It’s inevitable that having a mental illness changes you.
Although it’s difficult, some of these changes can be good; whilst obviously some aren’t so much. Having mental health problems has actually opened a lot of doors for me and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am in my life without having gone through what I have. Right now I’m probably the most well I have ever been so it’s easy to reflect and feel like it was worth everything I’ve experienced to be where I am now. But if I really think about it, would I rather not experience anorexia and bipolar? Absolutely. I’ve learnt a lot about myself but it has come at the expense of my happiness at times.
So, how have I changed?
I am more compassionate. I have so much empathy for people struggling with their mental health and I definitely think it makes me a better nurse. I hope that I am a kinder person and that I am able to support people around me too.
I appreciate the good. When you have spent so many years being depressed or consumed by an eating disorder, the whole world feels pretty terrible. I have such an appreciation for the big and small things that make life what it is: summer days, kittens, bubble baths, a new nail varnish, holding hands. I know now that when the day comes when things do feel bleak again, there are parts of life that are beautiful and I will experience them again.
I have no concept of how my body looks. Years of disordered eating and poor body image have left me with residual dysmorphia. I can look a completely different size from one day to the next, and that’s something I’ve just had to make peace with. I know that I am in the healthy bracket and I am physically able, and that’s what I try to focus on. What I look like is not as important as who I am, although one day I do hope to be able to accurately see myself in the mirror.
I am brave. Knowing how much I have overcome has made me realise how much I am capable of. In the last few years I have been to so many places and done so much – alone and with others – that I never thought I would be able to. Solo travelling, public speaking, just generally being more honest with people. All of these things are brave in different ways.
Overall, I feel like I am a better person than I was before and all I hope is that I can continue to recover and to help other people as much as I can.
How do you feel your mental health has changed you?