My “real self”

I was reading an article posted to Facebook on “Depression is the unavoidable by-product of not being who you really are?” I decided to ponder this and reflect on my own experiences of depression and self hate.

Looking back on my days pre-therapy I hated every part of me, frequently dreaming that I would have every part of me surgically changed, as thought I must look at total freak for the way people pointed and laughed at me in the street. My self image was so bad in waking life that I thought that I must look like the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I mean why else would people do that or call me ugly to my face? I decided that as heard it so often, it must be true, I must be truly have something repugnant about physical appearance. However, at no point in time would I ever have considered plastic surgery to change it for real. At the same time I was not allowed the freedom to express myself; I always Frances’ daughter not an individual in my own right, and she always wanted the final say in how I looked from my wig (I have alopecia universalis) to my glasses and how I dressed. Any medical appointments she would come to, encase I said something she did not want said. It took me a long time to realise I am the daughter of a narcissist.

Shortly after moving to Loughborough in October 2006 I began therapy, at first I had no real reason for feeling depressed as just always seemed to be there like raindrops in my tummy as I put when I was a child. It was then I started to unravel all I kept inside and found I had razor blades inside my stomach too, as often beat myself up emotionally for things that were not my fault and/or had never had a voice to say stop or no. I had been hurt so much by life that I almost gave up just before Easter 2008 as came close to suicide, I felt like the puppet mistress would never let me be free to be me. On my return to Edinburgh in October 2009, I had begun photographing, but nowhere near as much as I do now, with a feeling of sickness and dread. I had tried to turn the camera on me for around a year by then, perplexed at the woman that appeared on it as she was not the ogre in my head. Gradually over the next few years as I returned to writing combining with my photography and finding supportive friends I saw me as a person and learnt to appreciate, respect and love this unique person that I am. I belong not in a laboratory but helping others, writing and photographing, and dressing the way that suits me!

So was my depression caused by not being who I am? Yes and no. I am far happier internally than I have ever been, I can look in a mirror and say it’s just how I am at this moment and that’s okay. Equally, I can delete or edit a photograph based on it being a picture and not make it feel so personal. However, I still have depression as there are still things from my past that hurt me and in my present but try not to let them. To me mental health conditions, including depression, are far more complex than a simple and singular explanation. I have mentioned before that we let things take root and suddenly faced with a tree and sometimes a forest of issues we should have dealt with at the start. To me it is this forest that overwhelms us as we do not know where to begin to cut it down; borrowing an axe from someone else is like trying to use their methods to solve our issues it may work but not always; and often a combination of many things help, but the most important is living for today as per mindfulness so that the roots can take hold of us. So be true to ourselves, but equally be gentle with ourselves, as we’re not all meant to be Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian, or Kelly Brook, but also note the images we see of them are heavily edited and may also have just the same insecurities as we do!

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Mirror…reflections

What is a mirror? To most people it is something that shows their reflection. If we think beyond that, it is a silent mime act following our every move. If we go a little deeper, it is showing us in live action motion how the outside world sees us. Deeper still it is a magnifying glass that highlights all we dislike about ourselves. However, is it all of these things and none of these things? It physically may show these things but how we interpret what it is we see is another. Furthermore, it is said if we met our own double we would not recognise them, as we have an image in our head as to how we actually look. So does a mirror really reflect the real us and how we look to those we meet in the workplace, streets and malls?

The silent mime act may make us laugh as children, as there is someone doing all we do. As we grow we get worried how the outside world sees us as fear the fingers of judgement and rejection. Then we find it to be a truth sayer, telling how much weight we need to lose to how old we now are, reflected back at us. However, what we forget is it does not have a voice, and I don’t mean our own internal one, for if it did it may say something very different. It would not massage our egos but tell us how well we are doing with life; like a scar we see above our forehead, the mirror may show a small scar but our insides know it hides the painful memories it tells. So perhaps it gives us a version of us or hologram of our mind’s image?

These days we put so much emphasis on physical appearance that the mirror may reflect back to us. However it is what it does not show what is on the inside, from our personalities to the colour of our auras. I remember one of the early photographs I took of myself in Italy mid-May 2007 and asked someone “do I really look like that”? To which I got laughter of “erm yes Fi, who else did you think it was?” It hit me hard as realised the image I felt of myself was not the girl in the photograph. The girl in the photograph looked sad and in pain, needing a big hug to say all would be all right, and I knew in that instance I had to find my true self if was ever going to be free. Now I know a mirror does not reflect the full us; best viewed like a child, as a mime act copying all we do in that moment and nothing more.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Physical Form

It is said if we met ourselves in the street we would not recognise them as our twin. Every morning, afternoon, or evening in general we see our reflection in a mirror at least once, does a it really reflect who we are? To me it is like a silent mime act mincing our actions for a few moments in time. The visual it shows is a representation of us but not who we are as a human being lives in a world of words and sound.

A photograph does similar, it takes a representation of us at that moment, but no matter how many selfies we may take or edits we make on Photoshop, they can only speak for us so much. We form a representation of our physical form based on these, this can be both positive and negative, but what we need to remember this is only a brief representation in time of who we and how we look to the outside world.

When a stranger on the street or in a bar stops to tell us we’re beautiful or handsome it again is only a representation of ourselves they find beautiful as they do not know the mind and soul of the person within or our history. Accept it with a thanks. If we had never seen a banana or pear before, what would we think of their shape and colour, would we judge them like we do other people or how we see ourselves?

Beauty shines from within not just from the physical form, we’re like flowers in a meadow or a piece of art. Decorating with “make up” or other “beauty products” is like decorating a with glitter tortoise shell, pointless. Make up creates a mask to the world, perhaps we have been brainwashed for so long to believe it gives us confidence and/or makes us more attractive, when they are colourful chemicals to paint us.

A surgeon’s knife or injection may be used to change our physical form, but why do we spend money on vanity and ego, is it from believing our own voice or that of an industry built to give us poor self confidence? Accepting who we are is hard, it is sometimes call self love, I call it acceptance; it cannot be bought, sold or made, as we are the only ones who walk the full journey of our lives and nobody can change that.

Also our behaviour demonstrates who we are; for example do we help others because we want to, it looks good or our mate does it so we will do too? If someone suddenly became interested in helping others, like volunteering at their local hospital with sick children, at the same time they were starting internet dating to find a partner, are they connected and does the first really show their personality or a tool?

Knowing someone at a friendship level tells us far more about a person, their likes and dislikes, passions and hates, so the representation they have of us is the real us. They accept us for who we are as see beyond the tortoise shell and/or mask we wear, it is through their love and friendship we see ourselves better than any mirror or selfie can ever show. So if a friend says we look beautiful, we wear it with a smile.

Our physical form comes in all shapes and sizes, a variety of colours too, no one size, height or colour is better than the others, we are all human sized, one size does not fit all. Next time we see ourselves in the mirror, or a photograph of another, do not judge them or ourselves on that image as only a representation of physical form for a few seconds of their or our lifetimes nor the story behind the image we see.

© Fi S. J. Brown