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Marcie L.
In 5th grade I moved to OGS from Woodland. I had a difficult time “fitting in”. It was hard to make friends and feel comfortable with teachers. So I pushed everyone away. I didn’t want help. Well I thought I didn’t need it. So of course my grades went DOWN. I was disappointed in myself for every bad grade. I was so disappointed that I wanted to punish myself. I started to pinch myself multiple times a day. That wasn’t enough. So I tried a method called “Self-Harming”. It’s basically where you cut yourself. And one night, I went to my kitchen, and pulled out this blue handle kitchen knife and I started to cut. There was blood. I had to clean the spot and the knife so my family wouldn’t suspect anything. I continued to do this until one of my friends saw my wrist and told a teacher. The teacher told the social workers and then told my mom. I felt miserable. I was even more disappointed that I wanted to commit suicide. I tried several times. My mom caught me on my last try, that was my last one.  I finally got the help that I needed. I got help from the social workers, family, and friends and I’ve been coping with my anxiety and depression without harming my body. I did not push everyone away. I’ve never felt so proud. I was so happy to find out I was improving on my mental illness. And today I am so proud that I have changed. I am glad that I’m not the person I was 2 years ago. And I am thankful that my friend told the teacher because without all the help, I wouldn’t be breathing today, Thank You. Read more
Eryssa
For a long time I felt uncomfortable everywhere I go because of my mental illness. Ever since I was diagnosed (at 14) I felt an instant change in the people around me. It's like I wasn't the girl that everybody knew me to be. It really hurt me that the people that I love and are supposed to love me back would really view me so differently... because I have a disorder. I just don't get that. And it's so hard for me because ever since, I've been treated differently. I'm still the same Eryssa. I'm still the same girl that laughs and likes to have fun. I'm still the same girl that loves to go out and make friends. I'm still the same me. And I am no different from you. This applies to everybody. No matter who you are, and no matter what you have going on, we are all one and the same. And there is no arguing that. We share this big green earth together. And mental illness might not affect all of us, but mental health* affects every one of us, oh yes. Why? Because we all want the same thing: we all just want to be happy. Every day each and every one of us wakes up in the morning and try to fight for a good day. As we should. So don't beat yourself up if you have a bad day... having a mental illness is so fun, and I know that. I truly understand. I've seen dark days. So if you are going through a hard time right now, just know that there is a community of people like you going through similar things as you and that you are not alone. And I know that that whole "it gets better" ordeal is annoying. It really is. Because the truth is, yeah it will get better eventually, but guess what sweetheart... it does not get better on its own. Fight for more. Fight for that good day that you want so bad. You deserve it. You deserve the best things in life. And when you find the courage to put that work in, just know that I, Eryssa from Richmond, is so very proud of you. Read more
The Sad Effect
Last year I moved to a completely new town and besides, to a new country. To a place where people barely greet each other and where the wind blows so hard that you never see the sky out of those heavy and grey clouds. Pretty helpful for any mental issue, huh? Everything started falling apart. I would get myself out of bed at 2PM. When I looked at the mirror I felt like it was not me. Like it was someone else in my body. I stared deeply into my own eyes and I could not recognize them. I would do my dishes, or to be exact, the dishes that where necessary to do if I wanted to eat a yogurt. You can imagine how much work that means. But those days where the good ones. At least I was eating. Usually the dirty dishes were waiting for me for a week or two. Thinking back, I don`t think I even noticed the sink and kitchen table being that much of a mess. I just could not care less. There where days I suddenly got scared cause I had not been eating for four to five days. When that happened the little light in my brain would shout the orders again; you need to eat, normal people do eat. So I did. I wanted to feel normal. Fake it until you make it, they say.  Staring the clothes rack in my tiny studio I guessed that the clothes had been hanging there for a month. I kept my curtains down because I felt anxious again. What do my neighbours think of me? Curtains were down all day long and the light was still switched on at 2AM in my studio. I was scared leaving the house for groceries. The cashier would see it from my eyes that I had not been sleeping well for ages and there must me something in me telling her that I was not doing well. That I was not normal. Rather sick but not in a way people think we are sick. My nose was not running, there was no broken leg. Was it all in my head or would people see it too? I was becoming crazy. My mind was not with me. We were like two separate things. My mind was taking the lead and my body was following like a puppy. But the leader was crazy. Or lost herself.  Then the anxiety hit me again. What if I died in the studio in the middle of that mess and dirty dishes? People would figure things out; she was not normal. The worst case scenario was that the truth would be discovered by my family. So I immediately started cleaning up the studio. If there was a knock on the door, at least the visitor thought I was normal. A positive thing about my anxiety and depression is that to me it appears that when depression walks in and takes the lead, anxiety will pull me out of it somehow and vice versa. I still do not know which one is the worse leader. Love, X Read more
