** This post may be triggering to some struggling with/recovering from an eating disorder or those who struggle with depressive/self-harming/suicidal thoughts. If this is you, please take your own health into consideration and explore my blog to find other posts that may be better suited for your mental health at this time. **
If you have not done so already, please read the preliminary article “Mental Illness in Teens”, a blog post written over one year ago on the shocking statistics of mental illness in the youth population and the taboo often associated with it.
When I first decided to speak up about mental illness and the significant role it plays in the lives of teens, I knew that it would be a considerable task. This topic is so vast and each experience is incredibly individualistic, meaning that at the time, the best I could do was state truths I noticed and facts that were indisputable. Looking back, I truly hope that my research was hard-hitting for some and made an impact when it came to the way mental illness in teenagers is perceived. I wrote what I could, considering it is something I am quite passionate about. Although I am glad I took that first step, since then, I have had the desire to retouch on this subject and bring to light a different perspective on mental health in teens, a more direct and eye-opening perspective.
This post is going to be unlike anything I have ever released on this platform. Usually, my posts are a very straightforward, steam-of-consciousness writing that all comes directly from my mind. This time however, I made the decision to open Chocolate and Politics up to the public, telling my teenage audience that I wanted to hear from them and that the world needed to hear from them. I am one of billions of stories out there, and even so, I still do not feel totally ready to let you in and tell mine with complete candidness. Luckily, there are people out there who are on the same journey as me, and who trust me to tell about their journey so that I can continue to undergo mine.
My simple, equivocal request was… “Please share 3 sentences or more about your experience with a mental illness. It can be anything you wish to share — your story, things you wish others knew, facts about your illness, how you are getting better, advice for others, etc.” I mainly received answers from those struggling with various eating disorders, but also with a variety of other mental illnesses. These teenagers understand the importance of telling their story and ending the stigma.
Here are the answers I received:
Iman, USA, 21 y/o, Female, Anxiety, Depression, Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (AFRID)
Hi my name is Iman. I live in America. I am a 21 year old woman who lives with anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder called ARFID. As a teen I was not aware that I had these mental illnesses but related to what I knew about them. I did not know ARFID existed but always questioned my eating habits. I wish people knew that even if people have the same mental illness, the situation can be very different. I am learning to cope and recently have gotten more in touch with my emotions through art therapy. I also am starting to get professional help for ARFID. To anyone reading this regardless of gender, age, sexuality, religion, race, etc, your struggles are valid. I wish I had reached out sooner but I did not know what I was going through. If you feel something is wrong that is reason enough to seek help. You don’t have to understand what is going on. You are worthy of help. Even if you think things could be worse, please don’t wait. You are NOT alone. You are loved. I’m proud of you. Keep fighting. We’re in this together.
Anonymous, Unknown Location, 16 y/o, Female, Body dysmorphia
I started struggling with body dysmorphia and my image around the age of twelve. In its height, it was so difficult to deal with, that i began avoiding seeing people. The summers were the worst. I hated going on beach vacations and hated seeing everyone post their own beach photos on various social media platforms. Around this time, I learned that I may never be able to have biological kids and it only extended my body dysmorphia to include my own organs. I started to grow frustrated that my body didn’t look or even work like others. What i hope others recognize is that body dysmorphia can include factors of ones body that doesn’t necessarily have to be their figure and how their body looks, it can genuinely be so much more.
Isaura, Belgium, 14 y/o, Female, Anorexia Nervosa, Undiagnosed Social Anxiety
Hi, i’m Isaura, i live in belgium. I’m 14 years old and I’m a girl. I’m currently in recovery from anorexia nervosa. I may also have social anxiety but I’m not diagnosed. Some reasons i developed this are: I used to be overweight, I hated my body and myself/had insecurities, other people called me fat and made fun of me. I want people to know that it’s not just about vanity or wanting to be skinny, it’s about so much more! I’m already feeling much better now. I’m in recovery for almost 4 months, but I already have way more energy, am actually happy, and eat what I want/ the amount I want without really stressing about it, … I want to tell people who also struggle with this illness to keep fighting cause it’ll be so worth it! Why survive if you can live?
