My eating disorder no longer defines me; because Ontario Shores was there for me when I needed it the most. I am a Trent University biochemistry and molecular biology major and an established mental health advocate at my university and elsewhere. I am also a member of the Ontario Shores Center for Mental Health Sciences Patient Advisory and Recovery Committee (PARC) (Ontario Shores). But my mental health journey did not begin there; I have battled with anxiety for as long as I can remember.
I began to develop anorexia nervosa in eighth grade, when I was 13 years old. Throughout the school year, this deteriorated dramatically, and I was eventually admitted to a children’s hospital. This started a four-year cycle of deterioration, hospitalizations, and outpatient treatment. I applied to university while lying in a hospital bed during my final and longest stay in a children’s hospital in grade 12. During this hospitalization, I was waitlisted for Ontario Shores and admitted in February of that year. The COVID-19 pandemic struck after a month of treatment at Ontario Shores, so I had to return home and receive treatment virtually. This sudden change was very hard, and I relapsed for a few weeks. However, my treatment team at Ontario Shores combined with my desire to go to university in the fall helped me pull myself out of the relapse. Recovery was and continues to be a complicated process, and some of those around me had doubts that I would succeed. I did eventually heal mentally and physically enough to attend university. When I first got to Trent, I was nervous and stressed, but with the supports I had and the skills I had learned in treatment, I was able to keep my recovery going.
My mental health has been a major source of concern for me. There were times where I didn’t see a life beyond my eating disorder, and others where I didn’t want to keep fighting. My eating disorders stole four years of high school and replaced them with four years battling my mind, in and out of the hospital.
What hurts more than everything that I have been through, is knowing that I was “lucky”, to be able to access the intensive live-in supports at Ontario Shores that I needed, while others are less fortunate. Many Ontarians are still battling against eating disorders and other mental illnesses, and I can emphasize with the pain they are feeling. My experiences with recovery, mental healthcare and the fight against the stigma taught me that more needs to be done.
When I was in the depths of my illness, I often felt as if I didn’t always have a voice beyond that of my eating disorder. I became a mental health advocate because I want to create a healthcare system that is enriched with the voices of lived experience. I want to help patients feel understood, and supported by shaping hospital policies and events, while providing a representation of hope for those battling mental illness. I am honoured to be working with Ontario Shores to accomplish these goals.
My message to anyone struggling with an eating disorder or other mental health issues is that they are deserving of a life beyond their mental illness. There are resources and support available to assist you, and you are always deserving of recovery.
By donating to Ontario Shores, you help ensure that it will be available for people like me when they need it the most.