Worth Living Ambassador Eleri McEachern
Eleri is a newer resident to Nova Scotia, moving to Halifax from Ontario in 2015 to begin her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at Dalhousie University.
Her struggles with mood, eating, and personality disorders definitely impacted her ability to see the potential of a brighter future. Nonetheless, she made it to her dream school and continues to fight every day, and strives to enlighten others about the effects of mental illness and overcoming personal barriers.
When I was little, I wanted to be a lot of things. Sometimes it was a rock star, a ninja, a veterinarian, or a scientist. When I was a bit older, I wanted to be a marine biologist, a cinematographer, then a researcher. Now I’m here, waking up every morning and thinking “Wow, so this is my life”. I’m none of those things. I’m still young; however, even the prospect of becoming someone with a stable life and career has gotten almost overwhelming to think about. Because I never expected, when I was younger, to grow up to be someone suffering from mental illness.
I’ve been terrified. When my New Years’ resolutions suddenly went from ‘read a novel each month’ to ‘hang on until the next month’, I knew things weren’t heading in a good direction. Now diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, two mood disorders, a personality disorder, and trying to rip myself from the grips of an eating disorder, I can’t say that things have gotten much better. That isn’t to say things can’t turn around.
Living with the challenges of mental illness feels humiliating. For a great chunk of my mere twenty years, I kept myself in the dark, not because I liked it, but also because I was afraid of opening up to anyone who could maybe help me lift it, if slightly. And finally, after years of different medications, behavioural and cognitive therapies, treatments, and many other supports, here I am. Fighting the shame that surrounds mental illness.
Throughout this entire experience, I’ve managed to keep hope and determination towards recovery, and find inspiration in others as well as my surroundings.
I’ve discovered that I absolutely love
hiking, camping, canoeing, and being outdoors. Photography has also re-emerged in my life, along with reading. Playing the violin, no matter how bad I feel I screech my bow across the strings, also brings me a certain amount of joy. My biggest pride is that I’ve made it to my second year studying neuroscience at university, which at one point seemed unfathomable.
Mental illness may have hidden some of my life in dark corners, and still does, but I’m determined not to give up. I may not live the same way as others do; that doesn’t mean that I can’t still make the best of what I have. I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received after opening up, and need to give myself credit for pulling strength from inside myself to keep going. I’ve come so far, and am not willing to let my mental illness stop me from living my life. So when I wake up and think “Wow, so this is my life”, it still feels like it shouldn’t be mine. Not this life, full of illness and doctors. But I’ve come to recognize it’s full of other things, too: love, passion, perseverance, joy… so I get to roll out of bed and remind myself that I am also so excited to see what my life brings me.
I hope to see negative stigma surrounding mental illness shift, so that others can also see meaning in putting that one foot forward towards recovery.