As I celebrated a milestone in my life, I was torn between feeling free and lost. On one hand, I was excited to get away from everything that had transpired throughout elementary and high school but on the other hand I feared leaving the comfort and safety of my teachers who had become my support network. My first year of university was the definition of a disaster! I ended up academic probation, nearly dropped out of university, gained upwards of 50 lbs. and developed severe cystic acne all over my face. It literally looked like I had the chicken pox! My health was rapidly spiraling downwards and my doctors were stumped. While they didn’t know the cause, they were all in sync with telling me to lose weight. Easier said than done when you don’t know why your gaining weight at such a rapid pace!
Naturopath and Food Restrictions
Feeling desperate, I turned to alternative medicine and decided to seek the guidance of a naturopathic doctor. After a blood allergy test was conducted, I was put on an extremely restricted elimination diet and an endless number of supplements. This would only feed into my disordered eating habits in the years to come. Financially strapped, I stopped seeing a Naturopath and continued with the food restrictions. I became severely obsessed with eating healthy and avoiding any foods that I reacted to. I was now struggling with a severe case of orthorexia. I would rather starve than eat anything that in my mind would make me sick. After a few years, I started restricting more foods and turned vegan by default for a few years. Now don’t get me wrong, adopting a vegan diet can be great if it’s done correctly. Something I didn’t do! I was severely deficient in various nutrients and all the while my health was still heading down, down and down.
The First Diagnosis
I was eventually diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, given birth control pills amongst other medications and sent on my way. Not knowing any better, I took all the medications given to me. Thinking back, maybe I did know better but I was desperate and tired of suffering. This diagnosis explained some of my symptoms however, I still had a gut feeling that there was more to the story.
The Big Accident
While dealing with all of this, my life changed with a bang, literally. At the age of 19, I was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident which left me severely injured. This would be the start of my battle with chronic pain. I tried every treatment method but failed to gain relief from my pain. The pain stripped everything away from me. It stripped away my ability skate, to drive, to do household tasks and to simply move, sleep and even eat without pain. Feeling hopeless, I developed a “suck it up and deal with it” mindset for the years to come. After the accident, I began having panic attacks every time I got into a car followed by constant anxiety. Also, due to the chronic pain, I started to fall back into a deep dark depression.
The Dark Cloud
I was no stranger to mental illness having dealt with it since the age of ten. But this was different. This depression was deeper and darker than I had ever experienced. I refused to admit that I was struggling and brushed it off as me being in chronic pain. I learned how to put on my strong face, my mask and lead a normal life. I continue to attend university, hold leadership volunteer roles and lead a social life. At this point I was dealing with anxiety on a daily basis and I started having anxiety attacks multiple times a day. I managed to hide behind my strong face until I returned home to the safety of my room. Here I would truly break down, endlessly cry and contemplate suicide. This went on for four years, my entire university life, until I absolutely and completely hit rock bottom.