It feels as though I have been at war with myself for some time. I think that is an accurate description of depression: an introspective war. Part of my healing process has been to negotiate a peace treaty, a ceasefire, a truce instead of antagonism.
More than that, I needed to become friends with myself again.
It hasn’t been easy. But it has been easier than I thought it would be.
I started with affirmations. My therapist asked me what Bryan would say to me when I was in the middle of a bad episode, what sort of things would penetrate the darkness and bring me back to the light, even just a little bit. Even just a pinprick. Then she wrote them on a note card and I taped it to my bathroom mirror. That was three months ago. That note card is still there. It reads: You are amazing and I love you.
My task was to say those words to myself every day. Look myself in the eye, and say, out loud, “You are amazing, and I love you.”
It felt ridiculous. It felt absurd. I was embarrassed the first few times I did it. I made Bryan leave the adjoining room once because I felt so self-conscious having him hear me saying these words to myself. But I did it. I made it a habit; every time I came into the bathroom, I’d catch my own eye, and say it. Sometimes I’d even throw in a wink.
Slowly, it began to feel less ridiculous.
Slowly, it began to feel more true.
And I noticed that some other things were changing, too. It became easier for me to focus on the good things that I was doing, rather than wearing “bad thing” blinders. I was able to look more objectively at the things I was attempting to achieve, to see the real progress I was making and not just the setbacks. To see my worth as a person. Bryan and I went for a long walk in the coulees in Lethbridge and on the way back, sweaty and dusty, I caught sight of my reflection in the sideview mirror and thought, “Hm, I’m really pretty.” It was an idle thought, a moment where my guard was down, and those words traipsed right on in as if they belonged there. Words that I had never thought before.
I think of myself in different terms now. Not “the depressed, complicated, hard to handle girl.” But smart, creative, capable. The girl who is good at her job. The girl who has a million creative outlets because she can’t contain it all within herself. The girl who is a great sister and a great friend. I used to think it was silly to think that men might be flirting with me, because why would they want to flirt with me, but now I shrug and think, Why wouldn’t they flirt with me? That subtle shift in thinking has led to a cascade of difference.
I look at myself with more kindness now. I practice self-compassion every day. I still tell myself I love you. I don’t know what it is, therapy or medication or becoming my own friend again, or some combination therein (definitely some combination therein), but I have never felt so good in my life. If I ever have, it has been lost in the mist and murk of childhood memories.
Nothing is perfect. I still have bad days. Days that are as dark as they have ever been. But for the most part, for the majority of my time, I am doing just fine.
More than just fine.
I am doing well.