Brittni Teresi

@brittni97 | contributor
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Brittni Teresi

When Self-Care Is Just Survival During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and divided perspectives breed social conflict, getting out of bed each morning has become increasingly more difficult for me. Not to mention how getting out of bed is only the first step in a whole plan of daily expectations. While the world feels like it’s falling apart, I’m still expected to self-motivate myself to work eight hours a day, to interact with the people around me whether physically or virtually and to keep up with all the other tasks of being a human. I need to keep my space clean, cook nourishing meals, do the laundry or even tolerate my fear and the fear of those around me as I bolt around the store, attempting to grab my groceries as quickly as possible. This new world with all its paradoxical expectations is exhausting and most days its rules feel impossible to meet. We are expected to stay in lockdown while embracing productivity or to avoid people while still remaining social. Instead of laughing at a restaurant together, dancing at a bar or even just enjoying someone’s physical presence, we are now supposed to be content with spending Friday nights staring at each other through a computer screen. Of course, we are all just coping in the best ways we know how, and it is inspiring to witness how people have adapted to transfer the most valuable parts of their “before” to this weird “after.” I’ve seen car birthday parades with festive signs and honking horns, high school proms with students dancing in front of their computer screens, picnics, sports and outdoor games as a way of bringing people together. From the outside, it looks as if everyone has discovered how to endure the pandemic while still functioning with as much energy as before. It can feel like the time for grieving the reality is over and it’s time to get back to the daily responsibilities of life. Except the time for grieving isn’t over and accomplishing as much as before the pandemic isn’t always realistic. While some people’s self-care is getting back to full functioning as quickly as possible or gravitating toward energizing activities to distract from fear, there are endless other self-care strategies. Each one is as valid as the other. For me, each day is a constant struggle of sadness, fear, disappointment and uncertainty. No amount of distraction has allowed me to escape these emotions yet, and many days I still find myself internally screaming about what an “unproductive” and “useless” person I’ve become. I find myself quickly spiraling into the endless tunnel of thoughts in my head, questioning how I’m ever going to survive a pandemic if I couldn’t cope with the world before? But the truth is, whether or not I always remember to embrace it, self-care has never failed to ensure that I make it to the next day. It has successfully helped me to survive until today and there is no reason to believe it won’t get me through all the other-worldly tomorrows. I have an entire toolkit of self-care strategies to guide me through particularly difficult moments and each struggle is a chance to practice being intentional about learning which type of care I need in the moment. For example, during the pandemic, one of my favorite self-care strategies has been envisioning caring for myself as if I am a dog.  I need to eat, sleep, go for a walk and embrace some type of play every day, whether that is socializing or reading a book to disengage with the world around me. During COVID-19, my self-care is focusing on survival and trying to trust that accomplishing the minimum right now is a success rather than a failure. For me, self-care is working on accepting that I’ll be grounded, energized and motivated again eventually. In the midst of the pandemic, it’s OK if self-care is simply getting to the “after.” Survival is a win in itself, which not only allows for functioning, but also promises I’ll be there to experience both the simple pleasures of today and the rare cherished moments of the future. For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community: For Anyone Who Needs to Hear This: It’s OK to Just Exist Right Now Making the Most Out of Virtual Mental Health Appointments Mental Health Resources to Help You Cope During COVID-19 7 Things to Do If Social Distancing Is Triggering Your Depression

