In her poem “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny,” Blythe Baird writes, “Now, I am proud. I have stopped seeking revenge on this body / This was the year of eating when I was hungry without punishing myself / and I know it sounds ridiculous, but that shit is hard.”
It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW), and it feels like I am in the same mental space as I was last year, writing an opinion piece for NEDAW. Eating disorders are difficult to talk about, mental illness is difficult to talk about, self care is hard to do and this journey toward self love feels more like survival than it does a walk in the park.
Going to college with mental illness is nothing short of a marathon, and it is hard to talk about — even when you spend the majority of your time talking about what it means to care for yourself. I was diagnosed with a mental illness more than six years ago, and while most people know that I have a mental illness and I am open about my struggle, the majority of people cannot tell you my diagnosis, because even I am afraid of the stigma.
I am afraid of being looked at differently or seen as incapable, and that is the harsh reality of living life with mental illness. I am terrified of using my illness as an excuse, so instead I push myself to unhealthy heights trying to perform the way I believe I should.
But that’s all to say that last year, I wrote an opinion piece for NEDAW about self love. I quote myself to show the difficulty of the journey. Last year I wrote, “But self care is not a one-and-done. Self care is a journey. Learning to love yourself and learning to listen to your mind and body when they are begging you to rest is hard. Learning to say ‘No,’ is self care in and of itself. And don’t get me wrong, it is god damn difficult. The road to self care and love is winding and long, but it is worth it.”
And it is. It is worth it. But now it is one year later, and it feels like I really haven’t gotten that far. It feels like even though I have made progress in my journey toward loving myself, I have a setback every time I get a rejection letter or someone tells me I cannot do something. It feels like all of the progress I have made is hollow and unlasting.
But that’s what my illness wants to me to think. That is the reality of the terrain on the journey to self worth. It is not easy. It never feels like you’ve gotten that far, and truly, it feels like the road may never end.
The light at the end of the tunnel is dim, and some days it feels like it isn’t actually there. The journey may be long and hard, and the scenery isn’t always pretty, but the destination is more than worth it.
So my task for you is this: Do something for yourself this week. Dedicate time to do whatever will fill your cup. I don’t care if it means sleeping in, treating yourself to your favorite caf meal or taking a bubble bath. Take time for you, and do so unapologetically.
You’ll thank yourself later.
Brianna Ledsome is a senior Philosophy, Politics and the Public and political science double major. She is a guest writer from Youngstown, Ohio.