A series of experiences from everyday people showing the importance of telling our stories and sharing our experiences to normalize all things mental health, bringing it out of the shadows and into the light. The more we share, the more we understand, and the more we understand, the more we can help each other come out of the shadows and into the light.
“My struggles go back as long as I remember.
I have always been an anxious person. I can remember when I was young, I had to go through the house every night to make sure all the doors and windows were locked, and then once I was in bed, I had to count from 0 to 100, and then from 100 to 0 before I would allow myself to go to sleep.
Things got more serious in high school. I stopped eating, except for at home. I was terrified my family would find out so I created two versions of myself – the happy completely fine version, and the version that hated me.
It wasn’t until I moved out of home for uni that I acknowledge within myself that something wasn’t right. I would sit at home in tears having terrifying thoughts and feelings while my friends were out enjoying themselves and experiencing first year uni.
I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t sleeping. I was hurting myself. Deep down I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t bring myself to reach out for help from anyone I knew. So I turned to the internet for help. I read a lot of self-help forums and talked in chat rooms. I found other people who were experiencing exactly what I was. It was a relief to know I wasn’t completely alone.
Once I accepted that I had a problem, and that it was okay to ask for help, I started seeing a therapist. And then a doctor. I was diagnosed with anorexia and chronic depression and anxiety. I started seeing my therapist several times a week and was put on anti-depressants and an anti-psychotic medication.
Keep in mind, during all this, I still refused to tell my family about what was going on. As far as I knew, they were still convinced I was happy Shel.
My eating habits continued to decline, and it came to a point where I needed more help. I entered an outpatient treatment program. 3 days a week, from 10am – 4pm I went and sat in a room with others who were struggling like me. We ate morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. It was supposed to help develop healthy eating skills and coping techniques etc. Looking back, it helped in the way that it got food in my stomach, but other than that I didn’t learn much.
Fast forward a few years and I had a bit of a breakdown. I ended up telling my mum everything. And I also ended up in a psych hospital in Sydney for a 2 month stay. Unlike the previous program, this one actually saved my life. I learnt to eat again; I learnt to manage my emotions better. Although I went into the program thinking I was not sick enough and that I would only stay a week, I am thankful that the treatment team and my parents kept me there for the 2 months.
Once out of hospital, I found a new therapist. We clicked right away. And she gave me a new diagnosis – one that made everything else make complete sense – Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). BPD for me means an inability to control my emotions. And several of the associated factors with BPD is depression, anxiety and eating disorders. It described me perfectly. Out of the 9 diagnostic criteria I met 7 of them. For some people, getting that type of diagnosis may be hard, but for me, it was life changing. It literally made my entire life make sense. The way I had felt since I could remember, the behaviours I displayed – it all had an explanation.
From that day, until now, I have worked so hard on recovery and learning about myself and my mind. I had another stint in a psych hospital and I am not fully recovered; I don’t think I will ever be. Each day I make the choice to eat, each day I make the choice to stand back and evaluate my negative thoughts and feelings. It is a daily, ongoing process. And I think it always will be. But I am okay with that. I have come so, so far and I am so proud of myself for where I am today. I am not ashamed of having mental illnesses. And I am not afraid to reach out for help when I need it”
– Michelle Beadman
Lifeline: 13 11 14