I have had many times in my life when I have felt the darkness drifting in, I always focused it on to external factors, that made it changeable, manageable, it made it something I could control, but no matter what I tried to focus on nothing changed because it wasn’t external, it was internal and it had no reason for being, it just was.
As I was approaching my 21st birthday the light faded, and I just wanted to stop the world from turning. I could feel the darkness bubbling under the surface, I felt isolated and alone, it wasn’t that I was depressed, I just felt it in the air around me, the black clouds circling. The demons returned, and I sank in despair, yes, I had been here before, but I still couldn’t cope, it didn’t seem less daunting or overwhelming, I felt as suffocated as I did the first time. I refused to acknowledge the demons, I fought hard and was exhausted, I needed an outlet, but I refused to take a sharp edge to my skin, I looked for other causes of my misery and focused on anything that made me feel that disgust with myself as that hatred for myself reappeared.
I made the feelings physical and convinced myself if was all because of my body image, I put all that hatred on myself as I looked in the mirror, change who you are, and you’ll change how you feel I told myself over and over. It started off innocently enough, I reduced my food intake and increased my exercise, but nothing changed so I became more drastic in my actions, reducing my food intake to next to nothing each day. Suddenly the scales started going down and the lower they got the more I challenged myself to take them lower, but no matter how low they went, how baggy my clothes became I had built up a hatred for myself like I had never known before.
'I was frozen in time, skin and bone but I saw fat. I looked in the mirror and fed my mind with every horrible thing ever said to me, every hateful word.'
I self-harmed, if I could have cut my flesh away I would have, I felt disgusted with myself so I stopped eating all together, I found an advertisement for slimming pills on the back of magazine so I ordered some, it said take 1-2 a day, I took several, the more I took the bigger the effect was all I told myself. It wasn’t healthy, I looked ill, friends told me I had lost too much but I didn’t see it, all I saw was fat.
I was frozen in time, skin and bone but I saw fat. I looked in the mirror and fed my mind with every horrible thing ever said to me, every hateful word.
I was slowly killing myself, but at that point I didn’t care. I felt trapped and alone.
The feelings came from the same place, it was just the darkness manifesting itself into a new disguise, but I didn’t recognise it, to me my self-harm was cutting, and this bared no resemblance, but that’s what it was. I was harming myself to rid myself of the pain and the emptiness I felt, it wasn’t my body, it was deeper than that but I was afraid to look deeper terrified that life around me would crumble if I let the darkness back in, but not admitting it was there meant it had all the power and slowly it was destroying me all over again.
I no longer felt strong and in control, I had a new thing controlling me, telling me I was a fat, unlovable, disgusting creature.
It was my new comfort blanket, it manifested from exactly the same feelings the self-harm came from, but this time I was punishing myself in a different way, it was still a self-harming behaviour, it still gave me that feeling of control because although I had battled through the self-harm and stopped cutting I didn’t deal with the underlying cause, I never acknowledged that depression was the catalyst.
This time I had no intention of saving myself, I would wither away and fade out as though I never existed and that pleased me no end.
One afternoon desperately wanting to escape the house and the walls closing in on me I dragged myself out, I went to a bar to sit and drown my sorrows, and there was a man who would change my life. He served me a drink and we chatted. He was tall and had a roguish grin. His eyes looked at me rather than through me, I saw him, and he saw me. I had a few hours of feeling worth something, I felt almost normal.
We met up a second time, this time we went for a drink and a pizza. I looked at his smile and looked at the pizza, I was terrified of the food in front of me, but realised I was more terrified of him casting me aside if he knew so I took a slice and ate it; slowly. I felt rotten and disgusted with myself, I feared I would pile the weight back on and he wouldn’t then want me because I wasn’t who he thought I was.
I tried to make myself sick but couldn’t do it, no matter how hard I tried it wouldn’t work. I needed a plan, so I decided to starve myself on the days I didn’t see him, which would allow me to eat normally when I did. He would be none the wiser and all would be fine. It didn’t last long, we started seeing each other more and more but as I ate more regularly and found a glimmer of hope for the future it didn’t dictate my life anymore.
Slowly I started to recover. It was a long hard journey back to any form of “normal” eating habits, it was months of forcing food in and just suffering the feelings of guilt, I had to keep repeatedly telling myself that it was all lies and try not to listen to it. It was love that made me confront it, I don’t think without that I would have stopped until my body gave up because although in the beginning it was to lose a little bit and I’ll be loving life it was far more sinister than that and I wasn’t living a life; I was barely existing.
'It was love that made me confront it, I don’t think without that I would have stopped until my body gave up'
I can have a good day or a bad day depending on what I see when I look in the mirror or when I check the clothing size on an outfit. How can that little number make such a difference.
It's the same when it comes to the number on the scales, just a number but that controls how we feel about ourselves. My trouble comes from comparing myself with others and I don't think I see what others see. I can't say there is a single thing I like about myself physically and I have days when I will sob uncontrollably with disgust at myself, hating my appearance, my body and everything that goes with it
Over the years it's fluctuated, I've had kids, my body has changed. I have good days and bad days, I am careful not to calorie obsess frightened of going back to the person crying through fear at the food in front of me. I avoid scales completely. I know clothes sizes shouldn't bother me, but they do, I know I should just love what I have but I don't. I have days when I am body confident and days when I want to throw a big baggy hoodie on and hide. Like a lot of things, it can get better but some demons stay with you, never quite disappearing completely.
My relationship with food is still unhealthy and I will go days without eating, but I am vigilant now because I know where it can lead. It can be a battle, especially on my darker days but I do know it’s a comfort blanket I do not need and that it doesn’t give me the control I want; it does the complete opposite. I still occasionally battle those very same feelings, the disgust, the hatred but I know above all else that DEPRESSION TELLS LIES.
I have wished to be someone else my entire life and I still wish it now on occasion because we all have those moments, but a constant overload of comparisons will only ever crush you.
Victoria is a writer living in Yorkshire with her husband and children. Author of the memoir ‘The Island Upon the Moor’ Hometown Tales Yorkshire – it is her story of a carefree childhood and battles with depression. Victoria writes from the heart about personal experiences.
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