When you hate yourself – and you hurt yourself –there’s very little reason to stop. At least for me. So before I could entertain the idea of being kind to myself, I needed to find a little self-love in my heart.
Here’s how I did it. (I think it would be brilliant if you shared your own experience in the comments below.)
I was seeing a therapist and he would listen to me go on and on and on for hours about who knows what. He was the kind of therapist that just looked at you without saying a word until you couldn’t take it anymore and before you know it, every thought is pouring out of your mouth.
At the end of one appointment, he asked me to do something. Something he never did. “Go home and find a picture of yourself as a little kid.”
He asked me to look at the picture. Really look at it, and think about what I’d want for that little girl. How would I want her to feel? To be treated?
That little girl, with white-blonde hair and big blue eyes, had the whole world open to her. She was cuddled up with a big ‘blankie’ – she looked so content, and oh-so-sleepy.
Of course I wanted her to grow up to be happy. Of course I wanted people to be nice to her. Of course I wanted her to love herself. She was sweet and sensitive. I wanted her to feel loved.
But here I was, punishing her. Making her hurt. Causing her pain – mental and physical – day after day. I felt like I was allowing that little girl to be tortured. That I gave the demons permission to haunt her.
Her world was cruel and she wouldn’t accept love. Because of me.
Yes, I was sick. And my eating disorder wasn’t a choice. But I was taking actions that were causing that grown-up little girl a great deal of pain.
Maybe I could help her. Find a way to ease her pain. I knew I had to try. Something. Anything. To make her pain go away.
That was one of the single most defining moments in my therapy early on. I believe that looking into the eyes of little-kid me helped me find self-love in my heart. And paved the way for recovery.
Thank you so much for reading! I do hope you’ll join me for my next post in 2 weeks. I’d love to let you know what a huge difference a small act of understanding can make for someone who’s struggling with a mental illness.
About Cynthia Alana
Cynthia has battled bulimia (and won), faced depression, and lived with anxiety throughout it all. After realizing she wanted to be a force of good in the world, she tried recovery for 6 months. It’s been years. Travel is her passion, and so is her job: writing for charities. You can follow Cynthia’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, and additionally, you can connect with Cynthia on LinkedIn.