Lisa René LeClair
When you look back on the last twenty years, does it ever feel like none of it was real? Like you've been binge-watching someone else's story—rewinding and pausing in all the right places and forwarding through the rough spots, each time hoping you'll meet the love of your life or cash in on that winning lottery ticket? Does it also seem like every new season has an entirely different cast, except for the main character who keeps making the same stupid decisions that lead to more fucking drama? Yeah, me neither, but it sometimes feels like I've lived ten lives.
The year was 1986. Fresh out of high school, I loaded my little red sled and headed south to start over and heal from the pain of my past. I thought maybe, by reinventing myself in a new town where no one knew anything about me, I could somehow erase all the hurt and, for once, be truly happy. When that didn't work, I found a tiny one-bedroom apartment a block and a half away from everything my mother had warned me about and continued on my journey. That was eleven lives, thirteen moves, two failed marriages, and one child ago, but who's counting?
In total, my quest for inner peace took 54 years, mostly because I wasted so much time beating myself up over poor choices when it came to failed relationships. The good news is that I learned something. That fixing people who are more broken than you doesn't make you feel better about yourself. I also discovered that I had 13 of the 17 characteristics of a person suffering from co-dependency: an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual's ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. Apparently, this happens when kids grow up in a dysfunctional household, but I shouldn't have let that define me. I guess what I'm trying to say is this: I am not my "conditionS," and neither are you.
Recently, a friend confessed to having Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), an obsession with perceived flaws that can lead to ritualistic skin picking, excessive grooming, or other behaviors. When she outlined a few of the symptoms — A strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed. Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes. Constantly comparing your appearance with others. Having perfectionist tendencies. — I sorta felt like she was describing teenage me, a girl who was verbally, emotionally, psychologically, and physically abused as a child. She was still talking when I heard my bully's voice.
"You're so fucking ugly. I bet when you look in the mirror, it breaks."
Okay, so maybe I did have Body Dysmorphia. Perhaps I still do. But guess what? I'm glad no one ever told me, and here's why: While BDD is an actual diagnosis that affects many people in unhealthy ways, labeling yourself with a disorder like that can be equally dangerous. Why? Because when you continually say things like "I'm OCD" or "I have anxiety" or "I'm depressed," — or WHATEVER!— you unconsciously give the illness power. It's almost as though the diagnosis perpetuates the condition—like the behavior is just "expected" because we're "sick" and "untreatable."
Obviously, anyone suffering from a mental condition should seek treatment immediately from a professional. (Spoiler: Google doesn't count unless you're searching for recommendations). But remember not to get too attached to whatever label they may give you. Try not to use it as a crutch to avoid getting better. Instead, use the knowledge as a weapon against it.
Life is about choices, but sometimes shit happens that leads you down a rabbit hole of uncertainty. If you feel yourself spiraling, ask yourself this question: If the choice I make today helps pave the road to my future, then wouldn't every stone lead to another opportunity to choose something better? If the answer is "yes," then DO IT!
Choose. Something. Better.
You deserve it. We all do. And in case you don't believe me, below is a photo of my new life: a drama-free, beautiful existence we chose together.
Need more inspiration? Read THIS.