"It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it."
One of my biggest struggles in seeking and actually doing recovery has been in opening up, sharing what's actually going on, and asking for help from others. There came a point last semester where the only people who knew that I was relapsing were my therapist and my dietitian. And while I love my treatment team a lot, that's exactly what they are. Clinical professionals who are doing their jobs to help me. It became a problem that I wasn't opening up to anyone else in my life about what I was going through or that I was struggling.
It was a really strange time to not open up to anyone about what was going on. I have AMAZING friends who have been through hell and back with me, and my boyfriend of 2.5 years couldn't be more supportive. My family and I have always been extremely close and I know that they would do anything for me, even from 1,500 miles away.
I couldn't do it.
I couldn't share what I was going through.
I felt trapped, scared, and so much shame for what I was experiencing. And most of all, I felt like I would be a huge burden to everyone if I simply let them in.
The load I was carrying felt too heavy, too dark, too scary, to share with anyone. And I've come to realize after working through this concept a lot that the reason I felt this way is because I was carrying this load all alone.
Let's think about it like this. I'm carrying a backpack that's 100 lbs., and I'm struggling with the constant weight day-in and day-out. The weight feels too heavy to me, because I never get to take it off or share the weight with anyone else. If I started to open up to my boyfriend, for example, and gave him 10 lbs. out of the backpack, or even let him carry the backpack for a little bit, it wouldn't completely burden him. Instead, it would help to lighten my load and let him in.
My therapist helped explain that by not opening up with the hopes of protecting others from the "burden", I'm not actually helping anyone. I'm hurting myself by keeping everything in and on my own back, and my friends and family are feeling frustrated and in the dark because I don't want to hurt them.
It's taken me a while to come to realize that I deserve to ask others for help.
It won't ruin other people to let them in and share what I'm going through. In fact, it will probably make our relationships stronger because they'll finally know what's going on. My boyfriend put it this way, "I can't help you if I don't know what's happening."
And that's true. And it doesn't make it any easier.
For the majority of my life, I've had this nagging feeling that I need to figure all of my shit out on my own, and that asking for help would make me weak. I've known, logically, that this isn't true, but it didn't make it any easier to accept until I started processing it in sessions and practicing sharing what I was feeling, thinking, struggling with, etc.
This has to be a practice. It's not a skill that I talk about with my therapist and on the blog once, and then forget about entirely. If I want to heal fully (which I do!) then I have to practice, daily, letting people in, and sharing how I feel. Writing a blog has been good practice because it's helped me to reduce some of the shame I feel about mental illness, but I'm challenging myself to do more. To have these conversations in person, to disclose the hard stuff even when it feels like I could never possibly open up about it or those in my life wouldn't understand.
The title of this blog, Living Free C, is about living free from my eating disorder, and no longer feeling trapped by my depression and anxiety. However, it's also about living free from these arbitrary rules that I've set for myself about a number of things, including opening up about how I'm feeling and letting people in. Healing is going to take time and it's hard enough on its own without intentionally depriving myself of the support around me.
Your support system only helps if you give them a chance to help you.
Hi, I'm Charlotte! I'm a 24 year old navigating life in NYC and mental health recovery. I am passionate about public health and eliminating stigma.