Growing up, I was often compared to my aunt on my mother’s side. We both loved animals, reading, writing, and making others happy. Her selflessness was something that I admired about her deeply. Throughout my younger years and all through high school and most of college, we were very close despite living many states away from each other. It was always so exciting when I would get a letter from her and I couldn’t wait to write her back and tell her about how things were going with me. She was one of the few people who I felt completely comfortable talking to about most things. The only thing I didn’t feel comfortable talking about with her was her body image issues and severe eating disorder. I couldn’t understand how someone who was clearly one of the most beautiful and amazing humans could view herself the way she did. She told me many times to not be like her. She wanted better for me and knew I looked up to her in many ways. In hindsight, it is obvious now how worried she was that I would follow her footsteps down the road of an eating disorder to feel better about myself.
My junior year in college, I came across an email in the account I shared with my mother that stated an airline ticket was purchased. Curious, I called home to find out what was happening to make her buy this ticket without mentioning it at all. Many calls and texts later, I find out that my aunt is in the hospital due to an illness, made worse by her eating disorder. Her body was too weak from very little nutrients to handle the illness and she was not expected to make it through the end of the week. I was confused and angry about why I hadn’t been told so I could make arrangements for school to see her one last time and say goodbye. With it being the week of finals, my mother wanted to spare me the stress and anxiety of knowing this until after I was done taking my exams. Because of this, though, my aunt passed away before I was able to say goodbye. The grief overwhelmed me. I felt betrayed by my mother and so angry that she would take this away from me. Yes, she was her sister, but she meant a great deal to me too. Deep down, I knew that my mother was trying to do what was right for me and I had to remind myself of that when the desperate need to blame someone started to overtake me.
There is a song that recently came out that makes me think of my aunt with both sadness, and appreciation. The song is called, “Save Myself” by Ed Sheeran and one of the lyrics that hits so close to home says, “before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself. And before I blame someone else, I’ve got to save myself. And before I love someone else, I’ve got to love myself.” My aunt was so selfless and giving, but failed to see herself the way that so many others saw her. I still think about her often and appreciate the love and advice she bestowed upon me. Because of her, I remind myself that self-care and self-love is essential. While it is not always easy, I try to see myself through the eyes of another and that helps me realize when I need to take a step back or when help may be needed.
Reaching out to talk to someone can help us see things through another set of eyes. There are others who have climbed mountains of their own who can empathize with us and help us save ourselves.