I always wondered what happened after the ‘before and after’ stories. Okay, great, you got a makeover, lost the weight, moved house, fell in love – then what? Life isn’t made up of those big transformative moments; life is what happens in between. The mundane, the run-of-the-mill, the boring daily routines.
Almost four years ago, I wrote my first blog for Heads Above The Waves, right when they were getting started. I’d recently had one of those transformative moments – in my case, it was opening up to people about my self-harm for the first time. Talking to Hannah and Si about my experiences, and about their own histories, made me realise that it was possible to change and grow as a person – that there was a possibility that I could get better.
When I wrote that blog I was in my second year of university. Since then I’ve graduated, started a career, and gained a level of stability and joy that I didn’t think was possible. It hasn’t been an easy road by any measure. In January 2016, I was hospitalised with blood clots in my lungs, and was incredibly lucky to survive past my 23rd birthday. I’ve also continued to experience depression, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem. That stuff doesn’t go away – but each time you encounter those feelings, they become more familiar. You learn their power, and your power. You learn that they eventually pass. You learn that if you can just hang on through the darkest parts, the sunrise is inevitable.
There’s no secret wisdom that I, or anyone else, can pass on to stop you from suffering. But here’s some wisdom that you’re probably on the way to learning for yourself: with great suffering comes great strength.
If you can keep giving yourself chances, keep looking for the silver linings, and keep learning from the lessons that life throws at you, you’ll ultimately become stronger, wiser and more compassionate than ever. Look after yourself, but try not to wallow in self-pity. Take care of yourself physically – drink water, get enough sleep, eat some fruit – but remember that you’re only a human, and that you’re allowed to treat yourself too. Instead of getting angry and bitter at the world for the way it treated you, try getting angry at the injustices in the world, and looking for ways your experience can help others.
I’m not any kind of expert. But I have been to hell and back (multiple times), and I can tell you that it absolutely does get better. One day, that all-consuming wave of fear and pain and sadness that you think is drowning you will become nothing more than a ripple on a pond. Everything you need is already inside you. I didn’t believe in myself, and it turns out I was wrong. So, in case you can’t do it yourself right now: I believe in you.