“Take a before and after picture,” He said as I got up ready to leave the consultation. “When this is all just a memory, you’ll realise just how strong you are.”
Strong; adjective; having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks / able to withstand force, pressure, or wear.
We often confuse strength with power, that to be strong you must have enormous muscles and go to the gym almost every day. But strength isn’t about the weight you can carry, but rather for how long for.
However, there is a stigma.
That people with mental health problems shouldn’t speak up about their struggles because it’s a sign of weakness. But it takes a lot of strength to hold your own body let alone face the world. The weakness is not within the people who suffer, but within the people who believe in the stigma.
My story is somewhat different.
The bathroom became my bedroom, my pyjamas became my everyday clothes, my hair was in a ponytail, my makeup none existent. I kept quiet. I hid under my clothes. I distanced myself from the people who knew that something was wrong. I was stressed. Unhappy. I couldn’t walk. So frail. So weak. So lost.
We are midway through November and yet this last year has been the worst and the best of my life. I say that because at the start of the year and the first six months or so, I was the above paragraph. I stopped being myself.
I was diagnosed with EDNOS [eating disorder not otherwise specified] in February. I had an anorexic body but not an anorexic mind; my problems were caused by pain and stress rather than anything else. I was not in control of my weight loss. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. I wasn’t aware and thus was totally blind sighted by it all until it was too late.
“Stand on the scales please” my doctor said as I walked into the room. “You look dangerously thin, have you been eating?” Before I could even answer, she had clocked the digits on the scales and begun to ring the receptionist to book an urgent consultation with an eating disorder clinic.
What I have missed out is that I had been collapsing; that’s why I had gone to the doctors in the first place. Suspected hypotension (low blood pressure). Which although true and is something I suffer from, was not the apparent issue.
I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want to be made out to be a liar and I certainly couldn’t deal with yet more stress. So I bought smaller clothes, wore that good ol’ fake smile and decided to bite the bullet.
I steadily returned back to University, did some work experience at an F1 team and travelled to Paris. Casual, right? What I had realised, is that there were only so many seasons of Pretty Little Liars and once I was caught up I couldn’t just do the same thing every day.
Although I was not in control, I made it my priority to be in control. Don’t let anyone else, or whatever else, try to dictate your life. What you see in the mirror and what someone else see’s is only down to perception. Don’t let someone else’s opinion change your reality – if the sky is the limit, wave at them when you’re dancing on the moon.
Remember, strength is not what you hold, but how long you hold it. To prove it? I did just as I was told to in the first six words of this post.
If you are reading this and suffer from any kind of mental illness, just know that you’re not alone. It’s not weak of you to need help, it’s brave of you to even bring it up. It’s not a weakness and it’s not embarrassing. Stop trying to be like everyone else, accept who you are and love the person who looks back at you in the mirror.
Never be afraid or ashamed of who you are. Be proud of yourself and never stop believing because the rest will fall into place. Those who underestimate you are the ones who don’t know what you are capable of. It’s not a question of if you will beat it, it’s when.
Start writing your next chapter.