Brianna Parcell
People think depression is sadness. People think depression is crying. People think depression is being “emo” or dressing in black and being a moody loner. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to change, and the world around you. Being blind to everything that is beautiful, important, and unique about you.You feel nothing, and everything is gone, but the emptiness still feels heavy, and the silence is too loud. Even the simplest tasks become painful, and things that used to bring you joy are worthless.You begin to lack motivation because why would you keep on trying if it means nothing? When you start to believe that life won’t go on for you, you suddenly stop caring for yourself. Sometimes the most joyful and confident looking people are hurting the most.You wake up in the morning and just want to go back to bed, but then once you try to sleep the thoughts keep you awake, and you lay for hours either crying or staring at the ceiling, leaving you feeling empty. The emotional distress of this state tires you physically. Everybody just pushes away the uncomfortable conversation of how you are doing because they only want to think about your future. But how am I suppose to worry about a future if I don't know for sure that I will even survive through tonight? Days don't feel meaningful; they are just annoying obstacles that need to be faced. And how do you face them? Through medication, through doubt, through drinking, through drugs, through cutting. Self-harm is a way of expressing your self-shame on your own body; almost like punishing yourself for being this way. While it can simultaneously release all of the pain that builds up inside from the external and internal hate. It can be a punishment, while it also makes you feel better and begins to cradle and comfort you in these times. Every cut lets out all of the tears and pain that build up in your throat making you unable to breathe or think.Then there is one cut that goes too deep, and maybe you weren’t ready, or perhaps you let it happen, and you are free from the fight. Words always hurt, and we have scars to prove it. But then you feel like you cannot hide your story when it is carved into your body and engraved into your skin, so the whole world knows, “oh, watch out, she is unstable, and she must be a sad girl.” When you’re depressed, you grasp onto anything that can get you through the days, which are filled with the words “slut” “dumb” and “ugly,” and to make it worse, the people saying this is who you thought were your friends and supporting peers.Then when you stand up for yourself, they brush it off saying it was a joke and that you are too sensitive.The vicious cycle of trying to be strong, getting shut down, and then feeling like the only way to cope is to take it out on yourself, never stops. When in this state of mind you feel as if you have a million people that you can tell, but not enough that listen. When they may be “listening” nobody knows what to say or how to respond to the heaviness. Why am I blaming myself for what you said? Well, you should have thought of that before you opened your mouth.The most interesting thing is that these days it is funny to tell people to kill themselves as a “joke.” Really? Are you serious? You are so funny! Take a trip to the hospital and tell the kids on the 6th floor with scars up their arms and liver damage your jokes. Depression is like watering flowers that are already dead. Depression is like the rotting flesh hiding underneath the soft, pretty velvet. It is a suffering so profound it will never show; I'm dying, and they will never know until I’m lying 50 stories below all they are gonna have to say is “what a shame, she was so beautiful.” This is not a choice; it is a plague and a disease that has no at-home remedy. It is impossible just to flip a switch and be happy and see the world in color again, which is what most people that you open up to ask you to do, assuming it is that simple.That’s what depression is, not sadness or tears; it’s the overwhelming sense of numbness and insignificance through all aspects of life.The whole world seems like it hates you, and convinces you to hate yourself too. Read more
Sarah
I have had a long, tumultuous relationship with mental health issues. I come from a family that has, on more than one occasion, dealt with mental health issues, unexpected loss and subsequent post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and addictions. One of my two brothers died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of thirteen, many years ago. Our whole family naturally struggled with this loss.

