I cannot tell you how many times I said the title phrase in treatment. I was under the impression that, if I could just recover, I would be the person that I was before this all began. The further I got into treatment, the more I realized that I had no idea who that was.
While I wasn’t diagnosed with anything until I was 16 years old, I still had all of the tendencies that had gotten me to that point since long before that year. Growing up, I was a complete and total perfectionist. Everything I was doing had to be done at 100% effort, 100% of the time. And it is no understatement to say that I wanted to do everything. I loved horses, acting, debating, school, dancing, singing, sports, etc. I was always trying to figure out how I could do more in my week without adding any time to my week (wouldn’t that be a helpful skill, though??).
I was never really able to express my emotions because I just didn’t think that was a thing that people did. I had very few friends, I was incredibly lonely, and I spent all of my time on some activity or another so that I wouldn’t have to sit with myself.
I verbally berated myself for doing anything “wrong,” I frequently made dietary changes in order to lose weight, and any activity that could help me escape spending time with myself was immediately taken to.
Did I really want to go back to being that person? Was that person even healthy?
Working through treatment, and continuing to look at myself on an outpatient basis, has allowed me to realize that the answers to both of those questions are no. No, I do not want to be that person. No, that person was not healthy.
In the same way that we romanticize our mental illness when we are further outside of it, we romanticize particular parts of our lives when we are no longer in them. I romanticize the part of my life when I considered myself to be “normal,” but I never really was. I was always a high-strung, high-expecting person. And that’s what led me to the behavioral issues to begin with.
In getting further along my recovery journey, I have had to examine what type of person I want to be and create a new identity for myself.
I have been able to become a human that I never really thought I would. I am now an understanding and supportive person. I am now sassy in a teasing way, instead of sarcastic in a mean way. I am now driven towards more than self-destruction. I am now confident in the person that I am, and unafraid to show that. I am now a person with a voice.
Before all of the diagnoses and treatment centers, I was still me. But I was buried beneath a mess of anxiety and perfectionism and fear. The person that I am today still experiences all of that, but I deal with it differently. I’m still scared, but I will do the things I am afraid of anyway.
When I look back, I know that 10 year-old me would be amazed by the person I have come to be. That is moving forward. That is my recovery.