You are more than your illness.

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Today is World Mental Health day so I thought I would share my own personal experience with mental illness. I previously touched on it on my old blog, but as this is something I feel very passionate about I want to continue to set an example and potentially help those in a similar situation on this platform.

Growing up I was a happy and healthy child. There were no traumatic experiences and I have nothing but fond memories. I wasn’t a fussy eater and even when I began to feel a lot more self-conscious about my body as I grew older, it didn’t hugely affect me. So you can imagine that the thought of ever developing an eating disorder was the last thing on my mind.

However, in my final year of high school I decided that I wanted to eat a bit more healthily. Not go on a diet. Not cut out my favourite foods – god forbid I stop eating pizza – but just opt for a healthier option when I could. Initially it started out well. Instead of having a bag of chips for lunch I’d have a sandwich or pasta salad. I would still partake in ‘Pizza Friday,’ which is still a strict tradition in my household, and would still enjoy a bar of my favourite chocolate (I was going through a Twirl addiction at the time). I can’t tell you when it started to spiral out of control, but it did. I began to skip breakfast, cut out snacks and all other ‘treats.’ When I started college I was eating a bagel or sandwich for lunch and my main meal for dinner and other than the odd banana or packet of Snack a Jacks, nothing more.

Naturally my Mum noticed and put her foot down at around Christmas and took me to the doctor in the new year. He then said he would refer me to someone more ‘specialised’ in the area. I have never had a doctor come up and directly say “you have anorexia,” but it didn’t need to be said. Deep down I had known for a while.

It wasn’t until around Easter that I had my first appointment with my psychiatrist. Anyone who has been on the waiting list for mental illness will know that it can take a while to actually be seen by a professional, but that’s a rant for another time.

Since my first appointment in Spring 2014 to now I have overcome many hurdles. As of recent I am officially weight restored – the first time I have been in a healthy weight range for about two years, possibly longer. It isn’t just weight that I have gained. I have gained back life. For the longest of time I was simply just a shell of myself. I had to force myself to do small things that I had previously enjoyed such as watch a YouTube video or catch up on my favourite TV show. I didn’t laugh or smile and if I did it wasn’t real. And now? Well, now I can laugh ’till I cry. I can eat a variety of different foods without breaking down in tears or feeling that blind panic. I can put 100% of my concentration into my college work, volunteering or simply listening to music. I am in no way 100% recovered, but I reckon I’m about 75% there.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or any other mental illness for that matter, I beg for you to seek help. It’s not going to be easy. In fact, recovery will be the hardest thing you will ever do in your life. But it is so, so, SO worth it! I truly feel as if I am becoming living proof of that.

There is more to life than your illness. Life is full of amazing opportunities and it’s only in choosing recovery that you will be able to take these opportunities and live your life to the fullest.

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