My home life had always been a little rocky and never very stable. Although brimming with love and support there were moments of intense toxicity during my parents divorce that led me to develop disordered eating and bulimia. I went out of my way to do quite a lot of self inflicted damage to cope with my emotional pain during that time.
Unfortunately this wasn’t dealt with very well. I realise now that when I was going through the throes of my eating disorder for the first time and I was left to my own devices; it wasn’t because my parents didn’t love me. They just didn’t know how to help. Seeing me hurting hurt them I feel and rightly or wrongly, nothing was ever confronted or spoken about in any detail. Not even to this day.
I was left emotionally floundering a lot throughout my teens. I kept everything painfully close and private. As a result everything I experienced from then on I internalised. I grew numb to a lot of experiences that followed as a result of some recklessness and naivety on my part. Although these scars didn’t take physical form, they burnt behavioural pathways in my brain that paved the way for two big mental health problems I encountered in my twenties. Anxiety & Depression.
Although, anxiety didn’t all of a sudden just happen to me. It wasn’t not there one minute and there the next. It’s appearance was a slow and insidious byproduct of years and years of being put into situations that I didn’t know how to cope with. Some related to sex, some related to my home life. Simply put – I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know how to stop bad things happening.
The first time I recognised I had lost control of my anxiety was in my early twenties. Before then I had experienced it fleetingly, but it wasn’t until I had come to terms with a slew of abusive relationships and the abuse that was inflicted upon me during that time that my mental health fully deteriorated.
Safe to say I was pretty poorly at this time in my life. I could barely work and there were a number of times I was picked up off the staff room floor or out of cupboards after collapsing into a heap. The truth is that I had experienced trauma through my early teens and into my twenties and it had finally caught up with me in a bad way. Although I had had therapy as a teenager, I hadn’t fully healed from these experiences and the new ones weighed even more heavily on me. I think this is because as I grew, I began to understand the severity of things.
I remember thinking one day, as I lay next to boxes in the stock room of my work place, that this was it for me. This is as good as it’s going to get. I sat with my manager at the time and for the first time, called what I was feeling by it’s name. After that, I woke up to the fact that I wanted better.
When I finally made it home I looked at myself in the mirror and for the first time in a long time I saw my body and realised that my soul lived there too. It hadn’t occurred to me that all this time I had created a wedge between my body that existed in the physical world and my mind which was ethereal. I knew I needed to bridge the gap and bring these two sides of myself back together but, I didn’t know how.
I finally reached out to my doctor, which was the boldest and bravest thing I have ever done aside from coming out as bisexual in 2017. The hardest thing about going to the doctor wasn’t admitting to someone everything was wrong and felt unfixable, although that was admittedly a tough task. It was putting in the work to bring my mind and body back together. Because to do that I had to want and feel worthy of joy most of the time.
It’s been a slow and steady process that I am still going through to this day. Every day I find a new rock to look under where I’ve squirrelled something away; be they new bruises to soothe or memories to untangle. I’m realising that this is okay. I have participated in therapy, coaching and have taken medication, which have each provided me with unique scaffolding that I’ve needed to be able to take myself apart and put myself together again safely. I have developed the right tools to deal with these new surprises which means that the clouds have parted for me. Colour is beaming back into my world. Music sounds brighter. On the whole I operate with more enthusiasm and love, for myself and for others.
The thing that helped me the most was opening up about these experiences to friends and family members I trusted. It made me feel so much more secure about the validity of these experiences. Finding the right people to talk to, learning how to use therapy tools alongside the right medication has undoubtedly sent me on a good path. I’ve learnt to listen to myself and my own boundaries has meant that I am no longer seeking to recover, but am continually recovering.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that a mental health journey is one we take without expecting to find a destination. What I mean by this is that although we should all strive for mental wellness, we do not fail when we become unwell.
I’m sharing this with you because I never want you to feel like you’re alone in your struggle, lonely in your journey or that there is no way you will be able to see through the fog and find your path. My advice to you is this; allow someone who knows what they’re doing to help you connect your body to your mind. Surround yourself with people who show you daily the value of your soul. Be brave and be bold enough to push your inner critic and saboteur out of your way however they manifest. There is only one of you and that is a miracle this world will never have the privilege of having again.
With love and kindness, Katie.
If you’d like to read more of Katie’s writing you can check out her blog here: I, Baskerville