Set Yourself Free

Set Yourself Free

"Set Yourself Free "

(Mixed Media)

"Back Yourself"

(Mixed Media)

"Face the Truth"

(Mixed Media)

"Turn to the Light"

(Mixed Media)

I #LivetoTell for anyone out there who is struggling with their mental health due to an absent parent; I am proud of you and all the love you need resides within yourself. I hope on the days that feel heavy you set your mind free of any harmful thoughts. You are enough.
Julia Swettenham
Artist

Artist Statement

I want to scream but no words come out. I reach for a familiar hand, but realize that I am fooled for thinking it was there in the first place.

I can no longer find the words to express how I feel, how your actions have impacted me, not in the way you would hope. The naïve young girl who looked at you as some hero, who thought you would be her protector, has finally died. She no longer resides inside of me. She is no longer fooled by your fake ‘I love yous’, or your poor attempts to show her you care, she finally has accepted that not everyone will care for her as she hoped.

For as long as I can remember I just wanted to be acknowledged by you. I have longed for 24 years now to hear you say that you are proud of me, not knowing that I actually have never needed that. I know that everything that I am today is because of the hard steps I took to get here. The restless nights, the self-doubt, picking myself up after each failure. I did that, that scared little girl did that. She faced this world without you every day and she continues to do so. So why do I look at myself as weak when I have achieved so much without you? And the more I think about it the more I feel sorry for you for choosing to miss out on such an incredible journey thus far. You have missed out on so many milestones in my life.

You left when I was 1, moved away when I was 3, you barely know someone who is half of you. If I asked you my favourite colour I know you would be tongue tied, and for years the thought of that broke me because of how much I wanted to be a part of your life. I stood up for you when people were against you, I protected you when people spoke negatively about you. I gave you so many opportunities to love me, to be proud of me. A lot of the things I achieved as a child was in the hope that you would finally say that stupid sentence I have always longed for, “I am proud of you”.

I remember the countless tears I have cried over you, the guidance I have longed for. All the ballet recitals, softball games, art exhibitions, first heartbreaks, and overall moments that made me extremely happy and proud, you have been absent in pretty much all of these memories. Does that not hurt you as much as it used to hurt me? For years I could not wrap my mind around the idea of how someone just does not want to be a part of your life. I beat myself up thinking it was because I still was not good enough, that I was some sort of disappointment.

Finally I see you for what you truly are; I finally am able to set you free from my minimal expectations. I apologize for expecting the bare minimum of you, and I suppose I have come to terms with knowing that you will never fill that void inside of me, that void is now for my own self-love, self-acceptance in knowing that the problem does not lie within me, but within you and that the demons I am fighting are no longer mine, but yours. Actually, they never were my demons to start with.

I am learning to look away at what could be, what should be and focusing on what is. I no longer hold you responsible for my darkness, my sadness, I set you free from that naïve little girl’s expectations. For I have learnt that I am fighting for myself and for the first time I am learning to achieve things for me, for the little girl who looked up to you while you looked away. I know I have made her proud because how could she not be? I am all she never knew she could be.

I never thought that I could move on from this without your acknowledgement, but if I take a step back and look at the people I am surrounded by, the people who love me deeply, I know that I did not need you then and most certainly do not need you now. I was raised by a strong independent woman, I was shown pure selfless love by a mother who never failed to show up, and the more I think about it, the more I see that I am not empty or lacking anything because I was given everything I wanted from you, from my mother.

My journey to actively take notice of my Mental Health has taught me to take a step back and look at my life as an outsider, and I have been able to recognize the love and support I am constantly surrounded by. I know that if I pick up my phone I have an incredible chain of chosen family who never fail to show up, and I think, for what it is worth, that is enough. I think we get so lost in the idea of what family should be, how it should look and feel, but often we actually have all that we need. This world is big, scary, and full of hatred, and I think it is important to learn to believe in yourself as much as you believe in your loved ones. To recognize that the same love and beauty you see in those you admire is actually within yourself. We all face similar internal demons and it is beautiful to actively feel less alone.

Taking back the power someone holds over you is so uplifting and revitalizing. Realizing that you do not need anything from anyone and that you can give it to yourself is one of the lessons I am most grateful for this year. And I know that I have needed every difficult experience to get to this point, so I no longer look at myself as weak and powerless but rather as brave, for I have overcome so much alone, so much internal turmoil has finally led me to a place where I can set myself free from you and allow myself to fully become who I want. I owe it to the naïve little girl who never received the love she longed for from you so she built a life of kindness and overflowing love for all who need. 

Fiercely independent, magically creative, a beautiful mess in her own right. I am learning to acknowledge my achievements and the difference I have and am currently making.

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