What makes you who you are? What defines you as an individual, what is it that you recognize when you see yourself in pictures or look in the mirror? What if those things disappeared; who would you see then? Who would you be?
An illness has taken over my life; well, maybe it took it, maybe I gave it away. But a numbness, a sense of loss has been spreading over me these past few months. Illness, whether it affects your heart, lungs, or your brain, it changes your world, and it changes you. This feeling of numbness has accompanied a thought that everything that once made me me, is gone. Taken or at least tainted by an illness. And with those things, I have disappeared too.
What makes you who you are?
Is it your smile? The way that the corners of your lips turn up, your lopsided dimples, the way it is reflected in your eyes; all of the quirks that make it truly yours, all of the things happening on your face that you are not even aware of in a moment of pure happiness.
Is it the things that make you happy? Your hobbies, your favorite books? The way that playing music takes you to another quiet world, all your own.
Is it your dreams and goals? The way you go full steam ahead, tackling every milestone, every deadline. The way others see you as successful, hardworking, how you contribute to the world around you.
Is it the way you laugh? Or the way you make others laugh?
Are you the funny one, the helper, the quiet one, the loud one, the clumsy one, the popular one, the know-it-all? What is it that others recognize in you as purely you?
What do you see, what do you feel, when you look in the mirror? Is it you? Or is it a look-a-like?
What would happen if your smile wasn’t yours anymore? If the odd dimple above your lip no longer formed, and nothing was reflected in your eyes. It’s an odd feeling to be so numb to your own outward emotions, that you can no longer recognize them as belonging to you.
I have become so tired, and so drained by this illness that I no longer remember what it feels like to be human. When I look in the mirror, I feel nothing. I don’t remember what it feels like to smile or laugh without it hurting. It hurts to smile, knowing you won’t feel it; that the smile isn’t for you, but for the benefit of those around you. I no longer remember what it is to truly relax in a moment without some unwanted fear lurking in the background. Every moment that I spend doing something I used to enjoy, is given to me by OCD. Every moment is on loan. But OCD is there, waiting on the sidelines, reminding me that this is just a gift and can be taken away with any small twitch of my muscle.
What if you were to look in the mirror, and not see anyone that you recognize? Does that thought scare you? It scares me. I disappeared. I’ve gone on autopilot. My body moves, breathes, eats, based on muscle memory.
What if you lost yourself, and were then told that the only way to find yourself again is to go further into the darkest depths of your fears? The ones that chased you into autopilot in the first place. That you had to purposefully add to your discomfort in order to drag yourself back out of this robot shell. Could you do it?
Most of the time I want to say no, that I couldn’t. That I’m already too tired, too scared, hurt too much to push myself further. But humans are remarkably resilient, so I know that we can do it. I’ve done it before. I just have to remember how, and I can do it again.
“You are Remarkable”
If you find yourself staring at a stranger in the mirror, convinced the fear is too big, too great, please remind yourself that if you’ve come this far, fought your illness this long, you are remarkable. You are strong. You’ve done something that many can’t do. And you can win.
You’ll find what makes you who you are. That list will have lost some, gained some, but whatever remains on that list of You, and whatever is added will have been made stronger by this fight. You will find a resilience in you that you didn’t know existed.
So fight back at that stranger staring back at you. Regain your place in your reflection.