I am enough. It’s a phrase I never quite believe but say to myself a thousand times a day. I am enough. I say it so many times in the hopes that one day I will feel like enough. Enough for everyone else but more importantly enough for myself. To be okay in all that I am and all that I was.
Eating disorders, in whichever way they present themselves, take away all feelings of worthiness. The voice it possesses is enough to bring me to my knees crying my eyes out in front of the mirror. How can a voice no one else hears be so powerful? Something I’ve always wondered since my ED appeared. I was young when mine first came into my life; I’ve not really known a life without it being there in some way. I don’t remember the feeling of not eating without guilt anymore. I don’t remember the feeling of being confident. I don’t remember the feeling of going shopping and not getting exceptionally upset. I don’t remember the feeling of looking in the mirror and being okay with what was staring back at me.
I’m not thin, and I so desperately wish I was, which is of course part of the problem. For some people it’s easy to lose weight, for others it’s not but it doesn’t mean my eating disorder isn’t there, I can promise you it is. I live in a constant cycle of gaining and losing weight but wanting the latter more than anything. I have days where the voice doesn’t consume me and I feel normal, dare I say. The days where I don’t feel like my life’s work is to lose weight, starve myself, binge or count calories. I simply live my life and don’t feel weighed down by it. But for every good day there are twice as many bad days. Some days it’s so subtle, I don’t notice it besides looking in the mirror and hearing the word fat but most days, it’s screaming at me and wherever I go, whatever I do, it’s there.
There isn’t a day that goes by where I am not hearing the negative voice. It can take me over 30 minutes to get dressed simply to go to work or the shops because the voice was telling me how disgusting everything looked. It can take me reapplying my make-up 2-3 times because I started crying in the middle of doing it because the voice was telling me how ugly I was. It can take up to an hour of looking at food before mustering up the courage to eat it because the voice was demanding I leave it alone. Sometimes it means starving myself all day before getting to work and inhaling any food in my sight because I feel like I might pass out. Sometimes it’s stuffing my face from the minute I get up till I go to sleep because it helps- I don’t know how but it helps in the way ice cream mends your broken heart. Sometimes it’s not eating all day until dinnertime and being extremely proud that you only ate 300-400 calories or often times less for the day. Sometimes it’s counting every single calorie consumed versus every single calorie you’ll burn. But it’s exhausting no matter what I do. It takes immense strength (and good acting skils;) to act normal in public, to ignore the voice when I'm around other people and to eat in front of people. Something which I found extremely difficult a few years ago and wouldn't even eat at lunch time anymore because I couldn't bare the thought of being watched (in reality I drew more attention to myself by not eating, but in my head it was better than eating). I still do struggle with that but I act completely normal because I don’t want anyone to see the internal struggle of eating a goddamn piece of toast. It can all sound so small and silly to other people but in my mind it can honestly feel like the end of the world.
Getting this phrase tattooed with the eating disorder recovery symbol is the constant reminder I need. Some people are lucky in life and they know that they’re quite simply enough in some way or another, whether they know it on the surface, deep down or feel it from other people, but they feel it. I do not, I try my hardest to feel it, to really believe it but my mind and my body always convince me otherwise. I need to be reminded constantly that I am enough. I am. I need it repeating over and over again in my mind like a dull melody that I won’t forget. It makes me needy, I am well aware of this but I don’t want this gratification to come from anyone else but myself. I want to tell myself that I am enough and really, truly believe it without anyone else having to tell me I am.
It’s been there 4 days and I feel like it’s already helping, seeing it everyday whenever I need a little boost or just need reminding that I am enough, I look down at my wrist and take a couple deep breathes. It’s more than a tattoo for me, it’s a lifeline when my eating disorder is pounding down on me. Will it always work? No because that’s not how our minds work but it’s there and just knowing that already gives me enough comfort. It took me 2 years to build up the courage to get it done but it was well worth the wait. It's out there for everyone to see and although that scares me, I am becoming much more open of my disorder than I ever have been before. It' there, it has been for 10 years and will likely always be there in some way so I'm not going to keep running away from it like it wants me to. I'm going to run towards it and hopefully recovery will get easier each day because deep down, I know it is truly worth it to be recovered.
One of my therapist's that I worked with a couple years ago said something to me once that has still stuck with me to this day- and I'm still profusely working on it. "Jasmine, what is the worse thing that can come of you forgiving yourself?" That question holds such power and enormity for me that as I sit here reading over it, I feel uncomfortable. What could possibly go wrong from me forgiving myself? Will my world fall apart? Will it make all the pain any less valid? I don't think so but what if maybe it did? (hey anxiety hey, you make life a real joy:).