It took years of battling the feelings of bitterness, anger and regret that came with losing a brother and son to start to feel okay again.  Just when things seemed to be looking up for my family, my second brother began to struggle tremendously.  He never properly dealt with his own mental health issues (Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, depression) and never fully faced the great loss within our family.  His life began to crumble privately and it became easier for him to silently escape the pain, medicated by whatever drugs he could get his hands on.  Not many of his closest friends even knew anything was wrong.

He confided in me and finally sought help after losing a life of normalcy, routine and happiness to his depression.  For several months he succeeded.  He worked tirelessly to maintain his sobriety and honesty.  It was beautiful to see somebody who had so long lived a lie shed his façade of happiness, and allow his raw self to be exposed.  It was hard on him, because his true self wasn't the beaming ray of sunshine most knew him to be.  Learning that he could face the rain, and that he didn’t have to walk through the storm alone, was everything.  It was a long, bumpy road to a recovery that he so desperately wanted.

Then, the worst thing that can happen to a family happened a second time: my brother relapsed and overdosed.  By 25, I has lost both of my siblings. My family devastated, forever changed, and completely broken. Watching my parents suffer with their terrible, unthinkable loss, and dealing with my own was too much. I didn't know how to handle my deep desire to go on living a "normal" life for them despite my deep sadness. 

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Helena
I liked to be nice. Or I thought I did. I was only raised to be nice, to be good. To everyone. Soon, that became all that mattered, but I didn't notice. I was supposed to be a role model who didn't care what anyone thought, and who was nice to everyone. The good girl, with my own little rebel side of it. I thought I was strong because I sometimes was considered weird, but I didn't care. As long as I was nice and never disappointed anyone. When I was 14 it slowly started to tire me. I tried to help people with depression or other problems by texting and listening to them. Without me noticing, I got depressed as well. I didn't manage school, sleep and other peoples problems and at the same time my own. I started to hurt myself 2-3 years ago, but the depression got more real 2 years ago, but I denied it. It couldn't be, I was just feeling sorry for myself. My dad has been fighting with depression since I was born and a little earlier, because he worked too much, he "crashed". So me being depressed couldn't exist, or at least that's what I thought. It made it even worse. I wanted to tell people, my parents, but I thought I couldn't and that suffocated me. I was depressed, suicidal and a cutter last fall. Then I finally told my parents about it. It was the scariest thing I've ever done, but I'm glad I did. Also, I went to school part time to regain some energy. I've seen a psychiatrist for a couple of months and it has helped me in a few ways. Sure, I'm nowhere near fine, but I've sen some changes. Mental health is shit, and some people go through so much. But no one on earth deserves it, and it shouldn't be such a shocking big deal to talk about. Read more
Zee
“Heal thyself doctor. Heal thyself doctor. Heal thyself doctor.”

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.”

