Victim to Victor

Each day I get to know myself a little better, almost too well. I learn things no one wants to know about themselves.

No one wants to look into the mirror and see all your demons staring back.

I master the language of my body, every ache, every pain, every gurgle in my stomach gets acknowledged. I start to wait on her hand and foot, all day long I aim to please none but she…me.

I form a routine around pampering myself, eating right, sleeping enough, drinking plenty of water, the simple things I never gave any thought to. I take long hot showers, sorry California drought, and no one yells at me for belting opera, sorry neighbors.

Ironically, when you’re so focused on survival, you tend to ignore the basics.

I’ve spent so much of my life trying to please others, but I quickly discover pleasing yourself is just as hard. I was so focused on other’s needs, I never took the time to explore my own. Maybe I’ve distracted myself with other people’s problems so I wouldn’t have to face mine. Or maybe I thought what I needed was their love, their approval when what I really needed was my love, my approval.

Either way, it took me 25 years to realize that my thoughts, my feelings, they matter.

I follow the cracks in my relationships and they all lead back to me. I’m not the easiest person to be intimate with if I’m intimate at all. My moods consist of high highs, low lows, and very little in between. I’m a victim of my biology, as are we all. Each month I fall prey to my womanhood. My hormones, like the tide, roll in and out in accordance with the moon. I am merely a vessel, trying to make my way in one piece. With no one else to argue with, I drive myself mad. Forced to walk the earth in tandem for the rest of our life, we agree to make peace. I notice the warning signs.

Every cramp, every crave, every mood swing, calls for extra tenderness.

It’s not just my hormones out to get me and everyone in my wake, it’s my nerves too. I’m always on edge, prepared for the villain lurking around every corner. I trust no one. I pace back and forth, I tap my fingers on my knees, TA-TA-TA-TA-TA. My teeth chatter when I’m not cold, and sometimes an invisible horse sits on my chest. I didn’t know that was called anxiety until I moved to LA, and started showing myself the attention I deserve. For the first time, I can describe my emotions, put names on my feelings, speak my thoughts without breaking down.

I was in denial for many years that I had a mental illness. Even as I type those words, I feel there must be some mistake. When I was 11 I got my first diagnosis, Major Depressive Disorder. They medicated me and when the medication didn’t work, they piled diagnoses on me, drug atop drug. They took a kid with little to no self-worth, told her she is crazy, and that she’ll have to take pills for the rest of her life to feel even halfway human. After years of psychiatrist appointments, adverse reactions, and hospitalizations, I got off the medication.

Ever since that experience, I’ve been desperately trying to convince myself that “I’M FINE,” as I slowly suffocate under the weight of my shame. In order to protect myself from the side effects of labels and stigma, I’d fooled myself into believing I had healed my traumas, and that all of my problems were external.

But there’s no one to blame 3,000 miles from home.

I still have PTSD, I still have depression. It’s not something you just “get over,” despite the rumors you might’ve heard. Everything I do is motivated by fear and self-doubt.

The scars of my past, both physical and mental, are visible in every aspect of my personality.

I read an article before I moved to LA, called “Moving to California Won’t Make You Happy,” and now I finally understand it. Living in paradise is a blessing, but true happiness comes from within.

I came out here to escape my past, but you can’t run from yourself. Your past is a part of you, embedded in your DNA. The story of your life is written in your physiology. You can’t escape it, but you can overcome it. Not by running from it, but by facing it head-on. Instead of pretending they don’t exist or hiding from them in the dark, stare those demons down. Stand up to them, let them know you are the force to be feared.

Send them running for their lives, so you can start to live yours.

Black Painting I by Cecily Brown

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

5 Replies to “Victim to Victor”

  1. Congratulations on trying to help yourself. Society wants to make people afraid to seek help, so it can judge them when they don’t.

  2. Wow. You are brave to write it all out like that. I certainly have my own versions of the things you describe & I think a lot of ppl do. I don’t know that I would label neurosis as “mental illness” simply because so many suffer from it while not so many experience things like schizophrenia or OCD. Of course, maybe I’m wrong abt that. Anyway…best wishes. Many of us struggle as well. 😊

    1. Thank you Elizabeth!! It feels good to get it out there. Technically neurosis is not a mental illness, it was taken out of the Diagnostic Manual psychologists use years ago. Everyone has symptoms of depression or feels anxiety sometimes, but when it occurs in unhealthy levels or interferes with your daily functioning, you can “meet the criteria for a mental illness.” Thanks for reading! Best wishes to you as well.

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