Most people who meet me would never believe that not all that long ago I stood on chair with a rope tied around my neck. That not all that long ago I tilted my head back and downed a few bottles worth of pills. That I begged for death on a daily basis and tried to make that wish come true not once, not twice, but three times. Most people who meet me would never know that in my mind exists a dark and crowded battlefield. I was first diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and body image issues in my early twenties when I saw my very first psychiatrist. But my struggle with these problems began early in my youth. I just thought I was weird. And so I never shared the feelings which threatened to consume me on a daily basis. I didn’t want to be a bother to anyone.
All my friends went to parties, had sleepovers, and hung out with friends. And I broke down and was crippled at the mere thought of being surrounded by lots of people, especially ones I didn’t really know. While I loved cozy intimate chats with my closest friends and family, I detested small talk. I hated “getting to know people.” And even more than all that, I hated the fear of walking into a room and being noticed. And I always was. My personality was like honey to flies. I didn’t want to be noticed, I wanted to stay invisible in my safe, cozy, corner. But, no, people had to see me. Had to want to talk to me. It. Was. Too. Much. For. Me. To. Handle. So for most of my life, I made excuses as to why I couldn’t go places and do things. Because I let the fear win.
And then there was the way I looked. God, I was so ugly and so fat. I would stand in front of the mirror for hours, naked, and fixate on every flaw I saw. There were so many. I hated myself. And even though my ribs and hip bones were visible, still, I was so fat. So ugly. How in the world anyone could even share space with me was a mystery in my mind. I used to refer to myself as the hideous beast. And so I would fake eating, giving all my food to the dog, or hiding it in bags in my room to throw away later. I would find peace and comfort in the control I had when I felt the acid burn in my empty stomach. That burn. It made me feel alive.
All of these struggles led me to make poor decisions in my life. I married someone I shouldn’t have. I endured things in my marriage I shouldn’t have. I slowly became a person I no longer recognized. Said and did things I shouldn’t have. Which made me hate myself even more. I was beyond depressed.
It was after my third and failed attempt at suicide when I had to make a change. A big one. I was about to be institutionalized for an undetermined amount of time, but my psychiatrist felt like I had it in me to fight it. And so, for some reason, he gave me one last chance. And something, finally, shifted inside of me. The burn I now felt wasn’t acid, it was the urge to fight. The fight to live.
I got divorced and cut all the toxic people and experiences out of my life. I went to therapy every single day. I posed nude at local art classes to teach myself that my body was beautiful, that my body – all bodies – are a work of art. I slowly began to reintroduce myself to the real Lisa. I began to write again. I began to dream again. I began to smile again. I began to live again.
But for as much work as I have done. The struggle is always there. My demons are always right behind me waiting for me to trip, so they can tug me back into that deep, dark hole. But I refuse to stop walking, to stop moving forward. And when I struggle, and I trip, I don’t stay down long, I do the work I need to and hop back up again. Stand up taller than I have before.
I continue to suffer, because I always will. And that’s okay. I’ve come to peace with my struggles. In many ways, I am eternally grateful for the darkness which plagues me. It makes me savor the good and the wonderful in my life all the more.
I continue to surround myself with people who love me. An incredible husband who cares for me and gives me reason enough to live each and every day. Friends who make me feel good and make me laugh. And when I’m having a bad day, I share it. I let it out. I’m not afraid of who I am anymore. I engage in activities that make me feel better. That distract me from the evil voices inside my head. I open up my gratitude journal which I write in each and every day and I read all the things I’m thankful for. And I constantly remind myself to never stop fighting. To never stop smiling. And to never take any moment of this precious life for granted.
No longer do I let my struggles stop me. I make myself go out into the world and live. On most days, all goes well. On some days, I struggle horribly. But I never let myself feel like a failure because of it. Because at least I’m out there trying. At least I continue to stand back up.
There are good days and there are bad ones. And that’s just the way life is. It doesn’t mean I’m weird. Or crazy. Or unworthy of being loved. So, yes, I struggle and suffer. Maybe more than others do. But I’m a daughter. A friend. A writer. A wife. And just like everyone else…I’m human.
Lisa M. Gott is a contemporary literary fiction author. Her stories tell of the human spirit – sometimes sad, sometimes not – most can relate to them on some level or another. Gott began her writing career under the nom de plume L.M. Stull. Her new name represented not only a new chapter in her personal life, but in her literary one as well. When she’s not feverishly weaving words, you can find her enjoying nature, spending time with her incredible husband, and, sometimes, sipping a latte. Okay, maybe more than sometimes.