Some say that to see is to believe. If you can see that someone is skinny, she obviously doesn’t eat. If someone is seemingly bubbly and happy, then they have no issues at all.
This was me.
Because I put on a mask, one that stretched my mouth into a smile and concealed my deteriorating body with baggy jumpers, people believed I was fine. I was OK. I was healthy. When in fact, I was purging the sustenance from my body at least 5 times a day, and restricting like crazy. When my depression kicked in, the strings on the mask were drawn tighter still, and I became the mask. Surely, if you act happy, you can be happy? This was my mantra. however, my life was evaporating before my very eyes, and I could do nothing to stop it.
It is difficult to describe depression, as everyone feels the effects differently. Described by the American Psychiatric Association, “Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.” However, my depression took on a different form. Yes, at first, I became constantly uninterested in many social activities; even going to school was a struggle. An excerpt from my diary describes just this:
“I don’t know what is happening to me. I just don’t want to be around people any more; I feel constantly annoyed and irritated. It makes me exhausted. I feel like someone has plugged me into a socket and flicked the switch on, rejigging my entire personality. I’m not the person I used to be, and I can’t explain why. I constantly snap at people, and have no energy – I can’t even do my work! I’m really scared…”
After this point, things escalated from bad to worse. I now know that the lack of nutrients in my system further contributed to my low mood, and manipulated my though track to a massive extent. I was hostile, irritable and constantly low, however, this was a distraction, hiding the real and tangible sadness that I felt. My stats at this point were extremely low, and due to the amount of purges per day, I was in ill health. I had low potassium, sodium, vitamin D, C and B levels, and was profoundly weak. This, along with the lack of sleep, totally affected my mood, and turned me into a monster.
There is one memory from the time that will stay with me forever. There was one point where I believed my mum was ‘toxic’, and tried to run away. I interrupted her when she was working, and informed her that I had a cab waiting outside, and I was going to stay with friend. I expected her to agree; I was, after all, doing the mature and stable thing. At this point, I did not feel safe in my own home. Every time I walked through the door, I would long to have a shower so that I could bring up my food. Every time I even looked at the bathroom door, I would have a longing to stick my fingers down my throat. It became an obsession. After calmly showing my mum that I was serious, as I had my suitcase packed and ready, she broke down. She asked me to wait a few minutes, and showed her patient out. I was sitting on the stairs, telling my friend that I was on my way, when my mum locked the door. “What the hell are you doing?” I asked her. She slid down against the door, looking as if she had seen a ghost. “Olivia. You aren’t leaving.” She said. I felt as if I was in a horror movie, where the evil mum locks her daughter in a door-less tower, just to spite her. I remember screaming at her, saying that the house was caving in on me, and that she was selfish. It was not the usual mother-teenager fight. This was a war. I don’t remember what I said exactly, but I know it hurt. She was crying her eyes out, and when she came up to find me curled into a ball on my bed, she realised; this was not her daughter. We talked for a while, and I admitted that I didn’t feel like myself.
If you have read the post before this one, called ‘This Girl Can… can’t she?’, I explain my depression. I projected my self destructive thoughts onto a woman that I had created in my head. I know this sounds crazy, but this is one aspect of depression. I told my mum that I had a woman in my head, who would say that I was undeserving of love because of my weight. We both cried, and it was a massive breakthrough for our relationship. We were both scared that I had schizophrenia, and made an emergency appointment with my psychiatrist the next day, who reassured us that I had depression. I was shocked, yet relieved. Finally, a reason for my unprovoked anger, frustration, self-loathing and sadness. However, I believed that my diagnosis would cure all, and it didn’t. It was a long, hard road to recovery. Recovering from an eating disorder is quite similar to recovering from depression, however, while an eating disorder is, in a sense, tangible, depression is a chemical imbalance. While I am not giving excuses; recovering from any form of psychological issue is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do, depression is much less easy to pin down. I could, however, be more mindful, and as well of trying to take care of my body, try and take care of my mental well-being and inner happiness.
In Greek Mythology, Gaia, the mother of all monsters, gave birth to Echidna. This was always how I saw myself, as a monster, undeserving, unlovable. I now see that with the right support, I am no longer that monster. I never was that monster. I was just struggling, and could only accept support once I admitted that there was a problem, and wanted to fight back.
So, seeing is not believing. Many saw me as a friendly, outgoing young woman, when inside I was aching to hurt my body, and my mind was battling against itself. Even now, although my body is healthy, my belly is constantly, painfully bloated due to the long periods of fasting that I would take on. I will not let this get me down. It will pass, I know, with time; my body will heal, slowly regaining the nutrients that I expelled for so long. I am healing; slowly, painfully slowly, but surely. And as my body will heal, so will my relationships, my connection with G-d, and my gratitude for the life that I have. No amount of weight gain will ever take that away from me, and no battle will ever be too big to face. G-d gives you challenges, tests. You can deal with them. Although, at the time, it feels like the end, like He has turned his back on you, He is always there, ready to lend a hand when you need it. You just have to ask.
“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”
~ Thomas Merton