My Road to Recovery and Self-Love by Wyatt Raymond I've always felt like an outsider. Growing up, I just felt different from my peers; I didn’t understand things they understood, and we rarely shared interests. As a result, I experienced a large amount of social isolation. It seemed like I was going through life without any legitimate friends, or any sense of belonging to a group. Reflecting on my social situation made me feel like I wasn't “worth it” — that my feelings were invalid, my dreams were impossible, and I was destined to be alone for a long time. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, these feelings of loneliness intensified — and my social isolation was magnified under quarantine policies. This proved to be very unhealthy; my mental health deteriorated, and my emotional state was worse than ever. It was then that I realized I needed to start healing and working on myself. My healing began with work on accepting myself for who I am. I started by being more open with the few, distant friends I had, explaining my real feelings and struggles to them. When I told them, they became much more supportive and understanding of my view of the world. Their support ended up being a huge part of my healing process. I also began to take part in my interests and hobbies more, particularly musical theater, drawing and writing. I even began to write out story ideas over time. I met a number of new people through my writing, thanks to social media allowing us to talk, and I was able to share my work with them. These new people became new friends, most of which I've been able to maintain contact with for the past two years. Above all, I've been trying to maintain a more positive self-image, as I've come to learn loving myself is the key to establishing secure connections in my life, because, at the end of the day, people do like me. I have friends that want to spend time with me. Tapping into these positives and bolstering my self-confidence is a responsibility that I must maintain. Ultimately, loving myself has gotten a little easier. It's been a long road, and there are still a lot of miles left to travel. But someday, if I just keep going, I'll get there. I just need to keep going, because every day, it feels a little closer.