[Content warning: mental illness, body image]
A recent struggle with depression and anxiety has taken a toll on my body image and the manner in which I perceive myself. When I’m unable to look after myself and keep healthy, it’s only natural that the way I view my body becomes distorted. It is much more than just having low self-esteem, and wanting to change the way I look to match a certain way, or to fit into certain clothes. It’s about struggling to feel like a real person.
When stuck in the rut of depression, small things like showering and eating well seem like impossible tasks. As a result, I have recently found myself looking in a mirror and not recognising the person looking back. Now this might sound like a cliché but I don’t mean that my insides don’t match the person I am on the outside, or that people cannot see the real me because I am hiding who I am. What I mean is that I don’t recognise myself physically; that it is so hard to recognise the person I am when my mind is so loud.
Seeing my reflection is an out-of-body experience for me. I know what I’m looking at is me but I can’t remember what I look like; seeing myself is like looking at a stranger or someone I recognise but I can’t quite figure out who it is. My perception is off – I’m tired, my eyes are heavy and, as I stare at myself, I can’t figure out why this person in front of me isn’t me.
Having this distorted view of who I am and what I look like is scary and, in turn, leads to my mental health becoming worse. I know that in order to feel better I need to get out of bed, stretch, open my windows, let light into my room, eat a proper meal and shower, but the very idea of all of that is enough to make me pull the covers up further and stay where I am. I am my own worst enemy to battle and overcome — indeed, to take back control of my own life. Like in all good stories, the worst enemy is the hardest to defeat. That’s exactly how I feel about myself when I know what the right thing to do is. I just don’t want to do it.
Wanting to love yourself and wanting to just be you again is hard when you can’t remember the last time you felt either. You begin to lose your sense of reality and you struggle to remember how you’re even supposed to be. I can’t remember what I look like, I can’t remember who I am and at times I give up.
It all sounds very dramatic and over the top but this is real and it’s difficult to go through. It’s like being out and you’ve had a fair few drinks but not realising that until you go to the bathroom and the world becomes fuzzy, the room starts spinning, and you think, “fuck me I’m drunk.” That’s how I feel looking at myself in a mirror except I’m not drunk, I’m just brushing my teeth or about to leave my flat. Or maybe I’m straightening my hair, or I’ve caught my reflection when I’m cooking.
It’s hard to look at myself because I can’t remember what I’m supposed to look like. I’ve dyed my hair all colours under the sun to help me feel ‘normal’; I’ve changed the type of clothes I wear hoping it’ll help me figure out who I am supposed to be. I’m on a journey of discovering who I am without any prior knowledge; poor mental health has made me lose that sense of self. My head is foggy and the mirror is more like a window looking out at another person but despite it all, I’m trying. I’m trying to find myself.
[Image credit: KMac]