Hi! My name is Erin Elizabeth. Throughout my life, I have struggled with my mental health. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I received an anxiety diagnosis by the age of six. My anxious symptoms continued to worsen the longer they went untreated, particularly the intrusive thoughts and panic attacks. By the age of fifteen, I had developed an eating disorder and roughly a year later, I was placed into treatment for the first time.
I needed to decrease my course load at school and attend two therapy appointments, two or three doctors appointments, and one nutrition appointment a week. At this time, I was taking steps towards recovery but I was still struggling to fully commit to all the changes I would need to make. Reaching that in-between space, often referred to as “quasi recovery,” likely saved my life. And, I knew deep down that in the long-run, to live my fullest life and regain the headspace that was still being taken up by my eating disorder, I would need to recover fully.
Several years later, when I was twenty-four, I moved in with my partner, John, and it provided the safe space I needed to focus my energy on my recovery. I began eating consistently, attending therapy weekly, consistently meeting with my doctors to manage my chronic illness, and setting boundaries around work and school to protect my well-being. Present day, I am focused on maintaining my recovery and I am completing my internship for my master’s in social work. I was recently diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and have begun ERP (exposure response prevention) therapy to better treat my intrusive thoughts. I also work to raise awareness about eating disorders, anxiety, and OCD on my Instagram (@existingaserin).
Throughout my mental health journey, one thing I have noticed and have been wrestling with lately is that when life stressors increase, if I don’t prioritize my self-care and rest, my body makes me. When I push myself too hard to be “perfect” or “toughen up,” my physical symptoms of anxiety and chronic illness begin to flare and get worse until they force me to slow down. Given this, learning to incorporate daily practices of self-care to prevent burnout is something I have been continuing to intentionally work on. Jiwon’s design for “mental rest” spoke to me not only because this practice is important to my own long-term well-being, but also because the ethical code set for me as a therapist requires this work! I need to practice preserving my energy, setting clear boundaries, and having self-compassion in order to continue to be present with and give the best care to my clients. Self-care is not selfish.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, I want you to know you are already worthy of support. You do not need to become “sicker” or “get worse” in order to be deserving of this. As someone who has been there, I truly wish little me could have known that getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you struggle with anxiety/OCD, I want you to know that you are not alone and your intrusive thoughts do not make you “bad” or “broken.” Treatment is hard but you ARE capable of sitting with the uncertainty - you are so much stronger than you think you are.
Resources: For eating disorder support, you can reach out to the NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) Helpline by call or text at (800)-931-2237. They also have a Crisis Text Line for those who need help immediately - for this text NEDA to 74174. For OCD support, you can download the NOCD app for group support, teletherapy, and ERP tools. You can also follow them on Instagram for more information @treatmyocd.