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Ellice
For so long I'd felt uneasy, as if the tiniest thing would make me explode into a thousand tears, at only the age of fourteen I felt compelled to lock myself away from the outside world.  At the age of fourteen you'd be expected to be in moods for a few hours, not a few weeks. A few month before my fifteenth birthday I was diagnosed. I felt like a failure. Even after being put on medication I still didn't believe that I could have an illness. Then I began sinking, my thoughts began pushing me down, I had no one but myself, my boyfriend at the time shared a big part of my health and took up a large amount of my problems , but I shut him out. I had to. he needed to get away from me. I wasn't going to last long, not relationship wise but mentally. I could feel myself weakening, suffering, each night I spent alone in bed I sunk further and further into illness. I needed something but I didn't know what, I dragged a blade accross my wrist and I liked it, it gave me a sense of security, a release, an ease. But it began becoming persistent I couldn't go 5 hours without harming myself, hospital trips and having my own set of cleaning products and bandages at home didn't bother me in the slightest. It was when I stayed at my grandparents and all of the cutlery and prescripted medication was locked away that I realised what I was doing to myself and others around me. I'd noticed I was blinded by my thoughts, I glanced down at my thighs and saw the damage, I have scars that will never fade and that will always be stared at by strangers. I frowned upon myself, I was disgusted I had let myself go into the storm my mind had made, thinking this would have changed my life around and forced me to stop letting the pain I was in get to me it didn't. Unfortunately for those who were around to witness it I got worse, after slicing my wrist open and lying in a pool of my own blood only a week after my last suicide attempt of an overdose, I was put on high security with a higher, different dose of anti depressants and the nhs at my home 4 times a week not including group dbt therapy. There was talk of staying in a psychiatric unit not far from where I live, but I decided to make myself go numb. Instead of dealing with my thoughts the way I had been i didn't think at all , I barely spoke , I didn't eat and i never left the house. although all of that didn't help my mental state it still made the situation better as staying in a psychiatric ward alone scared me so much. I stayed like that for months, until my medication got upped and I began to feel a change in myself. Having severe major depression sucks as well as being on a strong dose of antidepressants and having mental health services at your door 4 times a week, but my eyes were opened and i began using my skills I'd leaned from CAMHS to be mindful , not long before my 16th birthday my cousin was involved in an accident which lead to her death, she drowned, a freak wave no one could have done anything about, ever since I've been told that it should have opened my eyes to how amazing life was and too appreciate it , I thought maybe if you told this to an alcoholic or some kid that's constantly getting arrested that would have opened their eyes but for some reason it didn't for me , I'm not sure if it's because Im off my face on my happy tablets or I was just ungrateful but it made me want to end everything sooner, In my head I was told that because everyone was already devastated I may as well do it then so no one had to suffer at a different time, then I had a talk with my grandparents, my psychiatrist, my care coordinator and my mam and for someone like me that was slightly abnormal, I then began feeling guilty and was tempted to go back down the dark road id just took a left turn off, I'd began planning, and looking for sharp things, but then I remembered I'm too stubborn to stoop to the level I once had been, I sat myself down and had a talk with myself and said "fuck that". I'd realized that as my cousin had died I didn't realize I was close to dying too, drowning, in my own thoughts, they'd come over me like a tidal wave, I was helpless, I couldn't swim. how the hell can you swim when the water your drowning in is your own mind?! I grabbed pens, the brightest colors, some paper, made myself a coffee and made a plan, this year I'm coming off my anti-depressants, this year I'm getting discharged from CAMHS, and this year I'm staying away from the water in my head, I'm putting barriers up, my waves might push me over, might get my clothes wet but I'm not letting them take my life, I'm currently in remission, and now I've realized not only do i need to do this for myself I need to do this for her. Read more
Alexis Kahn
My depression started when I was thirteen years old. That was the year my adoptive mom, who had raised me from the age of four, died suddenly of a brain aneurysm.

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.

