Recently I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. We have breakfast together and had a good chat about all things life and all things mental health. But then, he asked me a question I wasn’t ready for. It wasn’t a bad question, and I’m not disappointed he asked, it was just not a question I had ever been asked about my trauma experience before and it caught me off guard.
He asked, “Do you think you’re better off having had things happen the way they did?”, or something to that effect.
Am I better off? I thought for a few seconds, and I said “No, of course not”. But like most things these days, it got me thinking.
The reason I said no was because that event set off a life long mental illness that I now have to cope with every single day. I said no because to this day I wake up in hot sweats because I spent my dreams running for my life from some extreme danger, or hearing the screams of my loved ones as they perished in a fire I was too scared to put out. I said no because I now literally hate myself and the way that I look, and I look at food and nourishment as if it’s the enemy. And I said no because if that event never happened, these things wouldn’t have either and maybe I’d be happier.
But this is a very bleak outlook, and it may not be entirely realistic. I spoke to my partner about it and he reminded me that Po may still have presented herself anyway, after all, I was in my early 20s. And if the attack didn’t happen, and Po showed her face in a different way, maybe it would have been a lot longer before I got help. I probably wouldn’t have even known I needed help. I could have gone for years and years without treatment, episodes getting worse and worse each time. If that happened, yeah, things could be a LOT worse.
If the attack hadn’t happened, I definitely wouldn’t have met Pete. But if the attack didn’t happen, how would I react if something else were to happen? I’ve built up so many coping mechanisms as a result of this attack, I’ve completely adjusted my outlook on life, I now know (or at least I think I know) what is important in my life, and I truly think, maybe, that I could go through anything life throws at me now and come out the other side relatively intact.
I have no upside for Ed. Ed is a bastard and there’s really no silver lining, at least not yet anyway. I can hope that I come out the other side of Ed with a renewed sense of self and an appreciation for the usefulness of my body that I otherwise may have never achieved, but I’m still very far away from this reality. I still cry at my own reflection, and analyse every mouthful. I still want to starve myself. I still look at those without food fears with envy, and my internal monologue is just plain rude. From the perspective of Ed, I am not better off.
Though, from the perspective of Pete and Po, maybe I was wrong to say no so quickly. But maybe “better off” is not the right word. How many of you have tried growing plants? You nurture them, and water them. Feed them and prune them, only to watch them die. Then you see those plants and grasses growing through literal concrete, getting trod on, only getting water when it rarely decides to rain did I mention they are growing through literal concrete. Their conditions are horrible, and they’ve been through some shit and yet, here they are, pushing on, sometimes even growing pretty flowers. I think I’m “better off” in the way these plants are “better off”, things are still very hard for them, but they’re still alive and kicking and that’s what matters.