This quote has made me consider if mental illness really is the barrier to success we imagine it to be: Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. Throughout my life I have found myself in positions that I thought would break me entirely. I have sat in my room with no door, surrounded by debts, destruction and bowls of my own vomit. I have laid in a hospital bed, covered in tubes and wires – desperate and alone. And I have crouched on the floor of mental institutions, rocking and trapped, painting bloody smears on the walls from the masochism of my own fingernails. But has all this mental illness been a barrier to success?
Anorexia – Tough Times
Growing up is difficult. It is unstoppable, beautiful, ugly, painful and hard. It is full of examinations, zits, hormones, bad hair days and unrequited crushes. Awkward first dates, sloppy first kisses and neon pink eyeshadow that really does not look good with those red skyscraper shoes. But throw a mental illness and a desire to date into the mix and growing up can be torturous.
I grew up in a household that threw around words like "accountability" and "free agency" right along with "dinner time" and "brush your teeth". I was constantly told that I had the right to make my own decisions and my own mistakes. Because that was what God wanted; that was why I was alive -- to make my own choices, be my own person and to ultimately end up dwelling in eternal, celestial bliss. Because that was the fine-print, the unspoken stipulations: they were the loop-holes. I could make my own elections – provided they were correct. I could be my own person -- on the condition that I was the right one. And I could live however I wanted, as long as I followed all of the rules and abandoned my individual self-confidence.
After receiving my diagnosis of anorexia as a teen and spending my first short stint in-hospital, I found that the subject of anorexia became slightly taboo. Don’t speak of it and it doesn’t exist. That was the undeclared rule. It was like I’d had a cold -- only instead of receiving a prescription of antibiotics, I’d been plied with calories: calories and cakes and cheese and onion crisps. And, for a while, I succumbed just enough. I ate just enough in public to slip under the radar, just enough to continue my mental deterioration undetected. Just enough to "be cured." Had I found a quick fix for mental illness?