Forgiving myself for all the times I've starved my body, binged or purged it of all the food I had just eaten. Forgiving myself for burning my skin to feel the seething pain of that rather than the thundering pain in my head. Forgiving myself for banging my head against the wall to make the noise stop. Forgiving myself for hating every inch of my body and wishing it all away. Forgiving myself for hurting those closest to me. Forgiving myself for not telling the person I loved soon enough and losing them. Forgiving myself for feeling like death was better than living and for tempting fate so many times. Forgiving myself for all the what if's that continue to eat me alive. Forgiving myself for failing my a-levels because of my mental health. Forgiving myself for the countless things I gave up after a couple of weeks. Forgiving myself for going into something knowing full well that I shouldn't. Forgiving myself for self-destructing for months at a time.
What would happen? Maybe it would mean the pain I felt mentally and physically was never true. Maybe it would mean the love I felt for that person wasn't real. Maybe it would mean the binges, purges and days starving myself never damaged me as much as they did. It could all mean so many things but ultimately forgiving myself doesn't mean any of those things didn't happened, it means I'm no longer letting them have power of my future. That's what forgiving myself really entails, it gives me freedom from the war inside my mind. It's not letting myself be measured by my failures.
Whilst writing some poetry a few months ago, I jotted this down "you can live freely only when you forgive yourself for the mistakes you made knowingly" and I had completely forgotten about it until looking through my poetry journal the other day. It speaks to me on so many levels almost as if I wasn't the one who had strung those words together to make such a powerful sentence. I am chained down in all the mistakes I have made, some knowingly and some not, but they hold power over me nonetheless. The mistakes I continued to make despite knowing the damage they would cause me, they're the ones that eat away at me and dig deep into my core because they're the ones that matter. They're the ones I should have learnt from but kept making them until I finally realised how unhealthy they were.
Love hurts, I know that now, my goodness it is soul-destroying but does that mean I'll never fall in love again? No because I will most likely, a few more times (hopefully- hah!). Starving my body and binging physically harms me and mentally tears me apart but does that mean I'll never do it again? No because recovery isn't this straight line that I will always follow, it is up and down, just like life. Depression is painful and causes you to question your worth on this planet which means I will most likely tempt with fate again. But that doesn't mean I won't fight like hell. Life is freaking hard, I probably make a least 5 mistakes a day in different aspects of my life but do they define me? I used to think they did but no, my mistakes no matter how big or small do not define the person that I am.
Forgiving myself doesn't only mean forgetting my past mistakes, it means letting go. Letting go of the hold they have over me, letting go of the power they contain and letting go of the guilt they manifest. Thinking of letting go physically makes my heart ache for all the painful memories those mistakes consist of, as if letting them go means they no longer matter or happened. But they do, my pain whether present or past will always matter. It's okay to cry over things that happened over a year ago, to cry for a recovery that was less than perfect, to cry for a love that never quite made it, to cry for a body that never felt good enough, to cry for a mind that tortured itself to physical harm. It's ok, all of it, every single tear and feeling.
How can I let go of the things that I have let define me for so long? How can I let go of the things that still cause my heart to bleed? Maybe there is no definitive way that we let go of these moments and feelings. Maybe it's in the process of searching how to let go, we realise we no longer need to hold on. Maybe it's a never-ending cycle that we need to constantly work at. Maybe it's waking up each day and not letting today be another day of living in the shadow of past mistakes.
I've let my heart ache and my tears flow the last few days so today I am choosing forgiveness over pain ridden with guilt. Today I am choosing to love myself despite the many reasons I could think of not to. Today I am choosing to define my worth with more than the mistakes I have made. Today I choose forgiving and letting go. I hope you will, too.
I waited an extra day to publish this weeks post so that I could do it on World Mental Health Day since that's what the blog is all about (obviously;). I don't think I have a specific topic for today but rather just talking about mental illness as a whole.
This day is so beyond important because it's bringing mental health to the forefront and talking about something most people want to shy away from. It's only on days like this where people can really sense how much of an impact mental health is having on people. 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental illness in a given year. For most people that's one person per household. Mental illness doesn't care who you are, what race you are, what your sexuality is, how much you weigh, or what your achievements are, it can hit at any time without warning.
