As someone who claims to have “made it to the other side” of mental health recovery, I was eager to hop on board with Superbands and help support the cause. I’ve been in a good place for quite a while now, though, as I read that sentence back to myself, “made it to the other side” sounds like an extremely ambitious statement.
Allow me to explain…
Ever since I’d began treatment back when I was just 13-years-old, I had the objective in mind of being able to help others through their mental health battles just as others had helped me. Although my ultimate goal is to become a clinical psychologist, I’m definitely meeting the milestones I need to in order to get where I want to go. Even getting to this spot in my life, though, was no easy feat.
I was first diagnosed with my eating disorder when I was only 13 years old. My anorexia quickly became the center of my life, and you could say that, in a way, I was fully committed to it.
The eating disorder demanded all of my time, energy, and emotional investment. I didn’t want or need friends or family. I had my anorexia, my books, my music,
and that was all.
Not to mention I was being constantly bombarded by emotionally abusive family members who did not understand my illness and took every opportunity they got to remind me that I was being “selfish” and “ungrateful.”
Not even a few months later, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and was hospitalized for that soon after I had been discharged from my eating disorder treatment facility. For the next four years of my life, my “easily fixable teenage moodiness” drove me through 11 different treatment centers. I rotated between my anorexia and depression like I was at the casino and they were the only two options on a slot machine. I was placed in inpatient, outpatient, partial, residential, then back inpatient too many times to count. My last inpatient stay was for 21 days; my anorexia was about to put me into a coma and I needed help ASAP.
Although it’s true that recovery doesn’t happen overnight, there is a point in time when you realize that you need to get better. That you want to get better. That you just can’t do it anymore. My first night in the hospital on that 21-night stay was that point for me. I was in a hospital gown, hooked onto an IV, and dragging my tubes and bags of fluid with me to the bathroom at 2 a.m. I looked at myself in the mirror.
‘Who is that girl? Is she what I’ve become?’
Later during that stay, the doctors informed my father that I would never recover from mental illness, that I would never go to college, and to prepare himself because I would need to be on assisted living for the rest of my life. I wasn’t about to let that happen. Absolutely not. All I’d ever wanted was to go to college, to have control of my life, and to be free.
Freedom. That was a big one for me. That was the light at the end of my tunnel. But, freedom to live also meant freedom from my mental illness.
Once I went back to school (it was my senior year of high school) and started my final semester, it was time for me to re-assess my life. What was working? What wasn’t? What did I have control over? What did I want to accomplish? The answers to these questions are different for everyone. But, for me, it meant seeing a therapist and dietician every week. It meant building new friendships with people I loved and trusted, it meant discovering my values, it meant making mistakes, and most of all, it meant beginning my life. Truly beginning it. I remember one of my first therapy sessions after most of my pressing mental health issues were under control revolved around a simple question: How do I make friends? Had my mental illness robbed me of even the most basic pleasures and necessities? Yes. Yes, it had. But, not anymore.
Nobody predicted I would make it this far. But, I’m in college, on the Honor Roll, going above and beyond, and loving every minute. Of course, not every day goes as smoothly as it should. Recovery isn’t a linear process. But, since I’ve recovered, I’ve had the chance to see the world beyond the United States, live on my own, build meaningful relationships with people that matter, build a relationship with myself, and nourish myself with knowledge. I’m pursuing my dream of becoming a therapist and making a difference in the meantime. What more could a girl want?
If you happen to be a teenager or young adult suffering from mental health issues, I don’t want you to think of this as an “inspirational story.” I’d like you to think of this as an authentic one. Inspirational stories are one in a billion,
but authentic stories happen all the time, every day.
People can 100% recover from the brutal realities of mental illness. So, if some random girl from upstate New York can do it, I’m pretty sure you can, too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I’m Sarah.
I’m a 3rd year student at Allegheny College. I am currently in the process of earning my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Creative Writing. I’m originally from Rochester New York, but do not plan on returning there after I graduate. I’m hoping to earn my Ph.D. in clinical psychology and then going on to become a therapist. I deeply enjoy various forms of art such as writing, painting, and drawing. I also play 3 instruments: piano, viola, & ukulele. I joined the Superbands team because I feel passionately about mental health and am a huge advocate of coping skills that involve using creativity. I believe that the creative process is an extremely important part of healing both mentally and emotionally.