Connie, 22, south east England
When Connie was 16-years-old, she developed an eating disorder and, feeling unable to ask for help, she struggled with it all on her own for the next four years. Feeling low and finding it hard to concentrate, she isolated herself from her friends and keeping up in school became tough.
Without anyone there to help her, Connie self-harmed throughout school. Although she knew she had a problem, it was not until a close friend at university urged her to speak to her GP that she finally asked for help.
Connie is now a volunteer at YMCA’s Right Here service in Brighton, where she helps to raise awareness of mental health difficulties among other young people. Below she tells #IAMWHOLE in her own words what she went through and what can be done to help more young people…
My eating disorder was something I was quite ashamed of so I didn’t really tell anyone about it.
It got even worse as I got to uni. I had free reign over what I was eating, there was no one watching me, so it got worse. It really impacted my studies and I handed in so many pieces of work late because all I could think about was the eating.
Stigma stopped me from coming forward for so long. I was wondering what people were going to think about me and I think people make assumptions as well.
One of the worst times I’ve experienced stigma was in the workplace. I had been crying and been so low on the shop floor and my manager took me aside and said to me “you need to cheer up or I’m going to have to go down another route with you”.
I think a lot of people, even my own parents to an extent, find it hard to believe it’s real. Their idea of mental illness is one of extremes rather than how depression and anxiety manifest themselves in most people’s cases, which are still extremely debilitating and affect their life massively.
I think also my parents didn’t like to think about me in that kind of pain, it made them feel guilty – like it was their fault that I had become ill so they blamed themselves and didn’t know how to react.
I think peer-to-peer support is so important. I didn’t used to think anything like that. But then I started using groups with the Brighton and Hove Eating Disorder Service and it was the best thing I’d ever done.
I think we need greater education and obviously people talking about it. The more people talk about it the more people will understand it. I was left with an eating disorder for six years which is a long time.
If I’d have known about mental health difficulties, if I’d have been educated, I really think it would have made a difference. If I had known where to go for services, if I had known it was okay to have this thing going on, then I could have nipped it in the bud a lot earlier than I did.
- If you are looking for mental health services, visit the Find Get Give directory. Services are being added to Find Get Give on a regular basis but if you can’t find a service near you, check out the help guides and national helplines in the advice section.
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