So as previously noted, May was Mental Health Awareness Month, so I have been reading 9 books chosen by Penguin Teen to broaden my knowledge of mental illnesses and bring awareness to it. For me, mental health is a huge thing to bring awareness to. It carries a stigma of something bad and it is almost a taboo to talk about. In reality, the only negative thing is not talking about it. The more it is discussed, the better chance of people living with a mental illness have of living a better life, instead of feeling like they have to hide a part of themselves.
My own battle with mental illness started when I was in the 10th grade, which was about 11 years ago. Although I never associated my weight as something positive, it wasn't until a boyfriend told me that my little pudge was cute, but I'd look a lot better without it. I spent the next few months barely eating and throwing up, or not eating at all. After passing out at color guard practice, my friends and family took better notice of what I was putting into me, including the boyfriend who made the comment originally; although he was always quick to point out if I had already eaten what he deemed "a lot." I spent the remainder of my high school career always trying to get down from a size 12 to a size 10 to a size 8.
In college, my first semester, I finally reached that wonderful size 8, and I loved my body, although I was anything but healthy. I was studying psychology because I wanted to know more about mental illness and self harm; I wanted to help the people who were plagued with the same demons I thought I had overcome, but little did I know, I had no clue what was coming next.
My thinner frame and devil-may-care attitude attracted the likes of the worst guy I have ever dated. The relationship was toxic and it affected many forms of my health. With him, I partied all the time and ate out almost every meal; never in my life had I had the cold or flu some many times, but my immune system was shot. Mentally, our fights took a toll on me. We would press each others buttons, knowing exactly what to say to hurt the other person. Saying hurtful things is just as damaging to you as it is the other person.
A year and a half later, the relationship ended, and I was a shell of myself. I moved back closer to my family and enrolled in a new university, but the depression I was in was not one that could be remedied with a new apartment and hair style. I hated myself for what he put me, and even more, what I put myself through. I failed out of college after a year at the new school, only adding to the depression I was in. I felt like a disappointment to my family, and no matter what anyone said, nothing brought me back. It didn't help that I was quickly putting on more and more weight.
Once turning 21, I turned to alcohol, and a new friendship with an old high school friend only encouraged drinking the pain away. We were both dealing with our own issues, and it was not uncommon for us to go through a few bottles of wine a night and stay up until the early hours of the morning. This turned into a new form of a toxic relationship. Despite the fact that he was the only person at the time I felt comfortable telling my mistakes to and felt no judgement by him, and he felt the same about me, our friendship was the worst thing either of us could have done.
When I was 23, I injured my back. This, plus a new job (the first positive thing in a long time) sent me back to my hometown to my childhood bedroom. For about 8 months, I regularly visited doctors, took constant pain medication, and seeped further into an absolute depression. My toxic friendship turned into a brief relationship and then to an even more toxic friendship. I was beginning to realize that I would never be happy if I kept up with the life I was living, and he did not see a problem in our lives.
The first change that started bringing me back around was incorporating essential oils into my life. Thank you to my cousin Kari and Young Living for helping me get out of the slump. The second change was I read the Oola book and brought its methods into my every day life. Within 6 months, I was off of pain killers and working towards being off of my anti-depressant. Finally, I started talking with my parents about how I really felt. They have worked wonderfully with me to help ease my anxieties and work through them with me when I am feeling too much. The real break through was telling my brother Ryan that I was suffering with all of this, and him accepting it and knowing he was there for me.
Last year, I began my journey of achieving a healthy weight and loving my body. I no longer look at the size on the tag. I have learned that that number is anything but an inaccurate description of my body.
In February, I began to wake up happy. I wasn't happy all day, every day. But for the first time in 11 years, I was consistently happy. It was then that I felt I had finally beat this demon.
It took 11 years, numerous conversations, finding the right friendships, and learning to love myself, but I did it. I came out on the other side.
For all of these reasons and more, this is why Mental Health Awareness Month is important to me.
In reading the books, I learned so much.
- Mental illness can start at any age.
- What causes you to be sad/mad/anxious/scared doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you.
- Talk to someone, don't hold it in.
- Have a support system.
- Mental illness isn't pretty and it isn't what you think it is.
- The stigmas attached to mental illness is BS.
- You will learn a lot about yourself and the people you surround yourself with.
- You might not feel worthy of love, but you are.
I hope that in my reviews and my posts, you have learned some things you didn't know before; that if you are living with a mental illness, you are not alone; and most importantly, it's going to be okay one day.
Thank you for embarking my my journey to bring awareness to mental health with me!