Brittni Teresi

"Yes, and" Thinking Is Helping Me Sit With Depression During COVID-19

These last few weeks of social isolation, I don’t think I’ve been alone in experiencing the most confusing mix of depression, fear and frustration I think I’ve ever felt before. My mind feels like a constant battle. The emotions are like waves. One moment, I am able to tell myself everything is going to be OK, that I just need to survive the present. The next moment, I find myself shaking, unable to stop sobbing as I wonder if and how I’ll ever survive these emotions all at once: depression, fear, uncertainty, frustration, loneliness, defeat, helplessness, disappointment. The list goes on and on. As someone who struggles with depression, even in my darkest moments, I think there’s always at least a small whisper in the back of my mind telling me to try to challenge the thoughts, that there’s even just a 10% chance the thoughts aren’t true. But, I’ve yet to figure out how to accept the emotion itself. How can I possibly just sit with the agonizing depression, helplessness or defeat without doing something to make it pass? I can’t help but think there has to be something I did to cause the emotion. There has to be something I should be doing to make everything better. In this terrifying time of an international pandemic, maybe I didn’t do anything to cause the coronavirus (COVID-19), the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system, but it feels like my negative emotions are entirely my fault. It feels like I’m selfish for feeling debilitated by the sadness, fear and helplessness because there are so many ways in which I am lucky. Clearly, I should just get over my negative emotions. They aren’t helping anyone and they are focusing on the bad when I still have so much good. Still, forcing myself to ignore the sadness or fear hasn’t made the emotions any less unbearable. Throughout my mental health journey, I’ve learned while I may still have some work to do in accepting my emotions, for better or worse, I have mastered “either-or” thinking. In my mind, I’m either happily functioning or I’ve made no progress with my depression. I’m either engaged in every social obligation, or I’m antisocial. I’m either content, or I’m selfish. And yet, during the confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m starting to understand the difference between this “either-or” thinking and the “yes, and” thinking. Throughout this pandemic, there are so many things I am constantly grateful for, and yet there are so many things I don’t think I’ve ever ached for so much. As a recent graduate who moved across the country, I am so grateful I’m living away from my family so I can’t get them sick, and yet I wish I could be closer to the support of my close friends and family. I am so grateful I have a college degree and a job I enjoy, and yet with everything going on in the world, sometimes I can’t force myself to focus because everything seems so pointless. I am so grateful to have a job that allows me to self-isolate, and yet as a healthy 22-year-old, I can’t help but feel guilty thousands of people are forced to work while I’m allowed to stay at home. I am so lucky for so many things, and yet, I’m still struggling beyond words with depression on top of fear, helplessness and exhaustion. If the pandemic is teaching me anything, it’s that maybe that’s OK. The pandemic has shifted everyone’s lives, and no matter how grateful we are, we are going to struggle. Maybe sometimes negative emotions are unavoidable. While accepting the emotion doesn’t always make the experience any easier, it stops the emotion from escalating into self-hate or from becoming further evidence of being a “bad person.” For me, sitting with gratitude and whatever confusing mix of emotions I’m experiencing gives me permission to cope however I need. It’s an acceptance that “No, everything is not OK right now, and it’s not a failure to feel that way. Right now, it’s OK to listen to what I need and trust eventually things will be OK again.” Struggling with mental health due to COVID-19? Check out the following articles from our community: What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 How Can You Tell the Difference Between Anxiety and COVID-19 Symptoms? Feeling Calm in the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic Might Be a Trauma Response 6 Tips If You’re Anxious About Being Unable to Go to Therapy Because of COVID-19 7 Things to Do If Social Distancing Is Triggering Your Depression

Brittni Teresi

How I (Attempt) to Challenge Negative Depression Thoughts

It is another day in which I feel as if I have no choice but to spend alone in my room. I can’t help but lay in bed feeling immobilized and overwhelmed at the thought of moving. It feels as if all of my energy is being directed toward attempting to ignore the exhaustion radiating through my body. “There is nothing physically wrong with me that is causing my muscles to ache,” I tell myself, “who knew that exhaustion could manifest itself as so much physical pain?” Of course, the more I lay in bed fighting the exhaustion and frustration at myself for not being able to do more, the more my thoughts begin to spiral out of control. The underlying anger I am constantly carrying towards myself gets louder: Why am I so anti-social? Why do I waste so much time so that I can never accomplish anything meaningful? Why am I so disappointing? The list of questions and frustrations with myself goes on and on, growing more and more unbearable. Rationally, in moments like these, I know I should be challenging the thoughts. I know I should be coming up with alternatives as an attempt to weaken the negative self-accusations. Yet, while practice has made me better at identifying these alternative thoughts, they can still feel so meaningless. Sure, the alternative explanations are true for other people. No one can be social all the time, and socialization levels fluctuate based on life circumstances. Everyone needs a rest, even if that rest period ends up lasting months or longer. Finally, it is almost impossible for a person to be disappointing — people are simply fighting their own internal battles, and this sometimes requires self-prioritization or actions that can be difficult for others to understand. Still, when I am stuck in these thoughts, applying these alternatives to myself can feel more like excuses rather than reasonable perspectives. I find myself trapped in my own head because I can’t see why I am deserving of compassionate thoughts when I can list so many negative qualities. I still haven’t found an easy answer for how to challenge the thoughts, and every moment I’m stuck inside my head, I wish there was a magic cure. However, the more difficult nights I’ve had, the more I’ve started to learn new strategies for surviving the thoughts. I’ve learned that it can be helpful to start by viewing the thoughts as information about my own roadblocks to recovery rather than jumping straight to combating them. If I’m struggling so much to challenge so many self-accusations — “anti-social,” “disappointing,” “not enough” — the thoughts most likely stem from a deeper source of frustration I hold toward myself. I may need to confront this greater anger before I can make the thoughts go away. It doesn’t make the thoughts accurate; it makes them a symptom of a greater problem. It also helps to force myself to breathe. I write down all the alternatives to the thoughts, no matter how untrue they seem. Often, I find myself writing the same alternative challenge over and over, as my mind is too overwhelmed to think of any others. While the emotions can still feel intolerable as I’m writing, the distraction serves as a greater escape than the words themselves. Finally, I’ve found that it helps to know that there is a community of strong, worthy people with depression who are also struggling to challenge their unfair negative thoughts. As they come up with alternatives, they are offering compassion and forgiveness to others trapped in similar thoughts. If I can’t yet create compassion and forgiveness for myself, maybe I can gain strength by accepting the inspiration and positive energy from others. Especially on days when it feels like it takes all the strength just to lay in bed and keep breathing, it’s so easy to feel frustrated for not doing enough and to feel drowned by all the self-accusations. Yet, I think it’s also important to remember that the battle against depression is in itself exhausting. For me, while not being able to challenge the thoughts can feel like a loss and like more evidence for why I am not “enough,” maybe it’s also important to remember that just surviving these seemingly intolerable moments is a victory; it is proof that I am stronger than my depression would like me to believe.

