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Check out stories from young people across the state. We've been there-and look how far we've come!

Eliza – Finding Wellness as a Young Mom , Age: 22

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with mental illness since I was a child. When I was around six years old, I began to experience anxiety and school avoidance. As I got older, I began to have overwhelmingly strong emotions that I struggled to cope with. Later, when I was 8 I began struggling with my body image and started going on small diets. When I was 10, it became apparent that I was beginning to struggle from an eating disorder. Throughout my adolescence I continued to struggle with eating disorders by restricting and binge-eating and purging. When I was 12, I was hospitalized for the first time after going to a boarding school. Overwhelmed by anxiety and depression, I began to self harm and think of suicide. This began a journey through mental illness that has followed me since. I struggled with self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, BPD, and PTSD throughout my entire adolescence and have survived multiple suicide attempts.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

When I was 8 years old, I began to see a therapist. Before then, my family and I went to family therapy because of an abusive relationship my mom was in. At this point, neither things seemed to give me any relief from my anxiety or overwhelming emotions. I was in psychiatric hospitals multiple times over a span of 8 years. Some of these hospitalizations helped to stabilize me, particularly after suicide attempts or long spans of self-harm. However, I still was not able to make enough progress to begin feeling ‘better’ during any of these periods.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

With drinking and drug use, I had a big turning point after voluntarily going to an inpatient rehab. Being diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder at 18, beginning DBT, and learning about my diagnoses was a big help as well. However, this was only the beginning of a long, ongoing journey. I think the biggest turning point in my life was becoming pregnant. When I realized I would soon be a mom, I was forced to look at the way I was raised; thinking of how it felt growing up with an unstable and mentally ill mom, and how my mental illness had affected those I loved. This was the point in my life when I was forced to take my mental wellness and safety more seriously than ever. I was able to stop cutting and begin the work that was necessary to get a stronger handle over my BPD and anxiety particularly.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Being a single mom is hard, and my anxiety is constant. However, I mostly worry about things I can control; being the kind of mom my daughter needs, and taking care of her. I try to use this anxiety to help motivate me to move forward, rather than getting stuck in the worry. Of course, at times, I worry over many things I have little control over. However, I find my mind is so busy taking care of an infant that I have little time to ruminate. Willow helps me to move forward and work towards mental wellness and stability. Although I still struggle with symptoms, I am constantly evaluating myself and trying to work towards my goals in therapy and my personal life. I know who I want to be, and I’m learning how to get there more and more every day.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

My favorite quote is:
“I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.” (Joyce Meyer)
This is something I remember throughout the day. We forget our strength and resilience while we are struggling. But, there is never a time in our lives when things are beyond repair- no matter how strongly we may believe so. I remember the darkness I have come from and know that although I received help, I am the one who pulled myself out of it. For that I am unbelievably strong and brave. Hearing that ‘things get better’ can feel uncertain and vague (although its true). Instead, know that it is impossible for things to stay the same. What goes up must come down, and that is a constant flow we live with. As hopeless as things may seem in a moment, they can not possibly stay that way forever. Give yourself credit for the strength and resilience you posses. You have made it this far; you are a survivor and you have amazing strength.

If you would like to follow my journey of mental illness recovery, motherhood, and life click the read my blog, Well For Willow.

I struggled with mental illness since I was a child. When I suddenly found out I was about to be a mom, I was forced to change for my daughter.

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