Writer: Alysse Dalessandro | Last week brought me some of the best moments of my professional life. I was featured for the first time as a blogger in a print publication, FabUPlus AND actress Gabourey Sidibe wore my designs on the cover of NYLON magazine. I’ve been designing for over five years and blogging for nearly three and two of my biggest professional goals happened in the same week.
Someone asked me how that week felt for me. It felt surreal. It was rewarding, gratifying, and made me feel valued for my contributions to the plus-size community. But those weren’t the only emotions I felt that week. Yes, I cried tears of joy twice that week but I still cried tears of sadness three days out of five.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a crier. I usually cry a few times a week. Sometimes I cry a few times a day. I allow myself to feel my feelings. I cry as a release and once I do, I usually feel better. It took me a while to realize that people process emotions in different ways. Some see crying as a weakness. I have learned to see crying as a strength. To me, crying means that I am sitting in an uncomfortable feeling, processing it and hopefully working to heal it so I can move on. It’s not a perfect system but it’s a kind of radical vulnerability that works for me.
I believe that acknowledging something in the moment is a huge step to healing. Anger, anxiety and sadness aren’t things I’m ashamed to feel anymore. They used to be reasons to shame myself but now they are tools that help signal to me that there’s something deeper going on that I need to be processing. Feeling the shame in that moment only masks what’s really going on.
I think it often baffles folks when I tell them how often I cry. I remember someone remarking after a comment I made, “Wow, are you okay? You might have depression.” I remember actually laughing out loud thinking, “Why yes, I do. Thank you for that diagnosis I’ve had for years.” I know when I talk about my mental health, it’s going to open me up to a lot of judgements because it challenges some people’s idea about what it means to be successful and happy. But I think talking about mental health and removing the stigma that surrounds it really important too. Living with depression and anxiety doesn’t invalidate my success.
For the past five years I’ve been running my business, my personal life has mostly taken a backseat. My priority has been my career. But the one smart decision I’ve made for my own self-care was starting and sticking with therapy almost six years ago. For the past few months, I’ve also been working with a holistic coach. I am a person living out my dreams and even when those dreams become reality, that doesn’t correlate into a solution for healing my past trauma.
My professional success is happening at the same time as my healing and not in spite of it. It’s important to me to make that distinction. It’s important to me that I am seen as a whole human being – one who has survived and lived with the effects of trauma and who is working on healing them. If you want to look up to me, I want all parts of me to be seen. I want not just my success to be seen but also my struggle. They are both a part of me and they are both valid. So as I reflect back on one of the best weeks of my life, I can admit that it wasn’t a week without pain. That doesn’t make me any less of a positive person, it just makes me human.