By Kinsley Holland
I wish someone would have told me that I was not the only one. I wish I would’ve known that I was not alone in my struggles, alone in my fears, trapped on a deserted island of my shame. And that is why I am telling you, right here. Right now.
When I was on the verge of my teenage years, I began to seriously struggle with the way I would feel when I looked at my body in the mirror. But it was even so much more than that, so much more than just my body- it was my skin, my hair, my nails, my smile, my teeth, my eyebrows. Everything. Though I never succumbed to the temptation of self-harm, I allowed my thoughts full of self-hatred to chip away at the innermost pieces of my being. My soul was crushing under the weight of the anxiety and fits of depressions that I would experience whenever I thought about myself.
One of my most vivid memories of the pain I experienced from all this came when I was playing sand volleyball in my junior year of high school. I showed up to my first practice, wearing what every other girl was wearing, but the lies forming in my head, saying things like, “You’re fat in comparison to these other girls,” “You’re an outsider,” and “What do you even think you’re doing here? You’re not good enough.” I made the excuse to run inside to the bathroom, and for the next ten minutes I struggled to find my breath, as I felt like the lies in my head were going to crush me to pieces. My first anxiety attack came that night, and it was one of the most difficult experiences that far in my life.
And I wish someone would have told me I wasn’t alone in my struggles. So, because I thought I was, I want to remind YOU today that you’re not. You, my friend, never walk alone.
I think when our mental health takes a hit from our own bodies, we feel isolated. We feel as though there has never been someone else in the world like us to have struggled, well, like us. When I was 16, I really began to share my struggles with those around me I was closest to. In my mind, many nights are stained in tears as I just grieved through the loss of my hope, grieved through the loss of my joy. What I heard from the girls with whom I had trusted with my deepest hurts astounded me. They had struggled too. Many of them, at some point in their lives, had dealt with the grip of mental illness, self-hatred, and body image struggles. And the most encouraging thing was that they had made it through. So, I knew that I could make it too.
Today, as I write this, I’m a nineteen-year-old sophomore in college. I love my life. I love my body. I love the quirks God gave me, the crooked smile I flash when I’m too overjoyed to contain my laughter. I love where my life is now because I know where I have been. Don’t be fooled, though. Those thoughts of unworthiness and those feelings of hurt still surface on occasion. They don’t just disappear entirely. But what I have learned is that we’ve been given a community for a reason. We have communities around us to remind us that we are so worth loving, that we are qualified to do the things we dream of, and to remind us we have hope and a future.
Personally, I never had to seek out medical help to get better. I have many friends who have made that decision because it was the best thing for them. The ways in which we’ve gotten better do not make one superior and the other inferior. They just make us different. And I don’t know about you, but I really have learned to like different. I found my hope in a Savior named Jesus who tells me every day that I am worth everything to Him. He tells me that I am beautiful in His sight. “Imago Dei,” meaning “Image of God” in Latin, is the promise that carries me through each hard day. And for me, that kind of love and acceptance I find in Him is enough.