I’m 22 years old
What do you see when you look at me?
I probably look pretty “normal”. You probably notice that I have long dark hair. I’m short. Smiling. You’ll see me laughing or goofing off when I’m with my friends. You see my Instagram posts and stories and you probably assume that my life is all rainbows and butterflies and happiness.
What don’t you see?
You don’t see that I have scars on my wrists and on the sides of my stomach from lonely nights spent crying out of self hatred.
You don’t see the overwhelming anxiety that I feel every time I step into any social situation.
Or the thoughts that go on in my head after eating something “bad”.
You don’t see the hours that I’ve spent criticizing myself in front of the mirror – grabbing at the parts of my body that I can’t stand to look at.
You don’t see the tears that sometimes fall because of my depression.
Or the negative self talk that goes on in my head every day.
You don’t see how much I hold myself back from – out of fear of rejection and failure.
You don’t see that talking about my feelings makes me extremely uncomfortable – and I use humor as an “out” or a distraction.
Or the months that I’ve spent in hospitals trying to overcome the monsters that have been dragging me down for years.
You don’t see the days on end of starvation that I’ve put myself through with the hopes of being “skinny”.
You don’t see the suicide notes that I’ve written in the past or that I once almost swallowed a bottle of pills to get away from the pain that I felt.
You don’t see the feelings that I have towards myself.
You see a girl. A “normal” girl who seems happy and care free. One who laughs and seemingly has it all together. A girl who
couldn’t possibly be struggling with mental health.. right?
I found my old journals from my hospital stays – here are some lines I pulled out:
“I’m a fat worthless failure. I hate myself. I hate my body. I hate how fat I am. I fail at everything”
“I hate life. I hate everything. I want to die.”
“Knowing that my family loves me, that other people love me, it still doesn’t make it any easier to love myself.”
“If only I could just turn my mind off.. that would be nice, just to take a break from everything. I don’t want to be here anymore. And by “here” I mean alive. Life just doesn’t seem worth it.”
If you took one look at me.. would you believe that I wrote those words?
That’s the thing – mental illness doesn’t have a “look’. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Mental illness doesn’t make you “crazy” or violent. You can look “normal”. You can look happy. And you can still be fighting this battle in your mind every day.
I’m 22 years old
And I have mental illnesses. Yup.. multiple. And I’ve always been too ashamed of them. Writing this post, I still feel hesitant to share – I’ve never actually spoken about my ‘disorders’ really. I’ve always been afraid that once people knew, that’s all they’ll see when looking at me. But we need to end the stigma.
I’m 22 years old.
And I have diagnosed Anorexia, Major depressive disorder, Social anxiety and General Anxiety disorder, and Body dysmorphic disorder.
You don’t see these things when you look at me. Because like I said, mental illness doesn’t have a “look”.
Luckily, in recent years, I’ve been able to see some light in life. I am no longer suicidal. I no longer self harm. I no longer cry over food or obsess over exercise. But I still fight my demons everyday.
Some days, I still struggle with food. Most of the time, food excites me. But some days my mind sees it as nothing more than calories.
Some days, I don’t want to get out of bed because of my depression. Most days, it’s not a problem. But some days it really is a struggle just to get up and get going.
Some days I eat something “unhealthy” and feel bad about it. Most days, I can enjoy ‘treats’. But some days I’m consumed with awful thoughts afterwards.
Some days, life feels hard and I wonder if it will ever get easier. Most days, I feel hopeful. But some days I have no hope.
Some days I just want to cry for no reason. Most days, I’m okay. But some days my sadness overwhelms and consumes me.
Sometimes I still cry when I look in the mirror. I admittedly still obsess over my body. But I don’t let exercise or food control me. I no longer restrict – although somedays my mind tells me too. And I no longer let exercise have a grip over me.
I’m still very socially anxious. After any social situation (going out with friends, conversation with somebody, etc) I replay it in my head over and over – “Was I too awkward? “Did I say something wrong?” “Should I have said ____?” “Maybe I shouldn’t have ____” – and think of all of the things I could’ve done differently.
Some days, I fake a smile – and even that can be hard. Most days, I don’t need to fake it. But some days, it’s a force. I’m a pro at looking happy even when I’m not.
Eye contact freaks me out. I can only hold it for a few seconds before anxiety takes over.
Some days the negative thoughts in my head are unbearable. Most days I can shake them off. But some days they take over.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmingly lonely in a crowd of people, and want to isolate myself.
Sometimes my self hate takes over and I am convinced that others hate me in the same way.
I’m still extremely self conscious. I lack confidence in all aspects of life.
I still use humor to cover up actual feelings.
Fear of rejection and failure hold me back from too many things.
Sometimes I have random anxiety attacks – I can’t breathe and am so physically anxious that it’s hard to eat.
I get stressed and overwhelmed easily. I can only have so much going on at one time or I’ll break. Some days I’m really hard on myself, because while others can handle a lot (5 classes, 2 jobs, still being social, etc), I can’t. I feel weak and defeated. But most days I am able to see that that is okay.
I get sad. I cry. I obsess. I don’t love myself – but I’m working on it. Sometimes I feel like a freak because of my disorders. I get consumed with negative thoughts about myself.
All of these things about me are in relation to my mental illness.
I have mental illnesses. But I am not my mental illnesses. They do not define me. And there’s a lot more too me than my clinical diagnoses.
I’m 22 years old. I love fall. I love being outside. I love the gym. My pup makes me happy. The sound of the ocean calms me down. Adventures have my heart. Finding cute coffee shops is my favorite thing to do. My nephews and niece bring a smile to my face like no other. I can go out with my friends and have fun. I *think* that I’m funny AF. I can make jokes and laugh. I put Drake radio on Pandora and dance around the house when I meal prep or clean. I blast music and sing when I drive. I like alone time more than most people do. I love posting Instagram stories of me being a weirdo. I can be outgoing and loud, or quiet and still. I’ve fallen in love with early mornings. I’m working towards being at peace with myself.
I can make you a bomb ass latte. Grocery shopping is my favorite hobby. School is hard for me but I nerd out over nutrition facts like no other. Health and wellness are my biggest passions. I’m scared of the future. I’ll always consider my oldest brother to be my best friend. I go to therapy once a week because I need it. Sometimes I drink too much – my drink of choice is tequila shots. Sometimes I stay up too late. Almond butter is practically its own food group for me, and I drink way too much coffee. I take a walk everyday. I get really annoyed when people ask me too many questions. I love wearing gym clothes, but also love getting dressed up to go out. I have a hard time speaking up for myself. I’d do just about anything for my friends. My family is basically my life. Sometimes I make stupid decisions. I hate watching TV or movies – but I’ll never give up Greys Anatomy and I’ve watched Gossip Girl about 6 times through.
The things I just listed – they are the things that define me. They are the qualities and characteristics that make me who I am.
So how do you see me now? Do you see me differently because of my mental illnesses? Am I a different person to you now? Is that all you will see when you look at me?
Mental illness does not discriminate. Everybody has their own story. Everybody has their own struggles. Outside appearances and actions do not determine inner feelings and thoughts. Be kind. Be understanding. Be gentle with others, and with yourself. Everyone is fighting some type of battle that you know nothing about.
I’m Allie. I’m 22 years old. And, even though I may tell myself otherwise, I am not my mental illnesses.
I’m 22 years old.
And I am a work in progress.