When I first started the meds, I was embarrassed. I guess sometimes I still am. It’s been awhile since I’ve sat down to write about this, let alone talk about it. When I was in high school, it consumed me. Now it’s just something I live with day-to-day. I have a mental illness.
I guess I should start at the beginning. It was the week before I began ninth grade at a new school. My parents had pulled some strings with people at Sick Kids and Hamilton Health Sciences, so I was able to get a consult without the months long wait list. It was the first time someone ever told me I was anorexic.
I spent my first month of high school in the hospital. I was bed bound. I lost the privilege to do many of the things I had taken for granted. I was put on a tightly regulated feeding schedule. I was weighed each morning. I was taken to the bathroom across the hall in a wheelchair. I participated in rigorous daily therapy sessions.
The thing with eating disorders is they are often accompanied by other mental illnesses. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I have OCD tendencies. I was put on medication. For years after I was released, I attended outpatient therapy sessions at the hospital. I also attended a private therapist on the side. I continued to take my medication hoping one day I wouldn’t have to.
That day finally came when I was in my first year of university. Life was going great and I thought I could handle living without my meds. I did for a while, but then I had a relapse. I was embarrassed to admit I needed the meds. I was embarrassed to admit it to myself and to my family. There is still such a stigma around mental illnesses and medication. People think you are a different person if you take medication. They think your real self must be this terrible person. The thing is, you are the same person with or without medication. If you need it, the medication just makes you a better version of yourself. Once I finally admitted to myself that these little pills helped me, I went back on them. I am still on them to this day.
Many people have asked what my “trigger” was. The thing is, I didn’t have one. I had a great upbringing with parents who loved me and a sister who became my best friend. I didn’t have this one traumatic experience that made me sick. For a while, I blamed myself. Who was I to complain? The thing I came to realize over the years is everyone has a different story, many go untold, and no story is more or less valid than the other.
Almost ten years has passed since I was diagnosed with anorexia. I’m proud to say it’s not a big part of my life anymore. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my moments with food, but it doesn’t consume me in the way it once did. The anxiety and depression are things I live more constantly with. Like everyone, I have bad days but I live my life as happily and as healthily as any other twenty-something.
I missed my first month of high school to my mental illness. I lost friends to my mental illness. I almost lost myself to my mental illness. I am not perfect, I came to terms with that a long time ago. The sooner you realize your own strengths and weaknesses, the sooner you will learn to love yourself. We are all works in progress, embrace yourself and embrace the journey.
You are never alone. If you ever need someone to talk to, I am always here. Feel free to message me on Instagram (@megsharpley) or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t be embarrassed about who you are. As Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson said, “Just take the meds.”