By Ashley Maile Bartolome
See, I tried to hold my small-town Harvey Weinstein accountable in a courtroom. I said ‘me too’ before there was a movement to steady me when everything fell apart. And everything did fall apart. It fell apart every time I stood in front of a judge or in front of a lawyer or a social worker. It fell apart when I sat through video-taped interviews by police officers who later stood on the perpetrator’s side in a courtroom.
I faced everything—afraid and alone—until I made it through to the other side. The problem is I never faced the aftermath—that mess that happens when your world is turned upside down and you no longer recognize what’s left of it.
Back then, I could tell you how to charge through an upside-down world. I could tell you how to survive the fallout—how to just keep going. But I didn’t know the first thing about going back and repairing what was broken. I only knew how to keep moving. And for the past 15 years, I’ve been moving through bouts of depression. I’ve pushed through anxiety and sleeplessness and low self-worth while still trying to be the strong one who could get through anything on her own.
Then one day someone saw right through me. She stood in my way and took me by the arms, stopping me in my tracks. She didn’t tell me I was strong, she told me I was weak—that years of trying to be strong had exhausted me and that I should consider speaking to a professional. Her revelation was so sudden and potent that I just teared up right in front of her, something I never did.
It was enough to make me take her advice and find Fairwinds.
I went in for a meeting, and even though it went well, I didn’t return until two years later.
I stubbornly believed I could get through my depression and anxiety on my own again. I chose the façade that I’d be okay. I fought and I pushed against it because that is how we survive. For the next two years, I avoided therapy. I kept moving forward. Except my depression and anxiety no longer came in bouts, they were unrelenting. They were chronic. I kept moving but couldn’t make it out of the dark place. I became stagnant. Tired. Helpless.
So I picked up the phone, called Fairwinds again, and I went back in on October 13th, 2017 for an intake with a therapist. I remember this date because it was the day everything from my past began to shift. It was the day the old me began to die.
It wasn’t easy.
But I stuck with it through the winter. There were weeks that were so tough I didn’t want to go for my appointment. There were weeks that therapy was the only thing I looked forward to—the only thing that got me out of bed that winter.
It’s been over a year since all of that. And everything in my life has changed.
I’m back in college and finishing my degree. I’m completing a novel. I understand things that I couldn’t see back then.
I know that the bravest thing I ever did was stand in a courtroom.
I know the second bravest thing I ever did was sit in a therapist’s room.
I know that I couldn’t begin to feel strong until I put down all of my armor and faced myself.
I’ve been told I was brave since I was 16, and it took me 15 years to believe it. I now know that facing my internal battle was the only way to get there. To find my voice again and a new sense of self.
I have Fairwinds to thank for my shift. I know I did all of the hard work, but I also know that sometimes we need people there to guide us along the way. I know that part of being strong is allowing myself to be vulnerable.
I began my revolution by surrendering in a stranger’s chair. And it all started by someone stepping in my way and telling me to see someone.
So I want to say it to you or to someone you know who needs it. I want to remind you that sometimes the bravest thing we can do is stop fighting and surrender to ourselves. And that the hardest decision you may ever make might end up being the choice that changes everything.
Ashley Maile Bartolome is a Nantucket resident, a novelist, and a landscaper. She is working on finishing her college degree while also revising a novel. She loves dogs and surrounds herself with books and greenery.