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I had just woken up and I was already exhausted. My eyes weren’t even open yet and I couldn’t wait for the day to be over. The mere thought of getting out of bed seemed like an absolute nightmare to me, but I did it.
I started my morning workout – which felt a lot like torture – while it was still dark outside and proceeded to have the tiny meal that I called breakfast: some fruit and three crackers. I walked toward the mirror afterwards, not only to perform my daily routine of pinching my belly and squeezing my thighs, but also to make sure my mask was on. Of course it was, not once in my life had I walked out the door without it.
You see, I had always known there was something off about the way my mind worked.
I obviously couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, for I saw this at an early age. But I was always so painfully aware of how wrong my situation was. Irrational obsessions and inevitable compulsions, panic attacks accompanied by psychotic breaks, violent mood swings that would make me feel invincible for a moment only to become suicidal the next.
Long story short, I thought I was a mess. I was absolutely terrified, and I was convinced that whatever it was that went on inside of me was a lost cause.
Consequently, I focused on working on myself from the outside.
Truth is, I did a very good job looking impeccable and behaving flawlessly. I consider myself the living proof of that saying “fake it ‘til you make it.” In the eyes of any psychologist, my self-esteem was pretty healthy. But this originally came from me not being good enough for my own standards, and from being a good actress, of course.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my confidence is not genuine, because it is now and I consider myself lucky to have it. What I mean is, said confidence is something that was born in the form of a lie, rather than something I built on solid foundations.
In other words, my main purpose in life was to hide my real self behind a curtain of fake smiles, a pretty face and straight A’s.
I don’t mean to sound arrogant or conceited, but the performance I gave was outstanding. At times, some people actually told me they wish they had my life, and I just giggled and grinned, only to quickly change the subject before something in my eyes could betray my perfectly rehearsed poker face.
Perhaps this makes me a cliché, but I started putting up walls to protect myself since I was merely a child. I didn’t trust people, I was convinced their only purpose in life was to hurt me in some way. Hence why I would allow no one to come too close.
Needless to say, once I was all grown up, I had become a prisoner of my own mind. I despised anything that had to do with feelings or emotions, so I decided to suppress them and become as cold as ice. I was good at this too. But the thing is, the harder ice becomes, the more it can shatter into thousands of minuscule pieces.
Eventually, I turned into glass and I broke.
It was a slow, gradual process that suddenly became an explosion. It wasn’t that I couldn’t keep my act any longer, because I was definitely able to. I had mastered the art of lying and pretending. I simply didn’t want to do it anymore. I realized my secrets were the ones controlling me and not the other way around.
My name is Regina. I have small hands, really good memory and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I feel at home when I’m near the ocean, hiding under my bed calms me down when I’m upset, and I’ve struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder since I was little. I’ve also been diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder and I love to laugh until my belly hurts. I enjoy singing, dancing, painting, playing the piano and a couple of years ago I chose to recover from Anorexia Nervosa, Anorexia Athletica and Orthorexia Nervosa.
To be honest, stating the names of my diagnoses is still hard. I’m not comfortable with the idea of being defined, stereotyped or labeled in any way – especially not according to some chemical imbalance in my brain. But I do it every once in a while, only when it’s absolutely necessary, because I believe challenging myself will make me grow.
The walls I built a long time ago are still there; however, I’m ready to let go of them, for a life wearing a mask is no life at all.
“Coming out” as a person who lives with mental illness is not a one-time thing; it’s something I must face over and over again, with different people, in different situations.
It is hard and at times it hurts.
But there is nothing more liberating than showing myself to the world as the brave and strong, yet fragile and sensitive, being that I am. The experience is always humbling, and therefore, it is definitely worth the pain. So this is me, on my knees, naked, and flawed.
Today I understand that sometimes what looks like total destruction is actually a transformation.
I believe that we must always keep moving. If we can’t run, we walk. If we can’t walk, we move on hands and knees. If we’re lucky, we’ll find the strength to turn it all into a dance.
I cannot go back to the person that I used to be, and I don’t want to. Why would I keep crawling once I’ve learned how to fly?
I know now that feelings are for the brave, and I’m finally beginning to realize just how beautiful broken glass can be.
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