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How I Turned My Struggles Into Strength — In Just One Year

Twelve months ago, I was broken.

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Mandy Hale Struggles Into Strength
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One year ago today, a new chapter began for me. I had put myself out there and taken a chance on love and against all odds ... found it. Quickly. (Some might say too quickly.) I fell in love with a boy who I thought for a brief moment might be my forever. And though the relationship only lasted a few short months, it was hugely significant, as it was the first time I had fallen in love in at least a decade. It was the first time I ever talked marriage with someone in a real, tangible way. It marked so many firsts for me ... but then on March 5, 2018, it went away, just as suddenly as it had arrived. And I was broken. A week after the breakup, severe insomnia and intense anxiety kicked in, and I went seven whole days without sleeping one wink. And though that experience was sheer hell, it forced me to finally confront my anxiety in the most aggressive way I ever had, because you can’t live without sleep and I was determined to do both. Sleep. And live.

In moments like these, we are presented with a choice: Let your struggles take you down, or raise you up. Break you or make you. Define you or refine you.

As for me? I chose to let my breakup, become my break-OVER.

I fought my way back from the throes of anxiety and insomnia with everything I had. I found a new therapist, tried a new medication, began meditating, gave essential oils a whirl, researched and learned various relaxation techniques … I threw everything but the kitchen sink at my struggles. And somewhere in the rubble of my broken heart and in the darkness of those sleepless nights, I began to find myself again. Not really a new version of myself ... but a better version. And I came to recognize how strong I really was. Not weak because I suffered from anxiety, but strong because I suffered from anxiety but I kept right on fighting. And not a failure because I had taken a chance on love and lost ... because the losing part didn’t make the taking a chance part any less brave. I even learned to embrace my anxiety as a blessing instead of a burden. "Anxiety isn’t your body trying to kill you, it’s your body trying to protect you,” my therapist said. After the breakup, my anxiety kicked in to protect me by keeping me focused on it instead of on my heartache ... and how amazing is that?!

Slowly, the panic attacks subsided. Not at all once, but a little at a time. And gradually, I retrained my body to sleep. Not an entire night through, but a few hours at a time until I was back to a regular sleep schedule. Progress often comes in tiny steps forward rather than in leaps and bounds. And that’s okay. It’s important to recognize and celebrate your progress, no matter how slight. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. And neither was a life rebuilt in a day.

Today a sweet friend said something so beautiful to me: “There’s a strength in showing up despite the hurt.” For a long time over this past year, I was just showing up despite the hurt. And then it became showing up and barely thinking about the hurt. And then, slowly, it became just showing up because I was excited to show up without even a twinge of hurt. I guess that’s what healing looks like. Today I can honestly look back on the last year with nothing but gratitude, because it molded me into a stronger, better woman than I would have been otherwise. And I am thankful.

So hang in there, dear ones, wherever you are in your process. Keep showing up and doing the work. Keep confronting your own STUFF. Trust your path and where it is taking you, and who it is taking you away from. Keep making tiny steps of progress until you look back one day and you can no longer see where you were from where you are. Keep facing down your struggles, without fear and without flinching, until they become your strength.

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. A year from now, life will be so different, and so beautiful. I promise.