When I wrote my poem, “What I Want You to Know”, in 2016 (see the section entitled Poems) I had the mindset of trying to make people understand the positive part of my illness; the part that talks about courage and strength and resilience. What I have always tended to shy away from are the ugly parts as I worry they will somehow take away from the message of hope I want to convey. I also had concerns that it would make me look like a fraud. Would talking about the really ugly parts and how I still often struggle with them take away from the message about the power of recovery? Then I read a book where the author prefaced talking about some really horrible things that happened to her by saying she did not actually want her readers to know the story. But she told it anyway and I realized that in doing so her message of hope wasn’t lost, in fact it was amplified. Another author, Brene Brown, talks about leaning in to vulnerability so here is my attempt at doing so.
Welcome to the things I don’t want you to know!
· At my worst I would go up to a week or more without a shower or any type of personal hygiene just because even the thought of it, let alone doing it, would physically exhaust me. And yes this is as gross as it sounds. It has gotten to the point in the past where I ended up with painful sores on my body.
· I’ve hurt people who loved me and frustrated them to the point of backing away. Now I know you will say something like ‘then they aren’t true friends’, but I don’t agree. Everyone has a breaking point and I can be a taxing person to be in any kind of relationship with. Some had to back away for their own personal self-care and I understand that better than anyone. It hurts but it happens.
· For six years I stayed in a secret, mentally abusive relationship with a man who used me for his own purposes simply because I did not see myself as good enough for anyone better. This is a more recent trauma that I am still working my way through.
· Although it has never been consistent thankfully, I am a cutter. For those who are not familiar with it, it can be best explained as making intentional cuts to the skin which provides a temporary release from your emotional pain. Make no mistake though, it is very dangerous and if you are a cutter please get help.
· My relationship with food has always been an issue and I struggle every day with body image and weight. As part of my illness I would binge eat to the point of physical illness and there is much shame in that. You can work on abstaining from things like alcohol or drugs, but when it comes to food you need it to survive. There is no choice to stop eating and that relationship is a tough one for me.
· I smoke cigarettes. It is a horrible, nasty, and deadly habit and I am ashamed to admit that stopping has proved difficult. If I ever catch my niece or nephews with a cigarette I will probably freak out. I know its an addiction and I know there are tools out there….I just can’t seem to shake this one. I have an addictive personality.
· My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has manifested itself as intense hoarding over the years, especially after my father passed away. I’ve had to have friends help me clean more times that I can count and once we found a nest of baby mice in my cupboard. I was mortified. Letting go of objects has never been easy for me and I’m just glad I never ended up on one of those reality shows!
· I have been the victim of sexual violence by a man I was in a relationship with. At the time I thought it was okay because he said he loved me (ahhh the brains of youth). As a result I spent 14 years of my life not dating anyone while I struggled with the pain of realizing what had been done to me.
These are ugly truths and even as I write this I am unsure if I will publish it or not. If I do it will be a huge moment for me and something I hope will not dampen the light I wish to convey. We must always remember that no matter how horrible a situation is, we can find a way through it. Many of you out there may experience some of your own ugly moments and that’s okay. Be strong, be brave, be kind to yourself. We are all in this together.