Emily s Story
Chicago, IL USA
"It’s hard to pinpoint when my mental illness starts exactly, but my earliest memory of self-hatred dates back to when I was 6-years-old. I was in my dance class, being measured for costumes, and hating on every inch of my body. I was staring at my reflection in the mirror, shame filling my interior. Nearly every day since then, I looked at the mirror disgusted with my body. And, as I transitioned into my teenage years, that simple hatred grew and my only way to cope was to alter it.
I thought if I decreased the calories I ate it would decrease my self-hatred. If I ran one more mile, it would rid me of the anxiety that kept me up late into the night and woke me up early the next morning. That, if I cut my wrist one more time, my depression would be gone. All of that, and it none of it worked.
I grew up in a very typical suburban family, and thus grew up believing that nothing horrible enough happened to me to justify being anxious and depressed. I wasn’t worthy of suffering from mental illness. Unfortunately, my depression only exaggerated that lack of worthiness, and I hid every negative thought that ran through my head from every single person I knew.
For 4 years, throughout high school and college, I mastered the art of people pleasing and stuffing down emotions. I wore a mask so well, that I even convinced myself I was okay. I sobbed while in the shower, so no one would hear me. I self-harmed late at night in my room, so no one would see me sneak back into the kitchen with a knife. I snuck off to the gym and said I was at class. And, I used the line 'no thanks, I already ate' too many times to count. I tried diet after diet, calorie counting app after app, I went vegetarian, then vegan, and decreased my caloric intake by the hundreds daily. Inside, I was dying. Literally and figuratively. But, on the outside I was the straight-A student, living in the city with her friends.
Finally, in the spring of my sophomore year of college, I slowly began unraveling the torture I was feeling to my doctor and soon therapist. I went into treatment for my eating disorder for two years, and have finally come out of the other side a little bruised, but one thousand times stronger. It was by no means easy, and some days I wanted nothing else but to give up. At one point, I did give up. I attempted to overdose on all of my leftover medication, hoping I’d never wake up. Thank goodness I did.
And, now I’m here. Restored with hope. Some days, I lose that hope, and I have to be reminded by my therapists and support team that they’re holding the hope for me. But, that in itself is enough. 'Because if you keep hope alive, it will keep you alive.' And that’s all that matters. That, and it’s okay not to always be okay."