I have had generalised anxiety disorder since I was 8 years old. I had no understanding of mental health or mental illness at such a young age so I would just complain that I ‘felt sick in the tummy’. In reality, it was anxiety symptoms which were bothering me: those awful nervous butterflies in the stomach, headaches, constant worrying and difficulty sleeping.
I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 13 and my battle with the disease lasted 10 years. I think that controlling my food and exercise subconsciously acted as a coping mechanism for me to deal with my constant anxiety. I strived for perfection at any cost and just wanted to prove that I was worthy. Constantly having a war going on inside my head was hell on earth. I was hospitalised 7 times throughout my illness and was desperate to recover. I really hit rock bottom and knew that if I didn’t take drastic action and challenge everything that the disease taught me to believe, that anorexia would kill me. I tried so many different treatment methods including: psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs, dieticians, nutritionists, hypnosis, acupuncture, Mandometer, Maudsley, inpatient and outpatient programs and naturopaths. Separating myself from my anorexic thoughts really helped me to fight back and reclaim my power against the disease. Recovery was the hardest thing I have ever done but it was so incredibly worth it.
I am blessed with an amazingly supportive family and group of friends and am so grateful that I had resources available to help me recover. I never thought that I would be able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, not be driven mad by food and not be compelled to exercise. This is my reality now and I am so proud of myself and my family for sticking together the way we have in the face of my disease (which we named “the snake”).
I will have generalised anxiety disorder for the rest of my life, but I have a great support network and strategies to help me manage and stay on top of my mental health. I am a huge advocate for self-care: you cannot pour from an empty cup!
I hope that by sharing my story it helps others to feel less alone and inspires hope that things can get better. I have an Instagram account (@strengththroughthestorm) where I share my story, provide mental health tips and resources and support others. This is a safe space where people can feel less alone and be supported by people who understand what they are going through.
An exacerbated doctor once said to me that I would never amount to anything more than “a professional anorexic” and look at me now; 7 years in complete remission!!! I want to emphasise that full recovery is possible for anyone, no matter how long you have been struggling. There are always resources and support available. Please reach out if you feel the need to. People care, you are worthy and you are loved!
Contributed by Ash.