My Journey with Mental Illness
by Sarah L.
My journey with mental illness started when I learned how to manipulate other people. I learned that if I could be liked by more people, I could lose some of my unforgiving self-hate.
I changed myself. I tried new hair stuff and new outfit stuff and new personality stuff. I tried out snobby and playful. I liked sporty the most. I identified with things that I learned other people responded to with praise. I longed for praise.
I have to tell you…something soul-wrecking happens when you forget who you REALLY were.
It’s hard to get that person back.
I have experienced a full range of mental instability and diagnoses. Currently, I am a victim of my own missing self-love—that is MY diagnosis.
I have not spent one full hour in love with myself in my whole lifetime. I know that sounds sad; I know it seems irregular; I know how awful that must be to read. It’s true.
I now surrender myself whenever I have a panic attack, to the belief that I am not in control. That my self-abandonment at a young age – my will to change who I was so that other people would recognize someone “else” as valuable – actually damaged my soul. The separation between who I am and who I have been pretending to be has created so much confusion for me. I can’t be anyone other than me.
My father once told me that if I wanted something I could have it. He was a believer in hard work and footwork. I tried to be a lot of things that I wasn’t good at, but some things just came naturally. And being a phony was one of those things.
Being a phony made me ill. This is why:
I disconnected from the things my body was telling me I NEEDED. I lost all conception of what my heart desired, what my mind recognized as safe and unsafe, what my internal signals told me to do and NOT to do. Because I was pretending to be this other girl. This girl that was supposed to make ME feel better. That was now HER job and I didn’t have any say in what her personality likely (probably, I don’t know) wanted to do instead.
I became self-abusive. I forgot what made ME smile. I didn’t listen to what I wanted. I forgot who made me happy and who hurt my feelings. Only driven by the fake persona of the more precious version of a young girl that could have been ME the whole time, but sadly was not.
Self-betrayal causes depression. Try shutting off your heart and tell me how it feels. It feels SAD. Reject everything your heart is saying to you…that will lead you straight to bed for months and then you’ll need something to fix the chemistry in your brain.
Experiences like that could have been avoided if I knew how to nurture myself as soon as I was born. If I could connect to that ever-giving presence of who Sarah really always has been. I didn’t, do you blame me?
We aren’t really wired to take care of ourselves that way. I certainly don’t expect a newborn to pick themselves up and say, “YOU ARE WORTH IT!” every morning.
I wish I knew what I know now. I wish I knew that I didn’t have to change a thing.
So, let’s talk about it.