The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron to be precise.
It was 2018. I was in one of the darkest periods of my life. I had once again slipped into a cycle of self-hatred and anger. I had a three-year-old son, a toxic home life, and complete social isolation. I had learned a very long time ago how to swallow rage, suppress sadness, and never speak of dissatisfaction. I was only ever allowed to be grateful. My mother simply would not tolerate any negativity from me. My life, in her eyes, was perfect. I had everything I wanted and continued to get everything I wanted. There was no reason for me to be anything but happy.
But I was miserable.
I wasn’t just miserable. I was unconscionably depressed. Every single day started with an argument in my head to move.
The only reason I did was because of my son.
I didn’t want to be this way, for his sake. He deserved a better mother. He deserved at least one parent that truly put him first and did not treat him like an accessory or a tool to be used to hurt the other parent. He deserved a mother that was fully present.
But I couldn’t be. I didn’t want to be present in my own life. How could I possibly be present in his?
I knew that I could not continue to live this way. I knew there had to be more to life than my feelings of shame and guilt, anger and resentment.
But I couldn’t see my way out. All I could see was rising debt, an abusive living situation, and woman who knew better.
When things get that bad, I fully retreat into my fantasy world. Back in 2018, I spent hours in my room, alone, daydreaming about a better life for my son and me. I did not know how to get there but I knew that there was where I wanted to be.
And then I remembered the book. A book a friend had given me years ago. A book that I started in 2015, but stopped when the work got too real. This book required 12 weeks of commitment. This book required thought and written exercises that challenged my perception of self. And when I was confronted with my demons, I stopped. I told myself it was because I was too busy. I was a new mother. I was trying to find myself again, I didn’t have time for the grueling work this book outlined. But that wasn’t true.
I was afraid.
I knew by the time I reached week five, almost halfway through the book, I was in trouble. I was being asked to remember things I had long since forgotten, things I had long since buried in the wasteland of my true emotions. I couldn’t bring those things back up. I forgave those people. What I hadn’t realized was that I never forgave myself.
So, lonely, depressed, distraught, silenced, and desperate, I picked up that book. And I began the long road back to myself. I completed the book at that time. I completed it because I was finally ready for my life to change. And it did.
It did in ways I never saw coming.