If I Can Survive, You Can Too. The smile that’s always on my face is a new look for me. Sure, you’ll see me smiling in pictures from past years, but if you look beneath the surface, if you look into my eyes, you’ll see the hurt and the pain I felt for so long. I guess if I’m doing this, I should start at the beginning. I grew up with a severely handicapped brother. I watched ambulances rush him and my parents away in the middle of the night so often that we personally knew the drivers by name. Doctors’ offices and hospital rooms were my playgrounds, except for the fact that I wasn’t allowed to touch anything because my brother was highly sensitive to germs. I would sit with my mom and my brother with my hands in my lap as people around us would stare at us like we were a circus act. I’m only two years older than my brother and this lifestyle went on for at least a decade. My entire childhood circulated around being the weird girl with the even weirder brother. I knew more medical jargon in kindergarten than most people are familiar with in their entire life. As you can imagine, this isolated childhood led me into a depressive early life. I believed that there wasn’t a single soul who liked me. I was constantly on edge and terrified to do something wrong that could possibly effect my brother’s health. Which simultaneously led to a crippling anxiety disorder. For my entire life, I just wanted to be noticed. I wanted people to see me, but instead all they saw was my abnormalities. My limiting beliefs of being the outcast who had no friends and was totally not worth the time of day, became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It became my reality. As I entered my teenage years I craved people’s love and wanted attention from anyone I could get. If you can imagine, this led to some pretty horrible judgements of character and some even worse decision making. I entered a mentally abusive relationship which only furthered my limiting beliefs of not being good enough. Except now, I was no longer only not good enough, I was also not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, and essentially I was just not enough. I believed these lies and my depression grew darker. It was around this time that I also found out that I had fractures in my spine which accompanied not being able to walk without immense pain. This meant one thing—baton twirling—the only aspect of my life that ever made me feel like I had a sense of purpose, a place of belonging, and an ounce of worth - was going to be taken away from me. I had to quit. I understood that I would risk becoming paralyzed if I didn’t, so of course, I left it behind. Around this time was also when my brother was becoming too big and too much trouble to take care of in a home setting anymore, add the fact that our home nurse just up and left us one day with no warning or reason, we needed to find a facility that could handle his needs… and fast. We were very fortunate to have one perfect new unit fall into our lap (thank you universe) and within the month, my brother was gone and living two hours away from us. We entered a new chapter of our lives. We could finally live a ‘normal’ life. HA just kidding. The combination of having to quit baton twirling, my brother leaving, and being knee deep in a mentally abusive relationship meant it was the perfect combination of losing total and complete control over my life. I didn’t know what the hell to do with myself and I needed to control something, so I chose to control what I ate. Enter Anorexia. Hello, you ugly demon. For almost three years I battled with my eating disorder. My health deteriorated, my mentality was gone and I wanted to die. I was ready for death. I prayed every night before bed, to a god I didn’t even believe in, to take me in my sleep. I wanted out. Luckily, I had the most amazing parents in the world who wouldn’t let that happen and made sure I was given the help I needed. They were relentless. I was hospitalized during mid-terms of my senior year of high school and I’m pretty sure no one even knew I was gone. I spent a little over two weeks in the hospital to reach a 'stable’ weight. Before being thrown back into the wild, aka high school. Something miraculous happened in that hospital though. I was looked up to for the first time. Being that I was 17, I was placed in the adolescent unit with girls as young as 11. It broke my damn heart that girls that young were already being tortured by these mental demons. The looked up to me and watched to see what I would do when food arrived. If I finished a meal, they would make the extra effort to do the same. I was not only working on my own recovery in the hospital, I was also influencing the recovery of others. I made it my mission to be strong for them, to show them that they could beat this awful disease. It was the first time I had to believe in myself and when I did, the results were contagious. I didn’t know it then, but I found my purpose. After being released, I focused on the next chapter of my life - getting a restraining order against the leech I couldn’t escape. My mentally abusive relationship, which I attempted to break up with before hospitalization, began to stalk me. He had installed a program in my computer at some point which logged my every key stroke, had remote access to my webcam, and watched me day in and day out. It was only after we broke up and I broke communication with him, that I noticed he still knew every aspect of my life. It didn’t make any sense until we figured out that I was hacked. So let’s jump to present day… Clearly there’s been some time between January 2013 and now. These are the years I’ve rebuilt myself. These are the years that I’ve embraced the practices of self-love, DBT, tapping, meditation, yoga and so much more. I’m a completely different person today than I was five years ago, and I’m living a life I never thought could be mine. I’ve made it my mission to help others avoid the immense amount of suffering that accompanies mental illness and I’ve dedicated my life to proving you can live the life of your dreams. So please, if you resonated with any of this story. If you’re feeling even the tiniest bit of desire to alter your life, join me on the adventure of self-love. I love you all. We’re in this together! Share your story, message, poem, quote, photo or video of hope, struggle or recovery. By sharing your experience, you can let others know that they are not alone.