Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself and not recognized the person staring back at you?
I’ll go even further than that and say you more than don’t recognize the person…you actually dislike them? If you saw them walking toward you on the street you’d cross it or pretend not to see them?
I have. For me, it was these pictures that we took for Mother’s Day about 4 months before I separated from my ex-husband:
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family in this picture and think they all look wonderful…but when I saw this I did what we all do and stared myself down first.
Who was she? Who was I becoming? I mean sure, my hair does look great, but the weight? When did that get there?
Looking at this picture, now that I’ve had some time and clarity, changes things for me. The weight was just one symptom of a bigger problem.
Other symptoms that you don’t see in this picture included:
- Self-doubt. So much of it.
- Breakouts like I was a teenager again.
- A tightened jaw that turned into frequent headaches.
- Extreme worry about what other people thought of me, mostly imagined.
- Sadness, loneliness, anger, etc.
Seeing this now still makes me hurt a little. This was the version of me who didn’t see a future with wonderful and exciting dreams ahead of her anymore. She didn’t know what she was capable of anymore. She thought she couldn’t make it alone. She thought she was weak. She doubted things she would normally know to be true of herself. If someone called her “kind” she didn’t believe it anymore. She started to feel resentment growing because it seemed like no one understood how she really felt. She didn’t know how to express any of those feelings. She closed herself off and retreated for longer than she should have. And, worst of all, her self talk was so so cruel.
Thank God…I mean truly THANK GOD that I got to a point to where I can say this was also all untrue. These were just outward signs of a huge internal battle. A trap. A cycle I felt that I couldn’t get out of.
Shortly after this picture was taken I received a wake up call in the most horrible form.
We found out that one of my younger brothers had cancer.
I loathe even just the word. Cancer has changed my family several times and in many ways.
For as much as it put things into perspective for me, I can’t pretend to even imagine or comprehend to know how it affected my brother fully. I hope he knows how brave I think he is, and was.
Suddenly that picture that I looked at with so much disdain became something else entirely.
That picture was of all of us kids together. Together. It was the last picture of all of us before his diagnosis.
I didn’t look my best and I certainly was nowhere near my best mentally…But I was there. I was alive. He was alive. We all were. THAT became the important thing. We were together.
It was also a reminder that life is so short and so fragile. Things can change with the snap of your fingers. We are here for a reason and get a chance every DAY to improve ourselves and learn how to be more gentle with ourselves. And we can learn how to change things in our eyes that need to be changed. We still have that chance.
This was my wake-up call to not retreat anymore. To keep trying. And to remember to live.
I’m very happy to say that my brother has been in remission for a while now and doing well.
But I hate that something like this happened to force me to hold up a mirror to myself. I share this in the hopes if someone is feeling similar to how I felt, I pray they wouldn’t need a life-changing event to serve as that call. I hope you can figure out the steps to move forward in whatever direction that may be. If you need help finding what direction to go, I hope you have the courage to ask for it, as I know that can be one of the hardest things. You are not alone.
I also share this now because Christmas is around the corner here. Christmas is a time for many wonderful things and also some very stressful things. Friend and family time, extra spending, treats, holiday movies, cold weather, and lot and lots of pictures.
My wish for you (and me, honestly) in the hustle and bustle of this holiday season is to be present. My hope is, even if it’s just for a day, that we remember to just be happy and thankful for those who we do still have surrounding us. And that if we happen to see an unflattering picture of ourselves, that we make sure to look at the smiles on the faces of those around us. Let’s etch that into our mind instead. We are all still here. <3
OH!! And don’t let anyone steal your joy 🙂