I inhaled hesitantly, shakily. My hands were clammy. I felt weak.

It was all because I didn’t feel in control.

I didn’t feel in control because I was opening up. Someone was going to see a hidden side that had been tucked away ever so neatly in the vaults of my mind. I was scared.

I had told one of my best friends that I was seeing a therapist, and that I had left college temporarily because I had experienced a mental breakdown.

I met my ex-boyfriend for the first time back in high school, a year before. With the feeling of grandiose and happiness elating my freshman-year self, little did I know that I would be headed into a dark, soul-wrenching turmoil that would cascade and control my livelihood.

We had been in love, but the possessiveness eventually came out of him. The emotional abuse eventually entered the realm of love. We broke up. Now, he was a controlling, stalking ex-boyfriend. He came to my house at odd hours of the night to harass me and explain how little I meant to him or anyone.

I became paranoid, almost mad —  to a point that I was unable to leave my dorm room to eat or take care of myself. I started to neglect myself.

I told my friend all of this, and it was scary. I was exposing my darkest secrets to someone. And not just to anyone. To my best friend. It was a gut-clenching fear to be vulnerable — to let someone see the pain, see the insecurities, see the fears.

Her eyes, wide with surprise and sadness enveloped my insecurity, my weakness. She grabbed my hand, softly murmured “I’m sorry,” as she held me closely. Tears rolled down my cheeks, kissing me goodbye. In a way, I felt at ease that I could let a weight so heavy and full of anxiety, be lifted from my mind.

We are told that being vulnerable helps you to grow closer to someone. That it helps you to build a relationship, friendship or any kind of romantic relationship.

However, in order to gain this nurturing relationship, it requires you to relive any pain that you may have experienced before. But it’s important in the healing process.

Vulnerability allows us to reach the gray areas of our lives and bring color to them. It helps to break down any pain, relive it, and cope. Vulnerability helps you to grow and transition to a next phase in your life. Vulnerability is the moment and feeling of being naked, exposed or prone to judgment. That is when you know you are experiencing vulnerability.

Vulnerability makes you feel unprotected and uncomfortable. It is allowing someone to make a judgment of you. But, in opening yourself up to judgment, you allow yourself to potentially be accepted.

Accepted to be who we are. Accepted that we are not perfect. Accepted that we are flawed. Acceptance creates no illusions; it is raw emotion. It is visceral feelings. It ignites who we are, really, underneath the surface. Behind the walls we may build to keep us safe. Underneath the muck of our imperfect lives.

Vulnerability teaches us about letting go and venturing into the unknown.

I think back to that day with my best friend and realize that opening up to her was the best decision that I made. It allowed me to grow, despite feeling uncomfortable. It taught me to overcome my fears of being judged and ostracized. It taught me that people can care and that being vulnerable will push you to the limits, but you can reap the most reward from taking that chance. Taking a chance to grow. Taking a chance to not hide anymore, and to truly be yourself.

To truly be yourself. What an amazing concept.

And it’s vulnerability that gets us there.