Brittni Teresi

Living With Depression Feels Like Going Through the Stages of Grief

It’s late at night and I am sitting with my knees curled up to my chest, as my fingers are running through my hair and my gaze is positioned to the floor. Feeling imprisoned by my thoughts and stuck in a moment of helplessness once again, I try and remind myself to focus on my breathing. Tonight, though, appears to be one of the nights when the dark thoughts are too strong for my breath. They eclipse over the rational me who knows I should practice a coping strategy. They convince me to surrender to their attack instead. After all, tired and defeated me reasons, “H ow can I channel my energy into challenging the thoughts when their negative accusations feel so right ?” And although the night is brutal — the self-hatred unbearable, the tears cathartic yet so strong it feels as if I’ll never stop shaking — I have to give myself credit for getting through the night. Despite the negative thoughts and their torture, I somehow always find a way to wake up the next morning with even the smallest belief eventually the days will get better. Even when I am left feeling numb and withdrawn, I somehow find my own glimmer of hope inside of depression‘s hopelessness to keep going. Still, while I’m grateful I’ve always made it through these moments of unbearable sadness, the longer I’m trapped, the more I find myself paradoxically growing depressed about my depression. I can’t help but think that, while I’ve survived the darkness so far, all of these helpless moments keep adding up. I’m losing more and more of my life to survival rather than to actually living. When someone experiences loss, it is believed they go through seven stages of grief. The first few include shock and denial, pain and guilt and anger and bargaining. While the model was created to describe the death of a loved one, the more I’m plagued by my depression, the more I believe the stages also apply to my mental illness. For me, shock and denial comes in the form of denying my depression altogether. If I tell myself not to be depressed, to keep going through the motions of a day and to avoid all of my thoughts entirely, I’ll eventually earn a worthwhile life. Except the depression always catches up with me, and the negative beliefs about myself and my capabilities which I’ve avoided flood me all at once. This is the intolerable pain of the pain and guilt stage. I find myself having an excruciating breakdown in which the thought of surviving feels unbearable. I always make it through, but the depression wins in reminding me I can’t easily escape the self-hatred or self-disappointment which has made its home inside of me. Once I accept the reality of the depression, I alternate between feeling guilty for withdrawing from my relationships due to the never-ending exhaustion, and feeling angry at myself for not just “getting over’”the depression or “thinking positive.” While I know no one chooses the battles they are forced to fight, and I wouldn’t wish these demons on anyone, during my anger and bargaining stage, I can’t help but question: why me? Why do I have to be the one to keep fighting? Why can’t I just be tired? Finally, I find myself grappling with the depression and reflection stage of grief — the stage in which I am currently struggling. In this stage, I’m fully aware of the destruction my depression has caused, including the isolation and exhaustion I continue to face. I find myself depressed by my depression because I am aware of all it has taken from me. I have lost friendships with beautiful people because I simply didn’t have the energy to be around them. I’ve cancelled plans or stopped responding to text messages because I couldn’t handle the thought of a conversation or, worse, the fear the more time people spent with me, the more they would begin to see me for the terrible person I often believe myself to be. Even when I’ve forced myself to go out and make new memories despite the depression, I find myself remembering the reality of my thoughts — “I would find this moment magical if I wasn’t feeling so numb” — instead of the beauty of the moment. My depression has even robbed me of the memories I should be able to enjoy because the sadness underneath is too strong to forget. With all of these stages of grief and the different emotions wrapped up in each one, I honestly sometimes feel even more tired considering the roller coaster of thoughts I’ve already gone through, and all the thoughts and emotions left to come. I also know I am not done facing the stages I’ve already experienced. The stages are not linear. I oscillate between them depending on my level of energy, my motivation and the strength of my depression. Still, what keeps me going are the flickers of hope and motivation I experience between the stages, as they are signs I’m beginning to experience the positive stages of grief as well. The names of the positive stages of grief in psychology are the upward turn, reconstruction and working through and acceptance and hope. But I like to think of these stages in terms of all they have to offer. They are a promise for peace within myself, when I can focus on books or hobbies instead of on the darkness of my thoughts. They are a pledge that eventually focusing on my breath will be enough to stand up to any darkness I inflict upon myself. With the strength of my depression and all it has taken away, I have to believe that continuing to trust the process and confronting the depression will eventually give me back more than just the ability to survive, but also the ability to embrace adventures, to laugh and to live.