There are so many statistics flying around about the prevalence of mental illness and they are all heartbreaking. Mental illness is the main cause of disease burden worldwide yet it is one of the most underfunded areas in healthcare, judged upon and shamed for. Most people wouldn't ignore a persistent cough for longer than 3 weeks but I can almost guarantee someone experiencing low moods and withdrawal will ignore the problem for much longer. Below are some statistics I've found (click on the picture if you'd like the link).
We need to get away from this notion that mental health is shameful, disgusting, powerless, weird and not a real "problem". It's clear that it is a problem, one that millions of people worldwide are battling each day yet some say it is still "all in your head". It is very real and for the person experiencing it, scary. Help isn't something that should be hard to access or offered after months of struggling. There is no shame in admitting you're not okay. It took me a long time to get to a point in my life where I could answer "how are you" with the honest truth and not a quick "okay". When I'm having an off day I try not to brush past it because sometimes it can be the start of a longer phase. It's all about knowing your illness and what triggers you. You are the only one in your head and body and sometimes both of those things are causing all-consuming pain.
A little Grey's Anatomy quote that I shared on my instagram for today to remind everyone that mental illness is a fight you can win no matter how painful your days feel. Talk about it, acknowledge it, ask about it and admit there is struggle in this fight. If you’ve been there and made it through the other side, fight for those who are still in the midst of it. Everything is better fought with those around you supporting you, helping you and loving you. Even in the darkest moments there will always be someone out there willing to listen when it feels like your world is crumbling apart. Don’t fight this fight alone.
If you are struggling today or have been struggling for a while, please know you aren't alone. It can feel like it, I know that loneliness feeling too well and it wraps around your mind convincing you that no one wants to help you or that you're beyond help- you're not. You are worthy. You are wanted. You are loved. You are valued. You are not any of the things your depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD or other mental illness tells you that you are. If you are hurting today please reach out to someone whether its online, a doctor or friends and family. A five minute conversation can literally save a life. If you're feeling better and made it through the other side, ask someone how they are today or give someone a hug. We can never be too kind, especially in a world so full of hatred, anger and sadness.
And if you are someone that still despite all the evidence and stories out there, believe mental illness isn't real, attention-seeking or weird, I just hope that you never feel the anguish of living with a mental illness. Always educate yourself before you express your opinion. Be kind, smile at strangers and hug those who need it. You never know someone's story just by looking at them.
Chronic illness is hell on earth. It’s being trapped inside a box with no fresh air to breath or room to move but constantly trying to fight your way out of it.
Chronic illness is lonely beyond measure. It’s feeling like no one you know understands or could possibly understand you or the pain your body is in. It's feeling like you're constantly letting people down no matter how hard you try. (yes, I know I'm not the only person in the world to suffer from chronic pain but I am in my friendship group and most of my family.)
Chronic illness is not just a couple of achy body parts or an extreme cold. It is feeling like the majority of your body parts are fighting against you in a bid to bring you down. It’s feeling on fire but not being able to move to reach the extinguisher.
Chronic illness is tiredness beyond reasonable comparison. It’s fighting the flu, pulling an all-nighter to study and running a marathon combined. It’s living half your life asleep to be able to survive the other half.
Chronic illness is feeling a new pain and wondering if it’s a part of your existing condition or something to worry about. It’s countless doctors appointments or trips to A&E over the odd sensation you felt the other day. It’s trying different medication hoping just one of them will take the edge off.
Chronic illness is seeing the four walls of your bedroom more than any other place. It’s lying on your bed in complete darkness to try and elevate the head pounding constantly going on.
Chronic illness is not the sum of who I am though it makes up a great deal of it. It does not define me as a person. My beliefs, my attitude, my personality and my actions define me but living in pain does not.
Chronic illness is making me stronger whilst simultaneously making me feel the weakest I have ever felt. Its crushing my spirit and hurting my heart. Yet, I keep a smile on my face.
But chronic illness is not going to defeat me. I am going to keep fighting because it’s all I know how to do. I am going to talk about my pain until I run out of breath because it matters. Just like talking about your job, your boyfriend, the party you went to last night or your time at uni matters to you. I can’t switch my pain on and off, I can’t make it magically stop affecting my life. And until it does, I won’t pretend it’s not there.
Chronic illness is seeing your body in a whole new way. It’s learning to love the thing that is destroying you. It’s becoming at peace with the thing that wrecks havoc in your life. It’s living you life despite your bodies best attempt at trying not to.
Hey there, I'm Jasmine, your average 23 year old working in childcare and living in England. Maybe Tomorrow follows my journey living with mental health issues and multiple chronic health conditions, all whilst trying to have some fun along the way.
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