The Moment I Realized I Was Worthy of Love, Despite My Mental Health Struggles
This past year was a challenging one in many ways for me. I was a freshman at college, getting used to being away from home and in a new environment. I was also under a lot of academic and social pressure. This stress led to poor decision making and poor consequences. To top it off, I was also seriously struggling with my mental health. I found myself grappling with a bipolar spectrum diagnosis, a recurring eating disorder and intermittent alcohol abuse. Needless to say, this past year was a trying time for me in more ways than one. There were many things that just didn’t seem in the cards for me this year. A relationship was one of them.
But life works in mysterious ways.
I met Kyle through mutual friends at a social event organized by a religious group on campus. I was attracted to him from the moment I met him, but I never thought he’d feel the same way about me. In fact, I didn’t think he’d even notice me. It took confidence of a monumental kind just to even make small talk with him. As it turned out, he was one of the friendliest, kindest people I had ever encountered. Once we got the conversation going, he was so easy and fun to talk to. We became friends and talked more as the weeks went on, but I never expected anything of it.
Toward the end of my spring quarter, I invited Kyle to my sorority’s formal dance. I had just gotten over a brief fling with another guy, and was looking for someone fun to accompany me. I knew Kyle would be the perfect man for the job. When he said yes, I was beyond ecstatic. I still didn’t think a relationship would manifest from this, but I was excited just to be with him. It was a great night, filled with laughter and good fun. I hadn’t enjoyed myself that much in a long time.
A few days after the formal, Kyle asked me to go get coffee with him. I was thrilled just to be able to spend more time with such a fun guy. We had a blast wandering through the city and exploring all the sights. At the end of the night, he invited me back to his dorm. We just sat and talked for a while, which was actually quite refreshing. After some time, he leaned in and kissed me. I didn’t know what to do; I was simultaneously shocked and exhilarated. When I pulled back, he told me how beautiful I was. No man had ever told me that before, and I blushed with embarrassment. When I went home that night, I played the words over and over in my head. I felt, for the first time in forever, a sense of peace with myself.
Kyle and I started dating not long after that. We spent a lot of time together between classes and exams, and we really got to know each other well. One night, he invited me over to his dorm to talk. I came over and sat down with him. He talked a great deal to me about his life and personal struggles, and when he was finished, he said, “Tell me your story.”
Filled with a sense of comfort and trust unlike any other, I did. I told him everything: the good, the bad and the ugly. I told him about my struggles with body image and with eating. I told him about my mood swings and my recent diagnosis. I told him about the multiple mental health crises I had been through, and how I didn’t expect to come out the other side. I told him about my journey from illness to recovery to relapse and back to recovery again. I told him everything. And the whole time he just sat there, holding me. The both of us choked back a few tears.
I remember being so afraid of what Kyle would think of me after I told him my story. Would he think I was crazy? Would he think I was too broken to love? Would he just leave me on the spot? But he didn’t. He just listened, with an open mind and an open heart.
Not long after that night, Kyle told me he loved me. It was the first time a romantic partner had ever told me they loved me. I had never felt so genuinely loved before, either. I knew he meant it when he said it, and I couldn’t help but get emotional. I told him I loved him too, and I knew I really did. It was an incredibly special moment for me, given the ups and downs of the past year.
I’ll admit it. I am not the best when it comes to loving and accepting myself. Frankly, I suck at it. I’m perfectionistic, self-critical and extremely scrutinizing. I never give myself enough credit. I never applaud myself for the small victories, and I rarely accept praise for my accomplishments. Loving myself is a real challenge. But Kyle teaches me, every day, that I am worth loving. He teaches me, every day, what it means to love. He shows me unconditional compassion and empathy, without asking for anything in return. He runs to my side when crises occur. He holds my hand in the dark moments, and tells me that it’s going to be OK. And most importantly, he fights for me. He won’t let me give up on myself.
So maybe I was wrong to think a relationship wasn’t possible for someone like me. Maybe I was wrong to think I didn’t deserve love. Maybe I was wrong to isolate myself for so long, thinking I didn’t need other people. Maybe, just maybe, I was wrong about it all.
I am worthy of love. And so are you. Maybe you don’t think you deserve love in your life, but you’re wrong. We all deserve love, we all deserve to be happy. The pain you feel does not define who you are. You’re more than that. You are a human being who deserves the utmost compassion and dignity. You deserve to find someone who makes you feel like the world is yours.
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Photo via contributor.