What I learned at three years old

The past week has been hard. Writing, filming and being with friends and having conversations with my family has been very rewarding, but I can't ignore the fact that I haven't been ok.

I don't usually talk about my dad, because it's a tricky thing to explain. I wish I could be more open about it since I'm definitely not the only one struggling with a thing like this. But it's something that causes me a lot of guilt, anxiety and stress because I feel like I can't express myself in a way that's worth sharing.

But after reaching out to get professional help for my various mental issues, I've had to face the truth that my childhood wasn't easy, and that I can't keep ignoring that I am different because of it and expecting myself to be normal.

Nobody should treat themselves like I treat myself. I need to finally allow myself to take it easy and process what I've been through, or I'll keep getting worse and worse.

On Tuesday it was seventeen years ago since my dad passed away.

And already I feel the need to clarify: I have a dad, who's very alive and who's support and love and wisdom I wouldn't survive without. He adopted me and my little sister years ago, and oh what a relief it was to finally be able to have two parents to sign permissions to go on school trips or take us to the doctor.

But even though life has been good for many years, it's been proven by research that children who have lost someone so close at such a young age go through a much longer grieving process and will most likely struggle with some sort of mental health problems.

Our brains are so vulnerable when we're young. One day my mom who's super smart and has studied this sort of stuff explained to me that my brain will probably never look like somebody's brain who didn't suffer a childhood trauma. My brain has grown differently, and while the brain is an incredible organ that constantly heals itself, mine will always be a bit broken. A bit off.

It's inevitable. Such small brains are not supposed to understand death, but I was forced to face it.

Such small hearts are not supposed to carry such a heavy burden, but mine has. And if you've lost someone, you know that burden like this keeps growing day by day if you don't take time to go through the pain and process it fully.

Yet the world is full of parentless children who suffer much worse than I do. Maybe that's one of the reasons why I haven't been willing to face my own grief, because I always compare my pain to those who are hurting so much more.

But it's like with the oxygen masks in airplanes. I can't help others before I've helped myself.

I can't pour water from an empty cup.

I was three years old, and I still remember the night my dad died. I still remember the nightmares--how I used to wake up in the middle of the night screaming my throat raw, or how I'd stare at dark shapes on the walls while I was playing with my legos, or how I used to hide in the bathroom when I was absolutely convinced that something out there was coming to hurt me, and hear angry voices yelling at me.

Is this okay to put this out on the internet?

My childhood was happy, but it was messed up and complicated.

I don't want to live in a world where any child feels the kind of fear that still causes me to tremble and sweat just trying to write about. For so long I'd pushed these strange feelings to the back of my mind and done everything I could to forget they ever existed.

Now that I'm older, I am so grateful by the amount of compassion, clarity, understanding, emotional strength and positivity all this pain has given me. It's like all the tears I've spilled have stretched my heart to be so much bigger and fit so much more love than it ever could have if it hadn't once been so full of sorrow.

When I was a child I had such a strong passion for living, no matter what I'd been through. There were many days when I was scared, angry and couldn't think clearly because my mind was so clouded by so many emotions that a kid that young shouldn't be feeling.

But on most days, I frolicked through forests, climbed trees and wrote stories about fantasy lands beyond imaginary mountains.

Moving forward is the only way to live.

And I am convinced that the main reason I write stories today is because my messed up brain wouldn't know how to live otherwise.

I don't know who I'd be today if I hadn't once been the girl without a dad.

I could even consider myself more blessed than most. See, I have two dads; one guardian angel somewhere else to watch over me, and one right here to remind me of the important things that I am meant to do, and why I have so much to give, not despite of what I've been through, but because I have been through so much.

At twenty, I can allow myself to cry myself to sleep when I miss him. I can allow myself to sit  and cry while I write about him. I can finally allow myself to sort through the memories, the flashbacks, the deep sorrow and the pain from seventeen years ago.

At three years old I learned that life is temporary. That it's short and scary and bad things happen suddenly. But now I know that love, joy and compassion are forever.

And I also know that I have a tendency to be cheesy when I try to turn something depressing and sad into something worth smiling about. But cheese is great. Happiness is cheesy. I like my life with some cheese on top.

Have a happy Saturday!

With lots of hugs and totally not tear-filled eyes,

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