Kai, Australia, 18 y/o. Non-binary, Depression, Anxiety, Anorexia Nervosa, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD)
The hardest thing about mental illness is the stigma. I just wish other people understood that the symptoms of my illness aren’t the hardest part about it, it’s having people judge me for things i can’t control. People get scared because personality disorders sound so big and serious but it’s an everyday part of my life that i have to deal with. Mental illness isn’t just depression and anxiety.
Hannah, Florida (USA), 15 y/o, Female (she/her), Anorexia nervosa
I wish other people knew that anorexia is not just about wanting to be thin. It’s about control. It is not glamorous. It is not easy to count calories and exercise every day. Even though I “wanted” to do it, I hated it. I constantly felt inadequate and anything that went into my mouth had to be burned off later on.
Moon, 15 y/o, Female (she/her), Anorexia nervosa, Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
I have been struggling with anorexia since December, the rest if my illnesses started before but worsened when the anorexia came around. I never felt like i could talk about it to anyone so i never did, and the only times i tried to tell my parents i got shot down and denied any help. When my anorexia got worse and finally got help, I thought it would make me feel so much better, having people know and be there to help me…but it didn’t. It made it worse. I am still in recovery, very early on and struggling a lot, everyone is telling me what to do and when to do it. I am struggling still but everyday I am working on loving myself. I don’t need to live up to the standards of doctors and my parents because they they got those standards from other peoples’ recovery. I am my own person and no two peoples’ recovery are the same. I am working on loving myself again and getting my life back and i know i will get there. Don’t let the pressure of others get you down. ❤
Eve, Greece, 16 y/o, Female, Anorexia nervosa
I have been suffering from a restrictive eating disorder (anorexia) for two years now. I feel like this illness has not only made me restrict my food intake, but it has also restricted every other aspect of my life: My social skills have deteriorated as a result of not being able to join food-related events, I have ruined my relationship with several friends and family members, I have felt extreme misery and dread every single day, I have experienced severe physical effects due to food restriction (such as loss of menstrual cycle/weakness/ feeling cold constantly, hair loss, dry skin and much more). I am sharing this information to break the stigma against eating disorders, and educate people about this deadly illness, instead of glamorizing it. 1 in 5 people suffering from an eating disorder die. Choose recovery, and most importantly, choose life.
Elena, US, 16 y/o, Female, Anorexia Nervosa
I wish more people knew that eating disorders are not always about wanting to be skinny, and there are many reasons why someone develops and ED in the first place. Another thing I wish more people knew, is that a lower weight does not equal worsened struggles, and that anyone of any weight can struggle equally with anorexia or any other ED. Some advice I’d like to give to anyone struggling with an ED is that you don’t need to reach rock bottom / look a certain way / have a diagnosis to be deserving of recovery. Your ED will convince you that your struggles are not bad enough, but the fact that thought is there in the first place shows that you are struggling. You’re amazing and I believe that you can do this ❤
Anonymous, Unknown Location, 18 y/o, Female, Depression, Anxiety, Orthorexia, Anorexia nervosa, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
My OCD is the intrusive thoughts kind of OCD and not the kind where I am obsessed with a clean room or anything. I have not been taken seriously by doctors and it took so many doctor appointments and therapy sessions to get a diagnosis. Once a doctor told me I needed to lose “x” amount of pounds and then he’d diagnose me with anorexia. My advice for anyone is to get better for yourself. You can’t wait around and wait for someone to take you more seriously. You are so valid. You deserve help and recovery.
I would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to anyone who responded to my question and helped me shed some light on eating disorders and other mental illnesses in teens. Your stories are helping to build a more aware and nurturing society. As many stated, the mental status of teenagers often go unnoticed or ignored. But, I am here to remind you that your struggles mean something. The more you open up about them, the closer you are to finding refuge from those struggles and in-turn, helping others find refuge from their own.
“You’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it; you’re not going to be the last to go through it.” -Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
If you or anyone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis, you can get information from the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline: 1-877-726-4727
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
I would suggest that those with children or friends of teens review the warning signs of mental illness in adolescents: https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/NAMI-Warning-Signs-FINAL.pdf
If you or anyone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can get information on the National Eating Disorder Association Website: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support
*Responses are in the words of the teenagers who answered the questionnaire, any changes are purely for grammatical reasons.