Defining my problem was the best thing that ever happened to me. Ever since I can remember, I've always been anxious. Not just nervous, but anxious. I would make myself physically sick when I was too anxious about things, and constantly felt the need to be liked, accepted and "good enough". As I entered my teenage years, this anxiety became overwhelming to the point where it controlled my every action. I became depressed due to the fact that I would never be good enough, and that depression manifested into anger. I became a person I did not know or recognize, and felt as though I was not truly in my own body. I developed an eating disorder at the age of 13, and manipulated my way out of the inpatient hospital program I was in, because I was so afraid of what people would think. I became a person no one wanted to be around, and no one in my family knew, recognized or understood. I isolated myself constantly because the fear of being good enough and that isolation further perpetuated my anxiety, depression, and eating disorder. My depression and anxiety became anger at the world and those around me, and I felt unable to control my emotions. My eating disorder, ED as I called him, became the only person I could consistently rely on. I pushed away my emotions, faked smiles in public, avoided my problems through drugs and the binge purge cycle, and hid my scars with long sleeves. I was seeing a therapist, however I denied to her and to myself that there was a problem. She put me on anti depressants and I either did not use them or abused them. I was so terrified of admitting to others, and to myself, that I had a real problem, and this wasn't just a phase.
I continued this cycle until I went to first year university, thinking I would escape my problems by moving, and ended up dropping out after two months. After dropping out, moving home and being told I was unable to live there due to my aggressive behaviour, I finally accepted that I needed real help. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression (as we knew) and began to get treatment that I was committed to. Things went fairly well for a few years, I moved home with my family, got out of an abusive relationship, and I went back to university. I had survived through first and second year with only a few ups and downs, and thought I was in the clear. I was taking my meds, had a great new group of friends, and loved my program. However, third year rolled around and I relapsed in my eating disorder. I hid the fact that I had relapsed for months, suffering silently to myself, and beginning the cycle of isolation and depression once again. One night, I looked at myself in the mirror one evening, face puffy, eyes watering and so depressed and called my parents, telling them I needed help. I went to an intensive treatment program that summer, and worked harder than I ever have, and pushed myself mentally and emotionally more than I knew was possible.
Since then, I've been committed to therapy, and committed to reducing the stigma of me asking for help. I truly feel as though if the stigma of mental illness weren't so prevalent in our society, I would've accepted and admitted that I had a problem years earlier. I was my own worst enemy, telling and convincing myself that people would judge and not accept me for needing help. I pushed people away when I needed them most, because of the fear of being honest, and being not okay. Though I have been in recovery for some time now, I still have ups and downs. I still go to therapy regularly, and am very open about how much it has helped and changed my life. I am no longer afraid, and no longer lie about where I am going when I have an appointment. Recently, I have graduated my undergrad after 5 long years, and will be going back to a post grad program in September. I still struggle, and I know that my anxiety and eating issues are going to be something I manage throughout my life. The difference now is that I am open with my struggles, and open to asking for help. When I slip, I have an incredible support system to help me get back on track. I have an amazing family, friends and boyfriend who are more loving and accepting than I ever could've imagined. My hope for sharing my story is to urge people to ask for help. Mental health issues, whatever they may be, are not a sign of weakness. Asking for help, and being committed to work on recovery are two of the hardest things to do, but the most worthwhile. Looking back, I never thought I would be here to this day. Between the depression, eating disorder and drug abuse, both my family and I truly did not know if I would make it through. Luckily though, I did, and not everyone is so fortunate. The more we reduce the stigma of asking for help, the more lives we can all change, one day at a time.