In my opinion, my journey to positivity has been tumultuous and fairly interesting. I have been reflecting quite a bit on what positivity means to me, how positivity looks, and whether spreading positivity is always necessary.
During my earlier years in high school, I used to take pride in being negative and pessimistic. I would be ashamed if anyone ever told me I was a positive person. I used humor and sarcasm as a coping mechanism.
My struggle with depression in ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade was at its peak. Contemplation of suicide and self-harm were constantly at the forefront of my mind, and I felt as though I was burdening those around me with my presence even though they told me this was never the case. I used my relationships to fill the voids within myself and I spent every night crying, writing some extremely heartbreaking things in my iPhone notes, and hurting myself. I had many school days during which I would cry for no reason in class, but I was good at masking this. I did not share this, the darkest parts of myself, with anyone. Even those closest to me did not see this side of me.
Of course, my friends and family probably viewed me as the chipper Natasha we all know now, but I do not think they recognized the walls I had built around myself with the bricks as pain and the foundation as pure negativity. I am an extrovert, so regardless of how I am feeling internally, being surrounded by others pushes me to be bright, make people laugh, and the one to always say yes. My outgoing personality was constantly fighting the darkness that resided within me. I thought positivity, self-care, and gratitude were cheesy ideologies to practice and I chose to wallow in my sorrows instead.
The thought of death intrigued me and almost made me happy. I would keep running to the edge of the cliff in my mind and was so close to jumping every single time. I do not know what stopped me and while fear plays a role, I think the people in my life played larger ones. Since I invest so much of myself in others (this is not healthy and I do not recommend doing this), my attachments to whoever invaded my thoughts every time I considered the jump are what prevented me from acting more drastically. I am glad I am here, as I am, today, but the fact that I needed others to keep me at bay is not great.
I will say that I do not think this period of my life is reflective of who I am. I think that I was trying so hard to be negative because I wanted, so badly, for a reason to quit. I had lost myself to imbalances in my brain, societal factors, an unrealistic idea of love and happiness, my environment, and probably so much more.
The winter and spring of junior year had been rough. I stopped exercising, was in a bad mood a fair amount of the time, experienced a terrible break-up, wore sweatpants half of the time (I now live by “dress well to test well” and I am never caught in sweatpants), did not have that much fun at the Prom, and had to spend most of this year collecting myself.
After letting my negativity consume me for so long, something changed within me before entering my senior year of high school. I cannot pinpoint an exact moment because the change was gradual. I felt recharged. Even though I still struggle with a few mental illnesses to this day, I decided that my present contentment was a conscious choice that only I could make. Receiving help was a choice that only I could make. One cannot expect to act upon and be surrounded by positivity without being intrinsically motivated to do so. I began exercising again that summer. I started attending yoga every week with one of my best friends. I planned and was excited about events. I found community within my friend group. I began to truly appreciate the activities in which I participated. My study habits improved and I did not procrastinate even in the slightest, and this showed through the grades I received.
I realized that if I exude positivity, it will return back to me. I found joy in small things such as new music releases, rainy days, funny jokes, or hugs. I practiced gratitude. We all have problems, but our lives could be much worse. Having a family, a roof over my head, food to eat, an education, and friends who support me are blessings and not guarantees. I have so many resources and opportunities at my fingertips and I know that others do not have as much. I take every moment to acknowledge the privileges I have because positivity and gratitude are intertwined. Life will continue to throw curveballs in my direction; I do not need to contribute to this by having a negative mindset.
Environment is incredibly important. I might not be able to make immediate changes to mine, but my outlook adds to it. I try to be as friendly and warm as I can be. Given that I am an extrovert, doing so is not that difficult, but it takes energy. I choose to spend time with those who add to my life, and stay away from people and things that diminish my energy. I try to add as much color and warmth as I can to my physical environment so I am always met with joy.
Recently, I mentioned that I used to be a negative person and took pride in being this way. My friends were taken by surprise. Negativity and Natasha do not blend well. If my past self knew myself now, I would probably be surprised too. Reflecting on the poisonous thoughts that intruded my mind back then hurts me. One of my greatest fears is relapsing into this mindset again, but I spend every second fighting it. Sometimes, we need others to hold us accountable, recognize warning signs, and tell us that we need help, and I am thankful to have folks who do so in my life now.
Positivity does not equate to always being happy, smiling, or upbeat. Positivity takes work and time. Just because I choose to emit warmth does not mean that I am happy and doing well, and always should be. Positivity is recognizing that it is okay to not be okay, but doing what one can to change this. Growth does not occur overnight and changes cannot be made unless we are motivated to do so by our own hearts. External factors help, but they are temporary.
I still have heavy days and struggle lots, but I am in a healthier and better-equipped mindset to face these challenges. I am here and I choose positivity because I know I have worth and so much to give. I care so deeply about those I love and I want to add to their lives instead of draining them. I cannot believe that I was so close to throwing away all of this. I cannot believe I was so close to throwing away myself. I am proud of my growth and I will never apologize for being too positive or consistently expressing gratitude.