The Battles Behind Closed Doors

After nearly six years of fighting a relentless eating disorder and one year of fighting to get my life back in a painfully non-linear direction, I was drowning in my own grief. I was sick and tired of fighting. The swamp of my grief led to hopelessness, which led to misery which ultimately, led me to sinking in the floods of my own anger. I was angry that my life felt so much harder than everybody’s around me – that I was the unlucky one who couldn't catch a break. I couldn't help but desperately wonder what I did to deserve all of this.

I continued to believe that I was drowning in solitude while everyone around me was gracefully floating through life. I continued to believe this until life presented me with another painfully ruthless experience — an experience that completely opened my eyes up to reality. As my blindfold was aggressively ripped off, I was instantly able to see that I had become completely blinded by my own self-pity.

Unfortunately, this eye-opening experience of mine presented itself in a twisted, agonizing way. As someone who struggles with low self-esteem, I’ve been quick to put others on a pedestal. So, because my therapist doesn't have an eating disorder, doesn't think about food the way I do, can eat whatever she wants and stay naturally thin, has a husband, has a house, has friends, is smart, empathetic, pretty and has my dream job, it was almost too easy for me to assume that she had it all.  It was too easy to assume her life was a perfect one I hoped to someday embody.

So, when I found out that my seemingly perfect therapist, L, was fighting a battle of her own, my world was rocked. I was confronted with overwhelmingly intense emotions of despair, sorrow and rage. I was honestly startled, a bit freaked out and also confused as to why my reaction was so strong. Why couldn't I get this constant pit out of my stomach? Why was I so distraught and affected by this? After several breakdowns, many conversations and a lot of processing, I’ve come to realize that my reaction was a byproduct of caring deeply about my therapist while also of discovering the harsh reality of life — everyone, even those who seem to have it all, fights a battle behind closed doors. I think that believing L had this impossibly perfect life gave me a false sense of hope. It was comforting to believe that maybe not everyone had to suffer the way I did. Maybe the “lucky ones” really did exist.

I now recognize that by putting L on this pedestal, I was putting myself down. I made myself out to be someone who was never good enough. I subconsciously took away L’s right to be human, as well as my own right to be human, as I constantly tried to “fix myself”. It wasn't until this moment, when I took L off of this unrealistically high pedestal, that my eyes truly opened. I no longer separate the two of us into such diverse categories. Instead, as we walk on the same ground together, I am solely inspired by L. I am inspired by her grit and determination to fight. I am inspired that she was able to be my rock, despite having her own struggles. I am inspired by how positive she was when she told me her bad news — she didn't pity herself. In fact, she was strong enough for the both of us.

As the floods of my anger evaporated, I realized that I was no longer drowning in my own grief — instead, I was existing in the respect and empathy I had for my therapist. I now know that despite my own struggles, I too, am strong enough to be there for people who are struggling in the same way that L has been there for me. In fact, I too am strong enough to be there for her right now. I now know that everybody has a battle they’re fighting behind closed doors — I won’t ever be so consumed in my own grief again. I now know that my blindfold of grief distorts my perception of others and makes my view of them quite foggy. I now know that empathy stems from understanding that we all suffer in ways that are not always visible — that everybody suffers behind closed doors. As I’m now able to see beyond my own pain and witness the pain in others eyes, I now know what being empathetic truly means. After this experience, I will never look at another person in the same way because, after all, who knows what someone else is battling behind closed doors.