Finally, we get to read part 3 of Zara Barrie’s series all about her journey with pain, self-medicating & recovery.
In this post Zara is wrapping up her story with how she was able to forgive herself & experience true freedom.
Anyways, in today’s post you’ll learn the importance of forgiving yourself & letting go of any shame. Owning your truth & your story IS freedom, as Zara says. So let’s get right into it.
Self Forgiveness and Freedom
When I was given the most precious gem of truth I’d ever been offered in my existence on planet earth: feelings can’t kill you, running from them can, my life, little by little my life began to transform into something far more beautiful than I could’ve ever envisioned.
With the help of a therapist that I felt safe and connected to, I discovered the life-changing magic that lives inside each and every raw emotion. I learned that feelings exist for a reason, other than to simply torture us as we sweat and squirm our way through sleepless nights.
Sadness was the first feeling I looked in the eye.
I’d spent so many years numbing my sadness with anything I could get my hands on: booze, drugs, obsessively counting calories, empty sex, the list is endless — because I was so deathly afraid of what lived beneath her. But when our eyes met for the first time, I realized she wasn’t the demon I had so vehemently feared. She was an angel! And she had an extremely important message to deliver to me. (So long as I indulged in her.)
So I let myself feel sad.
I let great waves of darkness wash over my limbs. I cried. And I cried so hard a lifetime of suppressed tears poured out of me. But most importantly, I spoke about the sadness I felt. And as I spoke about the pain I was in, I began to discover why sadness had been shackin’ it up inside of my heart for all these years.
My heart was heavy with sadness because there were dark, scary things that had happened to me as a teenager that I’d stuffed away in a lockbox that lived deep inside of me. It was a sexual trauma that had snatched away my innocence far too early on in the game. This memory I’d worked so hard to erase from my brain was extraordinarily… sad. And every time I felt sad — regardless of what brought the sadness on — I was thrown right back into the arms of my teenage trauma. And I never wanted to go back to that place. So anytime I felt a modicum of sadness or vulnerability I shut it right the fuck down. And by running from these feelings, I’d not only put my life at risk — I’d robbed myself from living a life that was in alignment with who I was.
I was born to create. To write. To perform. And to connect with others through art. Part of what my sadness was trying to tell me was, you need to live a creative life. And you can’t be creative if you’re a robot. (Trust me, babe, I tried).
Next, it was time to come face to face with my anxiety.
I’d been duking it out in a boxing ring with debilitating panic my entire life. And trust me. I tried all the shit the wellness publications tell you to try. I meditated religiously. And I did yoga. I clasped onto crystals. None of it worked. Because real wellness is rooted in one thing: the truth. You can’t juice cleanse away trauma. You can’t meditate your real self away. And most certainly, no amount of downward dogs will change your sexuality. (Damn, did I really try with that one). All of those wellness hacks can help to keep you grounded for sure, but just like antidepressants, they don’t have the power to magically erase the ghosts that haunt and taunt you, every second of every day.
And my panic disorder, the one that was so acute it made me fear the texture of the goddamn walls in my apartment — that was a result of me not truly owning my lesbian identity. I’d been out as bisexual to my friends for years, but I hadn’t been honest with myself or anyone around me that I was actually, one-hundred-percent lesbian princess.
I believe that our sexuality exists at the very core of who we are.
It’s primal. It’s not something you can control or micromanage (holy hell, did I take a stab at that too!). And if you’re being dishonest about the very core of who you are, you’re going to have anxiety. Bad anxiety. Anxiety is a secret’s best friend. And it’s a toxic, codependent friendship. Those bitches go everywhere together. And when anxiety and secrets hang out for too long, shame starts to feel left out. And shame is Queen B. There’s no party she’s not invited too.
And once shame joins in on the fun, you’re shackled. You’re living a lie, teeming with anxiety and bathing in a dirty tub of shame all at once. Might as well toss yourself in a prison cell and throw away the key.
Accepting my sexuality was like taking a pair of bolt-cutters and releasing myself into the world as a free woman for the first time. And I couldn’t have felt that sweet rush of freedom if I hadn’t done the work. If I hadn’t honored my feelings. Confronted the trauma. Raw. Without drugs. Without booze. And without slapping a pretty filter over reality.
Our quick-fix culture has created an epidemic of self-medication.
We’re all so collectively afraid to be uncomfortable. And experiencing emotions, staring into the barrel of the past, and having the courage to go after what you want over what society has told you should want, is all wildly, wildly uncomfortable. But I swear to Lana Del Rey, there’s gold tucked away in the folds of the most uncomfortable moments of your life.
Uncomfortable means you’re growing. It means stuff is moving around. It means your life is expanding! And it means you’re crawling through the mud and about to get to the other side. A side that will make you feel so much happier and glowier and more vibrant, than where you’ve been living. Now when I feel uncomfortable I’m grateful. Because I know amazing things are going to be born out of this great discomfort I’m experiencing! Being uncomfortable is what paves my future in glitter. Sparkles appear when you push yourself.
When you dig deep inside of yourself and pull out the truth. When you not only feel your feelings but embrace them. I say, fuck your feelings like that rockstar you’ve been lusting after since you’re a teen! Because to live a sparkly life, is to be alive. Awake. And to be truly, fully awake it to let yourself feel not just the blissful feels, but the harrowing, confusing, complicated ones too. Otherwise you’re sleepwalking through life. And as someone who slept walk through a decade, let me tell you babe: it’s an empty existence. You deserve more.
In all truthfulness, for me, it wasn’t about getting sober from substances.
It was about getting sober from lies and waking up to the truth. For a time I used drugs and alcohol as an emotional band-aid. But here’s the thing: A band-aid isn’t designed to last forever. You can keep covering up the wound — you can take all the pills in the world to prevent yourself from feeling the wound’s brutal sting — but eventually, the wound is bound to get infected. Mine definitely did. In fact, the infection made its way into my bloodstream and rendered me a sick person for a while there. But when I finally ripped that band-aid off and let myself feel the burn and dared to gaze into the damage that’d been done, I started to heal.
It was a pretty deep wound, so I still have to tend to it. It’s still at risk for infection. It’s also left me with a giant scar. But I’m not ashamed of that scar. I rock it. I rock it like I rock my massive vintage, quilted Chanel bag I found at a second-hand shop in Florida! And I think the scar is pretty. Because unlike before, I find anything to be real — even if it’s flawed and bloody and awkward and fresh and strange — to be really, really pretty.
I really hope you loved this series from Zara. It’s so important for me to share other women’s stories on my platforms & I’m so grateful to Zara for taking the time to write these pieces for us.
+ get to know Zara better & check out her interview here.