Growing up, Julia was an outgoing and creative girl who enjoyed singing, acting, hiking, crafts and school. She was a “gifted” student who, like many high achievers, was also a perfectionist and very sensitive. In grade 7 she started having trouble with her classmates. This affected her self-esteem and by grade 8, depression and anxiety began to set in. By grade 9 she was suicidal. She “disconnected” from the world and began controlling her eating as a way to cope with feeling that nothing she did was good enough. Controlling her eating gave her a sense of power.
Julia wasn’t a fan of ACH when she was admitted to the Eating Disorders program. She didn’t believe she had a problem since she didn’t look like the pictures of anorexic girls she’d seen. But she’d starved herself to the point that her heart was too weak to deal with the strain of simply standing up. Specialists opened her eyes to how sick she was – the damage she’d done. After 3½ weeks in hospital plus 12 weeks as an outpatient, she began to smile and laugh, love and feel loved again. She says “step one was to regain the weight; step two was to regain my life”.
Today, Julia appreciates how the hospital helped her regain her sense of self-worth…and for helping “bring my invisible mental illness into words and thoughts that made sense”. She is grateful for those who cared for her health and also her well-being. Art, pet therapy, bingo night – all those extras – even the sunlight through her window – gave her incredible comfort.
Today, Julia no longer feels empty or alone. She’s in a good place with her parents and knows that in her continuing journey she has people to support her when she needs it. She was so inspired by the team who cared for her that she plans to become a psychologist or art therapist. 1 in 5 people have mental illness. 5 in 5 have mental health.
To hear more stories like this or to donate to the 2017 Caring for Kids Radiothon in support of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation visit www.KidsRadiothon.com