My Struggle with Mental Health

I am Danica. I have Depression, Anxiety and Anorexia Nervosa but these titles do not define who I am. I am not the eating disorder. The eating disorder is an illness that I have. But I am not the illness – I have anorexia but I am not anorexic, meaning I can get rid of it. It doesn’t form part of my identity.

Childhood trauma lead to the development of both anxiety and depression. I lived in survival mode for as long as I can remember. My mum, siblings and myself were victims of domestic violence. The only thing I could control at that time was my food intake. Because of the insults I used to receive, I started believing that I am not worthy of anything. Not even food. I deprived myself of food and stopped eating. I lost weight. Losing weight was my only priority and it used to give me a euphoric feeling. The more weight I lost the happier I would feel. I would base my mood for the day on the number on the scale in the morning. If the number is less I would allow myself to have something small, if it remained the same I would restrict the whole day and did not feel worthy of eating. I started avoiding going out with friends, going to school, going to family events etc.

I went to a counsellor at the University of Malta when I had nothing else to lose in my life. I am eternally grateful for her as she was an angel in my life. She came with me for my first appointment with the doctor at Dar Kenn Ghal Sahhtek. If it wasn’t for this place and the wonderful staff I found there I wouldn’t even imagined being in the position of sharing my story as a source of encouragement to other people struggling with similar issues. I started following the day programme whereby I spent the whole day at Dar Kenn. This was not doing any good and I was advised to switch to residential. It was a very hard decision to take but at that point I had nothing in my life. I was very depressed. The carers at DK tell me that I used to be afraid of an empty plate let alone a plate with food. It was a battle for me to finish a plate and I used to feel very guilty afterwards. I resorted to exercise and I was losing weight and therefore there was a time when I was put on constant watch. My weight went down to the point that my psychiatrist started introducing the option of being bound to a wheel chair. I remember I wanted change without the change but nothing changes if nothing changes. I had to accept the body my body started recovering into and by time I started to criticise less the recovering body that was trying its best to keep me alive after the damage my eating disorder did. Weight restoration is usually faster than mental recovery. You start feeling that your feelings are invalid now that you have restored your weight but EDs are a psychological illness and not a physical illness and thus you do not need to look sick to show you are struggling!

Remember our body is not our art but our paint brush. Meaning that the shape and size of our body does not define our worth. It is what our body allows us to do that gives us our value 🙂 Whoever made it to this point is either very fond of eating disorders, have went through or know someone with an eating disorder or is currently going through a rough patch. Please give yourself time. I promise you, things do get better. Persist and be kind to yourself. You cannot fix years of trauma in one day. By things getting better I don’t mean you, who is reading this, won’t get days where your eating disorder won’t dominate your thoughts, but slowly you will be better equipped to fight the eating disorder and not make it your whole identity. Recovery is possible! But remember, recovery is not a linear process, so you will get bad and good days, you need to continue fighting. It will be a constant battle but it is worth fighting!