(Want to learn why I picked this photo as my Feature Image…Keep reading below to find out! -A)
To the girl I see in the mirror,
It’s been awhile since we actually saw eye to eye.
For the longest time you and I have had the greatest of struggles trying to understand each other. I could never really look at you, trace over your details and admire what was there, not in the way I wanted too anyway.
Because for the longest time I couldn’t stand you. I hated the girl I saw staring back at me. It wasn’t because I didn’t like you…well actually I didn’t like you, but that was not the only reason.
For the longest time I couldn’t look at you because you reminded me too much of him. And you knew it well, too.
How many times after you finally left home, when the wounds were still too fresh, would people stop you and say, “My, oh, my! You look so much like your father.”
You would feel your blood run cold, the electricity of fear shooting down your spine as you fought hard against the pain that gripped your throat, unsure if you wanted to scream, cry, or gag in disgust. Your face would falter but you couldn’t help it, the wounds were still too new and no one understood how venomous those words were to you.
They didn’t know any better but it still hurt you. It bruised you, but not physically. It deflated your confidence, it broke your self-esteem. Those words made you doubt yourself. You already had physical scars left to remind you of the pain he caused you and now you had his looks as well. It felt so unfair.
Somehow you would force that well-rehearsed, fake smile that absorbed more energy than it did to cry and you would politely say, “I’m sorry. I don’t have a father.”
They would look at you confused and then stutter apologizes, especially if your mother was in your presence when someone did said those words to you. Then their faces would be tight with regret, your mother showing them no mercy for the insult.
They were comparing you to a man who had torn your life apart. Destroyed your childhood, ripped your adolescents away and forced you to lose the early years of adulthood to a mental illness, one you still struggle with to this day.
They were comparing you, the poor, broken (and broken-hearted) girl to that monster and it hurt you like the deepest of knives, stabbing into your heart, shaking your confidence to the core, crippling your well-being, injuring you in ways you couldn’t even begin to describe.
They compared you to a monster and suddenly you started to wonder if you would become a monster like him, too. You already looked like him, you shared his same DNA, what if you became just like him?
What would you have done then?
So you tried to change your appearance. You dyed your hair blonde, but then the boys made fun of you for trying to look like your sister. You cut off all your hair and some said girls didn’t look pretty with short hair. You dyed it black and you were automatically dubbed an Emo kid.
You wore heavy, black eye make up to try to distract yourself from the blue sapphires that were your eyes, blue oceans that your contacts only magnified, so you wore your glasses all the time, and sunglasses when you could get away with it.
You forced yourself to run everyday and work out, trying to change your physical body. Then you were accused of being too lean or anorexic when you would only eat healthy food. And even though you didn’t admit to your depression back then, when you had bad days, you would pig out on junk food and gain weight and then scolded, being told you needed to take better care of yourself.
You experimented with clothes, from girly girl and preppy to all black and baggy. You started getting piercings to help change your physical appearance more, but of course your scars were still fresh, so you had to watch what you wore, to be careful to hide the pain.
You did all these things and more.
And yet I still couldn’t stand the person I saw looking back at me. We would stare at each other for a brief moment before it became too much to bear and I would look away.
And for the longest time I paid no attention to how I looked or cared about my appearance. When I was at my lowest, I couldn’t look in the mirror at all. I couldn’t even stand to see your silhouette in the mirror. I was too guilt-stricken to look because by this point I had damaged myself just as much as he damaged me.
Five years ago you scribbled the following poem on tear-stained pages in that worn, purple bound journal your mother gave you when you were first diagnosed with PTSD followed by the final, regretful truth you couldn’t dare to speak out loud.
I finally acknowledged how much I hated you.
And those words hurt, but they were true.
Those eyes are haunting me.
Icy blue orbs that are imprinted into my brain,
Branded like horseshoes.
Those eyes that stared, and if narrowed,
Could rip your soul into a million fragmented shards of glass.
Those eyes that recited so many lies that you had forgotten what was true.
Those eyes, and that smirk, that could make even the greatest of kings
fall to their knees.
