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by April B.
Depression has been something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. It’s like a wet towel draped around my shoulders; sometimes I don’t notice it as much, like when the weather is warm and I’m surrounded by colors and people, and other times it feels so heavy I can hardly bring my head up to look at myself in the mirror. Not because I won’t recognize myself, but because I will, and I’ll hate the body I see there. The body that has let me down on so many occasions, that has trapped me and hurt me and held me back from the things I wanted and the things I could’ve had.
For years I struggled with self-care; both because a lot of self-care tasks are not required for living, but rather for comfort—something I didn’t see the point in wasting time or energy on—and also because the idea of caring about myself is hard. It’s hard to care about something that’s functionally and cosmetically flawed. But not keeping up with self-care only increased my depression. Not showering made it harder to make myself get out of bed or leave the house or want to interact with the world. Not eating the right foods at the right times or sleeping enough made me have even less energy and more pain. And all the negative self-talk inside my head affected my confidence and how I portrayed myself to the world.
In college it was especially hard: I saw all these happy, bright, full of potential people with bodies that worked and listened to them and chased the dreams they wanted, and I couldn’t help but feel like my body was holding me back, keeping things from me, keeping me from the world. And the more I struggled to keep up with other people, the more my body gave out.
I remember one of a million phone calls with my mom, where I was breaking down somewhere on the sidewalk between classes because my body just couldn’t keep going. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, I was in so much pain I could barely think straight, I was short on sleep short on food, short on reasons to keep going. And I’d ask her, between sobs, why I couldn’t be like the other people, why I couldn’t be as good, as active, as happy. And she’d say, “because you’re living outside your means, you’re pushing yourself to a standard that you can’t meet.” I’d say, “I hate my body,” and she’d say, “hating your body isn’t going to make it any better.” And one day, that finally stuck.
In my dorm one night I took a piece of cardboard and painted “YOU ARE ENOUGH” backward, and hung it over the toilet, in front of the mirror, so when I stood and looked at myself there it was, glaring behind me. Every time I stood there with a mean or nasty thought about myself or my body, those big block letters poured out their love for me. It became my mantra, even after college, following me from apartment to apartment and it helped me learn how to care for and about myself. Because the more I told myself I was enough, that my body was good enough just as it is, the more I believed it.
I stopped trying to be who I thought other people wanted me to be. I stopped worrying about what people would think if I wore this brace, or that pair of shoes, and started instead of focusing on what made my body feel better. It became easier to put my body first, to settle into a routine that didn’t push me to my literal breaking point, to see the talents and skills I had, regardless of my physical limitations.
I still struggle with my depression, and it still creeps into my days like a shadow—never too far behind me. But I’m no longer that girl crying on the sidewalk, in too much pain physically and emotionally to continue. Now I’m a woman who wears high-top pumas even with dresses because that’s the most comfortable shoe I own. I wear a fanny pack instead of a purse because my back hurts all the time. I wear my neck brace to parties. I’m not afraid to lie on the floor at work if I need to.
I have mantras, beautiful positive artwork, music playlists tailored to energize me. I have an exercise routine at just the level I need it to be to keep me active but uninjured. I have pillows and soft blankets to hold me on the days I can’t break free, glow in the dark stars on my ceiling so that when I’m laying there alone in the darkness, I still have a light. And when I start to feel like my life is slipping out of my control I take hold of it in healthy ways; coloring my hair, changing the pictures on my walls, planning trips, cooking dinner (sometimes ordering pizza), putting on makeup (not because I feel like I have to, but to just enjoy the act of putting it on), taking long baths with special soaps or bath salts. Sometimes I wear perfume to bed because it smells like summer. And I have more friends than I ever could’ve dreamed of, because I stopped trying to be perfect and just focused on being enough.
Disclaimer: Each story submitted to The Ehlers-Danlos Society for this #myEDS/#myHSD anthology is published "as-is," with only minimal edits for spelling, grammar, and typographical mistakes. Each profile reflects the personal views, experiences and opinions of the individual authors-and, thus does not necessarily represent the views and/or endorsements, individually or collectively, of The Ehlers-Danlos Society, its leadership, staff, boards, or communities. We can also not confirm any medical claims or comments in the story.
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