The Struggle Is Real- but It Can End
If you ask my husband what is one of the most memorable times that we disagreed when I was in the throes of my eating disorder he would say it was the time when we were discussing day-to-day struggles; his perception as a non-mental illness sufferer was MUCH different than mine.
We were having an argument over how stressed I was a simple daily task, and he said to me- “Gah, why does everything have to be a struggle, Brooke? Life really does not have to be this hard.” I got super offended, snapped back at him, “Every day IS a struggle; you’re just living in denial. Every day is a struggle.” Little did I know at the time that struggle was my truth, but it is not that way for all people. Even though there are struggles in life, people can actually live through day-to-day existence without struggling through every, even seemingly mundane, second.
People who are not mentally ill understand this truth; for those of us who are in the battle of our lives with ED, it does not seem possible. Simple tasks such as getting out of bed, getting dressed or eating breakfast can be utterly impossible. My experience was with anxiety and anorexia with purging tendencies; and with that daily battle, the struggle was REAL for me. The same goes for someone who suffers from binge eating disorder, bulimia, addiction, suicidal thoughts… the list goes on. Nothing seems easy when you brain is so full of chatter, static, and opposition that you cannot think clearly, much less grasp reality.
I could not do any normal task without the ED voice in my brain screaming loud as hell. When I would pick out my clothes in the morning my eating disorder voice would be berating me with put downs such as: “you are not good enough”, “you look awful”, and “if you use a behavior (run, crunch, restrict, purge) this will all be better”… And then that same dialogue would repeat when I looked in the mirror to do my make-up or fix my hair. That would sound like: “you are not good enough”, “you look awful”, and “if you use a behavior (run, crunch, restrict, purge) this will all be better”… And then it came time to eat breakfast… You get my point. The eating disorder voice was on repeat and on full volume almost 24/7. Even now in my recovery, when there are times of change or unknown, I can feel my brain slip back into the self-criticizing mode. Before, I would listen to the belittling; I would use a disordered behavior to numb out or unhealthily cope with the stress. Now, I recognize that ED is loud, I fact check with a loved one, and I use opposite action to fight the disordered part of my brain that needs to be shut down. It is simple, but not easy… yet it can be accomplished with practice, support, and time.
I realize now that my husband was correct… life does not have to always be a struggle. It is hard for someone who has never experienced the brain of someone who sufferers from mental illness to understand- and maybe we can be thankful for their inability to empathize… but the world needs to be informed so sympathy and help instead of isolation and judgment can be given to those who do struggle daily. For me, and millions of others in the world, mental illness and struggle ARE the reality; where I can agree with Derrick and also give hopes for those who endure this painful reality is, with time, treatment, support, possibly medication, the struggle CAN end. It CAN cease. It CAN get better. It just takes you, the sufferer, fighting to live free.
Keep up the fight, Warrior. The struggle can end.