On the Monday this picture was taken, I received several compliments at work. When I uploaded this photo as my new profile picture on Facebook the next evening, more than a hundred people liked it, many leaving comments about how beautiful I looked. Yet, I felt like the picture was a façade and a fraud, something I uploaded to show all my “friends” I was happy and pretty, even though I felt like neither.
What no one knows about this picture is I was struggling with my borderline personality disorder (BPD). It was running on full speed. I wanted to self-harm just 15 minutes before because of the number I saw on the scale. Clothes were scattered all over my room because nothing fit or covered up everything I wanted it to hide. I had just taken an extra anxiety pill and was even considering taking a shot of vodka to get me out the door and to work. My head was full. It was loud and inundated with negative internal dialogue. I screamed at myself to stop, said a prayer and quickly walked out the door.
That morning I wanted proof I was a messed up “crazy” person. So I snapped a picture in the hallway of my apartment building. At first, all I saw was the extra weight on my face and my acne-scarred skin and wrinkles. However, I didn’t hate it and decided not to immediately press delete.
Throughout the Monday and Tuesday before I posted the picture of the “happy, pretty me,” I thought a great deal about why I felt that picture was a fake, what I knew no one could tell about my BPD in it and what even I couldn’t see at first glance. I carefully examined the photo and saw what I had missed, the slight sadness in my eyes. Then, it started making sense.
That picture was real and was exactly who I am. I saw I was every bit that sad and happy girl in the picture. I realized those wrinkles and scars are not ugly. They are simply a part of my story. And the extra weight? Well, that was too, because I had gained it during months on a steroid that kept me alive after a severe asthma attack left me with a partially collapsed lung and a 10-day hospital stay.
Everything “wrong” with the picture proved I was alive for a purpose and on an incredible journey. The realness of that picture portrayed me exactly how I was at that moment, a girl battling a severe mental illness. Although the intense emotions that accompany BPD may have been tamed in that picture to everyone else, they were most definitely there in the details.
It reminded me of one of the most truthful quotes I have ever read from “Perks of Being a Wallflower.” It says, “So, this is my life, and I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” And I am perfectly OK with that, whether you can or can’t tell in that picture.