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Lucy
I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress disorder 5 years ago; when my therapist told me about it, I felt relief, and at the same time, I felt doomed. I remember being in and out of therapy for about 6 months prior to my diagnosis; 6 months of wandering, just to get lost again. I thought that if I was brave and strong enough, I could just "get over it". Or maybe just forget it. Just for one, two minutes. Stop thinking about it. Stop having nightmares about it. My friends and I used to go to the movies a lot. All of a sudden, I wasn't going to parties, missed classes, started giving cheap excuses in order to avoid my friends... When my mother started noticing my avoidant and self-destructive behaviour, she tried talking with me. It just didn't work out. She eventually got frustrated, and finally lost it when she entered my room while I was having my first panic attack and she discovered my bad self-harm habits. That's when I started my last therapy, in which I was told that PTSD and social anxiety actually exist. I felt relief because I finally found out about my illnesses, and the mere fact that they were actual illnesses made that relief even greater; as for the doomed part, I was just afraid that others would tag or make fun of me (that is, if they found out about it). During the first years, I remember crying myself to sleep just asking "why me?". I spent so much time thinking about my past, about what happened; I forgot who I was. And although my future seemed brighter thanks to therapy, I felt lost. One day, my therapist told me: "does it really matter, though? Not being able to remember who you were. It is scary, yes; but where you come from - your past - there's so much pain, and there's a reason why you can't remember. Instead of being angry or sad about it, why not focusing on the present? Who are you? How are you? Work from there, and I promise you: it gets better".  So, for anyone out there who needs reassurance: it gets better! Read more
Elyssa
Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. This statistic makes me sick. I am a 16 year old girl who takes antidepressants.I don't care who you are, but no one deserves to suffer from anxiety and/or depression. The sleepless nights, the passing out, the awkwardness while being around people. I hate to make this all about me. Society has done nothing but degrade people and convince them that it’s not okay. The truth of the matter is that it IS okay to not be okay. What’s not okay is to refuse help. Whether it be from your mother, your brother, your father, or your psychiatrist. You have to embrace that are in fact people that want to help you. To me it seemed inevitable. All I could think was,"If I can't help myself, then how could they possibly help me?" For months I would cry myself to sleep. All I could wonder was how or what I did to deserve this. It all seemed so random. People would ask me if I was "okay" and I would simply give an awkward, "Yeah, I’m fine!" It wasn't until I had a what seemed to be typical random panic attack in the backseat of a friends car to realize that I wasn't okay. When we got to her house, she didn’t know I was crying. When we got downstairs, something made her realize, possibly my awkwardness and avoiding looking at her or her parents in the eyes. She looked me in the eyes and said, "Hey. I know you're not okay." and hugged me and we cried. I'll give you the backstory. The previous weeks were rough and painful. I passed out twice from what I presumed to be anxiety attacks, which were becoming way too common for me. The worst part is that I still continued to believe and tell people that I was fine. These were lies. Nothing about me at this point in my life was normal. The inconsistent and sparse eating, the difficulty breathing, losing 15 pounds, passing out and not telling anybody, the extreme running and working out. I would not wish any of these on my worst enemy. I felt as if no one cared for me. While this is still a recurring issue in my life to date, I am living proof that things get better. Some days are not okay, but it’s encouraged to relish in the small victories that you experience on a day to day basis. Due to divine control, medicine, or whatever you choose to believe, I guarantee you that life is worth living. If you or anyone you know do not believe this for even a millisecond, please do whatever is in your power to seek help or feel better. Read more
