I have a mental illness.
I cried when I said it. I thought- what me, no! I just have an eating disorder.
But that is a mental illness.
I started to feel so ashamed, and even more ashamed that I felt ashamed because fuck the stigma, right? I then realized when I hear the words mental illness I think of people who are not well and not fully coherent, which is an absolutely horrific thing to think! I never thought I held that stigma, I aways supported the #breakthestigma hashtag and admired their message! Yet, when I labeled myself as someone with mental illness, I felt so pathetic. People in asylums have mental illnesses, not me.
But I do.
I’m the one with mental illness. I’m highly functioning. I love yoga and working out. I have a terrific job. I hang out with my friends. I watch friends until 2am. I have a boyfriend. I’m pretty fricken normal. I’m perfectly coharent. I am a person. It’s everyday people you know that have a mental illness. People who are hiding it because we can’t seem to have a conversation about it.
It’s just absolutely nuts to me just how many people are struggling but are forced to hide it because mental illness is so shameful. I’m guilty of it too. I have no problem talking about my eating disorder, actually, I enjoy educating people on its challenges but I find myself always being awkward about it at first.
I work with the online health community where people are advocating for conditions or diseases they face. So I am always talking to super amazing individuals who are sharing their stories- and yet I always feel awkward being like “I am an advocate for eating disorders!” because 90% of people get uncomfortable. WHY?!
It’s not their fault by any means- it’s just the world we live in so I’m hoping to change that. Surely it’s a huge task but there are so many bad ass mental health advocates out there, it’s an honor to be part of the mission to #breakthestigma because really- the way we are operating now is bullshit.
Our society has fabricated this ludicrous idea that mental illness only affects the people in ‘crazy hospitals’ with straps on their legs and their tied down. It’s just nonsense. Sharing my journey has only made me realize how small the world really is- how most of the people you know are fighting something. That mental illness happens to those who seem ‘normal’ – like your teacher, doctor, boyfriend, neighbor- because mental illness is pretty darn normal! Depression, anxiety, eating disorders- jeeze I want to say everybody has them! Perhaps an exaggeration but shit, we definitely all feel these things sometimes (maybe not the eating disorder) so why is it so hard to talk about!? Why do we paint ‘mental illness’ with such silly stereotypes?
When it comes to eating disorders, people assume it’s always a quiet, sad, bone thing girl. Because of this, many don’t seek help. Myself included. For 7 years I thought “I’m not skinny enough to have an eating disorder”. What bogus!? Oh how I wish someone just told me that eating disorder don’t have a body type. That no matter my weight, I was unhealthy and hurting my body and I needed help.
Pressure to be thin is louder than ever and people are struggling. We need to create a safe space where people can ask for help. This comes from continuous education and listening. Being aware and offering support. And it certainly comes from breaking the stigma behind mental health.