Brittni Teresi

Living With Depression Feels Like Going Through the Stages of Grief

It’s late at night and I am sitting with my knees curled up to my chest, as my fingers are running through my hair and my gaze is positioned to the floor. Feeling imprisoned by my thoughts and stuck in a moment of helplessness once again, I try and remind myself to focus on my breathing. Tonight, though, appears to be one of the nights when the dark thoughts are too strong for my breath. They eclipse over the rational me who knows I should practice a coping strategy. They convince me to surrender to their attack instead. After all, tired and defeated me reasons, “H ow can I channel my energy into challenging the thoughts when their negative accusations feel so right ?” And although the night is brutal — the self-hatred unbearable, the tears cathartic yet so strong it feels as if I’ll never stop shaking — I have to give myself credit for getting through the night. Despite the negative thoughts and their torture, I somehow always find a way to wake up the next morning with even the smallest belief eventually the days will get better. Even when I am left feeling numb and withdrawn, I somehow find my own glimmer of hope inside of depression‘s hopelessness to keep going. Still, while I’m grateful I’ve always made it through these moments of unbearable sadness, the longer I’m trapped, the more I find myself paradoxically growing depressed about my depression. I can’t help but think that, while I’ve survived the darkness so far, all of these helpless moments keep adding up. I’m losing more and more of my life to survival rather than to actually living. When someone experiences loss, it is believed they go through seven stages of grief. The first few include shock and denial, pain and guilt and anger and bargaining. While the model was created to describe the death of a loved one, the more I’m plagued by my depression, the more I believe the stages also apply to my mental illness. For me, shock and denial comes in the form of denying my depression altogether. If I tell myself not to be depressed, to keep going through the motions of a day and to avoid all of my thoughts entirely, I’ll eventually earn a worthwhile life. Except the depression always catches up with me, and the negative beliefs about myself and my capabilities which I’ve avoided flood me all at once. This is the intolerable pain of the pain and guilt stage. I find myself having an excruciating breakdown in which the thought of surviving feels unbearable. I always make it through, but the depression wins in reminding me I can’t easily escape the self-hatred or self-disappointment which has made its home inside of me. Once I accept the reality of the depression, I alternate between feeling guilty for withdrawing from my relationships due to the never-ending exhaustion, and feeling angry at myself for not just “getting over’”the depression or “thinking positive.” While I know no one chooses the battles they are forced to fight, and I wouldn’t wish these demons on anyone, during my anger and bargaining stage, I can’t help but question: why me? Why do I have to be the one to keep fighting? Why can’t I just be tired? Finally, I find myself grappling with the depression and reflection stage of grief — the stage in which I am currently struggling. In this stage, I’m fully aware of the destruction my depression has caused, including the isolation and exhaustion I continue to face. I find myself depressed by my depression because I am aware of all it has taken from me. I have lost friendships with beautiful people because I simply didn’t have the energy to be around them. I’ve cancelled plans or stopped responding to text messages because I couldn’t handle the thought of a conversation or, worse, the fear the more time people spent with me, the more they would begin to see me for the terrible person I often believe myself to be. Even when I’ve forced myself to go out and make new memories despite the depression, I find myself remembering the reality of my thoughts — “I would find this moment magical if I wasn’t feeling so numb” — instead of the beauty of the moment. My depression has even robbed me of the memories I should be able to enjoy because the sadness underneath is too strong to forget. With all of these stages of grief and the different emotions wrapped up in each one, I honestly sometimes feel even more tired considering the roller coaster of thoughts I’ve already gone through, and all the thoughts and emotions left to come. I also know I am not done facing the stages I’ve already experienced. The stages are not linear. I oscillate between them depending on my level of energy, my motivation and the strength of my depression. Still, what keeps me going are the flickers of hope and motivation I experience between the stages, as they are signs I’m beginning to experience the positive stages of grief as well. The names of the positive stages of grief in psychology are the upward turn, reconstruction and working through and acceptance and hope. But I like to think of these stages in terms of all they have to offer. They are a promise for peace within myself, when I can focus on books or hobbies instead of on the darkness of my thoughts. They are a pledge that eventually focusing on my breath will be enough to stand up to any darkness I inflict upon myself. With the strength of my depression and all it has taken away, I have to believe that continuing to trust the process and confronting the depression will eventually give me back more than just the ability to survive, but also the ability to embrace adventures, to laugh and to live.

