“I’ve always had a ‘good’ life – a loving family, supportive parents, and sisters. I was always provided for and safe, had a meal on the table, got an education, and had hobbies. I also had a happy childhood. My family and I moved to Guinea, Africa, for my dad’s work, when I was 3 years old. Those 6 years shaped the person I am today and the deep desire I have to help others.
It’s also during those years I started developing an understanding of the inequalities and sadness in the world. I remember at a young age not understanding why a girl the same age as me was carrying her baby brother strapped on her back while balancing a bucket of water on her head. Meanwhile, I got to wear nice clothes, be driven to school, and spend my afternoon playing with my sister in the yard.
Those early years in my life influenced my desire to work for the United Nations, specifically UNICEF, and the reason why I eventually decided to study Political Science and get a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Public Administration. I had a deep desire to change the world, but I never knew what that would look like in practical terms.
Things in my life started not making sense in my late teens, early twenties. Something felt ‘off.’ I had everything going for me, and I thought I had direction with where I wanted my life to go. Yet, I felt deeply unhappy, and I didn’t understand why.
I was bullied in high school and hated every minute of it. This experience accentuated my lack of confidence. This was a drastic difference in my experience in school in Africa, where everyone played together, and I enjoyed going to school. Things changed for the better when I left high school and went to CEGEP, a 2-year pre-University school we have in Quebec. I began to gain a bit of confidence, and it was the first time in my life where I started to feel like I could be myself.
In the background though, there was still lingering unhappiness. There was always the struggle between what I ‘should’ be doing and who I ‘should’ be, versus who I wanted to be. There was also always a gap between my family’s expectations versus what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. Which in reality, I didn’t really know, because I had never really taken the time, or had the opportunity, to learn about myself at a deeper level.
I never truly knew who I was, or what I wanted, and followed the ‘traditional’ path of life: go to school, get a job, get a higher education, get a stable job, find a long-term relationship, volunteer in your free time.
Another important dimension of my challenge and life journey was I think I had anxiety from a young age, but never really knew it. This made everything harder for me, because I didn’t understand my emotions, and I certainly didn’t know how to express them. I was only diagnosed with severe anxiety in the summer of 2016 and was able to get therapy to learn how to manage it better. Combine a lack of self-awareness and anxiety… equals disaster.
By the end of CEGEP and when I started University, I was starting to show signs of depression and, at times, even having suicidal thoughts. I didn’t know what the ‘point’ of life was, and I felt miserable. I thought I knew what I wanted in life, but now realize I never really knew what I deeply wanted. Instead, I thought this path would lead me to happiness and fulfillment.
As time progressed, my unhappiness grew, and the lack of self-awareness and my anxiety eventually led to severe depression and a 30-pound weight gain. I was floating through life. Going through the motions. I felt like I was an empty shell going through life, but not really living.
What frustrated me the most was I had the mindset of ‘I’ll be happy when….’ I thought I’d be happy when I stopped working at the bank, which was a really hard job that taught me a lot about myself. Then I thought I’d be happier doing my Master’s. I wasn’t. I didn’t enjoy it, but still managed to push through and graduate. Then I thought I’d be happier when I got a full-time, steady government job. You guessed it… I still wasn’t happy. It was a really, really hard job, and I felt like my soul was slowly dying.
I had already dabbled a little with self-help here and there, but nothing too serious. I think it was when I got a full-time job I really decided I couldn’t do this anymore. I was sick of dragging myself out of bed. I was sick of not enjoying life. I was sick of not feeling good in my skin. And most importantly, I was sick of not feeling like myself, not understanding who I am or what I wanted.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment things changed for me, because it was gradual. Initially, I wanted to just lose weight. So I hired a trainer and started going to the gym. Taking care of my body and having a bit of structure outside of school and work gave me something to focus on, which made me feel proud of myself.
Then I discovered the world of blogging, and I fell in love with the idea of having a voice, while also channeling my creativity. I started my first blog, ‘Seppy’s Montreal,’ where I shared restaurant reviews and activities in my city. I enjoyed it, but it never really took off. I was almost doing it because I wanted to do something I thought was ‘cool’ and would make me happy. (Do you see the pattern?)
