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Jess: Free from Shame

Jess: Free from Shame | Libero Magazine
My mental health issues and the shame that once surrounded them no longer control my life. I will graduate college in December 2013 and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer me now that I am free.

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My name is Jessica and I am good enough exactly as I am.

I am proud to be able to say that and mean it, because for many years I was unbearably uncomfortable in my own skin. I was a prisoner trapped in a body I hated, I was tortured by a constant bombardment of negative and worry thoughts in my mind, and I felt a profound emptiness within my soul, as if there was a hole in my chest where my heart should have been.

I struggled with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.

Anxiety entered my life at a young age in the form of constant worry, and I had my first anxiety attack at our third grade class poetry night. I was about to read my poem aloud when suddenly my heart started pounding, my breathing became rapid and frantic, and I became paralyzed with fear. That was the beginning of a long series of anxiety attacks that arose from performance anxiety and social anxiety.

My anxiety attacks were terrifying and shameful.

I lived in constant fear of a panic attack coming on so strongly and unexpectedly, and I felt humiliated that I couldn’t control my own body or emotions.

Shame over my anxiety combined with seven years of ongoing trauma led me to develop depression and low self-esteem…

At age 12, restricting my caloric intake became an outlet for my anxiety. Instead of worrying about if I was “good enough” in a million different ways, I channeled my anxiety into a very simple, concrete equation: if I was thin and restricted my food intake I was a good person. I felt like I had regained control over my body- control that had been stolen from me by my anxiety attacks and traumatic events.

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Of course, the feeling of being in control didn’t last long. My mood and self-esteem became controlled by the scale and no number was ever low enough. At age 13 my body couldn’t handle the deprivation anymore and I began to binge. I binged every night for a year, feeling more out of control than ever, until I returned to restricting and added compulsive exercise. I had no period, my hair was falling out in clumps, I was severely depressed, and I became addicted to self-harm.

At age 15 I felt completely hopeless. I wrote a suicide note and planned to end my life.

Thankfully, my family intervened and I was sent to a psychiatric hospital where I was diagnosed for the first time with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. I was put on medication and began to learn coping skills to deal with my complex emotions without resorting to self-destructive behaviors.

This was the beginning of a long journey to understand myself, heal from the past, and move on to a brighter future.

I was an intelligent, passionate, kind-hearted person with a lot of potential- I just needed to learn to love and believe in myself.

Following my hospitalization, I started going to therapy regularly and practicing my new coping skills. I quit self-harming, my anxiety attacks became few and far between, and performance anxiety ceased to be an issue altogether as I faced my fear over and over again until I became a confident public speaker. I also excelled in high school and came out to my family and friends as bisexual, which was a huge step in the right direction towards self-acceptance and living a life of authenticity.

Unfortunately, my eating disorder had a strong grip on me even as I learned to manage my depression and anxiety.

Although it had started as a reaction to anxiety, my eating disorder had taken on a life of its own over the years and undernourishing my body had become my normal.

In 2010 after my freshman year of college, I finally decided to seek help for my eating disorder. I entered a partial hospitalization program and started seeing a dietitian regularly. I maintained my recovery for a year and a half, until I relapsed and entered residential treatment in September 2012. Going to residential treatment and giving up my eating disorder behaviors completely was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but it was the most rewarding.

Today I am weight-restored and do not engage in eating disordered behaviors.

I am not fully recovered, but for the first time I can say with complete honesty that both my body and mind are in a healthy place and I have made a commitment to never give up on my health and happiness.

My mental health issues and the shame that once surrounded them no longer control my life.

I will graduate college in December 2013 and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer me now that I am free.

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Originally published February 15, 2013 on our old Tumblr blog

Jessica has a B.A. in Psychology and Women's Studies and is pursuing a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She is passionate about social justice and hopes to make a difference in the lives of others and advocate for social change. Having recovered from an eating disorder, Jessica is committed to spreading the word that freedom from eating disorders is possible. Through her writing at Libero, Jessica hopes to empower those struggling with eating disorders to fight for the health and happiness that they deserve.

SITE DISCLAIMER: The opinions and information shared in this article or any other Content on our site may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.