I felt like I was floating; pretending I was fine so no one would wonder why Joy wasn't so “joyful.” That's where it began. I always thought about cutting, but never did. I was too scared. I cried a lot for no reason, and the crazy thing was, no one suspected anything.
Thankfully, I made it through freshman year. Then my mom and I moved into a new apartment, just the two of us. I started at a new school, where I felt completely alone. All my siblings had left for college or moved out. I became withdrawn. I didn't interact with people genuinely. I smiled on the outside but I didn't feel anything on the inside. I was 15 at the time. Read more
From then on, I battled with my constant obsession over relationships. There was always someone else. I lost my virginity at 14 to someone who was controlling, mentally and physically abusive, jealous, and overall a bad outline for my future boyfriends. I developed negative patterns and behaviors, and started to lose my will to live. I never faced the facts of my relationship.
My ensuing relationships were destructive, my habits were self-harming, my eating disorder was killing me. I dibbled and dabbled with substance abuse and co-dependency; never allowing myself to be happy alone even though I wanted out so badly. I didn't talk openly with anyone about any of it until I was 23. After a mistaken diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, I was finally diagnosed with Manic Depressive Disorder.Read more
This was just the beginning of an endless adventure with psychologists, treatments, Zoloft, Xanax, Lorazepam, psychiatrists, and the feeling of being different. My life changed. I never went to my friends’ sleepovers, I started calling my parents when I was at school because I constantly felt as if I was dying, and I never wanted to be away from home because it was the only place where I felt secure.Read more
"I'm not enough, I'm not worthy, I'm a mistake. My friends don't love me. My family doesn't appreciate me. I can't do anything right. I'm a mess. The world would be better a place without me. I need to kill myself. I'm obligated to commit suicide.” These are just some of the thoughts that played in my mind for three days straight while I was lying alone in my bed.
I had people around me, but it wasn't enough. I kept myself in the dark. Help was right in front of me, but I didn't accept it. At that point, no one can save you. I had everything anyone could need to be happy, but I didn't value it enough. I had all these amazing things, but when I looked at myself in the mirror, I just saw a blurred version of myself.
Help was vital. I was sick. Not just mentally, but I also had an illness that fucked me up physically. I had no energy, slept more than usual and had constant headaches for three weeks. I set an appointment at the hospital to see what could be done about the illness. It may seem irrational, and it was, but I was determined to commit suicide if they couldn’t find out what was wrong with me.Read more
I really starting struggling with my mental health towards the end of high school. I developed an eating disorder that took over my life, and as the eating disorder progressed I became severely depressed. I even became suicidal. I went through hell and back but I got the help I needed, and my life will never be the same. Read more
I went into denial. The depression killed me slowly but steadily, and I started to cut my arms because I felt like I deserved it. I was just so angry about what happened. Those feelings got worse when I felt like I couldn’t remember his smile, the way he moved or our last moments together.
Over the years I disappeared a bit. I stopped calling my family back and seeing my friends. I developed a fear of getting close to people because I still am scared shitless that I will lose someone else.Read more
As I got worse, I did my best to appear alright. My parents where going through a bad economic situation, so I didn't want to worry them further. I began to struggle in class, and eventually failed out that semester. I lost my scholarship and had to leave school.Read more
I lost all my friends because of my anorexia. I felt so alone that by the time I was 17, I tried to kill myself by swallowing a bunch of pills. The pathetic truth is that I knew those 30 pills wouldn't kill me. Deep down, I just wanted to see if they would kill whatever was inside of me.Read more
I have attempted suicide a dozen times, and have been hospitalized twice. I have turned to sex, drugs, and alcohol to numb my pain; all of which only ended up making me feel worse. I have taken just about every antidepressant out there, and none of them seem to have helped me. Each made me feel like someone I’m not.
