In the span of a minute, my entire world was turned upside down. The seemingly perfect family that I once believed I had was gone and I was abruptly wakened from the naïve dream I had been living in for so long.
With so little experience with emotional trauma and hardship in life aside from helping others cope with their own issues, rather than face what was happening and accept the support from those who loved me, I retreated within myself and barricaded the doors. I coped with hours upon hours of exercise and obsessive restricting and soon found myself labeled as both depressed and anorexic, to the great shock and dismay of those who had known me to be the dependable, care-free, perfect girl I had been obliged to be for so long. As the months went by, I began to lose more and more of myself. I became unrecognizable both outwardly and inwardly and, at my worst, concluded that, ultimately, my friends and family would be better off without me around.
I’d like to be able to say that after I hit that rock bottom I finally began to bounce back and to fight, however, the truth is that I stayed on that bottom for a long while. Rather than taking advantage of my new life in college to find myself again, I spent all of my energies portraying myself someone who had it all together while continuing to engage in my self-destructive coping methods. I was living with copious amounts of guilt and shame and was terrified at the thought of accepting help or opening up to anyone.
One night shortly after arriving at college, I fainted in the bathroom and discovered a new rock bottom. I couldn’t get up. As I sat on the floor, struggling to gather enough strength to get back to my room, a switch flipped in my brain. I was done. I was ready for change. I opened up to my close friends. I accepted what had happened, forgave, and voluntarily took giant steps forward in my recovery. Most importantly, I accepted that there is no shame in mental illness and that there is always hope for recovery, no matter how bleak the future looks at the time.
I am not my coping and I am not my past struggle with mental illness, but it will always be part of me and I know now that that’s ok.