This piece was originally submitted to The Dialouge Projects on June 29th 2016.
Although I have struggled with mental illness for a long time now, sharing my story and just generally talking about my struggle with mental illness has always been something I’ve been really ashamed of and a part of my life I have always wanted to hide. But now, I have finally found the courage to share my story.
This time last year I was in the midst of battling anorexia and clinical depression. My struggle with mental illness started over five years ago when I was diagnosed with clinical depression and then anorexia nervosa.
My biggest battle was with anorexia. For as long as I can remember, I have always had very low self-esteem. Unfortunately, my low self-esteem turned into a near-fatal battle with Anorexia Nervosa. My self-worth was once dependent on the size of my jeans and the number on my scale.
I used to skip meal after meal and then do intense physical activity. When I was first diagnosed with anorexia, I laughed. I refused to believe it. I thought I was fat, when really I was severely underweight and sick. Even though I was so sick physically, and couldn’t focus for longer than an hour, I still believed I was fine. I refused help.
The last five years or so of my life consisted of doctor’s appointments, both inpatient and outpatient treatment at a few different hospitals, medication, countless tears, several therapists, and lots of highs and lows. Right after being diagnosed with anorexia, I started day hospital treatment. From supervised meals to group and individual therapy to supervised washroom breaks – I absolutely hated it. In fact, I left just a few weeks in. Over the next few months my condition got worse. Believe it or not, hearing that I would die if I didn’t get better – which is something I heard multiple times – didn’t scare me whatsoever. There were days when I wanted to end my story, but I dug deep and found the strength to keep fighting. I eventually gave in and started treatment at another hospital. And finally, I really chose recovery. And recovery was tough. Even after choosing recovery, there were times when I wanted to give up. Now I feel okay. I have fully recovered from anorexia. This year, I was finally able to live a normal university student life – and trust me – it was one of the best years of my life. Now, I am on the road to eventually becoming a psychiatrist.
Although I do struggle sometimes with depression, I have learnt how to manage. Today, mental illness is no longer something I’m ashamed of. It’s a reality that I live with every day and every day I get stronger. Even while I was at treatment, I didn’t think recovery was possible. But the truth is, you can and will get better as long as you choose recovery. I chose recovery and it saved my life. To all those struggling with mental illness, I’m with you. It’s time for you to start fighting. You can do this, I promise.
Delia Xenophontos is an aspiring psychiatrist who dedicates everything she does to mental health awareness and helping others. She is a seasoned volunteer, currently volunteering for the National Eating Disorder Information Centre and the Looking Glass Foundation for Eating Disorders.