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I used to be scared of the journey of self-discovery.
I dreaded the thought of what I might find. What if I didn’t have it all together? What if I needed development, healing or support from others? I couldn’t imagine opening myself up to judgment.
This way of being, this fear of being seen, led to years of false narratives, poor relationships, addictions, loneliness, obesity and a long affair with depression and suicidal thinking.
That is, until one conversation changed it all – a conversation that dared me to explore, to connect, to develop, and to stand up for my life and who I was capable of being.
It was the conversation that saved my life.
I remember the day clearly. It was a beautiful Thursday morning in Brooklyn. I remember feeling hopeless and numb. I felt everything and nothing all at once. I had lost my faith and wanted to stop hurting. My depression had won. I was ready to end my life.
Five feet from the bridge I planned on ending my life on, I paused – something told me to call my Uncle Frank. He and my Aunt Sandra took me in after my parents died and over the years had become the father figure in my life. He is the person who roots for me the most, and sees me for me no matter what. He had listened. He had cried with me. He had given me every pep talk under the sun. He had done so much for me since I was 12 years old, I felt I needed to call him. He needed to know I had tried – tried to change, tried to get the negative thoughts to go away…but I just couldn’t try anymore. I also wanted him to know how thankful I was for him.
I didn’t know it then, but with that call I was sending out a cry for help. And thank God I did.
Uncle Frank answered the phone, and before I could even finish a thought he reminded me of my value. He reminded me of how important I was to him, to our family, to my friends and to the world. He didn’t even know where I was, but he knew how to save me. He made me talk to him, cry and feel everything I was trying to avoid. I needed healing. I needed to learn how to deal with the death of my parents, my childhood and domestic abuse, and a lifelong battle of “not being good enough.” I needed help, and Uncle Frank assisted the setup so I could get it. For the next year I was able to work less and put more energy into my mental health and growth. We talked almost every day to keep me accountable to the work and actions needed to shift my perceptions of my life’s reality. He took me seriously and acknowledged my pain, but also pushed me to recognize that only I could make it better. That idea still resonates with me. It will always be up to me to make the change I wish to see.
I remember walking home from the bridge still wondering if I would be back. Yet, something told me to borrow a little of my uncle’s faith and peace until I could find my own.
That was six years ago.
Six years and one huge transformation later, I wholeheartedly believe what Uncle Frank told me at the bridge. I am important to the world. I’ve created a life filled with love, joy, connection, abundance and one grounded in my value. I still have low days (who doesn’t?), but now I have the tools of self-reliance, compassion and support to help me understand, communicate and nurture my emotions. I’m currently traveling the world, sharing my story one listener at a time. My uncle and his importance in my life get brought up during every discussion.
In September 2016 I joined the ranks of thousands of pilgrims by walking a portion of the Camino De Santiago in Northern Spain. As someone who once battled with obesity and food addiction, who once walked with a cane and couldn’t bend over to tie her own shoes, I felt like a superhero reaching the Cathedral de Santiago seven days after the start of my journey.
There’s a saying on the Camino: you start walking for one reason, but find the real reason along the path. I was doing the walk on a whim and as a fundraiser for Suicide Prevention. This, I thought, was my reason.
The pilgrimage was the hardest journey I had ever taken – spiritually, physically and mentally. But it was also the best. I met amazing people from all walks of life, had powerful connections and conversations. I walked for miles with a herd of cows behind me, and walked in the mountains of Sarria in the pouring rain. I cried with strangers in Portomarin and got taken in by a group of new Irish friends. I laughed hysterically and cried from fatigue. I stayed in beautiful places, ate amazing food and drank wine you dream about. Villagers greeted me with warmth in each new place, so thankful that I was on this journey and passing through theirs. I discovered global grace and community everywhere I went.
The Camino forced me to meet my resistance with love.
There is another saying on the Camino that is quite special to me. As you pass another pilgrim walker you say “Buen Camino” meaning “good way.” These words always provided such comfort and cultivated exchanges of smiles, connection and space.
In one of the villages along my path, I met a man who owned a clothing shop. He lost one of his legs in an accident but continues to walk the Camino with the most beautiful spirit and smile. While he always bid me a “Buen Camino,” he would also say, “Mas que un camino,” meaning “there is always more than one way.” Every time I heard it I thought of my uncle, and my heart would be flooded with gratitude.
Six years ago I thought there was only one way to ease my hurt. I am so thankful I asked for, and received, guidance down another path. Although it was difficult to wade through the muck, my journey after the bridge led me to a new version of my life, where I could watch my dreams unfold. Now I get to share my story, write, lead meditations and host workshops in beautiful places all over the world. I couldn’t be more blessed by “my way” than I am today, and I hope it inspires others to picture new journeys for themselves.
In the last 15 minutes of my Camino walk, a rush of emotions came over me. I felt compelled to stop, take out my phone and record a video message to myself. In this message, I reminded myself that this moment was mine. I did the walk. I did the work. I met hard times with grace – and I persevered. I reminded myself to never forget who I was in my heart. A warrior. A woman who will always rise. I reminded myself to take care of my sweet and sensitive heart and to allow my creative spirit to fly. I stared at myself on the screen and cried – not out of sadness, but out of thankfulness. For the very first time, I offered myself gratitude for showing up, for answering the call for more love. Everything Uncle Frank told me six years ago rang true in my ears and in my heart. I could say it all, out loud, to myself – and BELIEVE it.
I went to the Camino for one reason. I found my real reason in these last 15 minutes.
I was healed, and this was my victory walk.
A few self-hugs and high fives ensued and I walked the rest of the way with a smile on my face, feeling an army of love behind me that I will never separate from again. I now dedicate my life to sharing my story, my struggle with suicide and depression, to pay forward what my uncle gave me six years ago – the pathway back to my value.
Mas que un camino.
More love always,
MORE ON MELISSA
Back in May, Melissa put her belongings in storage and said goodbye to her life in Brooklyn, New York, to take on life as a global digital nomad, Intuitive Guide & Speaker. She has traveled to seven different countries since then sharing her heart, story and tools she used to transform her life through workshops, blogging, readings, meditation gatherings and talks focused on Sustainable Self-Empowerment and care. She is currently finishing out the year living in Bali surfing and writing her first book. She is committed to Suicide Prevention Advocacy and inspiring as many people as possible to connect with their true value and lead from there: LOVE.
This post was published by one of our staff writers at Follow the Camino.