Coming out of the mental illness closet

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DL Wellbeing


January 14, 2014 – 11:58PM

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As a rule, I do not generally tell people about the items in my mental illness closet. Like never ever, except for my close friends. So consider this a maiden voyage into the world of being a more authentic self—a world fraught with peril, but I still think it might be better.

I have struggled with anorexia nervosa, restricting type, for over eight years now. For most of my life I have also dealt with generalised anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, dermatillomania (skin-picking), and bipolar II tendencies.  Oh, and to top it all off I started self-harming about two-and-a-half years ago, and when I’m really depressed my suicidal ideations increase. I have written about my eating disorder and self-harm anonymously on my friend’s blog, so I’m not going to rehash that all here. I’ve been in an inpatient facility where I had a nasogastric (NG) tube; my weight has fluctuated over the past eight years; I’m on three psychotropic medications that help keep the cray-cray at bay; and I’m like a freakin’ walking calorie book. I’ve been working on this whole eating disorder recovery process for almost three years now with a psychologist, dietitian, and psychiatrist.

Furthermore, I’m a second-year nutrition graduate student and I’m working so I can earn my registered dietitian (RD) credentials. Awkward, right? I’ve been studying hardcore nutrition for over five years and I’ve only very recently been able to consistently, and adequately, feed myself. I’m awesome at helping other people eat better, but on a standard day I struggle to apply those principles to myself. But you see, I am intelligent, insightful, sensitive, and I’m going to be a kick-arse dietitian helping other patients with eating disorders when I graduate.

I’m sharing this with you because, for better or for worse, my mental illness is an intrinsic part of who I am today—it is a biopsychosocial problem. There are experiences that people normally encounter in high school and college that I was mentally and/or physically absent from—like dances, partying, dating, and more. But, I have not disappeared from the normal developmental “curve,” and lately I’ve been moving forward in leaps and bounds – hence this post. I am owning my s**t and moving forward with what I want my life to look like. Yes, there are people who will be rude and insensitive about this to my face, or behind my back. But the way I figure is that regardless of the information that I share with certain people, if they’re going to bash me behind my back then they’re going to do that no matter what they know about me. So I don’t care because those people’s opinion of me is insignificant.

I am slowly beginning to accept that I can make my life look however I want, but under no circumstances can I sit back and wait for things to get better. Life is what you make of it. You have a choice. I didn’t have a choice regarding the fact that I was struck with severe mental illnesses, but with awareness of the situation comes increased responsibility. I know my triggers and, therefore, I can choose how to respond to what life throws at me. Some days I cave and fail at recovery, or depression crushes me and I walk around like a zombie; but more often these days I succeed and I own that accomplishment.

Maybe you have items that are collecting dust in your closet. Maybe they are a heavy burden on your soul and relationships, and every day you wish they didn’t exist. Maybe you feel shame for existing, shame that courses through your blood and bones. Shame thrives in secrecy, and it leeches the joy out of life. You deserve to have more in life than dusty items in your secret closet, a shame monster, and a humdrum to miserable existence.

Just start small by finding those safe people in your life who love you despite, and for, everything that comes with you being you. You can’t do life alone, and that is OK. Draw from your support to build up your confidence, and eventually maybe you’ll take on the world. Be you, and screw what the rest of the world thinks.


Kelsey is a 23-year-old currently working on her MS degree in nutrition, with a concentration in public health nutrition, and wants to work with eating disorder patients after earning her Registered Dietitian (RD) credentials. 

This article was originally posted on Literally, Darling, an online magazine by and for twenty-something women, which features the personal, provocative, awkward, pop-filled and pressing issues of our gender and generation. This is an exact representation of our exaggerated selves. You can find them on Twitter @litdarling



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