One of the hardest questions to answer in life is the “what makes you different” question. It is a question that comes up in some casual conversations with friends, job interviews, and occasionally in late night talks with your mom. Okay, maybe that last one is just me. But in talking to my mom about my life goals, she really got me to think. I was struggling a little with my blog, and she told me to put myself in my reader’s shoes. She told me to think about a few things. Number one, why should people follow my story instead of the story of others? And number two, how do I describe myself? How am I different?
Let me be the first to tell you, I freaking love life. Even though I love it, life has also thrown some nasty curveballs at me. There are few 24 year old males who battle depression, few that battle an eating disorder, and few that battle social anxiety. There is a minuscule amount of 24 year olds in the world that battle all three. Well, I am one of them. I am a survivor of not one, not two, but three mental illnesses. While these illnesses will always be apart of my life, they are illnesses that I am overcoming and improving on, on a daily basis. Everyday that passes, I am more motivated to live a better and happier life. So let me share with you why I am different than any other 24 year old that you will know.
When I had just turned 20 years old, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. During what is supposed to be the best 4 years of your life, my life quickly turned into a battle. I was battling constant doubt in my own head and couldn’t seem to escape my emotions. I would spend hours in my dorm room staring at blank walls because I had very little drive and desire in life. Every weekend, I would drive home to be with my family. My home was simply the only place where I was comfortable.
My depression soon resulted in low self-esteem. One way that I thought I could improve my self-esteem was by diet and exercise. While it did help for some time, it also quickly became an obsession. My day would not be complete without a workout, and it would be ruined if I ate poorly. I allowed myself a certain amount of calories to consume on a daily basis and would never exceed that. What physique competitors do for three months before a competition to get as lean as they do, I was doing for five years. No oils, no fats, no dessert, no enjoyment.
Due to being so caught up in my diet and exercise, my social life quickly disappeared. Missing a workout was not an option, so while my friends were out and enjoying the nightlife, I was in my room to make sure that I was able to workout the next day. When they would go out to eat, I would come up with some excuse (usually not feeling well) for why I couldn’t go. The truth is, if I didn’t know the nutritional information and couldn’t count the calories for the restaurant my friends were going to, there wasn’t a chance that I would go.
My battle with depression and self-esteem ultimately led to social anxiety. Because I was ditching my friends to focus on dieting and exercising, I forgot how to interact with others. Hanging out with my friends was something that I took for granted, and it soon became something that I forgot how to do. While I wanted to go hang out with friends and create long lasting memories, I couldn’t. It was hard enough to talk to them, so imagine the stress I felt when we would hang out for longer periods of time.
Reading through this makes me incredibly proud of myself. I am not necessarily proud of what is in the content above. Instead, I am proud of the fact that I can admit my issues, and the fact that I am as happy and positive as I am despite all of the adversity that I have faced. While I understand that I am only 24 years old, there are many people who go through their entire life without experiencing two, nevertheless all three of the illnesses above. It has not been easy, but through it all I have remained humble and strong.
Most importantly, I like to describe myself as a survivor. I have faced these illnesses, I have fought these illnesses, and I have overcome these illnesses. Even though I have thought about giving up many times and have thought about ending all of my pain, I didn’t quit. I cherish everyday for what it is and can’t wait to see what tomorrow offers. The future doesn’t scare me anymore, it excites me. It excites me because I have the opportunity to spread motivation, inspiration, and positivity to people. People who are trying to overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges like I overcame my own. That is how I am different from any other person that I know.
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