. I love myself. I LOVE MYSELF.
I wouldn’t have finally had this spiritual experience without all my favorites, but especially the strong women who’ve finally shown me how to love myself, what that feels like, validated my worth, taught me my flaws make me me, that it’s more than OK to live freely, to let go of the chains of expectations and perfectionism and that real freedom comes when those weights of the years upon years of abuse, of unrealistic expectations, are abandoned, and in that moment, I am free to be me, I’m free to love myself, I’m free to live in a love me or leave me attitude, I’m gonna do me, I’m gonna be me, I’m loving me, regardless of what you or anyone in my past or my past self said about me. I’m the real me, and this real me, all parts of this real me, the ugly parts, the present me, the scared, hurt, little me, we are all worthy of love, from others, but first, from ourself. And finally, I love this Carrielee. All parts of her. Without limits. I truly would not have gotten to this place without my fave four women that have gotten me here: Hayley, Kiyoko, Gabbie Hanna, Bebe Rexha, Avril Lavigne. Thanks for showing me that all parts of myself deserve love, whether they’re fully accepted by society or not, that being a strong gay woman is beautiful and fucking amazing. That my mental health history and struggles make me more beautiful, stronger, more worthy of love, not less than. That it’s OK to be unique, to be me, to not always be the most pretty, that my forever slightly black heart, the inner part that loves to rock out, to feel connected to the music, to just have fun with songs that are total boos while also being deep, that all of these parts make me who I am and that because of those parts, I love Carrielee, the whole person.