Editor’s Note: For Mental Health Month 2019 our theme is “It Gets Better.” As part of our campaign, we are interviewing Libero alumni and asking them to reflect on the past and share words of encouragement to those who can relate to their stories. CLICK HERE to learn more about our Mental Health Month campaign!
What was your life like before you took steps towards mental health?
Before I started taking steps towards mental health my life felt very empty and constricted.
Growing up, I had so many people I loved to spend time with, activities I loved to do, and passions I loved to pursue. When I developed an eating disorder and depression, I slowly cut each of these things out of my life. I spent more and more time obsessing over the meaningless things my eating disorder cared about and compulsively participating in disordered activities, which left less and less time and mental energy for me to pursue the things that fill my life with meaning and joy. This left me with no joy, sense of purpose, or hope. It was truly a dark time.
What was the turning point that led you down the path of change?
I do not think there was one particular turning point that led me down the path of change. My journey to health was long, bumpy, and full of twists. I have had many moments that encouraged me to get back on the path to change, but I think ultimately what kept bringing my back to the path of change was the people who kept loving me and believing in me and God’s plan for my life, even when I was not acting lovingly to them or making any effort to change.
I’ve had many moments where I felt more than ready to give up on myself, but no matter how hopeless I became, I could never quite give up fighting because of the people who were fighting so hard for me.
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When did you first reach out for support?
I first reached out for support around 2010, when my family set up an intervention of sorts for me and insisted we start fighting for my health.
What gave you the courage to ask for help?
I got the courage to ask for help for two reasons. First, I knew that it was breaking my family’s heart to watch me self-destruct and I wanted to stop hurting them. Second, I could not stand to face the pain alone anymore and knew I could not survive without help.
What types of support did you pursue and which were most helpful for you?
I pursued therapy first, quit, and then went back a couple of years later to an eating disorder specialist who set me up with a team consisting of my doctor, my dietitian, and her. I also pursued online support communities.
Looking back, I think having all of these supports in combination for an extended period of time is what ultimately helped me heal.
How did Libero help you along the way?
I still remember the first article I read on Libero that talked about making sock monkeys as a coping skill. I loved that Libero provided ideas I could put into action right away that helped me improve my mental health.
The tips and ideas themselves helped, but what was actually most helpful was how empowered they helped me feel in taking back control of my mental health. I had not found that type of practical tips anywhere else.
How does your life today compare to your life before beginning the journey towards mental wellness?
My life is brimming with people and things that fill me with joy. I love having the freedom, energy, and mental space to develop many diverse passions that excite me and light my soul on fire.
Before I started my journey towards mental wellness, all of my energy and passion got sucked into a singular focus on calories, which left me feeling empty. Now I am free to choose to allot my energy and passion wherever I want.
I have a job and family that I love and give so much love and energy to. A single day of this life is more rewarding than years spent stuck in a cycle of mental illness.
Do you still have “bad days”? If so, how do you respond to them?
I definitely still have “bad days”, but they are very different than my bad days before. Usually I just take some time to think about what may be causing me to feel a little down or insecure, and try to adjust a few things to alleviate the cause. I also invest in self-care and allow myself to rest and do something I love. I always go to my supports as well and let them know I need a little extra help that day.
What is something about your life today that you never would have thought possible before?
Today I am a therapist helping 10+ people a day pursue mental health. I never thought I could figure my own mental health out, let alone help other people. I am so thankful for my journey to health. I think the best thing about my life today is my foster kids. I used to barely be able to keep myself alive, and now I am able to help myself and three little boys thrive while setting an example for them of mental health hygiene.
They make every hard step of recovery worth it.
What do you wish you’d known when you were first reaching out for support?
I wish I had known how much I needed friendships that centered on commonalities besides mental health problems. I focused so much on my mental health and less on the other parts of me, which made the recovery journey harder than it could have been had I had some other healthy outlets.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your former self?
You will get through this, too. It will get better. Life will not always be so hard.
What would you like to share with those who can relate to your story and may feel that things won’t get better?
Reach out to people around you and invest in relationships. Even when it is hard and it hurts, building relationships is the core of recovery and finding meaning and beauty in life.
Is there a specific quote or song that helped get you through difficult times?
I love a quote by Jamie Tworkowski that helped me hold on to hope:
“Our stories are all so many things: Heavy and light. Beautiful and difficult. Hopeful and uncertain. But our stories aren’t finished yet. There is still time, for things to heal and change and grow. There is still time to be surprised. We are still going, you and I. We are stories still going.”
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