I Feel Like I am My Mental Illness

Getting better terrifies me. I have struggled with eating since I was 5 but officially anorexia was diagnosed a decade ago. I’ve spent the past 6 years in and out of hospital. I’ve only lived in Wales for 3 years and I have spent nearly all of that time in one hospital or another.

I am the girl who brings her own food to people’s dinner parties. As my extended family tuck into an Indian takeaway, I shiver over a bowl of soya porridge. As my grandparents enjoy their Sunday roast, I nibble on raw peppers, carrots and cherry tomatoes. That is what has become expected of me. I don’t just have anorexia, I am anorexia.

Hospital has become my home. Everyone knows I’m in hospital and I am used to being here. I’m used to living in this little bubble away from the real world. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to go to the supermarket, or the cinema, or anywhere for that matter. I’m used to spending all my time with nurses and support workers instead of friends and family. I think nothing of having two people watching me whilst I go to the toilet or shower or sleep or do anything. This has become my life. Whilst other people my age go out on a Friday night, I lay in bed with a member of staff on each arm. This is the norm for me. This is my life.

I have become my mental illness. It has become my identity. People follow me on twitter and instagram because I’m ill and my whole accounts centre around my illness. My blog and it’s successes are because of my mental illness. My media work, my speeches…they have all been about my mental illness and that is what I have become known for, for being mentally ill.

So how am I supposed to get better? I don’t know who I am without all of this. I don’t even know if it’s possible to be without all of this. Will I ever wake up and be glad I’m alive? Will I ever tuck in to an Indian takeaway with my extended family and not want to kill myself with guilt afterwards? Will I ever go out with friends on a Friday night? Or have conversations that aren’t about illness or recovery? Who will I be if I get better and this is no longer who I am? I’m scared I’ll become a nobody but I’m even more scared that it isn’t possible. That I am a mental illness and I will always be a mental illness.

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5 thoughts on “I Feel Like I am My Mental Illness

  1. Mental illness does feel like an identity even if people tell you that it’s not. But there is so much more to you Claire. You can dance, write, be a Godmother, go out with friends and go back to campaigning about the stigma of mental illness. There is as much of a story in recovery as well as the midst of the battle. But all of that means letting down that wall of protection that is the eating disorder. It’s a scary thing to do. I have done it myself recently and with support it is okay.
    It depends on what you want and whether it is ‘easier’ to stay as you are or fight for the life waiting for you. That sounds cruel and harsh but it’s not meant that way. You can do it x

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  2. You’re so much more than a mental illness first of all. You have a story and a personality that are completely your own. Maybe your mental illness may have muted those aspects but they’re still there. You’re still you. Recovery is a chance for you to come back into your identity. Now I understand that that’s scary for you and you feel that you’re your mental illness. Every great things starts out a little scary so don’t feel ashamed of being afraid. I encourage you to look at the positives of this situation though. When you recover, you can find yourself and help others with the same mental illness. Yes your audience will change, but they will change for the better. Everything will be fine sweetie ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. How exciting is it that you can do whatever you want to do …
    You can go to uni and be a whole new person… you will be a fantastic mum you just have to let yourself be … you ARE a fantastic friend … you just have to fight , think of the summer we had … you CAN be happy and have an actual life …: but it will be hard and it will mean using all those skills when all you want to do is lie down and give up !!
    The world isn’t really for life without Claire ….
    Neither am I !!!

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  4. Claire, this post disturbs me when you say “I have become my mental illness. It has become my identity.” But you are not alone in thinking this. When someone like you and I suffer with an eating disorder for so long it really does feel like a part of our identity. We are used to it. It’s what’s easy. We want love and affection from those around us, and this dreadful illness feeds us the lie that IT is the only way to receive love. I promise you dear that this is not the truth. The other sad part of this circle that you didn’t mention, that I have noticed on social media, is that once someone finds the true desire to recover, they then create an identity around “someone who is in recovery/recovered” from an eating disorder. And although they may not be using harmful behaviors like before, mentally, the illness is very much an occupant in their mind. I have focused on a concept in my recovery that’s been crucial, and it’s “discovery not recovery.” It’s the stuff that comes after our bodies have healed and we are looking to fill that giant gap in our life that the eating disorder stole. Learning about feminism and diet culture were really helpful to me too. They are not directly “eating disorder recovery” material, but they touch on alot of those deeper issues that many ED treatment centers are simply not trained to do. Please please listen to the podcast “Finding out Hunger” by Kailia Prins. It was the bridge to my recovery/discovery. You know deep down that you are not your illness and so much more. You can do this. xx

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  5. One more thing, if you really feel that in the end your blog / social media are only successful because of your mental illness than may I kindly suggest that I don’t think they are helping your recovery. If you feel that you need to maintain an illness just to keep your followers than what good is it doing you in the end? How about you make a new one that feeds your passions and hobbies outside your mental illness- see what comes of it ๐Ÿ™‚ In my journey I had to unfollow ALOT of people I know who were ” in recovery ” because again, seeing posts like that kept me **obsessed** about my own recovery… I’m not suggesting to entirely wipe out your account or anything like that. I just want you to know that you are SO SO SO SO SOOOOOOO much more than your illness. You’re probably terrified and very unsure just who that is yet, but you will in time. x

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