Those blue sapphires that were worth no value, but only
held the cold heart of an empty bastard, a man who never loved.
Those eyes are my eyes, and when I look in the mirror
I wonder who is the one staring back at me.
My eyes met his eyes and I felt
“I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I hate the person I see staring back at me. I don’t even recognize myself anymore. I hate this person I have become. I feel fake. I feel like I have no purpose anymore. I have no motivation. I am empty. Just empty.”
I wasn’t like Narcissus, I didn’t fall in love with my reflection. I hated the person I saw starting back at me, pitiful eyes that bore too much pain. I despised who I saw, resenting my reflection, hating the feature that bared resemblance to him.
Not long after that night, Zack sat you down in front of a stand up mirror and forced you to face yourself. To face me. He made me face you.
“What don’t you like?”
“I don’t like my eyes.”
“Well because…I just don’t. They’re too big.”
And on and on went the excuses that I made from my version of “hurtful truth.”
But he made me sit in front of that mirror for over two hours, taking in every detail of my body, every scar, scratch, and imperfection. And despite the tears running down my face, I finally had to face the anguish and anger that I had bottled up over the course of my whole life. All the pain I had forced upon myself. All the guilt and blame and everything that came along with it.
It was difficult, but I finally looked in the mirror and I just saw me. The person I always was but was too blind to see.
He still lingers there, in my reflection, sometimes, but I don’t see the person I use to despise so much; the person who I scorned and shot nasty remarks to; the grim reflection I couldn’t bear to see so I put my fist through a mirror once because I loathed the blue eyes that stared back at me.
I don’t see that person anymore. I am not that pitiful, pathetic person that merely existed to feel pain. I am no longer that person.
Most importantly, I am not like him nor will I ever be. I can’t help the blood that runs through my veins and I can’t change the circumstances from which I came, but I am a good person, a better person. A person with a brighter future than I could never have envisioned all those years ago.
And above all else, when I look in the mirror now, I don’t see him anymore.
I see me.
I can’t help that I came from him, but I can never be like him.
So to the girl I see in the mirror,
I know sometimes the dark days win. I know sometimes the morbid thoughts loom and drown out the light. And I know the pain sometimes is so hard to bear that you feel like you can’t make it to day break. I know all that you feel and all that you can’t stand because I am you and I feel it too. You are not alone.
But to the girl I see in the mirror,
You are not that man. You are not that monster. You can never be that sinister or callous or cold. You could never be those things because you were never those things. You have always just been you, kindhearted and caring, even when you didn’t love yourself.
To the girl in the mirror,
You are strong. You are a fighter. You are motivating and capable. And above all else, you are one hell of a beautiful lady. You are all of these things and more…so, so much more.
Even on the days when we don’t believe it.
And while we don’t always see eye to eye and on those bad days I have to put my hand up to the mirror to block you out, I am finally accepting who I see. Who I am.
I finally love who I see staring back at me.
I finally love the girl in the mirror.
And that girl is me.
And as always,
Fight the good fight.
Tidbit: Why I picked this photo as my Feature Image:
The reason I picked this old photo of me, during my trip to Mexico in 2012 for my brother’s wedding was because it has significance to how I felt at the time. During this time, was when I felt the lowest with my PTSD. A few weeks prior to the trip, I was just released from the hospital after an extensive stay because I was hospitalized because I couldn’t control my mental illness, my anxiety was very out of control. I spent over seven days sedated and medicated because my panic attacks were so severe I needed oxygen and fluids because I vomited anything I ate. In that short amount of time, I went from being 125 lbs to 89 lbs. I was so weak that I could barely walk a few feet without getting tired and needing to sit down.
So I picked image to reflect how I felt writing this piece. Because to this day, I can barely stand to look at any pictures from my trip to Mexico. I loved my brother’s wedding, but I hated how sickly I looked, every bone visible through my skin. This was a time I could barely face myself in the mirror. My mental illness had taken a physical toll on me and I was resentful. And even though it was a beautiful trip, I hate looking at those old photos because they make feel sick just to look at them. They remind me how low I felt and it’s something I don’t like to look back on.