The light at the end of the tunnel is actually a mirror.
It has taken quite a long time for me to accept I am only human. But I am, and I’m learning to love every minute of this new-found humanity. All my life I’ve put up walls, defining myself by everything I was not and believed I never could never be. Needless to say, this led me to a bad place, and I’ve struggled with a variety of mental illness including eating disorders, anxiety and mood disorders ever since.
Now, I no longer care about limits or definitions. I believe I am beautiful, and not in spite of my flaws, for they are a significant part of my beauty. I’m not eager to hide the dark aspects of my being anymore. I am not afraid to show my rawness. This is me. I break myself down and rebuild, time and again. I am enough. I am indestructible. I am free.
“You need help.”
Despite being my worst nightmare, these three words saved me. They first came to me in the form of a delicate voice inside my head, and even though my first reaction was to push them away, I didn’t dismiss them completely.
As much as I hated to admit it, they were absolutely right.
I grew up as the epitome of a model child, or so it seemed. I hardly ever threw tantrums, I refused to cry and make a scene, I always ate my veggies and I mostly got A’s during my school years. As far as I could remember, perfection had always been my ultimate goal.
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The outward appearance of my life was fake, my true self-concealed by the mask I wore around others.
Everyone bought it. As it turns out, I’m quite talented as both an actress and a liar.
During my alone time, however, reality hit with little regard for how desperately I tried to evade it. All of a sudden, I’d start feeling extremely nauseous and my palms would start sweating just before my whole body did as well, all of this while feeling like I would freeze to death. This inexplicable cold announced the arrival of the shaking, and I knew very well the hallucinations would soon follow; aggressive voices screaming angrily and shadows with scary eyes flying around.
Most of these panic attacks would start while everyone else was asleep, and ended with me curled on the bathroom floor after having involuntarily vomited.
As a child, I often wondered if the way I lived was normal.
Perhaps everyone felt the way I did and I was simply not good at handling life. Maybe it was alright to feel like I had to perform funny rituals to relieve anxiety, normal to think I had to complete the rituals to save my family from certain death.
But the years went by and I started to realize something was very wrong. The possibility of transforming myself into a perfect being was slipping through my fingers. I decided I could never let this show, so I kept up up my act, and somewhere along the line I also decided I didn’t want to feel anything anymore.
To this end, I started thinking of ways I could become numb and careless in order to take a break from my own mind. In the eyes of others, I was only behaving according to the stereotypes of my age. Some partying and innocent flirting never hurt anyone after all. Healthy eating and exercising a lot were actually good for me, right? Wrong. I got drunk as often as I could, and although it was only socially and I never allowed it to become an addiction, it was still a temporary escape from my troubled mind.
At times I felt indestructible, almost superhuman.
It was a state similar to that of being high on some substance, some kind of hypomanic state which never lead to true, lasting happiness. But I knew the better I felt, the worse the fall would be. It didn’t take long for me to feel empty again, only for the cycle to start all over again.
Furthermore, I developed an eating disorder. Putting food in my body suddenly felt unnatural to me, and restriction made me feel in control and eased my anxiety. Of course, these apparently positive feelings were only an illusion created by my malnourished brain.
I still don’t know which was more difficult, realizing I had been living with mental illness since I was very young or accepting the fact I needed help.
Either way, what matters is I became humble enough to bow my head and, for the first time in my life, say the words “I cannot do this on my own” out loud.
I am aware of the stigma accompanying mental illness, which is why I must state I am in no way ashamed of my disorders. I am, however, not going to mention the psychiatric names of my diagnoses or which medication I take, not because of shame, but because I refuse to be defined by any of it.
This is not a war I have won, it is more like a series of small battles I fight every day.
The truth as I see it? Life does not get better, we do.
Things become easier because we become stronger.
We must learn to become our own rainbow after the storm, for it will not appear magically. I am not a victim. I can still get lost, but I know how to find myself again.
Turns out I’m never going to be able to reach perfection, nor do I want to, but I most certainly know how to crawl my way back from a dark place.
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