In recognition of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Sarah blogs about speaking out about her anorexia.
When I started my university degree I didn't want people to know about my past, it wasn't that I was ashamed of having a mental illness I just felt that it had become my identity and moving to a new area was almost like a new start for me. However, I realised that my past experiences had made me who I was today.
I decided to speak up about my mental health problem
I am studying an Occupational Therapy degree and it was through finding meaningful activities that have helped me through my journey of recovery. So I decided to speak up about my mental health problem and my recovery in a video that my university was doing in conjunction with the Time To Change campaign.
My experiences have made me who I am today
When I was thinking about taking part in a video surrounding mental health that potentially could be seen by a wide range of people it did take some reflecting upon where I was asking myself questions ‘ was I ready?’ , ‘what would people think of me?’, ‘ am I recovered enough?’. In my mind I was ready, of course I care what people think of me but my experiences have made me who I am today.
I now have self acceptance which for me was a big part of my recovery
I can’t erase part of who I am and realised that I now have self acceptance which for me was a big part of my recovery. With the question I asked myself about ‘am I recovered enough’ I realised I had already answered that when I thought about self acceptance, as recovery I feel is a process and a journey. At this point in time, part of my journey was sharing my experiences.
After I had finished recording the video, I felt a sense of achievement. It wasn’t too long ago that I felt so entrenched in my illness that I couldn’t see me ever becoming something other than an anorexic it had become part of my identify, and afterwards it almost felt like a surreal moment.
I did feel quite anxious about what people’s reactions would be
When I shared the video through social networking I knew that it would be seen by a wide range of people and I did feel quite anxious about what people’s reactions would be. I was worried that people would treat me differently, that because they “knew” they would act differently around me. However I now know this was an irrational fear and I was overwhelmed by the responses that I had received.
Friends started telling me about their own experiences with mental illness
I had friends from university and home come up to me and congratulating me on the video, telling me how proud they were of me. I was pleased that it had provoked talk of mental health, where friends were telling me about their own experiences with mental illness over a relaxed lunch break. This was something that the video was trying to get across that it is okay to talk, so I felt pleased to see that this was occurring; and hopefully this will help reduce stigma attached to mental illness. I began to feel proud that I was able to speak about things that some people would find very hard to speak about.
I feel that talking about mental illness is one of the first steps in recovery, and as I spoke about in the video I had to accept that I had a mental illness in order to recover.
I feel I am able to be more honest and open with others when I am struggling with things
My experience of speaking out about mental health was no doubt a positive experience and I would encourage others to speak out, as it has really helped my recovery. I feel I am able to be more honest and open with others when I am struggling with things, and the conversation feels natural. It has made me more passionate about challenging stigma and promoting recovery from mental illness. I am helping to devise recovery focused groups that will be used in mental health in-patient wards. I am no longer afraid of speaking out to others, and am proud of the journey that I have taken.
Sarah features in a series of three videos made by the University of Bournemouth in conjunction with Time to Change: