“I am not my imbalance”

wipe. rub. wipe two ways up. two ways down. The red from the irritated skin deepens. And deepens. Keep wiping. Wipe away the words. Wipe away the experience that is already quickly becoming a memory. Rub it all away, put a smile back on your face and go out into the world. Just like old times.

I had hidden my depression and anxiety from everyone I knew for a very long time. I was so ashamed of needing medication in order to get up in the morning that I didn’t even tell my parents. I paid for the medication in cash without insurance just to avoid having to tell my parents. It wasn’t that I thought they wouldn’t understand why I needed the medicine. I was afraid they would understand too well. I didn’t want them to feel like they failed as parents because I wanted to return the gift of life they had given me.

It had been a long road to recovery, filled with many tears and close calls. What ultimately got me through it was the love that people insisted on showing me even when I tried so hard to push them away. The other thing that helped me was hearing the stories of those who had been in my place and survived. I knew I owed a service to come out and share my story.

One of the hardest things about dealing with my illness was that I felt as a leader in my community and as a role model I couldn’t admit that I had weaknesses. Not only did I have weaknesses, but I wasn’t actually the happy, cheery person I pretended to be. If I wasn’t actually happy, what was I to people? It seemed like so many of the communities I was a part of only valued me for what I represented and not what I really was. It was so hard to be told constantly that I had to project positivity when all I felt was negativity. If I felt anything at all.

Everything outside of me was telling me what to do. Even my own body was telling me what to do by refusing to produce enough serotonin for me to be happy. All I wanted was a small way to have control. And so I started to control what I ate. If I couldn’t help myself, I could at least hurt myself. With all of this imbalance, even that seemed like a consolation.

Until I started the medication. It took a long time to realize that the medication was not the only thing making me better. I was also playing a role, along with everyone else in my life who reminded me that I was still loved. I don’t need to skip a meal in order to remind myself I have control over where my life takes me.

I am not my imbalance. I am me, for better or for worse.