submitted by MJ, Vancouver BC
I noticed the beginning of my struggles with mental health as having immense worry and anxiety that bad things were going to happen. The anxiety grew into an increasing fear of contamination that triggered obsessive hand washing and avoidance of places and touching things. Growing up in a family with parents that struggled immensely with their ability to parent, I found myself living my younger years in the wake of adversity. At the time in which I began overeating to find comfort when loneliness and misery would surface, I was not aware that this was a problem. Retrospectively, I see this as the beginning of my eating disorder. I began to be suicidal around the age of thirteen when things in my home had escalated and when my lack of safety became pertinent to me. I left home at the mere age of fifteen seeking a place of security, to later be placed in foster care residing in a group home.
On My Way To Stage 4
My suicidality, self-harm, eating disorder and struggles with mood began to intensify with every passing year until I found myself hospitalized for the first time in my late teens. I was locked down in a secure room, stripped of my clothes and dignity, even though I failed to present aggression to any staff. I was then left in the emergency department for over a week due to the lack of beds on the psychiatric unit. Follow up was less than minimal and I lost my housing at the time because my landlords were concerned about my mental health threatening the wellness of their children.
Years later after aging out of foster care I found myself so isolated with minimal to no supports and my mental health challenges exacerbated. With a worsening eating disorder landing me in emergency from time to time, to continual hospitalizations for suicidality and self-harm I found myself in a cycle with which I could not escape on my own.
Attending post-secondary posed its own challenges as I fought to stay above water to complete my degree. Again loneliness and isolation pervaded my experiences. Services were scarce. Finally being hospitalized after being rejected numerous times for services for my anorexia and bulimia, I was then upon discharge only offered inadequate services with very long wait lists and challenging criteria.
I believe there is hope for a changed and renewed system of care. I believe that as we create safe spaces for conversation around mental health and addictions care, we can create noise alerting our elected officials of our passion and the desire we have for a system of wellness and care. The key ingredients for change include prevention and early intervention for mental health challenges and addictions that include services that do not make someone wait till the severity of the challenge goes beyond that of outpatient services’ capacity to provide adequate support. I see the need for an unwavering commitment for improving eating disorder treatment and resources across the province. The need for implementation of early education in schools that come from a lived experience perspective and not simply textbook examples; students to hear real life examples and to connect with narratives. A call for a culture change that values the strength, resiliency and will to thrive of those with mental health challenges and addictions. Every voice matters and we need to continue to reduce stigma and emphasize the equality between mental and physical health and the need to intervene well before stage 4.
submitted by MJ, Vancouver BC