I have allowed this place on the web to become a vulnerable series of articles, taking off the mask so that others may see my skin’s struggles. In a digital media world, we are quick to highlight our perfections, our accomplishments, our dreams, and what we would deem as beauty. With this blog post, there is no sugarcoat, accompanied by the perfect Instagram filter. In honor of Mental Health Week, I hope this brings awareness to the issues that lie behind the mass media masks that we may or may not wear.
I have written similar articles before, but hope that this additional post will allow you and I to see that when we take off our masks, we can see the power in redemption and understand that no filter will fix the dis-satisfaction within.
When I was in high school, I became extremely aware of my body, the food that I ate and the exercise that I engaged in. At one point, it became so extreme that I worked out at the gym six days a week, sometimes twice a day, and carefully analyzed every food label, a routine that probably drove my mother insane.
I had eaten healthy my entire life, became an avid runner at the age of eight years old, and was the weird kid in elementary school who hated candy. While there is nothing wrong with eating healthy and exercising, my intentions began to slowly change.
The deeper I delved into my college career, the more aware I became of body image, especially my own.
During my freshman year, I had been told that I didn’t look like a runner. Words are powerful, my friend, and while I knew that the words had been spoken with not the slightest intention to hurt me, such words had a powerful impact that began to play with my mind.
I was so dis-satisfied with my body, a bi-product from my consumption of mass media, social media, people watching at the gym, you name it. I developed excessive eating habits, ranging from going Paleo to going Pescatarian. Without realization, body image idealization became an addiction in my thought process.
This quote by my friend, V Reyes, speaks to how I felt throughout my college career. “Addictions build up appetites over a given time. You continue to crave your addiction. Patterns matched with addictions can be really hard to break which can result in disruptive behaviours.”
Certain behaviours had become abnormal, many that were never seen by the crowd. For example, one time, after eating a cup of ice cream, I went running, even though I had already worked out earlier that day. I felt guilty after every time I ate sugar, or an unhealthy meal. I was so fixated on calories that I could never actually enjoy my food.
When it comes to mental health, I mention the above because this is just one of a few areas that I have struggled in. As someone who grew up in an emotionally abusive home, I had been through enough mental battles to understand that I could not survive this on my own.
I know what it’s like to live in the same home as someone who struggles with depression, and it drains the vitality of life. I understand the difficulties with fear and anxiety that have a detrimental effect on the mind and the spirit. But, I also know what it’s like to be redeemed, to be redeemed from behaviours that would have otherwise left me down a spiraling rabbit hole towards an empty life.
I say all of this to say that the girl you see on social media platforms, the one with the hazel eyes and crooked smile, she has faced mental battles time after time. And, I know that unfortunately, I am in a pool of many people who have been where I’ve been. But, there is hope.
When one recovers from physical health, you have to make a choice to go to the doctor and then take the necessary steps after. The same goes when it comes to mental health. During a crucial time in my college years, I went to counseling, sought spiritual guidance, and spent many a night seeking after the throne of God.
It wasn’t easy. It required time. But, I found healing and redemption in the arms of Abba, my God, my Father, my Friend.
Maybe we can sit down over tea sometime and I’ll tell you my entire story, but for now, I’ve given you a glimpse to remind you that you are not alone. We face battles each and every day. We are all filling our cups with various things: relationships, careers, travel destinations, ideal this and that, but none of it will provide water for the dry parched land.
Jesus came so that you and I would never have to thirst again. Jesus came so that you and I could find healing in his scars. And, Jesus came so that we could have hope in eternal salvation with Him.
There are things in our past that will haunt us, that will drive our thoughts through the roof, that will allow us to feel so unworthy, that will bind us in fear, that will lead us down rabbit holes that seem nearly impossible to escape from.
Trust me when I write: There is hope. There is redemption. But, you have to make a choice. It is a daily choice with Jesus. There are times where the same thoughts will knock at my door and I have to refuse their entry, reminding them that they are not allowed in my new home.
Jesus loves you and I without the filter, without the mask, without the persona that we try to keep up. He loves us for who we are and provides the greatest antidote to mental healing.
If you or someone you love struggles with any type of mental illness, encourage them to seek counsel, pray for them, and remind them that this is not the end.
I have overcome so many battles, and thank God for His supernatural redeeming power to heal time and time again. He has never failed me yet, and He will never fail you, but it requires your choice, a choice to seek help, to discover the healing that leads to everlasting freedom, and to find joy in the most unlikely of circumstances.