Kayla Michelle Bowman
As a young child, I always felt a little different. I would worry about things that kids just shouldn't think about. Like the kids who didn't have parents. The kids that lost their parents. Little did I know, I would soon bare that pain. When I turned 14 I was in 9th grade. My parents were having marriage problems so it was always a fight. One night, my Mother decided she didn't want to live anymore. I remember seeing her lifeless in the recliner. Luckiky, she survived her attempt. However, January 1, 2009 my father was pronounced dead in Chattanooga, TN from a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head. My Dad was my hero. My main squeeze. It was rough without him. I withdrew myself from the life I knew and spiraled into the life of drugs and addiction. By 18, I had went to rehab for pills and cocaine. Once out and 18, I started my life. I got an apartment with my boyfriend at the time, worked two jobs. I still used occasionally but it wasn't heavy. That's when I noticed my boyfriend, Michael, had a problem. Michael was diagnosed with bipolar depression type 2. He was on loads of medication daily including Xanax. But Michael was also an addict. His doctors weren't aware of that. After months of stopping him attempt to kill himself, he finally overdosed on his Xanax's one night. He woke up after a lethal dose that should have killed him. His parents and I sent him to rehab and a year after, everything seemed great. We were both clean and sober, going to college, engaged. I had everything I ever wanted. But Michael was still sad, he was still in pain and he wouldn't talk to me about it. I had no idea until May 15th, 2014 when Michael's mother found him in his truck, dead. From a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head. After that, my life was completely shattered. I fell hard. Soon I was homeless, jobless, lifeless. So I turned to Methamphetamines. For a year, wallowed in my own sorrow, I screamed, cried, pleaded. Begged, to die. I did everything I could to make the drugs kill me but some how, I always survived. January 2015 I woke up one day and something just clicked. I wanted to live. I wanted to live for me, I wanted to live for my Dad and Michael. I wanted the world to know them and know that they aren't alone. That we all struggle. But we make it! I'm living with PTSD, medication free and addiction. I'm one year clean and I did it all on my own. No rehab. My goal in life is to end the stigma followed with suicide and mental illness. Thank you for letting me share my story! Read more
Jahnavi Nirmal
I had always been a scared person since childhood. I would worry and overthink too much; but things were quite normal until this happened. It seemed like I was not the one talking, but my soul was. Going through de personalization for over a year, had not been easy, but it surely was a blessing in disguise. I thought I would turn crazy. There was a kind of a wall that separated me from the real world, and I could feel myself floating in the atmosphere. Everything seemed like an illusion, but this phase made me a very strong person. I used to hate being in that condition, for it was so suffocating. At one point, the phase reached its limit, and thoughts of committing suicide occurred to me. This was scary, but I kept telling myself that I was different, and I was lucky to go through something like this. After a few months, I felt myself coming back, but unfortunately, I did not like it. I was so used to being in my own fancy world, that coming back to the real world was horrific. Humans started to scare me, and I was afraid of socialising. Since It was my first year at design school, I began to push myself a little to talk to people. Doing that, I just moulded myself into a different person all together. One day I would wake up with a crazy mood swing, while the other day I would wake up being happy. Everything was unpredictable. Yes, I lost a lot of friends because I had stopped talking to them and had distanced myself way too much; but I was lucky to have a good support from my parents and a few close friends. Now, when I look back, I feel so blessed. The universe chose me out of a billion people to go through some thing so beautiful. I am so happy to gain so many philosophical thoughts about life. Being happy is the only thing that matters. You've always got to be a learner, and grow. You've got to smile. Read more
Margaret Jacobsen

