What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
I am the oldest child of 3. Growing up, we had an amazing childhood filled with memories. On June 27, 1995, our world was turned upside down when my dad died of a heart attack. Our rock and protector was now gone. It was devastating. My mom was amazing and did all she could do to be both parents for us.
I was 12 when my dad died, and soon after I started taking on more responsibility around the house and with my siblings. This was all self-induced. I started striving more to be perfect and not cause my mom any more heartache. I didn’t want her worrying about me. The striving to be “perfect” got worse as I entered high school. I had to have perfect grades, and I started working out more to be better in the sports I played.
In my sophomore year of high school, I started to be more critical of my body. I started to see myself as “FAT,” and this was not acceptable. My eating habits changed along with my workout routine. I became very regimented, and the effort to be skinny controlled my life. By the beginning of my junior year, my mom and friends were concerned. I didn’t care. My mom put me in therapy in our hometown. I didn’t take it seriously as I didn’t think I had a problem. I would do whatever it took to lose weight and not gain. My health began to worsen as I lost more and more weight.
It was decided that I be sent to the Eating Disorder Institute in Minneapolis. I spent 3 months in an inpatient Eating Disorder Unit and then transitioned to partial treatment and eventually outpatient therapy. When I first was in treatment, I was in denial and was not participating. After a few weeks and being threatened with a feeding tube, I started to recognize that I was sick. Not only was I hurting myself both physically and mentally, but it was also hurting my mom and siblings. It was not an overnight change, but very gradual. It had a lot of ups and downs. I went forward and backward. I had an amazing support system behind me, including my family, friends, and therapy teams. I was able to return to my senior year of high school.
I’m now almost 40, and I am a mom to two amazing kids. The journey here has not been easy. I have relapsed a few times. I know I will always struggle, but I have learned to better cope with those eating disorder thoughts. I want to be a good example to my kids, and I want to advocate for my services for eating disorder patients in our state.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
Finding a good treatment team is key. Find a counselor or therapist that you feel comfortable with. There are great support groups.
Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects of it that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?
One thing that I never had to deal with when I was in high school was social media. I can’t imagine what that would have done to me when I was at my lowest. Kids today are given so many different messages when it comes to the internet and social media. It’s always there. I think we should be more aware of the damages of social media and educate others on it. I feel that there are more safeguards being placed, but there needs to be more.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
It can affect anyone at any time! If you are struggling….you are not alone!