Vulnerability: Toe-Dipping Feels Like Skinny Dipping

The past month has been incredibly hard. I’ve been struggling a lot. Choosing recovery has helped tons, but with religious trauma and the knowledge that I binge eat added to the plate, it’s all just… a lot.

I always prided myself on my openness about my mental illness – I told my (Chinese) church that I had depression before being baptized, I talk freely (and often unsolicited, hehe) online about my story and optimism, and I even made a Facebook post mentioning that I’m struggling with depression, emotional abuse, religious trauma, and binge eating last week.

But these past 2 weeks, I realized that I’m not nearly as open in person. In fact, I made it through my depression (and the emotional abuse and stirrings of deconversion, though I didn’t realize it) all through middle and high school without relying on anyone in person. There were few talks with my mother or best friend, but my main and only support system was through Tumblr. I’ve made several friends ever since I joined the website freshman year and I’m forever grateful for every word of encouragement and compliment I receive there.

Yet now I’m in college – with a proper therapist (who actually specializes in religious diversity and trauma, which I find so serendipitous), a liberal environment where I can go by the pronouns I want and live freely… the list goes on. I am not in the same abusive home I was for 18 years, and with this space I can finally root out all the shitty thoughts I was indoctrinated with by my religion and become who I want to be. A big, big part of choosing recovery is bringing my support system off the screen and into the flesh.

It was so hard, but I told my therapist everything that’s happened the past week, and for once I wasn’t infectiously optimistic about it all. He seemed extra quiet and even saddened, and he encouraged that I try my hardest to reach out to at least one friend and ask for help. So… I did. The first friend held my hands the entire time and reassured me that he wouldn’t stop being friends with me, whether depression makes me withdraw or not. He’s also committed to making sure I eat healthy amounts of food. Later at dinner, I told most of my other friends the same thing, making it pretty vague and lighthearted.

The heaviest part of the day happened a few hours ago: I sat on the couch, legs in a friend’s lap, and told her and 2 other friends about my story with depression and the trauma of leaving Christianity. It was so difficult, and I cried a lot… but I couldn’t ask for a better response. They sympathized with how difficult it was, and how I felt weird about crying while I told my story. It still feels so surreal knowing that people in real life know what I’m struggling with. I’m used to carrying all of this weight all by myself and I finally see just how much weight that is to bear alone.

For once, I don’t feel optimistic to the point of muting my sadness or exhaustion, which I’m glad for. This just… is. I was vulnerable and it felt less like dipping my toes in than plunging in headfirst, even though I didn’t even tell my full story. But I did it, hard as it was. And I have a feeling I will be very grateful.  Things have changed, although it doesn’t feel like it yet. We’ll see where it goes. ❤

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