mental health awareness week – an honest review of myself

Well, it’s mental health awareness week and I thought, rather than pretending to be uber happy in some “look how far I’ve come” post, the best way to raise awareness of mental health issues is to be honest.

And, seeing as the theme is ‘surviving or thriving’, I’m here telling the truth and admitting that in some ways I am thriving and in other ways I am not, I am simply surviving.

Let’s take my appearance for example. I’m eating. I’m eating more than I feel I should, I’m snacking, I’m binging. But I hate the way I look; I look in the mirror and see ‘FAT’ plastered all over it. I want so badly to be skinny but I also eat way too much and I’m too tired to get to the gym most days and I don’t even know why I’m so tired because I’m sleeping well. But I do know why I’m tired; I’m tired because of my depression, it does affect me in the same way any other illness like flu might. And I’m in this cycle because I hate myself and the way I look, so I eat my feelings, literally. It’s horrible and it’s what I need to work on at the moment. At least I can recognise that.

I have phenomenal friends; there are genuinely some incredible people in my life, however there are also not so incredible people in my life. And I have been learning which is which since coming to university. There are people I can just ‘be’ with, we can just sit in my room and mellow out and not need any words. There are people who give me the best laughs of my life. There are people who make me feel important. So yeah, some fantastic people. So, I just have to focus on those instead of the not so fantastic people.

I feel the happiest I have been in a long time and yet also, at times, the emptiest I have ever felt. Most of the time, I’m happy; I think for once in my life I really, truly am just happy. And I can admit for the first time publicly, I am happy on my own. I am content. Content is the best word to describe it because happy does still feel a little too strong of a word to describe myself. I think that’s possibly why I notice the emptiness more, because I’m embracing the fact that I am on my own. I’ve learnt to realise that emptiness, though bad in itself, isn’t always the worst in the world. It can be moved through, you have to admit to yourself that you are lonely, and question what you need to do about it. If, when I ask myself why I feel lonely, I am able to actually do something about it, I will. But, if it’s out of my control, you just have the ride through that wave of emotion. There’s no point fighting it because you just won’t win if there is nothing you can do about it. By “nothing you can do about it” I mean when the loneliness goes beyond just wanting to be in someone’s company, or you can’t be in someone’s company, etc. So, I just go with my thoughts – it’s mindfulness – I have the thought, acknowledge it, and then do what I can with it.

Sometimes it is hard and, right now, some aspects of my mental health are a lot harder than others; but it isn’t all bad. Like I said, for the first time I can honestly say I have moments where I feel true, genuine happiness, even if they are fleeting moments sometimes. For the first time since being ill I can see real hope.

I appear to hate my appearance

So, I get notifications on Facebook with memories from X years ago. One came up in the summer which knocked me back and I haven’t shaken this thought off since. It was a picture of me with my friend and one of my brother’s friends from summer when I was 14. I looked at the picture and thought to myself, “why do I not look like that anymore?” I look completely normal. I was sat there looking at this old photo of myself wondering why I wasn’t still that size. It’s fucked up because I thought I was obese at the time of the photo. Okay, so I wasn’t a size 0 in it but I look at the photo and I am definitely not obese. I’d say I was a healthy size. So, why did I spend that entire year hating myself? Why have I hated the way I look ever since I can remember? In a few years time will I look back at pictures of myself from now and wonder why I hated myself so much again?

I constantly look back at pictures of myself from late 2015 and early 2016 because that was my skinniest. I will sit there and mourn for the body I have lost, and in turn this makes me mourn for the deepest parts of my illness because it put me into that body. I have such an unhealthy relationship with my body because I would rather put it through hell to go back to being that skinny than look after myself. And yet I don’t even have the strength in me anymore to put myself through that at the moment. So, I eat. And I regret it because I’m longing for that Loveday to come back.

Why though do I look back at older pictures of myself and remember how awful I felt at the time and sort of laugh at my younger self for being blind to the reality of how I looked? I look at them now and I know I wasn’t as big as my brain (or other people lol) told me. Therefore, surely I should be wiser and understand that I have a dysfunctional and distorted perception of myself but I don’t. I get told constantly I don’t see myself for what I actually am, but I disagree. I see myself for more of what I am than anyone else because it’s a common known fact that you notice your tiny little details and flaws more than anyone around you does. So yeah, you might not see what I see, but what I see is more of a reality.

The bottom line is: I am fundamentally unhappy with the way I look and I have come to realise that I always will be because, even when I was at my lowest weight, I hated the way I looked. And what I’ve been thinking about everyday is whether I’m okay with that because it’s going to be my life – I am never going to feel good enough for anyone else, I am never going to think I’m beautiful, I am never going to be completely happy with myself. And I sort of ask myself, well, is anyone completely happy with him/herself? And then I think, how important is my appearance to me? And I realise it’s disproportionately important. I’m so angry that something so shallow means so much to me that I let it ruin my life. I’m angry that I can’t embrace the person I am, the way I look, because I live in constant fear that it’s going to be used against me again. I’m angry that I’ve grown up to be the person I am. Why do I detest myself because of the way I look? Is it ridiculous? I’m not making a new year’s resolution but I am making a wish, a late birthday wish, a christmas wish, a life wish – I want to be happy one day. I want to love myself one day so that someone else can love me. I just want to stop fighting these voices in my head and live peacefully eventually. Please.