The Strength to be Found in Facing Your Truths - Part 1
Don't let fear stop you from becoming the person you know you want to be. In partnership with Bath Mind.
It’s easy to run from your problems when they scare you. Maybe part of the blame can fall to the natural fight and flight response your body jolts into at any site of danger – even if that danger is your own mind. Either way, no person will be able to speed up their journey to recovery through deciding to run; if anything you’re increasing your chances of taking a turn down the wrong track.
Sadly, it is far too common, within our current society, for people to be unable to recognise the strength they have within them. I’m not referring to the form of strength that can be measured by how many kilograms you can lift; I’m talking about mental strength. Ultimately, this all filters down to our self-confidence but there are several branches that can stem from this including: motivation, perseverance, optimism and pessimism, and fatigue among a handful of others. I had a lack of control over each of these, and all of which were intertwined with one another. I was stuck in a never-ending cycle and although I believed myself to be running away from what was so desperately trying to catch up with me, I was continuously lapping the cycle’s circle.
Despite having little to no stamina and having so little energy that even the thought of getting out of bed in the morning exhausted me, I didn’t choose to forfeit my position in the marathon I had unwillingly been entered. At one point, I even convinced myself that I had won the race – I had persuaded myself that I had actually outrun the scoundrel that was seeping his scorn into my mind.
I so desperately wanted to ground my flight and turn to fight but something within me had drugged my mind to think I would never have a chance. Yes, this was partly the mental illness itself and the hypnotic voice in my head that comes along with it but it was also largely due to fear – fear of how others would perceive
me. Would those I love see my identity warp before them? I didn’t want people to feel as those they had to walk on eggshells around me. I didn’t want my friends to feel like they couldn’t come to me in times of need because I had my own mountains to overcome. Simply, I didn’t want to become some vulnerable china that would shatter with so much as a look. And I most definitely didn’t want to have this label of ‘vulnerable’ plastered upon me for years to come, as I couldn’t trust in myself to overcome my illness and redeem my former identity.
When I look back, I don’t know how I did it but I kept up the pretence for 4 years. For 4 years I dismissed any friend who suggested that something wasn’t quite right and that I should seek help, or even shy away from taking any advice they gave on how I could care for my mental state. The denial I was experiencing was far stronger than any ability I had to process and accept my reality. It’s not until I am able to step back from my former self that I am able to truly view the human response of denial for the danger that it is. It halts any ability of progression and healing because the lack of acceptance leaves us frozen in the past, meanwhile our futures are slipping away from us.
The denial escalated as the lack of attention I cared to pay to myself meant my health dropped. It seemed as though it was a continuous string of illness. My anxiety was neglected, and the overall fear I had of the world and everyday situations led to an anger and disdain towards myself. My anxiety had rendered me lonely as I avoided any situation involving those I would ordinarily feel safest around. I never discussed the angst that swarmed over me at the sight, or even the mention of food. I lied to my friends about what I’d eaten as I knew deep down what I was doing was wrong. Everything was catching up with me as I began to fade away, both physically and mentally. Those closest to me had noticed my deterioration but I still failed to acknowledge that anything was wrong. I brushed off any concern made apparent to me by changing the subject, through fabricating, what I thought to be, a believable explanation.
I kept this pattern going for so long by simply not allowing myself any time to consider my reality. Every second of my time was devoted to my university work or my job. The pressures of third year and achieving the degree deserved, along with my desperation to ease my money worries, was like a wave that was made to be surfed and not to drown. Any moment I had free from the commitments, I had made in my head, fell to helping those around me. No one asked me to do this. I felt as though I was no use to myself, but at least I could be useful to the people around me.
All of this took place as my body was battling repeated bouts of illness but not once did I allow myself more than one day to recover. I continued to take extra hours at work, coming home to focus on my degree in the evening – missing meals as I claimed I didn’t have the time – and ran to support my friends as I allowed myself to fall. Even after nearly collapsing at work, and my body silently screaming exhaustion to me, I refused to stop.
It was then that my body decided it wasn’t giving me the option to choose anymore as it decided to stop of its own accord. Running day to day on minimal food and little sleep was like putting petrol in a diesel car, yet I continued to maintain that I was “fine”. I had become too weak to fight the illnesses that had consumed me. They would not have been anywhere near as drastic had I given up my pride and admitted I was struggling. Instead, I found myself hospitalised with no choice but to accept my truth and lean on those who had for so long been trying to help me.
Though this was one of the scariest chapters I have come to experience, without it I wouldn’t have found the strength I have today.