I shed a few tears while reading Laura’s story and you might too… she’s overcome so much. Here’s why…
“Before being diagnosed with an eating disorder, I actually knew I had problems with other mental illnesses. When I was in 7th grade I was bullied really badly and became very depressed. I began to engaging in cutting and noticed when I felt anxious I would rub my skin raw. I also had suicidal thoughts. I remember writing a suicide note and planning on ending my life. I was in such a low place and had no known resources to utilize at that time in my life. I lived a double life, I was happy and didn’t have any life struggles when I was with people. However, when I was alone my thoughts would tear me apart. I was a three sport athlete, an A/B student with a strong family foundation and lots of friends. I lived the “ideal life.”
In 9th grade I really struggled with anxiety and depression. Because of this, I went to a school therapist once a week for one hour to talk about my feelings. I didn’t know it at the time but it wasn’t enough. I felt unworthy, pathetic, agitated and on edge. I quit a sport that I loved, and I engaged in toxic relationships. I had extreme low self-esteem stemmed from my bullying experiences. I began to starve myself and lost about 15 pounds before people noticing. On May 13th my ‘secrets’ with my battle of mental illness leaked. I was referred to the Emily Program, which is an eating disorder facility. Within a week, I was diagnosed with Depression, Anxiety, and Anorexia Nervosa. I was obsessed about my weight and what I would eat. I remember my first two appointments with the Emily Program. Questionnaire after questionnaire, meeting with a psychiatrist, seeing medical doctors, being poked and tested, meeting with my nutritionist and meeting my counselor that they thought would be my best fit while I went through therapy. I was exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally.
One of the hardest pills to swallow was being officially diagnosed with Anxiety, Depression and Anorexia Nervosa. I felt labeled. I felt pathetic. Why did I need help? I didn’t have that big of a problem. Why is everyone wasting their time paying attention to me? I don’t need help. These are thoughts I constantly had. The 3 months after my initial appointment I wrestled with these thoughts. It took me about three months of therapy appointments twice a week and a nutritionist appointment once a week to break down these thoughts. It was a long, hard, thoughtful process. I remember leaving appointments exhausted. Every appointment tired me out. I was in the Emily Program’s outpatient program for 7 months.
I am very blessed with the support system I have. I could not have done it without the help of my parents, my sister, my grandparents, and my family. They were willing to go to a class to understand what I was going through, they took me to my endless appointments, they let me be an emotionally roller-coaster. They were the shoulders I cried on and they were the supplier of jokes I laughed from. They didn’t let my diagnoses control me. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. It truly is amazing how much I could accomplish just with their support. I would not be the person I am today without them.
On October 30th 2013 I was released from the facility and put to the test of life. My therapist and I felt like I learned how to live a healthy, cheerful life. When I said my final goodbye to my therapist and walked down the stairs to the lobby and out the front door I remember my heart fluttering and an extreme amount of pride. I am enough. I am loved. I am supported. I do enough. I will not be ashamed of my mental illness. I overcame this struggle and will continue to. On October 30th 2017 I celebrated my anniversary of leaving the Emily Program. Four years ago I walked out those doors and I have not needed to go back.
Looking back at my 7th grade self, writing that suicide note, engaging in self harm and then looking back at my 9th grade self, feeling alone, pathetic, and ashamed I would have a few things to say. First, it gets better. Second, you are not alone. Third, your family will always be there for you no matter what. And lastly, you will get through this, put down the pencil, and put down the knife-your life is about to get so much better. The past four years have been some of the hardest but best years of my life. I graduated high school with honors. I am going to college. My relationship with my family is the best it’s ever been. I figured out who my true friends are. I traveled the world. I am happy. If I didn’t go through what I have, I would be half the person I am today.”
Thank you Laura for trusting and sharing your story!