Facing Frightening Fears

(Had to go with the little bit of alliteration in the title)

When I was little, my biggest fear was that monsters lived in my closet. Whenever I turned off the lights and climbed into bed, I would glance nervously at the double doors, halfway expecting them to open once I closed my eyes and for all sorts of evil, scary shapes with claws and sharp teeth to emerge.

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As I grew older, I slowly began to realize that there were not monsters living underneath my bed. Looking back on this time in my life, it almost seems like a silly thing to have feared.

But the monsters haven’t gone away. Rather, they’ve sort of migrated, and now they live in my head.

My biggest fear has easily become the terror of being alone. I am frightened of ending up friendless, loveless, and all by myself.

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This nightmarish scenario usually comes complete with pouring rain, just for the extra irony.

Having depression and anxiety meant that I often isolated myself from others. It’s still something I do. These feelings of sadness and apathy just become overwhelming and prevent me from going out and enjoying my life. It’s not that I want to be this way.

True, sometimes I prefer being by myself; maybe curled up under a blanket with a good book and a cup of tea. This is the introvert in me. I consider myself sort of an extroverted introvert: sometimes I’m energized by and happy to be around others, but other times, it’s just exhausting.

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But there are moments where I really want to be around others, I just can’t get past the mental monsters I mentioned earlier. They convince me that people don’t like me; that my personality is repulsive and my sense of humor is stupid. Why would anyone want to spend time with you? they whisper. Nobody wants to be around you. 

And it’s all too easy to listen to these voices. They’ve caused me to miss out on several experiences that, looking back, I would have loved to have. Long nights staying up with friends laughing and watching movies. Lunch and coffee dates. Parties full of socializing and some truly horrific dancing skills. College is supposed to be the place where you start to discover who you truly are. But for me, it was spent in the constant shadow of mental illness.

I’m also quite the romantic, so when I think about how I’m going to spend the rest of my life, I envision it spent with my best friend.

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However, the voices rear their ugly heads here as well. You’ll never find that person, they say. You’ll always be lonely.

But there are times where I manage to stand up to the voices. No, I say. I have never been alone, and I never will be. I have the most incredible network of supports made up of so many friends and family members. People who I’ve never spoken to before have reached out to me to offer words of encouragement, which have gotten me through some of my darkest times. And people who have always been by my side have stayed right there.

Even if I can allay this fear, there are still others.

My second biggest fear pertains to my eating disorder. And it is, quite simply, that once this whole recovery process is done and dusted, I will still be dissatisfied with the way I look. Self-consciousness is inherent in having anorexia, especially being in the recovery process. It’s been demonstrated time and again by studies and by people who have made it through this difficult period of their lives that recovering anorexics spend a lot of time, physically, leaps and bounds ahead of where they are mentally. So oftentimes I find myself looking at my self through the lens of body dysmorphia, wondering if I will ever reach a point where I am satisfied with the way that I look. This has never been something I’ve attained, so I have no idea what it would feel like. Even when my weight was lower and I was fully wrapped up in my disorder, I was never small enough. There was never a “good enough”. And were I to have continued down this dark path, I would have died.

That’s the frightening reality I face that encourages me to keep going when nothing else does. I know that no matter how uncomfortable I feel with myself; no matter how unhappy I am with the way I look and feel; no matter how strong my desire to relapse is, nothing will ever be stronger than my desire to live.

This is how I talk back to my eating disorder, and it’s what I encourage anyone who’s really struggling with any type of eating disorder or body dysmorphia to try for themselves. Think about everything that life has to offer: beautiful sunsets and sunrises, moments where you laugh until you cry, amazing friends who are there for you in times of need, love beyond what you ever thought was possible to feel… the list goes on and on. Recovery is so incredibly worth it.

Of course I have other smaller fears, like spiders and clowns and other creepy things. But these two biggest fears sometimes seem impossible to conquer. However, every day, bit by bit, moment by moment, I’m working to overcome them, just like I did with my childhood fear of monsters.

Because in the end, they’re all in my head. They are not real.

But I am.

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