After my last suicide attempt, a few months ago, many of the people that I thought were my friends stopped being there for me. I dropped out of college and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Now, I spend most of my days talking to my therapist or in support groups. I have alienated myself from many of my other friends, and removed myself from all social media platforms. I still think a lot about committing suicide. Read more
But I don’t feel lucky. I started taking my medication relatively recently, and it should take some time to have an effect. There are many days when I feel overwhelmed and hopeless. There are days when my gender dysphoria only worsens the feeling, because I don’t have the resources to at least bind my chest and feel better. There are days when I have anxiety attacks. Read more
At first, I thought I was crazy. Then I told my Mum and started to get help, and realized that I am completely normal; I’m just not what most people would define as normal. I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, panic disorder, self-harming and even being suicidal. Read more
For eleven long years, my life revolved around soccer. I scored my first goal at age five, but at sixteen, I scored my last. I suffered my second major concussion that year, so my days of playing soccer were over.
I believed soccer was my purpose in life, and without it, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after I was caught with drugs and journals filled with pages of my pain. I also developed an eating disorder, and was put in a residential program to rehabilitate.
My biggest secret is that I'm not fine. I have scars up and down my arms and legs. My pillows have been soaked with tears almost every night, but I still manage to paint a smile on my face every morning. My knuckles are bruised and my walls are covered in holes. I take medication. My anxiety keeps me from having a social life, and it even keeps me from leaving my house. Read more
It was frightening witnessing my best friend, the person who I love most in this world and know everything about, essentially lose his mind, become a danger to himself, and need to be on lockdown. Once he was finally home and recovering, it felt like I became the one who was not doing so well. I would wake up in the middle of the night panicked that something was wrong, and spent most of my time worrying about him. Read more
As I sat in a packed room with 80 other newly-minted medical doctors, this was the phrase that kept playing over and over in my head. I’m sure many people have heard this quote before. What were the origins of the reference for me? A line from the much maligned sci-fi film “Supernova,” starring Angela Bassett and James Spader. The image of the two actors inexplicably reverberated in my mind as I sat in my hyper-vigilant state.
I should have left. I should have gone to the bathroom to regroup. But I didn’t move. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. In fact, the only coherent thought that I could muster was the decidedly accusatory and increasingly anxiety provoking mantra, “Heal thyself doctor.” It felt like a cruel joke my brain was playing, considering the circumstances.
I was a first-year psychiatry resident, feeling my resolve crumbling before I’d even gotten a chance to put a crease in my freshly starched white coat. I felt like a fraud. How could I help others when I couldn’t stop gripping the arms of my chair, trying to inconspicuously perform breathing exercises? Who was I kidding?
I remember being at work one day and my senior resident mentioning that two medical residents at a New York City training program had jumped to their deaths in the same number of weeks. I remember feeling scared. I wish I could say that these tragic incidents influenced me to seek help, but they didn’t. In fact, I recall justifying not seeking help by telling myself, “I wouldn’t do that. I’m not that bad. Besides, I just don’t have the time.”Read more
In my late twenties, I was diagnosed with PTSD, Depressive Disorder, and General Anxiety Disorder. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders in that moment with my doctor. I knew I had been very sick and unable to function for most of my twenties, but giving a name to my struggle made it so much easier to deal with. Until then, everything I thought about mental health and depression was based on shame and misinformation. Finding out how much of a mind-body connection it is has helped me reclaim my life and feel well.Read more
The pressures I put on myself were far too heavy to be carried by such a weak foundation. I pushed people away, people I couldn't believe would actually care about me. I self-harmed. It got to the point that I didn't care whether I lived or died, because at least then I might feel something.Read more
I remember the months that followed all too clearly. I would watch the video they played at her funeral over and over just to see her face. I started having trouble sleeping; sometimes I woke up with my face drenched in tears while I shook uncontrollably. I started to hate myself and wish that I had died in her place, because she was such a wonderful person and so many people loved her while I felt forgotten and unloved.
