This picture of me felt like the first time I ever saw myself.

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You keep telling me I’ve changed so much.

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Most days, I don’t see it.

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Then somedays, I catch a glimpse of me, and I don’t recognize the girl in the photo. The girl in the mirror.

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You say it in a negative way.

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I asked my friends if I had changed. I got the same response, three times, the same but slightly different. “No. Except for the part where you know boundaries and you don’t let people cross them now.”

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Oh. That? That small change of finding my voice.

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My counselor and I talked about it. She laughed when I told her a story and she replied, “I can’t stop thinking about the paper you signed when you started counseling, Amanda. The one that talks about how this may disrupt you and the relationships around you as you grow and change. You’ve found your voice and you use it now. I’m so proud of you!”

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You tell me I’ve changed like it’s a bad thing. I don’t think the ways I’ve changed have been bad for me. I feel more in tune with my emotions. I feel that I’m able to name them faster in a moment. I’m learning how to respond in healthy ways, not lash out or jump on the bandwagon of anxiety.

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I saw this picture of me and couldn’t stop looking at it. In that moment I felt relaxed, at ease, close to God, close to myself, and my face shows no sign of a part I was attempting to play. For the first time, someone captured all of me, just me, no mask, no hidden secrets, just me. It’s a picture of who I am and who I want to be from here on out.