It sounds like one of the most obvious phrases to exist. Of course that was then and this is now. That’s how time works. However, for me, it means a little more. Let me explain.
The picture featured in this blog was from June 2013. I cringe with a mixture of longing, jealousy, and inspiration when I look at it. More than two years ago I looked like that. It wasn’t all that long ago; that was me! I worked out all the time (or so it seemed). I ate healthy, like super, really, amazing healthy. I was an inspirational fitness blog on Tumblr. Did I mention how good I looked? Well, you can see that for yourself.
Things would abruptly take a turn for the worst a few months after this photo was taken.
I lost my job in October 2013. It was devastating and shocking; I still remember dissociating in my manager’s office, unable to believe it was me she was talking about. But it was only the first of many events that sent me on a downward spiral. It was going to be a long fall for me. I just didn’t know it yet. Though I quickly got another job a few weeks later, it was only a temporary assignment.
By January 2014, the company I was temping for decided not to hire me on because of my repeat tardy and absent offenses. But I had been late and absent so often at that job because I could barely drag myself out of bed. Sometimes, I would lie there for a few minutes in the morning and debate the pros and cons of going in to work. And it literally felt like I was having to drag/pull/pry/peel/myself out of bed. By that point, my white-hot hatred for my job and my directionless, meaningless life simmered to a cool apathy.
With a second bout of unemployment in just three months, I was not just feeling apathetic, I was in despair. Loneliness, financial struggle, and general feelings of inadequacy and lack of purpose pervaded my daily, sometimes hourly, thoughts. I thought things were on an upswing when I got a job in February 2014. It seemed to be heading that way until I lost that job in September. That summer, I also lost my fiance in a series of events that truly revealed all the gaping holes in my personality and the terrible flaws in my character.
That was then. A dark, confusing, chaotic time. I had friends; I had fun times. But I lashed out way more often. I was violent. I was angry. Alienated and alone. Afraid. Paranoid. Depressed. Anxious. Obsessive. Unhappy. Episodes like this were hard to predict and harder to control. I was “gone” for months at a time. I couldn’t get my life back together. I turned away all professional help that I had sought that year to focus on survival instead. The literal last thing I should have and could have been concerned about was eating healthy. There were days I ate old spaghettios that my dad gave me. I would have reeled at the offering of spaghettios in my “healthy” days.
After I was unemployed the most recent time in January of 2015, having lost the love of my life as even a friend, and coming to terms with just how extensive and serious my mental illness is, I was in a pretty dark place. My self-esteem was low, my sense of purpose felt scattered, at best, and I had few things that I was genuinely interested in on a passionate level or felt the courage to pursue.
But this is now: I’ve been at my current job since February 2015, which makes 10 whole months today. I spend more time with my son. I am in a happier relationship than I was at the start of this year (I dated someone else after my fiance who did not really make me happy). I am seeing the big picture in my school and video production-related endeavors. I am working on my mental health, even if it’s just self-help and not professional right now. I am learning to have perseverance every day, instead of just when I feel like it.
Back then, I had no way to deal with my mental health. I knew I had issues, but I had no way to cope. I didn’t seek professional help until 2014 (and that crashed and burned quickly due to my unemployment). And though I looked great in that picture, I was emotionally a wreck. I was obsessed with my eating. I was restrictive in my eating. I was too concerned about proper workouts. I was too concerned about what I could and couldn’t eat. It was too controlled. It wasn’t the product of my happiness. It actually made me more nervous and more uptight and more unhappy.
Now, I’m happier in many ways. In the areas I’m not, I am learning to accept it and move on, or accept responsibility to change it. Am I this fully recovered, peaceful human being? Hell no. Quite the opposite. But in June 2013, I had pretty much zero tools to cope. I may have looked great and felt great physically, but I was the villain in my own story. I looked all sunshine and beauty, but I have more monsters hiding than anyone knows. The difference though is that I have SOME tools. I have SOME skills. I have a plan. I have many good ideas. That’s way more than what I had before.
Back then, I never thought I would see myself as the hero. I never thought that I’d save a life, much less my own. I never thought I could be any better or more redeemable or more worthy than I was then.
But that was then, and this is now. ❤