I always kept my mental health issues very private and I was extremely selective in who I told about things and what I told them. I would say in the beginning that there was one person in my life, other than professionals, that knew everything. Having one person who understood was enough to keep me ticking along in what I describe as 'limbo land' where I function, but don't live.
I remember how it felt to have someone who just listened to me
At that time in my life, aged 17, I was starting to show quite serious psychological and physical signs of having an eating disorder which I later found out was called Anorexia Nervosa. I didn't even really understand my diagnosis at first as I didn't have a clue what Anorexia Nervosa was. The one person that knew about everything, took it upon herself to take me to my GP. To this day, I remember how it felt to have someone who understood, someone who just listened to me, even though I knew I was very hard work at times.
My relationships with my family have improved so much
Throughout the following 8 years, I was stuck in a many cycles of behaviours regarding my eating disorder, but also behaviours linked to depression, suicidal ideation and self harm. As my behaviours increased in severity and became more and more frequent, I hit an all time low in 2012. I was admitted to a hospital that worked with a family based therapy approach. This was my worst nightmare at the beginning, but as I allowed the ward to let my family in, the change in my relationships with them have improved so much. From going from someone who was adamant that my family could not help and they weren't to know anything about my illness, because I was so ashamed of it and felt embarrassed that things had become so out of hand.
I keep the work to break down stigma going in my friend's honour
Unfortunately in summer 2013, I lost my best friend, Jay, to Anorexia Nervosa. She was an amazing young lady with so much wisdom and a contagious smile. She would light up any room that she walked into. Jay did a lot of work to raise awareness of eating disorders and tried everything she could possibly do to try and break down the stigma attached to mental health. As she no longer as her voice to do this, I took it upon myself to keep the work going in her honour.
Using social media, I hope that I can help others along the way
I took part in a small documentary which was aired this year and I am using Facebook, to continue to raise awareness of mental health illness. I specifically focused on eating disorders during eating disorders awareness month in February of this year. Family members and friends have been helping me to raise awareness by sharing the links and information that I post to my Facebook page. I am no longer afraid to speak out about my illness and hoping that in combating this fear of talking about my experience, I can help others along the way too.