Brittni Teresi

The ‘Squiggly Line’ of Eating Disorder Recovery No One Talks About

I’ve heard that recovery is like a squiggly line. Overtime, the lows of the line become smaller while the highs get higher. When I am motivated and doing well in recovery, I love this analogy. It empowers me to notice my strengths and all the progress I’ve made. Even in a low moment, I am able to hear a quiet voice whispering within me — my healthy voice — which validates that I still have a long way to go in recovery, but also praises me for coping with the situation, even if only slightly better than I did in the past. Maybe I avoided eating disordered behaviors or redirected frustration away from criticizing my body. Yet, when I am doing my worst, this analogy scares me. My depression grasps me tight, and I am unable to escape from its overpowering strength for days or weeks at a time. Meanwhile, my eating disorder lies, falsely promising relief from my emotions or partnering with the depression to punish my body. In these moments, I question if I have recovered at all. If I am almost as low on the line as I was before I started recovery, maybe I haven’t made any progress; maybe I’m losing the battle against the depression and the eating disorder. Except no one talks about how the especially difficult moments of recovery are also part of the process. Sometimes, the squiggly line breaks its pattern: it drops down lower than it’s been since the beginning stages of recovery, and it seems like the highs will never come. For weeks, it feels like the line has stopped moving — no high, no baseline, still stuck in the low. It feels right to blame myself for falling down so far or to criticize myself for not successfully implementing coping strategies. If I had the knowledge to fight the harmful thoughts or confront the painful emotions, why didn’t I try hard enough to use it? Few people mention how surviving these lowest lows in the later stages of recovery is a success in and of itself. Regardless of how long the low lasted or the way it was handled, you survived. And while it may have felt like you’d be stuck there forever, you pulled yourself out of it once again. You found the strength and the courage to continue to face the many obstacles that remain on the squiggly line of recovery. Finally, while the lowest low may have felt discouraging, overcoming it only added to the self-discovery journey by providing more insight on personal strengths, triggers and areas for continued growth or exploration. Still, I like to believe that towards the end of the long recovery process, the lows on the squiggly line really do get smaller and the highs get even higher than anticipated. While I think the squiggly line will always have unexpected drops and turns, I hope that one day, I’ll have the strength to be my own ally when confronting the most difficult lows. Regardless, I know that the unexpected highs throughout the journey are worth fighting for and even when the highs seem far away, they are an ever present reason to continue working toward recovery.

