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To The Pain That Made Me Grow

There will be crises and moments of doubt. The key is learning to use them to your advantage.

Beatrice Alemagna on Instagram

When talking about mental health, it almost seems natural to connect the concept of health to illness. While this is true to some extent, let's not forget that mental health is so much more.

Being mentally healthy means: evolving, winning personal challenges, and growing into a better version of yourself. It also means learning from hard times and turning those lessons into opportunities for growth.

For example, growing up, I couldn't stand family jokes. So how is it that years later, I’ve performed as a stand-up comedian?

Well, the journey has been far from easy.

I remember how my uncle would never miss the opportunity to make a joke and would always choose the most inappropriate times to do so. He knew that I took his jokes personally because I felt hurt by comments about my personality or physical aspect.

I still remember an episode that occurred at my brother's 3rd birthday: we were all out in the garden, enjoying our cake, when he arrived. I don't even remember what he told me. All I know is that I went straight back home. I still have a picture of him holding me while I covered my eyes in shame.

I had this habit of carrying the weight of shame even when I had nothing to be ashamed of. And this was the case, as I was living with a codependent parent.

It took me a long time to realize this and choose to walk free, and not to respond to the pain others felt, like my uncle, and were projecting through their actions.

Because hurt people hurt people, even when they don't want to, even when all they want is love, they hurt. Though my uncle may not have meant it to have affected me the way it did, it didn't change the hurt I felt.

Middle school was another battlefield for me, and it was more complex than home since I couldn't just "escape" from my classroom. At school, I chose not to react against those who hurt me, as Gandhi did in his "non-violent movement." I don’t know how he did it, but I was not Gandhi. I was suffering like hell for all the bullying I endured, and I never had the strength to tell anyone at home about what was happening.