When in recovery from a mental illness, many sufferers declare a longing of the past. They look at how their lives used to be before they got ill and they miss it. They lament at their lost selves, their carefree nature, their impulsiveness, their genuine smile. All of which was lost when the curtain of mental illness fell before their eyes.
I’m guilty of it too. I wanted “me” back, I wanted to be that studious girl who was physically fit and healthy, who had a social life and who was in charge of her own day. Instead, I was being bossed around by the bully in my head: my entire life was about food and numbers and mirrors and self hatred. I wanted things to be the way they were before and I wanted to be what I was before.
That is a mistake.
I began to look more closely at the person I was before. She was fourteen, excruciatingly shy and had bad acne. I was healthy, sure, but I had definitely romanticised the idea I had of myself.
More importantly, I realised that seeking to be “who I was” is actually very unhelpful.
I endeavoured to look at my life objectively, by sating facts:
I am a 22 year old woman. I have a degree. I am living independently in a city a long way away from where I grew up. I have a boyfriend. I have an entirely new set of friends. I have different priorities.In short- I have changed since then.
I can never go back to being that fourteen year old. I cannot erase what has happened to me since then. It happened and it has changed me irrecoverably. I am a different person to who I was. I have a greater insight into my illness, I am more self aware, more confident, I am so much more fulfilled and developed as an individual.
I should not seek to have the mindset, life nor appearance as 14 year old me. I have grown up and out and sideways, I will never get that person back. She does not exist. What right minded 22 year old aspires to be a practically pre-pubescent child with no qualifications and no experience in the real world?
This releases us from our past. It allows us to look to the future, to what we might be, rather than what we were. The past doesn’t have to determine anything.
I used to play with soft toys and dolls as a child, does this mean I have to do it today? No, I’ve got different interests, I have different priorities.
By the same token, just because I used to starve myself, does that mean I have to do that for the rest of my life?
We are all in a great position now, we are in a place where we can grant ourselves the freedom to be who we want to be.