“Nevertheless, that ache always echoed inside my mind. Throughout most of my adult life, it stayed, sometimes softly whispering and sometimes screaming as loudly as it could. Suicidal ideation took over my mind and attempts became a very real part of my life. “
I have always had an incredibly challenging relationship with my body. As an incredibly depressed, self-loathing teenager, intrusive thoughts were consistently telling me that I would never be enough to find the love and affection I desperately craved. It was just a lot easier for me to blame my appearance for my unhappiness than to actually focus on the symptoms of the much bigger problem going on inside my head.
However, as the pain reached levels that were too high to bear, I could no longer hide behind my low self-esteem and was hospitalized for the very first time for Major Depression. At first, the diagnosis and treatment definitely helped me cope with the symptoms a lot better than I had on my own. Nevertheless, that ache always echoed inside my mind. Throughout most of my adult life, it stayed, sometimes softly whispering and sometimes screaming as loudly as it could. Suicidal ideation took over my mind and attempts became a very real part of my life. Countless doctors unwilling to listen and quick to prescribe left me in a constant state of hopelessness. Death had become the only real solution to stop my suffering. This was my reality until a doctor finally listened. I was brought to her without my consent in a state of crisis, waiting to be dismissed again as I had so many times before. She listened. She genuinely listened and in a matter of 45 minutes, she changed my life. She gave me the chance to share my truth and understood that this was not the depression I had been diagnosed with time and time again. My mood swings, the emptiness and constant fear of abandonment were labelled as symptoms of a different challenge altogether: Borderline Personality Disorder.
I was in no way prepared for this diagnosis. I was not prepared for the immense weight of the stigma. Mental illness is already heavily stigmatized, but Cluster B Personality Disorders are on a completely different level. I became very aware of how much hate there is out there for us. When you have an illness that is already so profoundly difficult to live with that 60% of people attempt suicide, you shouldn’t have to also deal with all the stereotyping and prejudice that is associated with the disorder.
However, I also was not prepared for life altering treatments I was finally able to receive. You are never prepared for such a drastic change in your life, even if it is positive. Learning to cope healthily with symptoms that dominate my mind changed me in ways I cannot begin to describe. For the first time, I began to believe that I was valid in my entirety, that the positive and negative aspects of my illness were manageable and that I could finally find the acceptance in myself I had always been lacking. It has taken a lot of time and therapy, but I can now say that I am worthy of love and acceptance, not only from others, but from myself; Being me, with all my complexities and symptoms, is okay.
Through this journey of acceptance, I’ve come to find that accepting my body needed to also become a priority. My body might have been a source of pain at a part of my life, but I am working to refrain that narrative. My body is the body of a survivor, and I want to cherish it as such. That is really why this project is so important to me. I truly hope to be able to look at these pictures one day and see myself for the work of art that I am.