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Real Story

Embarrassed to empowered—speaking out about my illness

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Photo by: nathalielaure

Story of my struggle with stigma, bulimia, and self-harm

I went to student support meeting before starting college this year. The program is for people who had ‘difficulties’ in 12th grade and need some extra assistance transitioning into college. One girl came up to me and asked me what sort of problems I’d had in senior year and I turned bright red and mumbled ‘oh you know, stuff.’ Later I thought, why was I so embarrassed? Why was I so ashamed?’.

In this society, attached to having a mental illness is an incredible stigma, but it’s time to break away from that. Because nobody asks for a mental illness and it’s not their fault and I’m tired of feeling embarrassed when people ask me about it. I was diagnosed with a psychotic depression halfway through my senior year, but I’ve had the illness since I was about 12. Along with depression, I was diagnosed with bulimia, which I’d had for a couple of years before that. I was sexually abused when I was six years old, and I guess you could say that was probably a trigger to my mental illnesses, but I would say I probably would’ve had depression and bulimia despite being abused.

I think all three things have really fed off each other and are closely linked, which is why I think many people with bulimia have depression and many people who’ve been abused develop bulimia. Having been abused, I felt dirty and disgusting. I felt like I was a bad person because I hadn’t done anything to stop it. I thought it was all my fault. I hated myself and that led me to binging and purging. I thought I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough and by throwing up everything I ate, I felt I was one step closer to becoming those things. But every time I ‘cheated’ and binged, I would become really depressed because I saw myself as a weak person, someone who couldn’t control herself and her emotions.

That led me into a whirlpool of depression, self harm and suicide. It was a vicious cycle and I really think it was really difficult to break free from it all. I attempted suicide towards the end of senior year, and obviously, I survived it. The people around me looked out for me and took care of me because I couldn’t do it myself.

I was put on medication and that really helped. I also found a counselor who I really trusted and slowly began to talk about things I never thought I’d be able be able to talk about. She encouraged me to start writing as well, which really helped me get through things. Sometimes just getting everything out helps, especially when you feel like you’re not making sense enough to TALK about it or feel like you can’t talk just yet. I also found a passion for film and video - which also really helped me. Finding something that I loved and cared about really made life worth living and made me feel worthwhile. I also tried to surround myself with caring, friendly, happy people because that made it easier for me to lift myself out of depression - if I was with people who were feeling okay.

So how are things now? Things are a lot better. I am a first year college student and loving it. Sometimes things are still tough, but I just remember to take it one step at a time. If things are really bad I just tell myself to take it five minutes at a time. I try to get myself through it by telling myself to get through the next five minutes. And it usually works. I don’t want anyone to feel embarrassed or ashamed because they have a mental illness, which is why I think it’s so important for people to speak out. Because it’s okay to admit that you have a mental illness.

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