Brittni Teresi

Anger at How Diet Culture Affects People and Eating Disorders

As a recent graduate, one of my simple yet cherished moments each week is when my co-workers and I take a break from work to enjoy lunch together. While my anxiety is usually heightened by the food-centric moment, the gathering always offers a space to converse and laugh with my team. Although it is easy for me to feel incompetent in a new job role, the lunches remind me that I am surrounded by supportive people. They replenish my energy to fight the anxious thoughts and to keep adjusting to the new job. But some days, the lunches remind me of how insecure our society has become. Some days, I sit at the conference table feeling sick to my stomach as I watch people bond over discussions regarding low calories or eliminating entire food groups. My eating disorder grasps onto the comments, getting louder with each sentence that is added to the conversation: “You still eat all those foods,” “you’re having way more calories for lunch than they are,” “told you it’s too much sugar.” Perhaps the most universally agreed upon diet conversation-starter is how unhealthy certain foods are: “I shouldn’t have the dessert someone left in the office today.” Or, if they do choose to enjoy the snack, they criticize themselves aloud: “I’m so bad for eating that.” Too many days, my eating disorder has torn me down with these thoughts, practically drowning me when someone else vocalizes their own guilt. For eating disorders, their comment is validation that I should feel disgusted with myself. Yet, as I continue to work around other people who are also faced with shame for providing themselves with physical or emotional nutrients, I am instead continuously overcome with a wave of sadness. Quickly, though, that sadness is replaced by anger — anger at the propaganda and false messaging surrounding people’s bodies and well-being. Anger that we have all been provided with a false definition of “health.” Food is not moral. Food does not dictate your worth as a person, nor does weight or other body features, though society will do everything in its power to tell you otherwise. Society will criticize difference, saving a special cruelty for people in bigger bodies, people who are differently-abled, or people with different external features. It is unfair and shameful. Propaganda, false messaging and science funded by the diet industry: these are all shameful. You are not shameful for the food you put in your body to nourish your soul. The more I hear how so many of us are faced with the same insecurities, the more I am determined to disobey eating disorders and all of their lies because eating disorders represent so much more than my own struggles. They represent a bullying epidemic that has been normalized to tell people that they are not enough. The dieting messages or illusion that “one perfect body image” should or does exist has caused us to deprive ourselves of self-love, nourishment and more genuine conversations centered on our experiences instead of our food intake. We’ve become so distanced from gentle nutrition, or the act of incorporating all foods and trusting our bodies to tell us what we need, that it seems as if counting calories, attacking our own bodies and avoiding social foods are universal conversation starters. We are fighting a war against an industry built on our own insecurities, and we need to return to body trust and acceptance through nourishing ourselves and turning away from conversations about diet, both in and out of the workplace. I believe that disordered eating and negative body image are side effects of a society focused on self-doubt and individual blame. But, I also believe that fighting against diet culture, whether that means battling an eating disorder or advocating against food deprivation and false health information, offers an invaluable opportunity to create a new society built on connection and empathy for one another.

Brittni Teresi

When Depression Makes You Hurt the People You Love

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Staring up at the ceiling, I can’t help but feel empty and numb. The rest of the house is quiet and dark, everyone sleeping after retiring from a hard day. Yet I am wide awake, struggling and drowning. Even after a nice day meeting up with a friend for coffee, the demons of emptiness, loneliness, guilt and self-hatred continue to gnaw at me inside. As if looking for reasons to hate myself, my mind begins to list off all the ways I disappointed people, both today and in the past. The list depicts vivid imagery of the accidental harmful words I spat out in impulsive anger. I picture the times I let my anxiety take charge of my social life, saying “no” to seeing the people I love instead of going out to see a movie or enjoy lunch. The demons make a great case for themselves. In some ways, my depression seems so right. I find it hard to argue with the demons. Perhaps this is why they are so effective. While I don’t hate myself, I hate the person my depression makes me become. I hate the way I often avoid my friends, terrified to have fun because, what if I don’t have the energy or what if they don’t really want to hang out with me? I hate the pessimism that escapes my mouth, which couldn’t be further from the optimistic and positive person I have always known myself to be. I find myself thinking — and sometimes saying — “What’s the purpose of life?,” “I’m not contributing anything to the world anyway” and, when I’m feeling my worst, “I don’t deserve to be here anymore.” I hate the way I disassociate from life, losing touch with people I love, only making me feel more isolated and worthless. Most of all, I hate the way my depression and anxiety completely consume my mind, how it forces me and those around me to believe I really am the unreliable, pessimistic and careless person depression paints me to be. Of course, if everyone with depression hopelessly succumbed to the demons inside their minds, we would quickly lose ourselves and any shred of hope toward recovery. We have to take a step back from the demons and realize the incredible amount of strength it takes to face these toxic, never-ending voices each and every day. Quite honestly, just acknowledging I am not the demons has been a huge step toward recovery in and of itself.  The passionate, kindhearted, and energetic person I know I am still exists inside somewhere. Knowing this, I can go to battle each day knowing I am not fighting a worthless war, but rather saving myself from the monster of depression that attacks far too many people each day. Yet, throughout the battle, I know my demons have caused me to hurt so many of the people I love. They have caused me to fail to treat the people I cherish as the royalty they are to me. If I could reach out to everyone I have hurt because of my struggle, I would say I am sorry for not responding to your messages or canceling plans, especially when you were just trying to let me know you care. I care about you more than you know. I am sorry for being overly negative at times or for insulting you when you didn’t deserve it. I can’t always help when the depression is winning more than I’d like it to, but I promise I’m fighting against it everyday. I’m sorry I am not always the optimistic, energetic person you know. I want myself back too and I promise I will continue to battle the demons until I rescue my mind once and for all. Still, laying on the floor staring up at the ceiling, I cover my face with my hands and let out a deep sigh as if I can breathe out the war going on inside my mind. I’d be lying if I said I suddenly feel better or that the demons have silenced themselves. I never know if the battle will be better or worse in the morning, or whether I will remain strong enough to separate myself from the depression the next day. But I am comforted by the fact that the person I am inside is worth fighting for, even if the demons lie and tell me otherwise. I am comforted because I have a support system, even if I don’t always see it, and they deserve to have the person they love back. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Any_Li.

