November 18, 2013

EllieI used to be really scared of telling people I suffered with mental health problems.

For years I made excuses for my periods off work, excessive amount of gap years and for not turning up to social events because there would be food there. Keeping a tab on all the different ‘alibis’ was exhausting and I felt isolated and alone with my illnesses.

Things with my eating disorder and depression got to crisis point 

Having been asked to leave uni and having lost jobs due to my mental health only further cemented the idea that it was something I had to keep secret. I was ashamed to let people see this side of me that I saw as weak and pathetic.

But things have changed. The past 2 years have been the most difficult of my life.

Things with my eating disorder and depression got to crisis point and I have spent a good amount of time in treatment. But the last 2 years have also been the most empowering years of my life. I wouldn’t wish mental health problems on my worst enemy but I am a great believer that everything happens for a reason and I think the struggles I have had to face were sent to make me a stronger person. Far from trying to hide my battles I am now proud to say I am beating mental illness.

I am no longer ashamed to admit this huge part of me

I am no longer ashamed to admit this huge part of me that has shaped who I am today. Being open with people was hard at first. It took a lot of talking in treatment to get me to the right place mentally to be able to accept my issues let alone admit them to other people. But I have been pleasantly surprised.

Instead of shunning me, a huge majority (there are one or two exceptions) of my friends have reacted in a much more positive way than I had imagined. I find, instead of disdain, most of the people I talk to are intrigued – they don’t know much about mental illness because they are lucky enough never to have it affect their lives – they just want to find out more, how it works, what they can do to help me.

Over eating disorders awareness week for the last two years I have been posting myth-busters on my Facebook statuses in an attempt to raise awareness and get people talking about eating disorders. It worked. Over the course of a week I had over 600 likes on my statuses and numerous comments including many people messaging me to tell me about their own experiences with mental health. One friend even decided to change the programme for her Guide meeting that week after seeing my statuses and played games and did activities to raise the girls’ awareness of eating disorders.

I believe I have become a more compassionate and caring person

On my recovery journey I have been truly honoured to have met some of the strongest, most inspiring people I have ever found. The other patients who have been in treatment with me have provided me with support, someone to ring when I’m in a panic in Tesco’s not knowing what I should buy for lunch, inspiration in how far they have come fighting their own battles. These amazing friends are not the only good to have come out of my fight against mental illness.

I believe I have become a more compassionate and caring person. I love the feeling of being able to encourage and inspire others. I have realised that although I love teaching, I want to put these new skills and this new passion about mental health to good use and I have begun volunteering with a mental health charity, running sessions at Guide units on issues such as eating disorders, bullying, mental health and communication and I am in the process of applying to go back to uni to study to become a mental health nurse. Yes what has happened to me was (is) hard and terrifying but I still wouldn’t have swapped my life with anyone.

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