I used to think that I needed to have an excuse for my mental illness. Some history of deep trauma. Some catastrophic episode to explain my suffering or a series of unfortunate events to validate my need to seek help. But maybe, this is just one more thing the world has told me that I misunderstood. Maybe, everyone has some version of trauma. I don’t need to have some dark, hidden wound to substantiate my need for support or empathy. I am growing, that is all. I always have been. Maybe we stop saying things like “she’s so messed up”, “she probably wasn’t loved enough”, “I bet she has daddy issues”, and instead normalize being human and getting help when we struggle! Instead, we could say “she might be hurting”, “she is really passionate”, or “she is still learning”. It is NORMAL to struggle. And maybe I did have some form of trauma as a child. Maybe as an adult as well. Maybe just yesterday. But this neither defines me nor excuses my behavior. I am both broken and whole, all at the same time. Always have been. It is OK to need help sometimes. Like those beautiful japanese vases that have their cracks repaired with gold. The tree that has twisted its way towards the sun despite having to bust through cement and man-made walls. The delicate rose bud that has thorns but is all the more gorgeous because it is still willing to open itself to the world. No tree grows perfectly straight. Each is unique and amazing, despite (or perhaps because of) their twisted bodies. We don’t judge nature for being imperfect. For taking longer to bloom. Some of the best vegetables I have ever eaten grew out of shit, literally. And some of the most precious and insightful souls I have ever known had sparkling clean childhoods. Things grow in both mud and healthy soil. I don’t need to have a sordid history of abuse to have a mental illness, or to be worthy of getting well. Similarly, I am not necessarily “mentally unwell”, just because I have a history of trauma. Both and neither can be true, in the same person and at different times! I am allowed to be imperfect and to learn at my own pace. Maybe we can let go of that illusion that any of us are “normal” or “messed up”. Maybe we are all just trying to figure it out as we go. And that, in itself, deserves compassion.