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In the Shadows

By , San Francisco, CA
Every morning, I wake up, and go to school. I hang out with my friends, and I sometimes get in trouble for being too chatty during class. I love shopping, and I love my siblings more than anyone in the world. I’m normal. Take note of that ordinariness, because I promise you will see me differently after reading the rest of this:

Some people thought it was bi-polar disorder, others said depression. But, as a 13-year-old, I wasn’t too concerned with its name; I just wanted to know what the hell was wrong with me.

Before we go any further, let me say one thing: Yes, I’ve suffered from symptoms of bulimia, yes, I’ve tried cutting myself to ease pain, and yes, I still consider myself human. Hurting oneself is more common that you’d think. Don’t judge me from here on out now that you know the truth. No, my favorite color is not black, and I’m not “goth” or “emo”. In fact, to everyone except my closest friends, family, and team of therapists and psychiatrists, I’m normal. I’m just a regular, happy 13-year-old to most of the world. But in reality, I struggle with an unnamed, undetermined mental disease that twists my perception of the world, and it’s inhabitants.

It began at age 9, the first time I tried purging, in the bathroom of my favorite restaurant. From there grew a series of inexplicable, often impulsI'veacts. Ice baths, slitting of wrists, excessI'venail biting, purging, and more. I worked too hard in school, and put too much pressure on myself to measure up to others. I suppose the pain I put myself through was retaliation from the years of strict discipline I forced myself to follow. But this physical pain that I sometimes experienced was the least of my problems. The more pressing, serious issue was the mental component, that which lead me to putting myself through the physical pain.

My parents tried to tell me that it was all part of puberty, that everyone struggled like this, but I knew they were wrong. And soon, they learned they were wrong, too. After watching my sister endure an eating disorder, they recognized my symptoms immediately. And when cuts began appearing on my forearms, my parents wished they had known sooner. Therapy twice a week helped, but even my psychologist whom I loved so much couldn’t explain exactly what was going on. This was due to the fact that I was physically incapable of voicing the emotion I felt. It just couldn’t be explained. In sessions, I often talked about feeling as though two completely people occupied my body. It was as though I had two people telling me what to do. So when the healthy person was in control, I struggled to describe what the harmful person experienced. The views and opinions of the two people living inside of me were so opposed that I quite honestly could not recall what it was like to be like the other. At healthy times, I couldn’t remember what had been going on in my head when I decided to cut myself. But when I was in my detrimental state, feeling the need to bathe in ice so as to rid myself of feeling, I couldn’t understand how I was happy and healthy at other times.

I began calling myself bi-polar, hoping that labeling this awful disease would take me a step closer to recovery. But there were a few flaws to this plan. First, my symptoms did not match exactly with that of bi-polar disorder, so I often began treatment methods for something I wasn’t sure I had. And second, while the healthy part of my craved complete happiness, my destructI'vemind fed off of my anger and depression. Each time this hurtful person consumed my body, it grew a bit stronger, and I was subject to episodes of harm more and more often.
I write this article in the past-tense, as if this whole battle is over. But in reality, it is not. It never will be. I will always suffer from an eating disorder to some extent, I will never be able to rid myself completely from the scars on my wrists. And at this point, I still suffer from episodes where I can’t explain what happens. There will always be nights where I want to shut myself out from the world, and lI'vein a dark, cold room for the rest of my life. And, until diagnosed, I will continue life having to deal with what is now reality.

For those of you who think I’m insane or mentally ill, I'd like to remind you that you've never met me, so try to make too many judgements. I’m sorry I can’t lI'veup to what you consider “normal”. But if I hadn’t written this, I guarantee you wouldn’t have suspected a thing when passing me on the street. You wouldn’t have guessed even if you had known me fairly well. I’m not crazy, or terminally ill. I will recover, and until then, I will do my best to focus on the times when I am happy and living life to its fullest. My mental state will be pulled from the shadows, they will diagnose me, and they will find a cure. And when they do, I will be brought out from the shadows and into the light of life.





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