You say to strive for perfection, that being as small as possible is the ideal.
You say I do not deserve the space that I hold, I do not deserve that meal.
You said to follow society’s standards, ones that say what I wear and look like determine who I am as a person above anything else.
Your voice begins to control my every move while I remain as silent as a mouse.
You promised me happiness if I just lost those few extra pounds, so I followed that stupid diet that never worked and now the truth is finally being found.
You say I’m forever unworthy and unlovable without you by my side.
So, I followed everything you said and everything went all wrong. So much pain and suffering when, deep down, all I ever wanted was to truly belong.
No matter how hard I try, I will never be enough for you till the day I die. They say every day is a new day, so today I’m taking back my life because I no longer want to listen to your lies.
I choose freedom,
I choose recovery,
I choose life.
Since being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa 2 years ago, my eating disorder has taken everything away from me: my friends, memories, my personality, my ability to work or attend school, and my ability to live my life. But this battle has taught me so much and helped me find strength that continues to make me who I am today.
I grew up as a very happy, creative, and curious child. I loved hanging out with friends and family, doing arts and crafts, listening to music and singing, attending school, and swimming. By age nine I began to develop disordered eating habits that began to worsen as I got into my high school years. Around the same age, I also had a big dream of changing the world. I didn’t know how, but I knew I was going to make a difference and help people.
As the years went on, I became a competitive swimmer, was a volunteer within my community, joined leadership within my school, was a swim coach, I was always very involved and busy. Although I was so busy, I found myself struggling to fit in and find the right group of friends that accepted me for who I was. I was very insecure about my appearance and what I did or said all the time. I would ask myself if there was something wrong with me. I was flooded by stigma and thought so many had it way worse than I did, so I never reached out for help. But then I realized that the severity of our struggles do not define how valid it is for us to reach out for help.
I broke and could no longer hold the smile I hid behind for so long. I began to use negative coping strategies and I fell into a deep and dark hole and tried ending my life multiple times. I spent weeks in the hospital admitted to psych wards while fighting for my life.
I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and after many different medications, I finally found one that has been able to keep me stable. I’ve spent a lot of time at war with myself and every day is still a battle. I’m currently waiting for a spot to open up so I can go back to treatment for my eating disorder. I’ve dedicated this next year and some time beyond to allow myself to recover from my ED. Today, I can proudly say that I am not harming myself anymore after a long time thinking that I wouldn’t make it.
I even walked across the stage and graduated in the summer of 2021! These illnesses took so much from me, but I never lost my fight. Through the midst of it all, I continued to volunteer and work endlessly to make a difference in my school and community. As a result, I received the Fraser Valley Cultural Youth Diversity Award in March of 2021. I’ve started many different youth-led groups to raise awareness for mental health and to make an impact. I’m proud to call myself a mental health advocate. I work tirelessly to make a change through all my social media platforms to this day to advocate for mental health. I also recently started my own podcast dedicated to all things mental health called the “I Choose Life” podcast.
Although my story is nowhere near complete, I have been fortunate enough to have seen a glimpse of what it’s like to recover. And trust me when I say that it is so worth it. The hardest battles are given to only the strongest of soldiers and you, my friend, are a warrior.
Mental illness is nothing to hide or be ashamed about, and please know that you’re not alone.
My mental illnesses don’t define me, and they never will. I am so much more than a diagnosis written on a page.
I am a daughter,
and an advocate.
I am human,
I’m not perfect,
I have flaws,
but who I am is forever whole,
who I am is forever enough.
I now know that no matter what happens,
I choose life.
Dear reader, no matter who you are or what you’re going through, keep going. There are moments in life where you will feel defeated, like the world is completely against you and that you’ll never make it through. Trust me when I tell you that there’s hope, there’s so much hope and light.
Life is short and tomorrow needs you, so choose to stay.
“The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” – Robin Williams
(What will your verse be?)
About the Author
My name is Larissa Potma. I am an 18-year-old mental health advocate from the small town of Mission in BC, Canada. I share my story with you in the hopes that one of you out there feels inspired enough to stay another day. Always remember that you are not alone!