My name is Caitlin and I am proud to say that I come from Foxboro, Massachusetts; also known as the “Home of the Patriots.” That being said, I am a HUGE football fan who loves Tom Brady. I also love music, especially singing. Singing has been my biggest passion since I was younger, but I love playing piano and guitar as well. I love to read mystery novels, spend some time with my family, hang out with my friends, and go running outside. Most people would describe me as outgoing, friendly, and the most optimistic person they’ve met. But what they don’t know is that over the past couple of years, I have been inwardly battling some of the most terrible monsters: Anorexia Nervosa, depression, and anxiety.

I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa nearly three years ago, after months and months of dedicating my life to losing weight. I was in denial that I was sick; there was no way, I was trying to be HEALTHY. This disease had turned me into its own personal robot: I was brainwashed. It was as if I wasn’t even Caitlin anymore, and though there was a tiny piece of myself trying to get out to the world, it couldn't get past the demands of my illness. Because I had no power over myself, I became depressed. I wasn't the happy girl I used to be, and there were days where I physically couldn't get myself to move. I had always been a bit anxious as a kid, but it got worse with my diagnosis. Every time I ate, I would have panic attacks over how much I consumed. I would agonize over the amount of calories I ate, the sizes I wore, what my body looked like, and everything related to my weight. I would feel so helpless, that I had even considered suicide and later self-harmed when I was having trouble with recovery. My mental illnesses made me miserable.

Luckily, over time, I got better and my recovery really took off. I was able to find things that made me realize there was more to life than the illnesses that occupied my brain. I found a treatment team that I felt I could trust to help reach my full potential, and a treatment plan that worked for me. It took a while, but listening to what I know I needed in my heart and having input from my family who knows me best made that possible. Whenever I felt like relapsing into cutting, or not eating, I would immerse myself in music. Whether it was just listening and analyzing recordings or playing piano, doing something I loved helped me forget the negative thoughts running through my head. 

Today, I am in the best shape I have ever been-physically, emotionally, and socially. Sure, I still have some trouble with anxiety attacks or eating sometimes, but now I have a whole set of coping skills I can use to remind me that everything will be okay. I am now in college, which no one would have thought possible three years ago, and I have many healthy friendships in my life. I’m learning to maintain my exercise and food habits in a healthy way as well. 

The biggest problem people with mental health issues face now is the stigma surrounding it. Especially with all of the technology today, we often see and hear everyone’s opinions on major issues, including mental health. Knowing that so many people have different standpoints on the battles you face can make you feel ashamed of what you’re going through, or less inclined to open up in fear of being judged. 

We can help solve this issue by putting our beliefs and experiences out there to positively impact others going through similar situations, and to educate those not suffering so they can understand. This could help lower the rate of people affected by mental illness, or at the very least, make the situation just a bit easier for those struggling. 

What I ask of you is to please, please help break the stigma of mental health by either sharing your story with others, educating yourself on how to help those with various mental health issues, or just to perform a random act of kindness towards someone, because you never know what they are going through. Together, we can make an impact on the world of mental illness. Thank you.

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