February 27, 2013

It was when I was at college that I realised why the stigma and discrimination attached to mental illness has made my recovery, and is making the recovery of many others, so much harder than it should be.

I had had an eating disorder from a young age

I had had an eating disorder from a young age after suffering abuse as a child. It took me a long time to open my eyes to the fact that not all eating disorders are the way that the media portrays them to be. I later started to suffer with depression, alongside an eating disorder and anxiety. I stopped leaving the house, left college, and pretty much stopped living life how it should be lived. Soon after I was diagnosed with ME, which further added problems.

I have just dropped out of college for the second time, as I simply cannot deal with the added pressure and comments made to me. I wasn't Hannah. I was 'the girl who doesn't bother to turn up half the time'. I felt like my identity had been stripped away from me and, like many of you know, adding more self hate will not help you get any better.

I’d miss a week of college and would study at home

It never ended: I’d miss a week of college and would study at home. I would then come in the next week, sit a test on it all and get an A. The girl next to me with 100% attendance would get a C but she'd be praised. However, I would just be repeatedly told how I was going to fail, how I had to 'force myself' to come in more, how I needed to 'try harder'. When all I wanted to do was scream back 'open your eyes'. Surely my wellbeing should be more important than your statistics?

It got to the stage where it was easier to not come in and I found myself hibernating away in my room more and more. The constant feeling of not being good enough further made me feel even less myself, which is when my eating disorder hit its worst. Before my AS exams, I snapped; I was studying so much I wasn’t sleeping, I was so low that I didn’t eat for days and ended up in hospital.

I managed to do great in my exams

The college reacted to this by sending me yet even more work and the negative comments didn’t stop. Amazingly I managed to do great in my exams, which were 3 weeks after I went into hospital. My second year at college was no better, even though I proved I could do it. The point I’m trying to make is that I should have been talked to and given more support before becoming that ill just. I was still Hannah, I still had an identity and was still a human. Having mental health problems does not make you any less of a person.

On the bright sunny side of life, there is so much in life to see and to live for, no matter what happens and even if the tunnel at the end seems blocked, you can come out of it such a strong person. Even if your accomplishment of the day is brushing your teeth, you are doing so well. It doesn't matter how long it takes as long as you get back up. I have had so much support but stigma and discrimination can still make recovery so much harder.

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