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 took steps towards recovery, I was literally at rock bottom. I was struggling with an eating disorder and exercise addiction. I honestly thought the only way out for me was death because I couldn’t bear the thought of me not having control. And yet, I was completely out of control. I was so isolated from my friends, and my university work was suffering.
What was the turning point that led you down the path of change?
What led me down the path of change was a doctor’s appointment. I was there for something unrelated, but my doctor took one look at me and was concerned about my health. She begged me to go to an appointment with an eating disorder specialist and set me up with a counsellor who had a history of helping people with eating disorders. I could have said no, but to be honest I was just sick of the way I was living my life.
I wanted help but I was too afraid to ask for it myself.
When did you first reach out for support?
I first started getting help for my eating disorder in 2010.
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What gave you the courage to ask for help?
I was completely at rock bottom and didn’t want to live like that anymore.
I was a shell of myself. I didn’t ask for help exactly but I was completely open to it and when someone was willing to help me, I took that opportunity. I was so frightened though. I had no idea what recovery was going to be like, I was terrified of letting go of the control I’d had over the last 5 years over my body and my life. I just wanted to be normal, to not care about what food I ate or how much exercise I did. I just wanted to be me again.
What types of support did you pursue and which were most helpful for you?
My number one support was therapy.
I had an amazing counsellor who set goals for me and gave me the support I needed. She also kept me accountable, which I really needed. It’s so easy to lie about eating this or that, but she knew when I was lying. I was also set up for weekly doctor and dietician appointments. In New Zealand, where I live, eating disorder treatment is fully funded so I didn’t have to worry about money at all. My doctor’s appointments and counselling were done through my uni, and the dietician was external but at an eating disorders clinic. I remember whenever I would go into the clinic, one of the women that worked there would walk past and say, “I expect we will see you inpatient very soon.” Boy, did I prove her wrong!
I also was part of an eating disorder recovery forum, where I met two of my best friends in the whole world. We are still friends to this day and they helped me immensely in my recovery, and I’m sure I helped them, too. Although, I would be cautious about joining these forums as some people can find them triggering.
How did Libero help you along the way?
Libero was a MASSIVE help to me. I followed a blog of a girl who was documenting her recovery, and I got to know her through the comments. Her name was Jessica and she reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in writing an article for Libero. I was honoured to be asked. I wrote that article and then became a writer for the next year or so. Not only were the articles extremely helpful, but I got to know Lauren (the Founder of Libero) and the other writers. I even met up with Lauren in London!
I will always be fond of Libero and everything it did for me during my recovery.
How does your life today compare to your life before beginning the journey towards mental wellness?
My life is 100% different. I believe I am completely recovered from my eating disorder, which I honestly never thought was possible. I never have negative thoughts about food — I eat what I feel like when I want it. I love going for walks, which is the only exercise I enjoy doing, but I only do it when I feel like it, not when I feel like I should.
I just live my life and it feels so good!
Do you still have “bad days”? If so, how do you respond to them?
I don’t have bad days anymore. Back when I was still recovering, of course, I had bad days. I would struggle with my ever-changing body shape, and constantly having to eat. But at the very beginning of my recovery, I remember thinking that I needed to prepare myself to feel like crap because I knew that I would at some points. It is all part of the process, but it’s so worth it. Whenever I was having a bad day, I would reach out to a friend, go on the recovery forum, talk to my counsellor about them. Sometimes even just sitting outside in the fresh air would help ground me.
Surround yourself with positivity and good people, and you can’t go wrong.
What is something about your life today that you never would have thought possible before?
I am working in my dream job as a meteorologist, which would never have happened if I wasn’t well enough to study. I am able to go out with friends and eat without even thinking twice about it. Just being able to live my life is absolutely liberating and I don’t even think about how my life used to be anymore. That’s not who I am today.
What do you wish you’d known when you were first reaching out for support?
I wish I’d known that you didn’t have to be “sick enough” to ask for help. If I had reached out sooner, I wouldn’t have gotten as sick as I did and probably wouldn’t have the lasting effects that I have on my joints from over-exercising.
If you’re engaging in eating disordered behaviours, you are sick enough. No matter what your weight is.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your former self?
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that it WILL get better and to keep fighting.
I would also tell myself that full recovery IS possible. That is something I never believed before.
What would you like to share with those who can relate to your story and may feel that things won’t get better?
Like I said earlier, I honestly felt as though the only way out was death. I felt as though I couldn’t give up my behaviours otherwise my life would fall apart. But my life already had fallen apart.
Recovery is a process.
It is full of ups and, unfortunately, many big downs. You need to prepare yourself for those downs and come up with constructive ways to get through them, whether it be journaling, talking to friends, etc. Keep yourself busy.
Is there a specific quote or song that helped get you through difficult times?
“Recovery is scary, but so is staying exactly the same.”
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