Not long afterward, my adoptive dad invited his girlfriend to move in, and she instantly hated my two younger siblings and I. Suddenly, my adoptive dad changed. Instead of being our loving best friend and protector who did everything with us, he joined her in verbally and emotionally abusing us daily. When I was fourteen, the physical abuse started. No one knew about the welts on our backs from horse whips or the black and blue marks across our butts, legs, and lower backs from the thick boards they made. We did a good job of hiding it.
Then, with all of that, he gradually started to get me alone. At first it was small things, like a comment here, or a brush against me there, but it soon escalated to climbing into bed with me and night and forcing himself on me while daring me to say a peep. That went on for over a year. I was too afraid to say anything because I knew that it would be a “he said, she said” ordeal; he was so careful that I would never have enough evidence to prove anything.
When my adoptive dad started molesting me I started cutting myself, purging, and thinking constantly about suicide. Sometimes I felt so empty and numb, but panic attacks would release all those bottled up emotions. I cut about three times a week, on my left wrist mainly from my inner wrist all the way to my elbow, but also my hips, my inner thighs, and even my chest, just to feel and feel like I was still in control of something. Whenever my cuts started to heal, I'd cut again. I couldn't stand it if they left me too, I needed them. I believed I deserved the treatment I was giving myself. I thought about suicide almost everyday. I hated myself and was so confused as to why I was handed such an awful life when I use to consider myself a good person.Read more
With help from my Mum I was gradually able to get a little better, but it was hard. I've been through counseling, CBT, and hypnotherapy. While I probably appear very normal to other people, I am constantly tormented internally with worry and fear because of my phobia. Some days are better than others, and fortunately, I'm having more good days than bad days right now.
However, I dislike being around people who have been sick for fear of getting sick myself, and I wash my hands so frequently that I have developed dermatitis. I often worry about the cleanliness of utensils or surfaces in the kitchen, and therefore take longer to make food for fear of contamination. I rarely enjoy eating out as I worry about dirty restaurants. I will only put food in my mouth if I've been able to wash my hands first, and I hate when people touch my food, or even go near it.Read more
There are a lot of ways to define neurodivergence, and each neurodivergent person has their own personal definition for their identity. For me, it means I experience social interactions and perceptions differently than someone who is neurotypical, and I often struggle with processing them. But while it comes with its challenges, neurodivergence is, for the most part, a gift. Yes, I find some everyday things that are easy for most difficult, but lately, I've come to embrace my neurodivergence as something that makes me unique and beautiful.
But not everyone always sees that. Sometimes I am one of those people. Just like any given social interaction, intimacy can be confusing, frightening, and downright overwhelming for me, to the point where it has triggered some nasty anxiety attacks and subsequent embarrassment. Both physical and emotional intimacy are very challenging for me. Read more
The next day I went to the doctor and did some blood tests, but everything came back normal. But I still felt strange; I didn’t feel at all like myself. This is when my anxiety started. I began to avoid eating specific things, and then I started to be afraid of walking. I was so terrified of having panic attacks that it started to turn into a vicious cycle. I ended up in the hospital again and again.Read more
I remember my first breakdown so vividly. There I was, about to go to sleep. I brushed my teeth, made my bed and was ready to dream beautiful things. But then I saw a dark figure in front me. I closed my eyes and opened them again. I remember being scared, and sweating. I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I thought that maybe God was trying to change my mind. I held onto my blankets like a shield. I was still sweating as the figure came closer, and closer, until we met eye to eye. He looked exactly like me, except that he had eyes as yellow as the sun, almost frog-like. His skin was as grey as the ashes of the dead and he wore clothes as dark as the heart of a murderer. He leaned towards me and said, “I’m your friend. I’m the only friend you’ll ever have in your life.” I burst into tears and cried until I fell asleep.
