• Kristina Lang

"Girl, 30 Looks Good on You!"

Ah yes, 2020. The year that we've all been waiting for! No, wait, scratch that...more like the year that we've all been dreading. Contrary to popular belief, I don't say this because this year has brought with it a series of "modern day plagues" - you know, Saharan dust clouds, murder hornets, systemic racism, and oh yeah, a deadly pandemic. I say this because 2020 is the year that my fellow 1990's babies and I turn *gasp* 30.

Sorry social media, but your vain, baby-thrusting, self-loathing agenda won't work on me. While so many of my fellow Millennials are begrudgingly sliding into this new decade hoping to mostly go unnoticed, I feel myself screaming at the top of my lungs - "LOOK AT ME, I MADE IT!" You see, this new decade feels like the perfect opportunity to celebrate how I survived some of the most transformative and often heartbreaking years of my life.

Anyone that knew me at age 21 had the immense displeasure of knowing me at my absolute worst. Instead of being young, beautiful, and fancy-free, I was struggling with a severe depressive episode. That year, I single-handedly ruined an important friendship, lost sight of the person I was, and quite frankly, nearly lost my life. In February of that year, I was diagnosed with not one, but three mental health disorders by my university's psychiatrist (in case you're wondering, I'm referring to Anorexia Nervosa, Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder). I mean, I know that plenty of mental health disorders have overlaps, but damn, it was a LOT to handle all at once. My "new normal" hit me hard. Before I knew it, I withered down to nothing but skin and bones, began losing hunks of my hair, engaged in self-harm behaviors, and talked myself out of planning my own suicide countless times. It felt like I was living in a world inspired by the color schemes of a Tim Burton film - gray and lackluster. Unfortunately, I had to lose a vital friendship in order for me to decide that it was time to put down the "victim" card and accept help - I had to change my trajectory in life before I no longer had a life to save.

here I was at age 21 (2012) hiding behind a fake smile

Life post-college was initially filled with various antidepressant prescriptions, therapy appointments, and dietary plans designed to get my body and mind back to a state of overall vitality. In a matter of mere months, my outlook on life had taken a complete 180 degree turn. But even still, it took me the remainder of my 20's to put in the work of learning how to coexist and appreciate (yes, appreciate!) my mental health disorders. Primarily, I learned how to leave relationships that were no longer serving me, swallow my pride when necessary, and channel my often complicated emotions in a healthy way - a way that wouldn't hurt those that I love and admire. These days, I wear my illnesses and deep understanding of them as a badge of honor and that's because it's been the greatest vehicle for change in my life.

Now, this is a long-winded way of saying that my youth - my 20's in particular - were really not all that they were cracked up to be. Although I wouldn't wish my dual diagnoses on anyone, the experience and the work that it took to truly accept myself for all that I am taught me more about life and self-love than I ever thought possible. Sure, I may not have hit upon the typical 20-something milestones - you know, marriage, babies, blah blah blah - but I feel as though I've reaped more fulfillment from learning to fall in love with myself. When you've found yourself standing at the edge of a metaphorical cliff and made the decision to enjoy the view instead of jumping to your death, you stop questioning whether your life compares to that of others in your age group; you're far too focused on taking in the beauty that you've just now started to see for yourself.

here I am at age 29 (2019) sporting an entirely more authentic attitude

I couldn't possibly know what the next 10 years have in store for me but even the thought of finding my first gray hair or fine line feels like "small potatoes" compared to the thought that there's an alternate ending where perhaps I wouldn't even be here at all. If turning the big 3-0 is the worst thing that comes from making it this far, then baby, I'll take it!

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