Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Story Time

Last week, Wings of Hope got to talking about the “stories” that each of us have.  The kind of stories that are very personal, and sometimes very painful.  The kind that are full of pleasure and pain, triumph and struggles.   The stories that shape us into who we have become. 

Like you, I have a story.  And there are parts of this story that I would like to share with others in hopes of making some sort of a difference to someone.    It is the same part that I shared just a few months ago.  And I share it again today, because I think it is important to reach out.  To help.  To show the world that no matter who you are, where you come from, or what you have been through, you are just as human and worthy of love as everyone else on this earth. 
So, before you read any further, please ask yourself the following questions:  Am I nonjudgmental?  Can I listen to someone’s story with an open heart and an open mind?  Do I have sensitivity and positive regard for others?  Do I want to learn, to become more aware of myself and the people around me?  Am I capable of making a positive difference in the world?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, please read on.  If you did not, kindly leave me alone.
…When I was teenage girl, most people saw a bright-eyed girl that was about to light the world on fire.  They saw someone who was happy, likeable, and smart.  They saw someone who came from a stable and supportive home, someone who had a great life ahead of herself, someone that had it very good.  And you know what?  They were right.  I had (and still do, may I add) a very good life.  Yet despite all these wonderful things going for myself, I struggled with my mental health: I developed a life-consuming eating disorder, I battled depression, and I was positively ridden with anxiety. 

My battle with my mental health began when I diagnosed with Anorexia, which later evolved into Bulimia and EDNOS.  To complicate matters, I was later diagnosed with a mood disorder that involved depression and anxiety.  In a nutshell, I was deathly ill, I was anxious, and I was depressed.  I felt like I was losing my mind.  I was desperate for happiness, yet I just couldn’t seem to find it. 
As I became more and more ill, I isolated myself and no longer confided in any of my friends.  Because few people could identify with what I was going through, I felt very alone.  I felt that no one understood me, and I felt judged for struggling as I did.  To add to my strife, I also felt immense guilt for the pain that I knew I was causing my family.  Not only were they worried sick about me, but they did not know how to help me.  On top of that, I felt that I was a constant stressor in my parents’ and sister’s life, and I knew that I was costing my parents financially as they paid for my therapy, my hospitalizations, and my medical expenses.

As my struggle continued, I became very reckless and had little regard for my own well-being.  I experimented with chemicals, I abused pills of all sorts, and I made terrible decisions regarding my mental and physical health.  For months this continued, and I spiraled deeper into my eating disorder, becoming more depressed, more anxious, and feeling much more alone than I had ever felt.  I remember a time when I honestly felt that I was losing my mind.  That I had no control over my life.  That the suffering that I had brought on myself was too great.  That there was no hope for me.
One evening, after life had started looking a bit more hopeful for me, I relapsed.  I recall lying on my bedroom floor, crying, yet unable to reach out to anyone.  In sort of a fog, I walked into my bathroom, grabbed my prescription sleeping pills and took everything left of the bottle, washing it down with an antidepressant or two. 

And then, I fell into a deep sleep. 

And then, I woke up.  And I started crying.  I cried until my heart had emptied all of my tears.  I cried because I realized that I had hit my rock bottom.  I cried because I realized how lucky I was to have woken up.  I cried because I knew I was not healthy, because I didn’t know how to get healthy.  I cried for the pain that I felt, that my family felt, and I cried because I realized that had I not woken up, they would have experienced a pain unparalleled to anything they’d ever imagined. And finally, I cried because I needed to.
…Did I really want to die?  No.  But I was desperate for the pain to end.  Was I thinking about anyone else at the time?  No.  I wasn’t really thinking, not even about myself.  Did this experience teach me a thing or two?  You better believe it. 
It made me realize that I am supposed to be alive.  And while I am alive, I might as well live.  It made me realize that there is no day so dark that you cannot live through it.  It made me realize that I am ultimately responsible for myself and my well-being, but that I needed to reach out for help, and commit to my own happiness if I wanted to get better.
And I am happy to say that is what happened.  It was a very long, windy road, but I got myself well.  In fact, I got myself better than well.  While I have certainly faced many struggles since that day, I have learned that I never had it that bad.  That there is nothing I cannot live through, learn from, and be stronger because of it.  I have found happiness.  I have found peace.  I have found self-love.  and I have made a life that is very much worth living.

So my darling birds, I need you to also know what I learned.  If you are suffering like I did, know that there is a better life ahead of you waiting to be lived.  Know that no matter how lonely you feel, you are not alone.  Know that there is nothing on this earth that you cannot overcome.  Know that there is help out there, but also know that you need to try to help yourself.  Know that things don’t always get better fast, but they will get better.  Know that your pain can be turned into something positive, for yourself and for others.

And for my birds that are not suffering in the same way I did years ago, know that people’s pain is relative.  Know that even when people look as though they have it all, they may not have it all together.  Trust your instincts when it comes to your loved ones, and trust that you can make a difference.  

It is time to make a difference in our community.  It is time to embrace life and encourage others to do the same.  It is time to reach out, to show compassion.  It is time to be brave, to tell your stories, and share your feelings.  It is time to make a positive impact in your life and the lives of others. 

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