The next day I woke up thinking that it was just a bad dream. But I kept seeing the figure day after day, month after month, and year after year. We conversed a lot. Sometimes I ignored him, other times I didn’t. Finally I realized that he wasn’t a ghost. He was something else, something from another world. I kept it to myself, never telling anyone about my so-called friend. Read more
For the next twenty years, anxiety and depression would be a dark cloud in my life; always there in the decision making process of my brain. The amount of parties and opportunities that I declined because of my anxiety is off the scale. Outwardly, I was fun and extroverted, so I suppose it would be hard for people to make sense of what I was going through. I started two degrees but didn’t quite finish either because of my anxiety. I also have never been able to hold down a proper job.Read more
I never thought I’d end up there, being detained in a hospital wing with nurses peering at me round the clock. But there I was, age 19, standing in the smoker’s area of a hospital, in sponge slippers and the lace dress I had worn the night before. I’d been on and off medication and in out of therapists’ offices since I was 10 years old. I’d spent the previous year indulging in many of my most self-destructive habits: drinking excessively, falling for guys who treated me like dirt and smoking more than a factory chimney. Read more
So, at age six, I spent my recesses looking for pieces of glass or tin cans to use to hurt myself. I went to the nurse every day until fourth grade because I knew that the nurse would take care of the cuts and bruises. I got in fights with the boys in my class. I spent a lot of time in detention. I was “happy” there. Still, no one suspected that anything was seriously wrong. I was just being a kid.
By sixth grade, I had developed an eating disorder. I’d starve, I’d binge, I’d purge, and I’d pop laxatives like they were candy. I tried killing myself a variety of highly creative but ineffective ways. No one knew. I became an expert at first aid. I suffered in silence, blinded by impulses. In high school, I was caught self-harming in class. The guidance counselor called my parents, and my father screamed at me, “Why are you doing this to us?! Don’t you know we love you?!”Read more
Panic attacks alone are scary, but I was so afraid of my panic attacks that the thought of them could trigger one. I would have nightmares almost every night and could never sleep. My body ached from the stress. But I was told that it was all in my head. I never had much to say to a response like that. Maybe it is all in my head?Read more
But I was always an anxious youngster, always wanting to fit in when I felt like all my friends secretly hated me. I’m a very sensitive person, and this isn’t something I’m ashamed of, but to some people this is very strange.
While studying drama at school, someone began to touch me without my consent. I remember feeling violated and dirty, and constantly washed my hands to try and make myself feel clean again. I went over and over the events in my mind, and asked myself, “Why didn’t I scream? Why didn’t I push away?” Read more
I started cutting myself when I was fourteen because I felt like my parents weren't listening when I told them something was wrong. It started out as a way to tell them, “Hey, I need help.” But then, my aunt got breast cancer. Not long after that, I was molested.
Something inside me snapped. I felt like I deserved everything that was wrong in the world. Seeing so many atrocities in the news, like the Sandy Hook massacre, I found ways to feel ashamed for any happiness I experienced. I have always been overweight, and I stressed about that. It got to the point where I just wanted rest.
In additional to all of this, I was diagnosed with Lupus at the age of twelve. So then I became the fat black girl with an invisible chronic disease. Everything went downhill from there.
I was diagnosed with depression, as well as social anxiety disorder. I began self-harming during my freshman year of high school, and had strong thoughts of suicide for almost three years. I stopped trying in school because I knew that at any point I could snap and kill myself, so what was the point? Read more
At 28 years old, I’ve learned a lot about myself with depression. I have existed with it every day for the last 14 years. Some days are easy—I’m able to jump out of bed without any fighting with myself—while others are battles. They are uphill battles, battles that I know I’ll lose, but I fight nonetheless. Some days feel like I’m in a pit that’s inescapably dark, but still I try without avail to find a way out. I try so hard, shouting, knowing I won’t be heard. It’s a tiring existence, and a frustrating one. I am not depression and depression is not me, yet it is a big part of who I am. Without it, who would I be? I don’t really dwell on that thought too often, because I’m afraid that I wouldn’t like the “other me” very much. In a way, that sounds crazy, because I used to beg my mind to calm down and be normal. Now, though, I allow it space, and I don’t beat myself up. I’m kind to myself, and understand that mental illness takes time. Like any illness, it takes care.
