TW: Self-Harm, Body Image
I used to love swimming. It was a large part of my childhood- the early morning swims that my family would do on holiday, going to the beach with my friends and going to the local pool on weekends. I think my favourite part of it all was the silence, that unnatural calm that you get when you are underwater- the feeling that nothing and no one can touch you in that moment, away from all the noise above the surface.
I didn’t realise how much I yearned for it until it was gone.
My dad asked me today if I wanted to go to the pool with him tomorrow, just the two of us. He is rarely home and the thought of us sharing that moment, just like when I was a kid, filled me with hope and comfort. It was only until I was sitting in the shower hours later that I realised I had failed to consider two important factors.
Somehow I managed to lapse, just for a moment, back to three years ago. A time before I started to self-harm, before my body was the first thing on my mind in the morning. And yet, that reality of the things, the person that I had lost, swept me away in a tidal wave. It occurred to me how much I was missing, the empty hole I was trying to fill by turning on myself.
I really hope that in a couple of months time, I will look back on this article after my first trip back in the water. I hope things will be different. Because right now, I will be honest:
I am so tired.
It is not easy being this way, watching the things you love escape out of your reach. But the important thing that I try to keep reminding myself is that I’m trying. It might not mean much but I am, and I hope you will too.
I have been struggling with self harm for almost 4 years now, and that is not easy to come back from. But we must all find a way, in whatever steps we take, that are towards a brighter future for ourselves.
We must find something to fight for.
I fight for the silence. For the water. For the person I left behind beneath the surface.
Have faith in yourself, receive the love you deserve.
“I don’t believe that you should be friends with these girls anymore, you are a bad influence on them”.
My Head of Year told me that when I was 13. I was told that I was something bad, that should be removed- like I was some kind of infection. And over the past couple of years, it had been hard to not feel that way, that by being myself I am a bad influence on people and should therefore shut myself away before I affect them.
I was so convinced that you could only give what people wanted to see and nothing else, because anything ‘you’ wasn’t good enough.
Bubbly, hard-working, social, reserved- anything you wanted I would have it. Sounds perfect right? Make yourself the perfect friend, they will want you...right? Put those parts away that you don’t like and let yourself become what they want you to be.
With the startling benefit of hindsight, I can sit here and tell you that ‘fake it until you make it’ is a terrible phrase. Because the moment that people believe the mask that you put is when you will truly start to fall apart. I look back at that person that I was- not in pity or spite, rather to know that I’m not that person anymore. Maybe I don’t have as many friends as I did back then, but this journey of trying to break down my own barriers, has left me with the most kind and genuine people that I know. I feel loved, and supported, and able to let down parts of myself. Be vulnerable.
So from now on I will not allow someone to say that I need to ‘get over’ my mental health. I will not allow someone to say that ‘they do not recognise this sad side of me’. There is not a single person on this earth that is entitled to tell you that you need to take a step back from self improvement- whatever form it may take. For me, it was letting myself feel because I was tired. So tired. Tired of pulling up a mask that I didn’t truly believe in and tired of numbing my emotions so that I wouldn’t confront how terrible I was feeling. This lack of energy comes and goes in waves, but it is no longer a tsunami.
Whoever told you that the real you wasn’t good enough- your parents, your friends, your teachers, yourself- they are so undeniably wrong. I know I’m making it really simple, but the moment that I looked in the mirror and realised that I didn’t recognise the person in front of me was when I started to make progress. When I started to make change.
Not for anyone else. For me.
That is the most crucial detail. In whatever way you find comfortable, make changes that satisfy your goals and the person you want to be. Personal change and goals are the most empowering, which also makes them the most rewarding. When the sentence changes from “I should” to “I am” is when you are doing you.
I can now look in the mirror. After years of being too afraid of seeing how broken and unfamiliar I had become to that 13 year old that had so much hope and love in her heart. I can now look in the mirror and can recognise that I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t mean I’m an infection or a ‘bad influence’. It is a journey and a process that you can only pursue if you trust that you will come out the other end.
So my advice to you is that today, you will do something for yourself. To start that journey, to make that first step. Look in the mirror, or release it into the universe:
“I am me. And I am enough.”
Have faith in yourself, and receive the love you deserve.