This is part of a series of interviews concerning mental health and its role in today’s society. With these interviews, I hope to shed light on how common mental health conditions really are, as well as to amplify the voices of those in recovery.
Could you introduce yourself? (name, age, etc.)
- (Participant preferred to remain anonymous)
What has your experience with mental health been like? (what diagnoses do you have, when did they start, how do they affect your life?)
- My experience with mental health started when I realized school was really hard for me and no matter what I did, my peers could always do it better. I was diagnosed with ADHD and on medication by age 6. I was bullied for being different and after some family issues and trauma, by the age of 12 I had depression, anxiety and anorexia. Some years it’s been better than others. It has affected every aspect in my life, but when it affected my passion and bright future I decided I need to recover. The depression, anxiety and ADHD were bearable but the anorexia was just really grim.
What has recovery been like? Who were your main support systems during recovery?
- Recovery has been a lot of ups, downs, and stubbornness. My family still doesn’t understand my ED, or maybe it’s just uncomfortable to them, but my main support comes from my wonderful friends.
What would you tell yourself if you could go back to the beginning of your recovery/mental health journey? What advice might you have for people who are just beginning their journey to recovery?
- I would tell myself the truth, it’s hard. Like tooth and nail hard sometimes but a necessary evil to live a happy life that I’m fulfilled in.
- My advice for others is really just to celebrate every little success you make. When you mess up, don’t yell at yourself and beat yourself up. Use compassion to build yourself up so you can be strong enough to not fall in the same patterns again.
What are some things you wish people realized about mental health conditions? What can others do to support people battling with mental health conditions?
- I wish people understood that obviously my thinking patterns aren’t logical and don’t make sense. That’s the whole point. Sympathize with me. Don’t tell me that I’m being silly.
- The number one thing is just to be a good listener and non judgmental. Sometimes advice isn’t what we want. It’s compassion and understanding.
What are your thoughts on the school education system in terms of mental health awareness and curriculum? Do you think they should do better? If yes, how can they do better?
- The ways schools discuss mental health is horrible! We would watch movies in health class with graphic depictions of self harm and eating disorders. It was pretty obvious I struggled with these issues myself and kids would stare at me and I would get too much anxiety. Then I would go home triggered and use these behaviors again. Talking about anxiety and how damaging it is and then assigning us long papers about these topics with strict due dates is just ironic at this point.
Do you feel like there is a stigma surrounding mental health and treatment? If so, why do you think it exists? What do you think we can do to break down this barrier?
- The stigma is lessening, but at the same time I feel like people are starting to think eating disorders are just missing a meal sometimes and that’s not the case and then they are rude to people actually struggling. The only mental health issues people are coming around to understanding is anxiety and depression. Everything else is still vilified and scary to the public.
Is there anything else you would like to share or talk about?
- The one last thing I want to share is that starting recovery is the hardest part. You will never feel sick enough. The people around you might not think you are either and that’s the worst part. Feeling like you’re making everything up in your head is really common. Accepting help is still so difficult for me but I’ve committed healing my mind so I can focus on the people I love, rescuing animals, educating people on the dangers of fast fashion and making art that combats these issues.