There was a time when I wouldn’t accept my depression, let alone be kind to myself about it. I wouldn’t talk about it. I cringed constantly when people asked if I was sad, denying it—because I wasn’t actually sad. That’s not what depression is. It was more than simply a feeling, it was a state of being. My brain felt stuck on autopilot. No matter how much I willed myself to be better, to be happier, my brain insisted “Nope, this is your new default. Apathetic”. Realizing this, I was afraid of what it meant about me as a person. It was becoming too much; I was getting tired of pretending that I was “okay” when I wasn’t. Constantly planning out your own death is exhausting. Eventually I admitted to myself that I needed help, but had no idea where to start. When everything I had seen in regards to mental illness, especially depression, was a narrative of sadness and brokenness, I didn’t know what to do. It seemed as if there could be no thriving within it, but that couldn’t be the case…right? I couldn’t be doomed to a lifetime of living in a fog, only half living... Read more
Frankly, I don’t feel like talking about my story or the darkness that consumed my life for 6 years; I’d rather share about life and lessons from the other side, giving hope to people reading this. I’ll include one excerpt from my journal in 2003, during the beginning of my illness: “It may take years more, but I do believe one day it won’t be like this…I will be free.”
Three lessons that recovery taught me…
1. That complete recovery is possible.
I never really believed that my eating disorder would be my death sentence. What I didn’t realize was that it didn’t have to be a life sentence either. Throughout my treatment and recovery, it was often stated or implied that I would struggle, to some degree, with my eating disorder for the rest of my life (i.e., how alcoholism is often described – you’re always an alcoholic, even when you’re not drinking; you’re always an anorexic, even when you’re not restricting).
One night, after 6 years of physical, emotional, and psychological torment and self-abuse, I simply got tired of it. I finally became more afraid of missing out on life than I was of living without my eating disorder as a crutch. At that moment, I fully grasped that it wasn’t about the food—no amount of restriction or weight loss was ever going to make me happy or solve my problems. The real problem was that I didn’t love myself, and I was ready to change that. The eating disorder was simply not serving me anymore. So I let it go. I cried, and I prayed, and I took a deep breath; I knew I was done.
The next week, I flew to France for four months. I explored and got lost every day; I treated myself to whatever I wanted in the patisseries; I spontaneously traveled to other parts of Europe. I felt alive and at peace for the first time in my life, and I have spent every day of the past eight years looking forward instead of backward. Since letting go, I have not engaged any disordered thoughts or behaviors, and I don’t struggle with it at all.
Today, I am not anorexic. I am not in recovery – I am recovered. It’s over. Most days, I don’t even consciously remember that I was ever anorexic, much less consumed with disordered thoughts for every second of every day for six years. I didn’t think it was possible to take all of the hateful thoughts and nutrition labels out of my head, but the trick is making the conscious decision to instead fill your mind with love, gratitude, and living in the present. Our minds and willpower are incredibly strong and resilient when we believe in real change.
No two stories are the same, and I’m sure many people don’t fully recover in one specific moment that they can pinpoint – but I want people to know that it is possible. You don’t need to settle for believing that you will be stuck in the grip of an eating disorder for the rest of your life. Read more
B knew where the man’s house was, and after we rehearsed what I was going to say, B looked at me and declared, “I’m proud of you.” When you don’t feel proud of yourself, it’s hard to respond to a statement like that. I was sheepish and scared; I was about to face the man I hadn’t seen in thirty years.
It was a white-gray autumn afternoon and I was almost 40. What happened had been over 30 years before, and I was determined to finally find closure. B was going to escort me to the house and I was going to do what I’d been planning for decades. I would be vehement. I would be fierce.
We drove the few blocks from B’s house in silence. He reached over once or twice in an effort to hold my hand, but I was stone. I was being vehement and fierce and was shaking somewhere so deep inside that I couldn’t feel his touch. I could barely see.
