I’ve decided to continue my blog post on anxiety and depresson and how it’s been weaving it’s way in and out of my mind. I’ve had this series of posts in my plans for a long time, but I always push them aside because I’m too afraid of being vulnerable or maybe too afraid of letting it go. But I’m moving forward and the best way to do that is with a lighter load in my mind.
I have a series of 5 posts, each centered around a part of me that I’ve either been struggling with or that have kept me from being as happy as I could be, stories or experiences that I’ve kept locked in and have weighed me down and it’s time to turn them into words and let them flutter around the internet and out of my head. Please read these with the knowledge that I’m ok, I’m taking care of myself and I’m not in a place where you need to worry <3
I thought I would start with an obvious choice, just…me. Or rather how I see myself as it tends to be the issue I struggle with the most.
Sometimes when people see my photographs and self portraits they comment that I must enjoy having my photo taken, in reality it couldn’t be further from the truth. I started taking self portraits at first out of convenience, I didn’t know any other photographers and I didn’t know anyone willing to be in a photograph that seemed a bit different so I used myself. What started off as just me being too shy to talk to other people turned into the biggest chapter of self discovery I’ve ever had.
Growing up, I was teased, picked on and mocked for just about everything. My clothes, my glasses, I was too short and then when I grew I was too awkward. Those with angry hearts will find any flaw to put under a microscope and unfortunately they found a lot in me. I didn’t have a lot of self confidence to begin with, I never felt particularly good at anything and my main objective was to just ghost my way through life unseen.
At one point, shortly after I turned 16, I stopped looking at myself. I avoided mirrors, windows, photographs. Anything that held a reflection of this strange figure that I didn’t recognize. When I washed my hands at a sink, I’d automatically take my glasses of, blurring my vision enough that my face became a swirl of pale skin and nothing else. That’s exactly what I felt inside, it seemed fitting to see it reflected back. When I walked past windows or had to look at something that held a reflection, I’d blur my vision, turning everything into a washed out reality. I did this routine for almost 8 years. For 8 years I didn’t know and didn’t care what I looked like. I was a mannequin or a figure of myself, looking just enough like the real thing to pass it off, but inside I held no connection to the outside.
Shortly after I started taking photographs and then self portraits I began to do the same thing, when I’d edit photos where I could see my face, I’d squint or take my glasses off. I couldn’t even look at myself in pixels. Then one day, I decided to take a portrait up close. I opened it up into photoshop and for the first time in years I saw myself staring back. I didn’t recognize the person looking back through the screen. I’d grown up, I’d turned into a man, I had crease lines around my eyes, I had a mole under on cheek. I didn’t know. I stared at this new person and felt tears building, because I felt like I’d lost this person. I felt like I had been living another life and this person was here to take it back. Self portraiture became a therapy for me, it taught me what I was, I’d had it shut off for so long that I’d forgotten.
I’ve battled with self image every day since. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve struggled with an eating disorder (I’ve moved past it now). Triggered by my own delusions of what I thought I looked like and the fear that other people judged me for the same things. I stopped eating, or I’d eat once a day around people so it looked like I was. I was running every, more than I should of without as much fuel as I needed. I drank more coffee than I ate, I tried to make sure I wasn’t letting myself be what I thought I saw. It was just another version of blurring my vision, instead of taking my glasses off I was just phsyically trying to blur what I looked like, even though now I know there wasn’t anything wrong. Thankfully someone recognized it and said something, I owe that person a lot because without her, I’d have fallen back into to forgetting who I am.
A few months ago, I caught my reflection in a mirror and my instinct kicked in. I reached to take my glasses off but instead I just looked back. Right back into my eyes and I felt a wave of emotions come back through me again. Anger that I’d missed so much of my own life, I’d faded it out enough that I couldn’t remember it, Sadness that I hadn’t been taking care of myself, shame that I’d been keeping it all inside, but mostly I felt a sense of “okay-ness”. That I was ok. And that ok, was good enough for me. Looking myself in the eye was good enough. I may never get to the point where I’m 100% confident, where I can look at myself without a swirl of anxiety buzzing inside my heart but I think I will keep this feeling of okay-ness. I’m ok, and it’s ok.