Once upon a time I didn't love myself.
I didn't want to leave the house.
I didn't want to socialize.
I didn't want to eat.
I didn't want to exist.
All of that invisible pain felt unbearable. Wouldn't it just be easier to disappear? No one would even notice, right?
With an invisible illness it can feel hard to accept the fact that something is not quite right because, well, you look fine. If you can't see it, why believe it?
But then all that was invisible came to the surface and I wanted to hide away even more because all of my feelings and thoughts still did not feel justified - as if our feelings ever need to be justified.
This is still my reality some days, but I no longer live in a world devoid of hope. Why? Because I started to talk about my problems and little by little, I felt a bit more comfortable in my own skin. First in therapy rooms and then openly with close friends and family.
Now, I know that I am so much more than a mental illness and my hope is that all my students will know the same of themselves.
That being said, usually I just let my paintings speak for me. I like to hide behind my canvases because I, at times, fear being truly seen. When you spend so many years hiding and trying to disappear, coming to terms with being visible is not as easy as clicking your heels together. No matter how much time passes, this will never be a simple conversation, but it is an important one to have. My main concerns now rest in a lingering fear that someone will misinterpret my experiences as a weakness and view it as something that might resurface at any time and derail my productivity.
For six years of my life, I lived under these three umbrella terms synonymous with mental illness: Anxiety, Depression, Anorexia.
I let these words define who I was for so long. They sat on my shoulders, like vultures, feasting on my broken self and making me smaller.
Today, I proudly accept these terms as a part of my identity, but not all of it.
I know that I am no longer strictly defined by these words. Words only have the power you lend to them, so give with caution.
So how do we keep the conversation going? How can we relieve the stigma?
I paint and I write. I talk and I fight for what I believe in - I hope you do too.
This is how I remember all of those yesterday’s:
The control I believed I had once
Filled me to the brim,
More, more, more of
Less, less, less,
That’s what it took to win.
Until my tiny vessel overflowed with emptiness
And purging felt like a sin.
The lack of control over my perceived power
Dictated my every move.
It took all of my energy not to give in
or even worse, to lose.
I was restricted, my mind was wrought,
Until the only food that was left was thought.
Anxiety set in.
Endless hospital visits.
Too much sleep.
Not enough sleep.
The life I was living became a losing game.
And it never truly goes away.
We discuss and we eat,
But brittle bones are forever,
And they hurt when they rub against bed sheets.
Weakened organs are unpredictable
And dry, thinned hair is inevitable,
And self love seems impossible,
And socializing seems pointless,
And carbs feel reckless,
We cling to it.
Purpose, we need it.
Love, we thrive on it.
These abstract concepts become our medicine.
Goals beyond the scale.
A reason to step off of our lonely island
And swim against the current to shore.
You are worth the love you don't think you deserve and the support you don't think you have.
I believe you.
Let's heal together.