Turning 20: Onwards and Upwards

Today is my birthday and I am over the moon to say that. Some may think I am being egoistical, but turning 20 is extremely important to me. On my last birthday, I remember feeling overwhelming depressed, but at that time in my life I kept those feelings to myself. A year later, I am able to talk freely and openly about my illness, without feeling any shame or embarrassment whatsoever – I have made a lot of progress. Furthermore, a year is quite a substantial period of time and turning twenty marks ends a whole year of battling my mind everyday – which is no easy task.

I’m sure I will hear “You’re not nineteen forever” several times today and my response will be “Thank God” – as this year has been the most challenging year of my life. I am beyond happy to close the door on this bleak chapter and walk into a fresh start. Some people aren’t fussed about their birthday but, personally, I enjoy quantifying time. This year is a milestone for me; it signifies a full year of bravery, a full year of fighting and a full year of believing in myself. I’ve been on a rollercoaster for 12 months, but, finally, the end is in sight. I have never had to put my strength to the test, as much as I have this year but I’ve gained a lot from what I’ve went through.

In the last year, I have thought that I couldn’t go on, on a multitude of occasions, but I always continue to fight. And if it hadn’t been for my determination to cling onto my life, I would have missed out on this full year. Although, there has been very dark points, there has also been amazing times and if I didn’t put up with the bad, I couldn’t have experienced the great. If I had given in then, I wouldn’t have felt the unconditional love from my puppy; I wouldn’t have an amazing time swimming in the sea with my friends; I wouldn’t have made such sweet memories with my family. Therefore, if you ever feel that you just can’t take anymore, then trust that you have earned happy days, which you shouldn’t miss out on. Think back to the last time you have felt this way and reflect on the joyous moments that you would have missed out on, if you had succumbed. And if you have held on for a year, then you can hold on for a lifetime – you have proved it.

In the pictures above, you can see some of my many supportive friends. I could not have persisted without having their reassurance, friendship and laughter, which has motivated me to stay on the path to recovery. I am so appreciative of having such a strong support network, which is something that I have never experienced until this year. At first, confiding in my friends about what was actually wrong with me was terrifying – I had no idea how they would react but instead of shaming me, they rallied around me. I would definitely encourage anyone struggling to reach out to their friends because I am 99% sure that they won’t respond negatively, and you will gain a lot of love and support.

Throughout this year I developed AND conquered a fear of flying. I overcame my phobia through Graded Exposure Therapy

I finally respect my body and have a positive relationship with it – I eat every meal and this year on holiday, I felt so body confident it was freeing. Walking around a busy place in a bikini without a care in the world is exhilarating (even if you don’t get your wine due to a “no shirt, no service” rule). If I hadn’t been hospitalised, I doubt I would have made such progress with my self-esteem, as it took me becoming very ill to appreciate that my body is not there to look good, but instead, to keep me alive. It might seem trivial to some, however, feeling insecure about your weight can be very consuming and this year, I feel so much lighter from the lack of time spent stressing over the size of my waist. Although I may be a dress size bigger, I look so much healthier and I feel more energised too. I can’t believe that I used to want to be that skinny when it made me look sick. Making peace with my appearance may be the most important healing that I’ve done this year.

A healthy mind, a healthy body and a healthy life

Throughout this year, I have made massive strides in self-discovery and I now can say I know who I truly am. It took losing everything (my mind) to realise what is important in life. Before, I would’ve rather died than failed an exam or dropped out of my course, but now I recognise that my health is much more important than meeting the extremely high goals I set myself. Luckily, I have been able to keep up with my studies and pass my course. This has also given my great confidence in my abilities – as scoring well on Masters degree exams ,when I had not been able to study, means I shouldn’t stress so much for future tests. When you are on the blink of losing everything, you see what’s important – health, family and friends – I was never once thinking about anything else when I was acutely unwell. Other people’s negative opinions are of no value to me anymore, which I’m overjoyed with, as I used to be such a sensitive person. At the end of the day, how other people treat you is a reflection of who they are, not of who you are – this was a hard lesson for me to learn.

And as cliché as it sounds, the darkest times draw out the people who are truly there for you and consequently, I have learnt the true meaning of friendship. A lot of people in my life have been an incredible support to me and, although, I can never repay them, I can pay the kindness forward to help others. The importance of family has been reinforced to me – my mum has been my rock, she has dealt with this illness as much as I have and I would like to thank her for absoutely everything she has done for me. I could not have recovered without her – she encouraged me to leave the house, go to work and eventually reintegrate into my life again – without her, I would have stayed in bed and made no progress. Fighting this illness is horrendous, but doing it without my mum would have been impossible.

I’m spinning into my twentieth year with lots of positivity.

To conclude, this year has been the most transformative time of my life. My severe anxiety caused me to lose my confidence in all situations and I had to start from scratch. Now, I appreciate every single day and feel grateful for all my blessings. In my nineteenth year, I have hit rock bottom and rose from the ashes of my former self-destructive self – it hasn’t been easy but it was necessary. I’ve rebuilt my life to solely include positivity which has changed my life. This year, I have experienced personal growth like I have never imagined possible before and I’m confident that I will continue to recover in my twentieth year. I’m taking this new age as a chance to have a fresh start which is something I recommend that everyone does on their birthday, as it gives you a chance to reflect on what you want to do differently. I will strive to become more assertive, productive and to make lots of progress in my recovery from depression and anxiety. And for any other Scorpio’s out there – Happy birthday! 


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