Sometimes We All Feel Alone But It's Okay
By Jaylene Siew
I’ve always thought mental health problems were solvable with a good hug, and a pint of ice-cream. My struggle began in grade 8, at the peak of my budding confidence as a high-schooler I forced myself to see my body for what I felt it was: ugly, needing improvement, too big here, too small there… etc. I was an extreme perfectionist who was also entering into another big change in her life. I began binging and purging at the ripe old age of 13 but honestly, didn’t think anything of it. I knew that if I ate too much, I didn’t feel good and therefore, could just throw it up. Easy, right? This point in my journey was slightly based on controlling of my external environment but also mainly based on my need to perfect my appearance. This continued for years… almost to a point where I was eating a ton at school and when the bell rang at 3:20, I would rush home to make sure I could still get it up. I developed a technique of eating things that would stand out at the beginning and end of my meals to make sure I could see that I had gotten anything out – it was all very calculated.
As the years ticked by, lots of things happened. I got a boyfriend and he didn’t know about my eating disorder till much later but I remember distinctly asking him once “Do my legs look fat?” and he said “No, look at that little gap between. If you have this gap, then this means you’re not fat.” I’m not sure I’ll ever forget this. It was an ongoing joke within my friend group to see if I would eat dinner in front of them, or snack at late hours of the night. I was extremely controlling of the times of my eating, I constantly berated myself for eating too much. I was constantly going to McDonald’s and only ordering a large diet coke – I was sick, but nobody else saw this. I was so unbelievably skinny, my lowest weight was 105 lbs. I’m not sure anyone knew how small I actually was, since I have been sporty my whole life and my build is fairly muscular but I was barely eating and doing tons of tennis and running all day as well as throwing up the meals I had been eating.
Fast forward around a year, lots of things happened. That boyfriend and I broke up, I was heartbroken. I turned to food because this had been my companion for so long, I knew I could trust food. I knew I could eat it, kick it out, feel fine. At this point my dependency was no longer on physical appearances but rather just the satisfaction of eating and consuming myself to a point where I could no longer think about anything else or how hurt I had been feeling. This point was also when my depression sank in. Something I had not anticipated, however, was the loss of control that would accompany my depression. I lost my ability to stop eating once I reached my critical point of fullness, and I began to gain weight because I was consuming much more than I was able to purge. I slowly began to lose the need to purge because I had lost faith in a lot of things, namely myself and my ability to do anything. I was constantly mad at other people, myself: I was upset at generally everything.
Depression was a weird feeling. On one hand I enjoyed it – it felt nice to have people feel bad for me, but it also felt like I was being sucked deep into a hole and I was so confused and so young that I didn’t know how I was going to get out. Paired with weight gain and people noticing that I had put on weight, it all became too much. I started talking to a psychiatrist and we began to talk things through, I stopped binging and purging and it started at one-day progress…then five-day then 1 week…and eventually it had been months since I had given in. I began to battle with suicidal thoughts and really vile, violent thoughts towards other people so my family and I decided to try putting me on anti-depressants.
The story ends, or begins, with current day Jay.
I’m off my meds, I’ve found refuge in a good run and good friends. I haven’t purged in years, and I’m still battling with my own personal journey of body acceptance and dealing with my own coping with school, personal issues, etc. But as I end this post… I’ve been asking myself where am I going with all of this? How did I get to this point and how will I help someone else get to this point? Am I just trying to use this as a venting-source? Am I trying to tell you that you are not alone? Am I trying to inspire a conversation? I think all of the above.
How did I get here? I think we all need to accept ourselves for what we’ve been given, thank our parents for growing us to this point, our friends for all they’ve helped us with and our own selves for the blood flowing in our veins and neurons firing in our brains. I’ve stopped trying to change myself for what I see outside, after coming to university and realizing the sheer number of people there are in the world, there comes a point where your boobs can only get SO big, and your stomach can only get SO defined. I think being confident in yourself is a lifelong journey; but, instead of looking at this journey as a never ending red-cobblestone pathway reaching into the future, I see it as a game of hopscotch on the pavement. Sometimes you have to take a step back, but sometimes you get to jump ahead. I try to find things to be happy about everyday, I try to laugh, smile, cry. I try to be human, not some perfect version of what other people think I should be.
At the end of the day – everyone has their own personal battle. You are never alone, there is always someone you can talk to if you’re feeling like you cannot cope or everything is too much (even me and even if we don’t know each other very well you can always shoot me a message). You should always seek help from a professional if you need to because they can talk to you with a level of depth that nobody else can provide. But at the same time, we (kind of) are alone, and that’s sometimes hard to accept. Nobody will entirely get you, nobody knows exactly what you’re feeling or thinking and that’s ok. Chemical imbalances in your brain aside, you know YOU best, sometimes it gets hard to see that and your brain gets cloudy with sadness and a thick black fog of despair but we all have the will to survive deep down inside. That’s the fun uniqueness of it. You are your mind and your thoughts, and it might be hard to see but you are in control of your own reality. Not one person on earth is strong 100% of the time, but at the end of the day, you can be in control of your own brain and with time and practice, you can control it. If you’re reading this and you are in deep suffering, don’t blame yourself for anything. You may need meds, or a professional to talk to but this does not make you weak. It makes you strong that you can face your problems head on; it makes you strong when you can admit you need help and you actively seek it.
Try your best to stay positive, find that inner strength and push through to see another day. Talk to friends, start a conversation, see a professional for help: you are not what ails you and the world is better with you in it.
About The Author:
Jaylene is a 3rd year undergraduate student at Western University (go stangs). She is studying biology with a minor in literature. She is currently trying to find the meaning of life through balancing a healthy diet of Netflix, sleeping in on Sundays and being an annoyingly frequent instagrammer (@jaylene_christina). She hopes to end her life rescuing wombats in Australia