When I look in the mirror, I see the face of a monster. On the outside, I see the features of a monster, and on the inside, I see a cancerous darkness that spreads to every part of my life. I don't remember the exact moment this started, but I have always hated myself. When you hate yourself that much, it's difficult to picture yourself ever loving anyone. Society agreed, telling me that I could not love anyone until I loved myself. It wasn't just Body Dysmorphic Disorder though. It was Depression, anxiety, and so much more. I hated it all. I was an abomination. I was strange. I was wrong. I... The list goes on and on, and instead of allowing love into my life, to support my healing, I closed myself off to it.
Love is an action, it is not a state of everything. Yet often times, we expect Love to be the state of everything. If we are not loving all the time, then we can not love ourselves, or others. This is simply not true. Yes, every moment we are capable of being filled with love, but that's often not the case.
For individuals living with depression and similar disorders, saying the you must love yourself first can be problematic. We can all be loved, and we can all love, but that doesn't mean that we are at a place to accept that love. The act of accepting love, as an action, a gift given by someone else or ourselves, is an act of self love. Accepting or acknowledging our depression, or any mental illness, is an act of self love. And, loving others can be an expression of self love.
It wasn't until I learned that loving others is an expression of self love, learned to love others, that I was able to see past my outside monstrous appearance and the see the beauty in who I am. That was my first act of self love.
Love is an investment in spiritual growth, it's not as simple as a give and take relationship. With a single act of love we can love ourselves, other individuals, nature, God, and everything else you can think of. We are capable of so much love, but the key is acknowledging its existence within our lives. We deserve to be loved by ourselves and others, and, many of us are loved, we just don't know it yet. If you are reading this, then know that I love you. I am doing whatever I can to invest in you, and at the same time I invest in myself.
You might not be ready to believe that, or to accept it, and that's okay. I love you anyways.
For a great book about love and creating a love ethic check out Bell Hooks' 'All About Love'.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter, instagram or facebook.