A close friend of mine recently wrote this article for a presentation she gave in one of her graduate classes on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Shortly after she shared it as a note on facebook and had a tremendous response from people who could resonate with her and were impacted through it. I thought it was powerful and asked her if I could share it as a guest post on the blog. My prayer is that you would be both encouraged and inspired through her story and the power of vulnerability.
ASHAMED, EMBARRASSED, UNWORTHY, DISGUSTING, UGLY, UNLOVABLE… These are some of the words that have marked my life since I was thirteen years old. I, like many adolescents, started getting acne around age twelve or thirteen. It was always fairly moderate, but I acquired a habit of picking at anything and everything that dare disturb my magazine ideal of flawless.
It has been almost fifteen years, and I have not been able to stop picking at my skin for more than three consecutive days—on average spending about one to two hours a day doing it. In the past I could spend up to six hours, often desiring death over the existence I was living. “Tortured” is the only word I could use to describe my experience, tortured and alone. I hated my skin and I hated myself. If someone told me I was pretty, my first thought was, “You wouldn’t think that if you saw me without makeup.” I was repulsive, and no one would ever find me attractive (let’s be honest—lovable) without a good layer of concealer.
I know the battle is in my mind, but at times it feels so real. It feels like everyone is staring at my imperfections and thinking, “Yuck,” and even if they aren’t, I sure am. For many years my mind was so obsessed that all I wanted was to get home, wash my face, slather it in benzyl peroxide, and hide. Happiness was only found in distractions, but, at the end of the day, there was always the inevitable mirror.
I wish I could say I am now healed and the battle is over, but it continues. I am much better these days, however, at keeping my mind from believing the lies associated with self-worth. Once, while lying on the floor completely desperate I felt a voice say, “True beauty is not perfection, but allowing love to cover every imperfection.” I know this to be true, and every day I work toward believing it. One thing I have found is that if I continue to only allow “perfect-covered-up-me” to be seen by others, then I will continue to believe that perfection is the only thing that is lovable. It’s difficult to truly know that the gross, messy, ugly parts of me are lovable too when I don’t give anyone the opportunity to see them. Since I believe I am only lovable when I look presentable, I allow beauty and love to be truth about me only when I think it is deserved. I have found, however, that the difficult part is allowing love in when you DON’T think you deserve it, when you don’t want anyone to see.
I am writing this story not because I need people to feel sorry for me, not because I need the entire world to know my issues or to have people tell me I am beautiful (just the way I am—Thanks, Bruno Mars) but because I know this is not just my story. I know most of us have a story just like mine; mine is skin, but yours is ________ (fill in the blank), a place in your life that you hide because you feel ASHAMED, EMBARASSED, UNWORTHY, DISGUSTING, UGLY, UNLOVABLE.
Though I wish I could say, “Jesus healed my skin, and now I feel beautiful and free,” this is not the case. It is still a daily battle, some filled with great triumph, while others seem to see nothing but defeat. However, one thing I am learning is that in my willingness to be rejected, others (including myself) get an opportunity to feel accepted. My hope is that in knowing my story, someone might just know that they are not alone. I can’t help but think that maybe, if we all had the courage to be vulnerable and allow love in where we don’t think we deserve it, love could finally win.
There seems to be a place in many of us that feels like a child in a dark corner without anyone looking for him/her. The longer the child hides, the deeper the lie goes, “No one cares, you are not worthy of love, and no one is looking for you.” Maybe if we were willing to share our shame we would find healing in simply bringing pain to the light and, by allowing our willingness to be rejected, to actually set us free
This story is for all those who continue to fight. Be brave and don’t give up. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know love cannot fail.. I hope I/we can all start to find courage in knowing we are not alone and that we are lovable in our darkest, most ugly parts. For a long time, I believed that I could only set others “free” if I myself had gained such a victory. I am finding, however, that there is unimaginable power in simply bringing “the battle” to the light. In a world that longs for the “5 steps to freedom,” I am here to say that freedom may not always be some sort of “solution”. Instead, it may be found first in knowing this: The battle is real, so we fight. Sometimes we fail, but we brush off the dirt and stand. We might fail a million times, but victory is not merely in our ”success” but in our wiliness to pick ourselves back up time and time again—and stand.
See Kaelyn’s Bio Below