Brittni Teresi

Learning to Accept Weight Gain in Eating Disorder Recovery

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741. Staring at myself in the mirror, sitting cross-legged on the floor trying not to be distracted by my body, I am debilitated by loneliness once again. All I want to do is crawl into a ball, cry myself to sleep and disappear for a while. All I want is to escape the voice inside me calling me fat, ugly, disgusting, worthless and fat, fat, fat. I want to be a “normal” person again who isn’t consumed with thoughts about weight, but instead has thoughts about friends, success and dreams for the future. Yet, as I sit in front of the mirror, all I can think is how gruesome my future may be if I don’t lose weight. All I can think is how weight and food will never stop torturing me. Even in my process of recovery, the voices of Ana (anorexia) and Mia (bulimia) never seem to quiet themselves. I’m terrified of falling back to Ana once again. It’s as if Ana and Mia cannot quite decide which one should claim their territory over my body. It’s as if my mind and body has become a game board where Ana and Mia are the players and they take turns making their moves until one of them will destroy my soul altogether. Sitting in front of the mirror, I can’t help but feel completely hopeless. How will I ever love myself if I just keep getting bigger? How could I possibly love myself at my current weight? Worst of all, how am I supposed to continue to make it through life, day by day, just trying to survive and ignore the thoughts of food and weight that are always consuming me? What kind of a life is one only dedicated to eating or not eating, losing weight or hating myself for gaining weight? I’d be lying if I said that, suddenly, as I stare at myself in the mirror, all of the answers to my questions became clear and I suddenly can accept the idea of gaining weight or intuitively eating. I’d be lying if I said I suddenly discovered how to love myself, regardless of my weight. Trying to decide how to eat and when to eat are still constant thoughts that are always at least in the back of my mind. Perhaps experiencing weight gain is not a loss, but instead another challenge to stretch our comfort zones and demonstrate the endless amount of strength we have inside of us. Struggling for self-acceptance only grows our ability to reach true recovery. After all, many of us carry the weight of depression and self-hatred every day. Surely, we can destroy the self-hatred and depression. Any amount of weight is healthier than the hatred I subjected my mind to every day. As incredibly hard as it is to accept, I am not my weight — as much as Ana and Mia would like me to believe I am. I have so much more to gain from recovery, even if a few extra pounds has to come with it. As I write this, I still struggle with the weight that has collected on my body. Yet, I also can’t help but notice the tiny spark of light that exists within my eyes, as if a small part of me is begging for recovery and self-love. No matter how hard, this is the part of myself I need to nourish. Despite what Ana and Mia would like me to believe, I deserve more than they have to offer me. I have to keep fighting in spite of them, even if that means accepting a few extra pounds, because I am more than my weight. The burden of self-hatred and depression are so much heavier than any amount of weight I could possibly gain in recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.