Agoraphobia, Self-Harm, + Depression

agoraphobia
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I’m a pretty big self-love advocate (just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere and didn’t know, check out my workbook!). It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life, encouraging women to discover the ability to love who they are.

This path hasn’t been easy. I haven’t always loved myself, in fact, I have downright hated myself, loathed myself, and wished that there was some way I could erase my existence. Thank you depression. I don’t like the thought of other women feeling that way. I don’t want YOU to feel that way. There’s a better way. I want to tell you that whatever reasons you don’t like yourself – they aren’t good enough reasons. You deserve more. You deserve to love yourself.

I want to tell you about my life before self-love.

Maybe you’ll see that you aren’t alone. Maybe reading my story will show you that not all hope is lost. Learning to love yourself isn’t easy. It’s not something that you wake up one day deciding to do and then bam, every problem in your life is solved and you love what you see in the mirror. It takes work, hard work. You might start trying and then feel like it’s too hard, or something happens that reminds you why you find yourself so unlikable. Don’t give in. There’s always hope. Before self love…

My apartment looked like something out of Hoarders.

Maybe not as bad but it was pretty close. Dirty dishes in the sink that had been there for months and months. Used paper plates thrown haphazardly on the floor. Stains on the carpet and furniture because when something spilled I didn’t care enough to clean it up. Clothes everywhere, piles of empty pizza boxes, and bags of trash that I didn’t care enough to take out to the dumpster. Anyone looking at that scene would just think how lazy and sloppy I was. 

In truth, I was in a severe depression (and had been for years).

I found it hard to care about anything. Apathy and lethargy were my best friends. So often we think of depression as this huge event that involves tons of tears and constant suicidal thoughts. Sometimes it’s like that. But a lot of the time it’s this emptiness + avoidance that you just get used to and it stops being a big deal. It’s just life.

I had agoraphobia.

I didn’t really know or understand it at the time but I’d have intense anxiety if I had to go anywhere other than my safe zones – work and home. If I had to go anywhere outside of those two places I’d be hit by a wave of intense anxiety. This caused me to further isolate myself.

I thought agoraphobia meant being unable to leave the house at all. That if you stepped one foot out the door you’d have a panic attack. In severe cases, it is, but it’s also a lot more complicated than that.

Some people can leave the house for a select few places. Some can leave the house if they have their favorite person with them. Like all mental health – it’s not the same for everyone.

I’d literally get home from work and play video games until it was time for bed.

I look back now and I wonder how I could live that way. There are so many connections with what was going on inside of me and what was manifesting in my home. I didn’t feel like I was worthy of a safe space, a comforting space, or a space that made me feel good about myself. Realizing that I do deserve those things, realizing that I am lovable and my home should be lovable and I am allowed to love and be proud of my home, is part of what self-love has given me.

I ate my feelings and I had a lot of feelings.

I had no concept of self-control or nutritional awareness when it came to food. Food was comfort. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and I didn’t care how bad it was for me. If I wanted to eat a whole package of bacon for dinner, I did. I ate pizza all of the time, ice cream, cookies, and chips were my major food groups and it never bothered me. I never moved, I never exercised, I sat in front of the TV or played computer games and that was my life and I just didn’t care. Sometimes I’d be bothered by it, but I just shoved those feelings down.

I looked in the mirror and saw nothing but someone who was fat and ugly. I refused to see anything else.

I’m not saying you have to be a health freak, far from it. I’m also not saying that your weight equates how you feel about yourself. (I consider myself quite pleasantly plump!) You should be aware of what’s good for you and what isn’t and then make conscious decisions that involve moderation and mindfulness. Binge eating is one of my go-to’s when I’m depressed and anxious and at that point, my whole life was one entire binge.

How I treated my body was another indicator of how little I cared about myself.

I surrounded myself with people that didn’t love me.

This one still frustrates me, there’s still lingering dread when thinking about the people that I used to let into my life. When I was nineteen I had my first ever relationship and he happened to be married. Being the “other woman” had an extremely destructive impact on my life. It was the first time I had ever been in love, ever been kissed, ever felt like someone actually cared about me and in the end, it reinforced every bad thing I had ever thought about myself. Unworthy. Unlovable. Unwanted. Not-good-enough.

I was so vulnerable in my depression and in my low self-esteem that I convinced myself it was all I deserved.

Two years later, I was still the other woman. I had given him thousands of dollars in an effort to help him get his life together and move out. I had been lied to more times than I thought possible. He ‘cheated’ on me. I had been mentally and emotionally manipulated and verbally abused. I stayed in that relationship because I was completely convinced that it was all I was going to have because no one else would love me and when he finally left his wife? Only then would I have proof that I was worth something. (spoiler alert: he didn’t leave her for me)

That is how little I loved and valued myself.

I hurt my body on purpose. (Trigger Warning)

This one is harder to talk about. I used to cut myself… a lot. One of my ways to self-injure was to cut words into my skin. Even though it’s been almost a decade now, I still bear scars on my thighs that say ‘broken, ‘unloved’, ‘worthless’, ‘silence’, and a slew of other terrible things that I felt defined me. It was my way of punishing myself for being a terrible human being. Looking back, I know that I wasn’t a bad person.

I did bad things. I had a lot of mental and emotional issues. I’ve struggled with severe anger issues for as long as I can remember. I had to be self-aware enough to acknowledge and want to fix all of those things. It was hard to face those parts of myself. I no longer feel rage at myself for what I used to be. I feel a lot of sympathy and a lot of compassion. Now I look at those words that mark my skin and they don’t have meaning to me anymore other than to stir up compassion for the girl I used to be.

They just serve as a reminder of the things that I am not.

So that’s my story.

I feel that it’s important to share because I know how hard it is. I’ve been there at the bottom, I’ve hated myself and my body in some of the worst ways that you can and I bounced back.

I don’t need to be silent or ashamed.

What I’ve turned myself into… that’s magic in it’s purest form and if it was possible for me, it’s possible for you too.

I didn’t let it be the end of my story, I didn’t let it define me, I didn’t let it stop me from being more than I ever thought that I could be. I never thought life could be this good and it is. I’ve been happy for the first time in a very long time. I’m healthy, emotionally, mentally, and physically. I can look in the mirror and be okay with what I see and all of that started with a choice.

I decided that I needed to change my life.

So I did. It wasn’t easy. I had to choose to acknowledge that I was depressed and find ways to cope with it. That was step #1. Acknowledging that while my life felt normal because I was just so used to it – it wasn’t normal.

I had to choose to start seeing my body as something that was deserving of love and start loving it myself.

I had to choose to cut the negative people out of my life.

All of those things were hard and it got worse before it got better. But now it is better.

All of that started with self-love. It started with wantingto love myself. That changed everything. Just wanting it. Just feeling like I might be worthy.

I totally and completely believe in myself and I believe in you too.

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