I used to think that not being able to breathe because there wasn't a place to sit at the lunch table was normal. I thought considering if anyone would notice if you all of sudden were gone was normal. I thought having to pray every night for His protection and a restful night's sleep was normal. I was told "it's just a phase", "you're fine", "you'll be okay", "it's normal". So I played along in the game of life, did my best, and acted normal. I watched how other people acted; when they were happy, and sad, and angry. I learned to become "normal" because that's how you survive. I learned how to become everyone else around me, how to camouflage myself just enough to be normal, be excepted. And it worked. "Fake it till you make it" they said. This soon became my best talent. Putting on a happy face, going through the motions. Years later. Still playing the same game, by this time I knew how it worked, the rules, the tricks. How to get by, how to blend in with the people around me, accommodate them, be there for them, support them. Hiding whoever I was, for someone a little bit more normal. Of course every person has their story. Mine is one of those tragic pity stories that makes people look at you and say "wow, you're so strong". But they couldn't be more wrong. All I was, was a scared kid inside the body of someone who appeared to "have it all together". I choose not focus on my story here, but rather how it affected me. I was convinced my happiness was worth nothing, so I did everything I could for those who surrounded me. I thought my life was worth nothing, but maybe it could be if I could help better the ones around me. I was so ashamed of who and what I was that I latched on little bits of those around me, to cover everything I hated. With every bit I grabbed, I let go of a little piece of me. To every story there is a tipping point, here is mine. One day I met a boy, who I quickly fell for. We dated for 2 1/2 years. He was my entire life. He was the biggest piece I picked up, and he cost me the biggest piece of myself. Eventually, we graduated, and made promises we couldn't keep. "We are too different", he would say, "we want different things now". While he wasn't wrong, I couldn't imagine letting such a big part of who I became go. But I didn't have a choice. He left me anyway, for another girl. I broke. I didn't know who I was without him. I didn't know what to do with myself. So many years of losing myself in other people. So many years of hiding and covering myself to appear normal, I could no longer find the girl who used to be. This what we call rock bottom. The anxiety and depression grew stronger, it began to swallow me, spiral around me. Again I thought this was normal. Finally one day I couldn't stand it anymore, I knew there had to be something truly wrong. After years of faking normalcy I started seeing someone. I learned there was a reasons to all the things I spent years being ashamed of, years covering up. Real, validating, medical reasons. Slowly I fought to find the person I had my whole life smothering. Slowly gaining back pieces of myself I had given up over the years, learning that my voice deserved to be heard, the feelings were valid, and my emotions mattered just as much as those surrounding me. I learned relationship of all kinds are a two way street. I am not saying that I am fully better, or that it was an easy journey I am not saying that I don't have bad days, or every once in a while break down and have a panic attack. Recovery is not linear. It is something you gradually works towards each day, it is something that requires a bigger picture perspective. Please know I have not got this far on my own. I have had help from my friends and doctors each step along the way. And that doesn't make me weak. What I needed was someone to tell me I was worth fighting for, that I deserved to love myself enough to value my own life. I am slowly becoming myself again, unpacking the pieces I have collected along the way. What I hope you gain from my story is knowing you don't have to be "normal". It is okay. And you don't have to be perfect, and put together. It is okay to fall apart sometimes. You don't have to fight these battles on your own. It is okay to ask for help. You don't have to give up everything for those around you. It is okay you can still love them, and take care of yourself too. You are worth fighting for, you deserve to be heard, you don't have to hide any part if yourself to be "normal". Everything you feel is valid, and there is nothing weak or wrong about asking for help.
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