The ninth commandment forbids falsifying it. Patanjali considers it a prerequisite to yoga. Witnesses in court swear to it. Yet despite the many exhortations for it, truth is hard to come by. In my own life, I began my search for truth by looking outward. I began to notice when people didn’t seem to be telling the whole story. I became distrustful of others, especially in relationships. Hypocrisy frustrated me more than anything. Tellingly, there have been a few significant times in my life when I have been accused of saying one thing and doing another, or not being open and honest about what I was thinking or feeling. Of course I could always rationalize my own dishonesty as necessary under the circumstances, or as insignificant in the bigger picture. After hearing the old adage “when you spot it, you got it,” I eventually began to turn my gaze inward. I didn’t consider myself to be a dishonest person, at first I thinking it would be easy to commit to authenticity. But like most things that seem simple on the surface, the ramifications ran much deeper than I realized.
I’ve had a history of mental health challenges, suicide attempts, and various unhealthy coping mechanisms. Sometime after college I discovered cutting and soon developed an addiction to this destructive habit. I have many small scars that aren’t prominent, but there is one in particular on my left wrist that was bad enough to require stitches. What started out as a typical ritual of cut, clean, and bandage escalated into something closer to a suicide attempt. Looking back it was a desperate cry for help, though that doesn’t make it any less serious. Big, red, raised and ugly, I used to hide this scar at all times. I had an extensive collection of thick bangles, bracelets and watches and I never left home without wearing one. I even wore sweatbands around my wrist when I worked out. I used every scar treatment product I could find and dreamed of someday getting it removed, or covered up by a tattoo. Around that same time my first marriage was on the rocks, in part due to my mental illness. At one point my husband read my journal, in which I confessed having feelings for someone else, which provided the final impetus for our divorce. After we separated, this emotional affair continued into a full blown relationship and was a major factor in me moving to Dallas. I rarely told anyone the truth about why I moved here. When asked I claimed that it was to start fresh or have more opportunities for work, which was partially true, but not the whole truth. As you may suspect, this doomed relationship didn’t last long. I learned a harsh but necessary lesson when I found out my new partner had not been honest with me about his past, which included dealing with attraction to underage girls. I don’t think of it as a punishment though, karma can only use the raw materials I give her to create the circumstances through which my soul achieves growth. When I could no longer deny the messages I was receiving, I decided to take Gandhi’s advice and sincerely begin to embody the truth which I wanted to see in the world.
Though I’ve been in recovery from cutting for some time, it was only a few years ago that I began to go out in public without hiding my scar. Seeing it reminded me of sitting in the dark on the bathroom floor in that even darker place inside my mind, and I was ashamed and embarrassed that someone else would see that too. At first I was cautious about letting anyone look too closely. Over time I began to realize that not many people even noticed, and that if they did I typically received more compassion than judgment. I finally did decide to get a tattoo on my wrist, but instead of covering up my scar I boldly positioned the design right next to it. My partner at the time questioned whether I wanted it there, knowing how sensitive I was about it. I knew I would want to show off my new tat and that in doing so, I would be showing the scar as well. It scared me, but I felt ready to reveal that part of myself. I had healed enough inside to let my external wound show. Now when I see it, it reminds me of what I have overcome instead of feeling ashamed about where I have been.
It’s been challenging to navigate my newfound commitment to openness and honesty. Anytime I set a sincere intention, the universe gives me opportunities to practice it. Swinging from one side of the spectrum to the other, I still sometimes catch myself softening my truth, sugar coating or dancing around what I really want to say. I’ve also said some things under the guise of full disclosure that didn’t really need to be said, and I’ve suffered the consequences of hurt feelings and strained relationships. Yet instead of giving up, I’ve worked harder to recognize when not speaking up is a lie of omission versus when it is something I can truly keep to myself. As Wayne Dyer said, you can only be better than you used to be. I’m still walking the path, complete with detours and wrong turns, but I can honestly say I’m moving in a positive direction. A friend of mine and fellow yogi Sarah Lee recently said that she appreciates other teachers who seem real and “wear their shit on their sleeve,” and that she has always experienced authenticity in our relationship. It felt good to be acknowledged, and helped take the sting out of my failures. Much like revealing my scar, the more I open up and show the wounded parts of myself, the more I can heal.
**If you struggle with mental health challenges like cutting, addiction, depression, anxiety, or just need a place you can talk, listen, and be yourself, please join me at Foundation 45’s free weekly support group on Monday nights at 7 PM in the back room of Independent Bar and Kitchen in Deep Ellum. And before you engage in any destructive behavior, please reach out. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK; Crisis Text: 741-741