I'm in a place in my recovery that I think I will be able to talk openly, and helpfully. This blog will mostly be about mental health problems, I'm not sure where exactly it will go but I hope to share some personal experience, advice and updates on my recovery.
Since I started this website a few years ago I have come a long way with my mental health. I had not long been discharged from hospital when I created Belles Recovery Project. I have unfortunately had more hospital admissions since then, a LOT of therapy, and been off and on medications. I've been learning to deal with my emotions and manage my anxiety, and haven't relapsed with self harm for over a year. I want to write about my recovery, and hopefully for someone reading this who's struggling, it will bring them comfort knowing that they are not alone, and things get better.
My mental health problems started when I was 13, when I developed a eating disorder. I restricted my food, counted the calories of everything I ate, purged anything over the amount I had allowed myself to eat, and binged and purged. My parents found out and my doctor referred me to early intervention outpatient therapy. Sometimes I was honest with them, but mostly I made my problems seem less serious because I didn't want to get better. Therapy did help though, if I hadn't gone I'm sure I would have gotten much sicker, but I wasn't ready to recover.
Eating disorders make you secretive, my parents put different things in place that the eating disorder clinic recommended, like locking the bathroom door for an hour after meals, and hiding my scales. My friends would come with me to the bathroom at school and force me to eat my lunch, but I found other ways to hide food, avoid eating, and purge without anyone knowing.
The next four years my eating disorder controlled my thoughts, it would get better and I would be okay, not restricting as much and only purging maybe once every few weeks instead of every day, but then it would get bad again. I still counted calories, weighed myself daily, and used disordered behaviours. When I was 14 I emailed the clinic and asked about the intensive outpatient program after my friends had become really worried, but never followed through and called them or told my parents.
When you have an eating disorder, you often become depressed, but when I was 15 the depression became more of a problem than my disordered thoughts and behaviours. It was affecting my concentration at school, I became less social, had thoughts of suicide and was self harming. I cried way more than is normal, and was very anxious, so I went to Headspace without my parents knowing, they diagnosed me with depression and I started seeing a counsellor. I had to tell my parents eventually because the doctor wanted to put me on antidepressants. It was hard for them to understand how depressed and anxious I was, because I hid how I was feeling very well, but they read everything they could about depression and self harm, and tried to help me get better. The medication made me suicidal the first few weeks, an unfortunate side effect, but then my mood improved and counselling was helping.
In year 11 when I was 16, my mental health became much worse. I couldn't sleep, would either cry all the time, or feel emotionally numb. It was the worst year of my life, I was severely self harming and started having panic attacks. I felt completely overwhelmed, seeing the school counsellor almost every day, as well as my psychologist once a week. It got to the point where I was self harming every day, and having to be taken to hospital to get stiches. My parents did everything they could to prevent me hurting myself, but like any addiction, I found ways to do it. I didn't self harm because I was suicidal, for me it was a way of controlling my emotions, but I was having suicidal thoughts because of the depression and was admitted to a psychiatric unit.
My care was taken over by Children and Young Peoples Mental Health where I saw a psychiatrist because my mental health problems became more serious, as Headspace handles mild to moderate problems. When I came back to school after being in hospital, I had to be walked to and from classes, and wasn't aloud sharp objects, my school didn't handle it well and although some friends were supportive, others didn't understand. I was going through an incredibly difficult time, and having my friends say such hurtful things only made me feel more worthless.
There were a few more admissions to hospital, when I would have episodes of depression, and nights spent in the emergency department because I had hurt myself. My medications were increased and I was prescribed a antipsychotic for insomnia and panic attacks. The school break before starting year 12 my friends were no longer there for me. I was admitted to hospital again, and my parents and me considering home schooling because things had gotten so bad, but I moved to a small Adventist school and they were amazing. I had classes 4 days a week, and did one subject at home, my teachers gave me tutoring and extensions on my assessments, I had support for exams and made a bunch of gorgeous friends.
Year 12 for me was great, I had no hospitalizations, and worked really hard with my psychologist. I only relapsed with self harm and eating disorder behaviours a couple of times. I graduated with academic awards and got accepted into a nursing program. Things were going really well, and I was happier than I had been in years. My first year in nursing school, the depression and anxiety got bad again, and I had two hospital admissions a few months apart.
Depression makes you feel hopeless, after doing so well and then being back in hospital, thinking about ending my life and not being able to see things getting better was hard. The last two hospital admissions I wasn't in a psychiatric ward, but a separate treatment centre, so it was a lot more helpful. It didn't really feel like a hospital, everyone had a private bedroom with your own bathroom, a desk and comfy armchair. We had group therapy and different activities during the day like art therapy, yoga, recovery planning, gardening, cooking, and a weekly outing to a coffee shop or maybe a walk at the beach. Inpatient treatment helped me a lot when I was unwell.
My psychiatrists in hospital had a meeting with me and my parents, and told us that I had traits of borderline personality disorder, when they explained to us what BPD is it made so much sense. When I was discharged my mental health plan had a diagnosis of BPD, but psychologist said she wasn't sure she agreed because they had only seen me in moments of crisis. The thing with mental illnesses is that symptoms often overlap, and it's not uncommon to have more than one diagnosis, so getting the right one and finding what treatment works best can take a while. My psychologist changed from CPB (Cognitive behavioral therapy) to DBT (Dilectical behaviour therapy) regardless of her opinion on the diagnosis and we worked on managing my emotions.
I'm not sure, but I think I would find a lot of comfort from having a solid diagnosis, to help me understand why I feel the way I do, but for now I'm okay. I'm managing my mood, no longer take antidepressants, my insomnia has improved a lot, and I haven't had a panic attack in what seems like forever. I have good days, and bad days, but now they're mostly good. Sometimes I still struggle with my mental health, but I've never been so happy, I'm forgiving myself for the years of illness I had no control over.
With a lot of support from my family, friends and teachers I managed to do incredibly well and graduate as a nurse. Two years ago I had my last hospital admission, maybe there will be more, I hope not but I also know that if things get bad again, I have so much support. Through everything my parents were incredibly understanding and supportive, they loved me even when I didn't think I deserved it.
Writing this post has been emotional realizing how far I've come, when I was depressed I couldn't remember what not having depression felt like, I thought about suicide often and there were several times when I had a plan. Thankfully I told my parents, or my therapist that I wasn't safe. Now that I've finished therapy, I couldn't imagine ending my life. I'm so glad I'm still here because I've forgotten how it felt to be in that much emotional pain, forgetting pain is what helps us heal.
I remember not wanting to eat, not wanting to do the things I loved like read or bake, I didn't even want to breathe. To anyone suffering with their mental health, you are so very loved, you are here for a reason and nothing would be the same without you. You're aloud not to be okay, but things get better, I promise that things will get better. To one of my closest friends, I love you, you encourage me to be strong, and to write.
"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in"