“I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning”.
Anxiety greeted me with the all-too-familiar full-body tension and a racing mind. I had been a while since I woke up in one of these poor moods so it was disheartening to say the least. My heart sunk with the overwhelming weight of it all. All I wanted to do was to melt into my covers and let the bed swallow me up. The daunting tasks of getting up, eating breakfast, showering and facing the day loomed before me. The smallest of obligations felt crushing, let alone the daunting idea of having to go to class.
That is to say I got up, didn’t shower, but did eat breakfast, and made it to class.
I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that today of all days I uncovered 2,000 old photos on my previous phone spanning five to six years ago.
It’s rather depressing to scroll through them let me tell you that. I feel like I’m mourning the loss of a body I once had while simultaneously mourning the life I missed out on. My heart aches to see my past-self full of pain. I swipe by memories of things I hardly remember. A lot of my final years of high school were a blur. A blur of sadness, anxiety, and frankly – hypoglycaemia. I remember the crushing pressure I felt. The isolation and gut-wrenching stress that seemed omnipresent. Looking back all I feel is the sense of despair. My camera roll reflects me desperately trying to cling to the small ways I could express myself – through photography and the occasional jot note. I recognize this time in my life as being nothing short of overwhelming. I had limited ability to reflect on what was going on because I didn’t know any better. I was scared and keeping busy enough I didn’t have to address what was going on. Continuing to move for fear if I stopped swimming I would drown. I see myself barely surviving in these photos.
It breaks my heart that I wasn’t able to appreciate anything from that time in my life. It breaks my heart that I was in so much pain and so inside my own head that all I remember is what I entered on my calorie counting app instead of the moments I photographed and lived in. The trips I took, the people I (barely) connected with, the things I learned, all feel forgotten. All that’s left is the memory of the pain. The obsessions and controlling thoughts.
I hate to admit that I miss the thinner body I once had, but I know that it comes with such emptiness. Emptiness I chased because I had no other way to deal with pain. I know there are other ways now – it’s time I start using them. My mindset won’t change overnight, I know I still harbour an unhealthy/distorted body image, but I’m beginning to recognize that the pursuit of a smaller size has not made me happy. It’s time to try something different.
I don’t see any point in regretting the way things could have been. I understand that my younger self was scared, confused, lost, and hurting. There is no way a young child, without even a fully-developed brain, would have been able to have the answers let alone fully understand what the questions even were. I could not have known better. But I do now. I’ve learned and I recognize that I needed my experiences to do so. I have to let go of the expectation that I “should have known better”. Free myself from the belief that I should have had the foresight to see what can only be learned in hindsight.
Often in therapy I was asked to think of my younger self and I struggled to do so – these images were a helpful, but painfully vivid, reminder. I have sympathy for my younger self. I don’t want to harbour any regrets or resentments. Instead, I want to focus on what I can control now in this moment. I want to do right by my past-self and make the most of the pain I went through and lessons I can take away from it, rather than staying in my suffering because it’s familiar.
I am thankful for my family and those I love and I try to be conscious of it as much as possible. I am thankful for the opportunities I have had and the support and sacrifices my parents made for me. I deserved the good things, even if I was unable to appreciate them. I am still deserving of them. I am not “spoiled” or broken because I couldn’t see clearly enough to be grateful. I was, and always will be, worthy of love and support. I did not, and do not, have to earn my parents love or a place in the world. I am no less worthy because of how I survived my pain. I am no less intelligent because I made choices that seemed right at the time. It is not my fault. I am no less of a daughter, sister, friend, or human being because I couldn’t see my own worth. I collapsed in on myself for so long, but now it is time for me to rise. Now, I make an effort to be more mindful and reflective.
I do not deserve to burn-myself to the ground in the pursuit of anything that doesn’t make me happy. I want to make my past-self proud. I want to prove to young Jill, who collapsed in exhaustion wondering if things would be this way for ever that it does not always have to be this way. I want to move forward for little me who always wanted happiness and freedom. I’m done wasting time waiting for future Jill, I will give it to myself now. Life is a never-ending learning journey and I refuse to lose more of it to my suffering. I don’t want to look back on the photos from this current period of my life with the same sorrow. I will not mourn the loss of the life that I could be living right now.