B and I had agreed that when we got to the man’s house, I would go up to the door alone, and he would wait on the sidewalk near the stoop. He’d be close enough to hear and see everything but far enough away to give me the privacy to say what I needed to say.
We got out of the car and I suddenly realized that the man might not be home. Why hadn’t I considered that? I’d come this far, and now I might not get any further. My heart beat faster, and for a moment I considered turning around. B placed his hand on my back and urged me forward. I grabbed the wrought-iron banister and made my way up the steps. I rang the bell.
A woman in her 60s opened the door and peered at me. “Yes?” she inquired. “Can I help you?” Read more
This is my biggest secret. I don’t try to hide it as much as I used to, but I’m certainly not going to bring it up. I’m afraid that everyone will think they understand it, but I know that they have no idea. I’m even more afraid that I don’t understand it—as hard as I’ve worked, as much as I’ve tried to figure it out, I am trapped inside of it forever.
I’m 27 years old. At the end of this year, I will be ten years into recovery from anorexia.
My disease could have been the outcome of an infinite number of factors. I understand it best as a painful, beautiful distraction from traumas I was unequipped to confront in any other way. I constructed an alternate reality, and I lived in it. I felt entirely alone, but at the center of everything—the star of my own dreamy, sun-bleached movie about what it was like to be alive in high school in Southern California in 2005. I cast myself as the tortured heroine: unbearably sad, full of deep secrets and complexities, walking around with the sun in my eyes, stacks of bangles clanking on my wrists. I pretended like everyone was watching. Everything around me buzzed with meaning. I was 16, and I wanted to be very, very skinny.
In 2006 I became a patient at a residential treatment program. I was taught that anorexia existed on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum, though this belief isn’t held among all mental health professionals. The thoughts—about food, calories, my body, control—were the obsession, and the rituals—my endless lists and schedules, the ways I prepared meals—were the compulsions.
In group therapy, we talked about our traumas over and over and over, with the hope of working through the emotions and allowing them to become stories that would no longer plague our lives in such a visceral way. I have a whole story to tell you—about how my dad wasn’t very nice, about huddling in the closet with my sister on bad days, about the muscle relaxants and how they lead him to drive off a cliff in Palm Springs when I was 14, about the subsequent coma that lasted 19 days—but I’m going to tell you about it later. I’m going to skip to the ending now. Read more
September 25, 2002 8:24 PM Bad Day. Very bad day. I feel more depressed than ever. It’s like every step I take and everything I do is just a struggle to not break down & cry. That’s the only thing I feel like doing anymore. It’s really scary because I’ve gotten to the point where I just hate life and every day is a struggle to get through. I’ll always just be the ugly girl with no friends. I’m being forced to gain weight and I don’t want to anymore. What’s the use? My weight is fine where it is now. I feel fine physically. Mentally? I’m deteriorating. I just want to have friends. I want to be pretty. I want to be happy. I want to be how I used to be.
November 28, 2002, Thanksgiving 12:51 PM Oh my god. I just passed out two times. When I was getting out of the shower, I just passed out on the bathroom floor. My head kills. Then I managed to get up, walk to my room, close the door, and collapse and pass out on my bed again.
December 3, 2002 9:07 PM Yesterday was so horrible. After my Mom weighed me on Sunday, my extreme depression from my gross weight gain carried over to yesterday and today. I cried all day yesterday, and at one point I was really going to hurt myself. I still am. I don't understand why I’m alive if I’m going through so much pain. December 23, 2002 9:47 PM So tomorrow is Christmas eve. Did very good with keeping my weight down the past week, so hopefully the rest of the holiday vacation won’t be too bad. I’m at my all time low weight- 73! I’m actually sort of aching and having trouble breathing, my chest hurts. The past couple of nights I’ve been scared, so here this is just in case: I love you all so much. Mom, Dad, Brit, and Sasha. You’ve done nothing but make me happy. I love you.Read more