How Mental Illness Brought Out the Survivor in Me

Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

It was not the sudden departure of my soul that killed me. It was the tearing out of self, tile by tile, while my terrified pupils watched without recourse, until I had been thrown with cruel abandon in so many directions that it was impossible to remember what it felt like to be whole. It was the sudden ghostly paleness of my world that left me dazed and I felt around anxiously for my passion, which had gone. Yet within the confusion I found an acuity of awareness that lingered. I felt the visceral presence of anguish. I felt the violent brush of pain against my skin. I felt the powerlessness, void of mercy. I watched the last of my hope dissipate like dew in the searing heat. I could see and feel the decomposition of self with such intensity – like ruthless torture for an answer I never possessed.

And then it was as if time had stopped and I watched myself, fingertips raw, grasping for the sorry remains of my shattering. Day after day searching for any congruency, but finding nothing, wanting of a whole. Unable to save myself I asked for help, but saw only revulsion and fear in the eyes of those who promised to stay. There is an acute loneliness, for which I cannot find words, when those that cradled the last of your hope place it at your feet and retreat. They must know I didn’t ask for this – that after 10 years in the stranglehold of anorexia nervosa I pled earnestly for peace. Instead my capable mind is cloaked in charcoal blackness until even though I am breathing, I am sure I have perished.

I must admit it most excruciating to become a ghost in a life that could be so much more. To be sick for so long that empathy becomes resentment. To feel apologetic for your pain. To fear death, then feel like it’s the only answer, then begin wanting for it.

I sweep up my splintered self, unsure if this is a path towards death or it makes room for new life. It’s a gamble I am willing to take. Why the infiltrating, unforgiving veins of darkness breed in the nest of possibility, of happiness, of hope, I have never understood.

But despite the inclination towards cynicism that a lifetime of anorexia and major depression has bred, I won’t give up on the idea that when I finally piece myself back into a whole, I will be a more evolved, empathic, confident woman. Mental illness exposed my ability to splinter, but it also taught me that I am capable of becoming a survivor. Sadness can in fact be the catalyst for positive evolution. I am pieced back together by an evolving belief that hope in fact does live in my journey.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

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