Once again, I was doing things I thought would make me happy, without actually having a real understanding of who I was, what I wanted in life, and what made me happy at a deeper and more meaningful level. Eventually, I stopped that blog and launched ‘Elle is for Love’ in 2015, because I wanted to focus more on self-help content.
Things were better for a while. Not amazing, but still better. I was developing a healthy lifestyle, spent more time working on myself, going to therapy, learning about self-help, reading books, and actively doing self-help exercises to learn about myself.
Fast-forward a few years and I got married in August 2016. I thought ‘This is it, I have found ultimate happiness. I have a blog I love doing. I’m married to someone I love. I have a good job. I’m healthy. Things are good.’ Until they weren’t.
2019 was the year where the work I had done on myself for the last 10 years proved its effectiveness. That year brought me to my knees. It was the hardest year of my life, and even as I think about it now, my heart is sinking and I have tears in my eyes. There are times where I look back on what I went through, and I don’t understand how I survived. I truly don’t.
Everything I had built for years, the relationship I had been building to eventually get married, the vision for the life I wanted for myself I thought I was bringing into reality…. came crashing down around me. All the pieces of the last decade fell to the ground, shattered into a million pieces, and I was unable to put them back together, as much as I tried.
It was the hardest year of my life. But it was the initial push I needed to truly apply what I had been learning all these years, and preaching on my blog: 1) Take charge of yourself so you can change your life. Only YOU have control over your life and your destiny, and if you don’t change something, no one else can; and 2) Your habits are the foundation of your life. Cultivate the right habits to help sustain you. In my darkest moments, I turned to journaling, meditation, yoga, and most importantly, exercising. Moving my body was my saving grace last year.
I spent December 31, 2019 packing my belongings from my old home, to move into my sister’s place for 6 months. It was a blessing to not be alone through the first few months of the pandemic, and I had a safe place where I could start healing from the trauma of last year.
The real turning point for me was May 27, 2020. I woke up to the news my grandfather had passed away. And 3 hours later, I was sitting in my lawyer’s office, signing my divorce papers. A few hours later, my goddaughter was born. At 10:30 p.m. that evening, I found myself laying on my yoga mat beside my sister, after we had finished our workout (this was my third workout that day) and I started to laugh uncontrollably. To say that day was a whirlwind of emotions would be an understatement. But it reminded me life is short, things change quickly, and all you have is today.
I remembered how my grandfather loved to enjoy life, how happy he was all the time, and how he loved to laugh and be cheerful. And at that moment, I decided I was done. I was done feeling sorry for myself. I was done feeling sad. I was done dwelling in the past and wondering ‘what happened’ and ‘why did this happen.’ I was ready to fully step into my new life and my true self. I was ready to truly create and live my dream life, once and for all.
This is the year where I started to rebuild my life on my own terms. The year where I finally feel I can confidently be myself. This is the year where I am choosing happiness, no matter what, and where I have decided I will not waste any time or energy on anything else other than what I consider worthwhile: building a meaningful life coaching business where I am helping people find happiness and create a more purposeful life, spending time with loved ones, enjoying life, and taking care of my mental and emotional health.
What I want people to know is they are not alone. Everyone goes through their challenges. Your story matters, and your voice matters. Your journey and your life are what you make of it. I hope to inspire and empower anyone that’s reading this story to know you can change things around. Even though you might feel hopeless right now, don’t lose hope. Keep looking around, and you will find the light at the end of the tunnel.
Last year, I was in the darkest hole I have been in. I desperately wanted the pain to end. But if it weren’t for what I went through, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If it weren’t for the journey I have lived through since childhood, I wouldn’t be who I am today, with the drive, passion, and determination I have today to live every day fully, to live a life of purpose, and to help others do the same.
My story might not be the most ‘dramatic’ story. But it’s my story. And it’s my journey. And what matters to me is what I chose to do in the face of those challenges, and how I chose to face those challenging times, and what the story and meaning I gave them.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sepideh Sabati from Montreal, Quebec (Canada). You can follow her journey on Instagram, Youtube, or her blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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