If you haven't already, read this first.
And then, my (extended) story below.
My life began in Sale, Victoria in a middle-class Italian / Norwegian family on a farm. Surrounded by cows, chickens and my dads endless love, I was a pretty happy 3 year old girl. Unfortunately, this time of bliss did not last past the age of 5 when my dad moved to Melbourne for work, leaving my mum, brother and myself in a townhouse in the small town of Sale, with 14,000 people.
As a family and for myself, I found my dad's move extremely challenging as we shared a very unique bond. Beginning school in this same year, this difficulty was exacerbated with a tirade of constant bullying. Memories of this childhood is tainted by sadness, loneliness and confusion, which continued onto my teens. Attempting to forget my pain from ongoing taunting and rumours, I drove my energy into school work, attempting to forget how horrible I felt. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. At least on weekends I managed to escape, finding consolation in nature with my dog Vicky where I could be at peace.
Due to the chronic mental anguish during my youth, by the age of 15 I was severely depressed and attempted to take my own life. I simply did not know that life could improve, all I felt was a numb nothingness and I knew nothing else. My life as I understood it to be immensely painful, inescapable, the darkness of my thoughts were unbearable and I felt completely isolated and alone. To the relief of my family, my suicide attempt was unsuccessful and simply ended up in a psychiatric ward for several weeks as a caution - in my state, I could not be trusted to not self harm again.
After some improvement in my mental capacity, I was able to leave and return home, and in the course of this then developed bulimia - I just wanted to feel something, after feeling nothing for so long. The feeling of forcing food in my mouth and back up again made me feel alive and real. Sick and twisted as it sounds, it was all I had to keep me from the vast emptiness that filled my previous years. Despite weekly psychotherapy, I continued this for over a year, feeling completely disempowered, out of control and overwhelmed: I felt I wasn't able to take charge of my actions, and instead, felt a victim against my eating disorder.
When I was 16 mental state deteriorated further when my parents separated, which definitely was not helped by the fact that in that same week, my childhood dog (and best friend) disappeared. Struggling to cope with my bulimia and depression, the separation of my parents, my mother moving away from the family home plus aspiring to support my father who I could see was finding the experience immensely challenging; it was all simply too much.
Within the space of 8 months I was diagnosed with anorexia and admitted to a eating disorder unit for 4 weeks, appreciating that if I was not treated immediately, I was jeopardising my life with my own two hands. For a long time prior to my hospitalisation I had a desire to recover, however I felt I could not: I did not have the tools, resources or understanding about how to overcome this illness. I was completely immersed within it and knew no way out.
Fortunately, dicing with death for the second time in as many years became the pinnacle of my life. A memory so crystal clear in my mind was the one when I decided to change - forever. It was a Saturday evening, I recall all my friends being at a birthday party yet I obviously couldn't attend as I was not able to maintain my body weight if I was out of hospital. In this moment, I asked myself: 'is this what I want for the rest of my life?'. A simple yet powerful question, I envisaged the future if I allowed my patterns to continue - in and out of rehab, missing out on friends birthdays again, no university, not having a proper family life, unable to go on holidays. In that moment, something made me believe there was more to life than that vision. To be honest, I didn't know what the improved alternative life option was as I had been so depressed for so long; however, I sincerely believed that it just had to be better than the former.
And with that, I decided to change. I realised that if I could use my energy to heal, rather than hate my body, that I would probably get better. If I learned to channel my mind in a positive, rather than negative direction, it would lead to a positive life. If I followed the principles of what others would deem a 'happy life': spend time with family and friends; attempt to truly connect with others, pursue something worthwhile - that perhaps, these principles would be as effective on me as they were to others. I didn't have all the answers; I just knew there were two directions I could go: up or down. And I sure as hell didn't want to stay down, so I had to go up - it was the only way out that was worth living.
That shift in my mind has been one of the most significant moments of my life to date. It genuinely changed my life forever. No, I didn't become blissfully happy overnight. It took time, and dedication, support from my amazing psychiatrist and three intense months as an outpatient at The Butterfly Foundation house in Melbourne. My mother was beyond incredible and my dad tried his absolute best to understand and help.
After this period, I realised that the more I focused my mind on goodness, the more it would come. Similarly, I recall looking back at the dark period, and understanding if I focused on this, then more pain would come. I had two options: love or fear; positive or negative; healing or slipping back. It was challenging at times, with voices in my head directing me to the familiarity of the pain of the past; but I fought hard: and won.
I set my mind to recovering, and I did. I set my mind to enjoying my life, and I do. I set my mind to creating the life of my dreams, and it's happening. And most importantly, I set my mind to helping others through exactly what I have experienced: the pain, emptiness and confusion. And now, I am.
I truly believe this experience in my life has been given to me as a challenge: if I wasn't able to overcome the difficulties in my childhood, I wouldn't have been granted them. And because I have learnt to overcome them, I believe it is my utmost duty to help others who are struggling with the same issues. Not everyone will have the degree of mental disturbance which I experienced, however I truly believe we are all extremely challenged at one point in our lives: and when that happens, I sincerely hope that I can be that beacon of light for that being. I hope that after our interaction, they feel a little more alive, a sense of hope for the future, an understanding of how special they are. I hope they realise they are not alone; that things can get better and that all we need to do is to focus on what we want.
Over 10 years has passed since this period of illness in my life and I'm confident to say that the more I learn to concentrate my energy on what I want, and the positive impact I aspire to create, the more it happens. With my focus set to growth, learning and love; the challenges of my life are a blessing and an opportunity to expand. The blissful times are exactly that - blissful. And I feel because I understand both sides of the mind - dark and light- this grants me a greater capacity to experience the good. So when it comes, I try and embrace the richness of the moment with every inch of my being. And I hope that my action to appreciate the goodness of life inspires others to do the same.
I don't know if I will change the world; but I do know that I have the capacity to change the world's of those I encounter: so that is what I aim to do.