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My story: By Shaunagh

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The year my parents separated was the year my whole world completely crashed and to say my mental health suffered was an understatement. I went from being a severely athletic young girl who loved her body and everything that she was to a complete hermit who hated any sort of interaction with the world and more importantly, herself. I began to lock myself into my room every day and just sat there in the dark crying for hours on end. I started to overthink everything and always found a way to blame myself for what had happened and thought of ways I could have stopped it from happening.

It was not my fault, it had nothing to do with me, I know that now. This lead to being diagnosed with clinical depression. I shut everyone out, even my own mother. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, see anyone or even get text messages from people, I didn’t want to go to any of my training sessions, I just didn’t want to be in this world anymore. I felt worthless, hopeless and empty. I felt like this for more than 3 years. But a day came when I saw all my friends out enjoying their life & I was just stuck at home (by choice) hating everything and everyone. I was missing out on my early teenage years. That’s when I knew it was time to get help and as soon as possible too. As soon as I started counselling, I quit. No joke, the first day there I decided it just wasn’t for me. I went for a day and had the attitude that no one knew how I felt, that they hadn’t been through what I was going through and that they wouldn’t be able to help me but I was so so wrong.

I gave it a second go and it is honestly the best decision I have ever made. I went every single day for two years, every single day. It became something I even looked forward to because knowing I could talk to someone who understood me was the best feeling in the world. I no longer felt worthless, empty and found my passion for sports again. The councillors really are there to help you no matter how big or small the problem is, they will listen and guide you through it. A problem shared, is a problem halved. They don’t judge you or share any details you tell them unless you are in danger.

Body Dysmorphia

As I mentioned before, I said I began to hate myself and everything that I was. That led to Body dysmorphia, body dismorphia is a disorder where you become obsessed with imagery defects in your appearance.

For years (this story has been going for ten years so trust me when I say if I can fight AND get my happiness back, anyone can) I always ALWAYS disliked parts of my body, which is completely normal everybody has flaws. But it got to the point where I became severely obsessed with how I looked in terms of hating my hips and stomach so much that I took to exercise and jogging to ensure no one would see my hips and stomach as fat as I saw them. I would weigh myself three times a day and maybe again if I went to my grandads just incase his scale gave a different reading to mine at home.

It got to the point I formed a phobia of the scales and got panic attacks when I went to the doctors and they tried to weigh me I just couldn’t face it. I couldn’t bear someone knowing my weight, I didn’t want them judging me over it, I had to improve myself. I jogged and went to the gym every single day which you can imagine led to numerous injuries, but that never stopped me. I started to eat one meal a day, broccoli and chicken & drank 4 litres of water which at the time I thought was all I needed to stay nourished. I took slimming pills before and after that ONE meal just so I wouldn’t absorb it. I was starting to love my body again because for once I finally felt like I was the perfect weight but in reality I was the furthest thing from it. I was 18 years old and weighed 6 stone.

A week after I felt ‘perfect’ I was hospitalised and fed through tubes because one of my organs started failing, the voices in my head kept telling me the nurses were wrong and that everyone who told me I needed to gain weight were liars. But for the first time in my life, I knew they were telling the truth and were there to help me. I was told I’d be lucky if I was able to sit the leaving cert which I had worked so hard for after having to drop out of school two years previous due to an autoimmune disease I have. After that experience I learned that you should never judge yourself by the number on the scales or by what people think of you. Muscle weighs more than fat so if you are working out and the scales aren’t showing you the figures you want, take those words into consideration. Love yourself, surround yourself with people who love you and lift your spirits on a daily basis. Never feel like you can’t talk to anyone about your problems because I can guarantee you there is always someone there for you regardless of how alone you feel. Eating disorders are nasty disorders that take over your body and mind. They are not spoken about half as much as they should be because they are so so common among young girls. Just please if you notice any change in your eating habits that you cannot pin point why you’re doing them (for example; over eating because your period is due is a valid reason for an increased appetite), or you’re just not hungry anymore which is accompanied by headaches, nausea, feeling faint, then speak to someone about it. There is always help available.

Anxiety

This is something I have struggled with for many years and still do to this day, but the difference? I got help and learned how to manage it, how to pin point the panic factors and mainly to overcome it when it’s at its peak. For me it’s very much a social factor, social anxiety is the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression.

If someone asked me to talk on the phone to book an appointment  I would to prepare myself for a good 10-15 minutes in advance and know exactly what I have to say just so I don’t mess up or stutter. Talking in crowds would absolutely FREAK ME OUT but I learned that if you have something in your hand for example if you’re doing a presentation in school/college/work wherever it may be, to hold an object in your hand to stop you from fidgeting. So now when I’m doing presentations in college I hold a ruler in my hand and worrying about people knowing I’m nervous doesn’t even cross my mind.

I had to bite the bullet and realise I needed help in order to overcome this and that bottling it up was only ruining things from myself and stopping me from achieving my goals. I couldn’t go to college not being able to talk to people, getting panic attacks at the thought of going on nights out with friends, meeting new people, I just couldn’t allow myself to stop me from living my life any longer. It was time for a change. So I went back to the counselling service I had previously gone to & I received intense Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) where the amazing professionals helped me to pin point the factors which caused me to get anxious. They taught me methods and breathing techniques in which I still use to date.

It is impossible to stop a motivated person who refuses to give up, don’t give up on yourself treat your mental health like a goal in your life? If you wanted to be a guard wouldn’t you do everything in your power to reach that goal and be the best one there is? Exactly you would, so treat your mental health the same. Do everything you can to improve it and be the best version of you there is. You are more in control of this process than you think and a little help and guidance along the way will make the process more bearable for you.

I am now 20 and still suffer with anxiety but I have an amazing mom boyfriend & siblings who are aware of the situation and always help me through it. I am the happiest I have ever been with two years now. I am happy in my own skin & have accepted to embrace my curves. I also am currently going into third year of college which I didn’t think I’d get through 5th year (the first time, back when I was hospitalised). Anything is possible once you put your mind to it, strive for progress not perfection.

‘The comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there’ take the bullet and seek help, you have absolutely nothing to lose but a life outside of this dark place to gain. You grow through what you go through.

Thanks so much for sharing this Shaunagh. If you are struggling with any of these issues, click here for a list of supports, or ask someone you trust for help. As Shaunagh says, you can get through this. x

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