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

Dana Sharkey

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

Sara Romeo-White
I’ve written a lot about my story. There was even a period of time really recently where I made the conscious decision to stop. I couldn’t bare it anymore. I have done so much work on separating who I am and what my story is and constantly writing about it was making that difficult. I no longer wanted to define myself or be defined by the things I have been through or my illnesses. I wanted to find the real me under the layer of story and events.

The truth that I’ve come to realize, is that while yes those things don’t define me, they are and will always be part of me. I process through writing and always have. I journaled obsessively for most of my life. It was and is how I cope. I also know how important the value of helping people through shared experience is. So yeah, I still am getting to know who I am under those layers. And yes, I still am shedding my story to make room for new stories. But I doubt I will ever stop writing about those times and those experiences because while they are not who I am they have a large part to do with who I have become. And for that I am grateful.

By the time I was nineteen I weighed over 300 lbs., had been in and out of hospitals, diagnosed as everything from bipolar to ADD, and had dropped out of college in pursuit of health. A pursuit that was held up for two years and caused my second and most severe suicide attempt due to my insurance company claiming I wasn’t sick enough or big enough to warrant the treatment I desperately needed. I was begging for help and the stigma of mental health and the type of eating disorder I suffered from was overpowering that need.

I have a binge eating disorder. For years people didn’t look at this as a serious issue. They called it “emotional eating” and chalked it up to lack of self control. Because I didn’t purge I wasn’t considered a person who had a real problem. Yet I was pre­diabetic and had the beginnings of sleep apnea and barely left my bed or showered for days and very seriously wanted to die. Only recently within the last few years was B.E.D. (binge eating disorder) put in the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a classified illness­­ yet it is the most widely spread eating disorder in the United States to date.  Read more
Brittany Vadalabene
November 11, 2005 was the day that my life had changed forever. I was getting ready to leave for school and something just felt different. I was getting ready to head out the door and I said goodbye to my mom. Little did I know, that was the last time I would speak to her. I headed to school and my day went on as it normally did. It was lunch time when I heard my name called over the PA speaker. I walked into the office and I saw my aunt standing there, holding back tears. I knew something was wrong. We got out to the car and she told me that my mom had a massive heart attack, a complication from Lupus, amongst the other diseases that she lived with. We rushed to the hospital only to find that we were too late. She was gone. 

She was only 40. I was extremely close to my mom so the pain I was feeling was unbearable. I spiraled into a feeling that I had known before but it was different–it was escalated. Everyone was worried about me and my dad took me to the doctor where I was diagnosed with depression.

I always thought depression was just a feeling, but I found out that isn't the case; I have a chemical imbalance in my brain. It turns out that the feelings I was feeling even before my mom passed away were a result of that. They put me on antidepressants, but antidepressants only made things worse. I was thinking of suicide, and how life would be so much better without me. However suicide wasn't an option, I was raised Catholic and suicide was a one way ticket to hell. So I just decided to cut myself. I cut my arms and my legs, and wore long sleeves to hide the wounds. But one day my baby sister walked in—I knew I couldn't do it anymore. I decided on my own to stop taking the antidepressants. Read more
Estefania
I distinctly remember the first day I decided to throw up my lunch. I was fifteen years old, and I desperately wanted to be perceived as beautiful. Looking back, I recognize now why I felt so out of control. I was a new girl in a very small school and I was severely bullied. My father and I stopped talking—he had started a new family with my stepmother, and my mom was suing him for child support. He asked me to choose a side, and when I chose my mother's, he stopped speaking to me. I was dating a boy I was hysterically in love with, and would continue to be in love with for the next eight years even though he was adamant about cheating on me. I had my first panic attack, and I was sick of not having any control over my environment and my body.

I somehow came to the conclusion that a thigh gap and a sharp collarbone would solve all of my problems. The first meal I ever threw up was penne a la vodka. I lost 25 pounds within the next few months. You could see my ribs, pick out every bone in my knees, and count my vertebrae. I loved it. I loved the attention and feeling like I was cheating the "eating game." I was not only bulimic, but also obsessively exercising (sometimes three times a day) and taking laxatives regularly.

I did self "checks" frequently: pinching my stomach and analyzing the fat, double-triple-quadruple checking my thigh size. I drank 2-3 gallons of water a day. This is where my obsession with perfectionism really began. I had to be the funniest, thinnest, smartest, most accomplished, and most disciplined out of all of my friends. I was bulimic for the next eight years. I never spoke to my father again, but I forgave and befriended some of my bullies in college. I continued to see the boy until I was 23 years old. It was extremely toxic, but I needed to feel loved. I needed a man to tell me he loved me and that I was worthy of love. Read more
Debbie Millman
I was wearing my yellow coat, back when I wore yellow. I brought B with me—B, the bodybuilder and the boy from high school whom I loved—to protect me. How ironic, given that I would have to get a restraining order to protect me from him just a few years later.

Anyway.

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

Leah Goren

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

Jamie Franco

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.

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