‘I was so stressed that my hair began to fall out.’

Words by Lauren Ravida

I’ve always been the type to suffer in silence. Ever since I was a kid I have concealed my pain. If I scraped my knee on the playground, I would run to the toilets and try to fix it myself rather than have someone know I had hurt myself.

So when I was eighteen, and in more pain than I had ever experienced, I acted the only way I knew how. I hid it.

It was September 2013, and I was about to begin my Year 12 exams when my 2-year-long relationship ended. As hard as that was, the most troubling thing for me was the complete lack of direction I had. I had breezed through High School, and as a result had learned nothing. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and where there should have been a light at the end of the High School Tunnel, all I could see was a brick wall. I panicked. I was so terrified of living a life of mediocrity that I was stunned into a spiral of anxiety and depression.

I had no one else to blame, so I blamed myself.

In this stage of my life, I internalised all of my pain. I put a smile on my face when I left my bedroom in the morning, and kept it there until I returned that night. I figured that I could deal with the pain on my own, and that one day I would wake up and magically be happy again. But in internalising everything, my frantic mind took a toll on my body.

I’ve always been a petite girl. I barely reach 5ft 1 and have the metabolism of a champion, so my weight and body were never of a concern for me. That was until this time of my life, that is. Because when I spiralled down into depression, I dropped weight. Fast.

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A photo of Lauren (left) in October 2013, taken during her battle with illness.

The weight loss was so drastic that my hair began to fall out, and my fingernails became flakey. Getting out of bed became a daily struggle, and I no longer had the energy to get through an entire day. As my condition darkened, I kept going, and only kept hiding it.

I simply refused to believe that I was in trouble, so I told myself that I was doing fine on my own. And I truly believed that I was until a friend confronted me and said “Lauren, you look sick”. As soon as she asked me if I was okay, the floodgates opened.

I told my friend about everything – about problems I hadn’t even realised were problems. She encouraged me to tell my parents and to get help, which is exactly what I did. After seeing my GP, I was referred to a Psychiatrist, who diagnosed and medicated me. I also began visiting a Psychologist every fortnight.

In the early stages of my recovery, I was approached by a girl at a party. She walked straight up to me and said, “Oh my god, you’re so skinny. You’re so lucky”.

This girl was no taller than me, and was slim already. Hearing those words leave her mouth made me realise that there is something very, very wrong with the way young women idolise an unhealthy body type. For a girl who was so stunningly beautiful to envy my dangerously underweight body is something that still troubles me to this day. She made me realise that not only did I have to fix my mind, I had to fix my body. And that meant gaining weight.

The next day, I signed up to a gym and developed a work out plan. I wanted to be stronger and to gain muscle, so I started to build up my body. It was a slow process, as was my mental journey, but within a year I was back to my original weight. Two years later, I have exceeded it.

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Today, Lauren is stronger and fitter than ever.

In all honesty, there were times when it was hard to keep going. I often wondered what the point of it all was, and felt like aiming to be happy was aiming for an unattainable goal.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I realised how far I have come. It was a Sunday morning and I woke up early, slightly hungover after a night with friends. My boyfriend must have felt me moving, because he reached across the bed and pulled me into him, kissed my forehead and then fell back asleep. It was just another moment in life, no more significant than the one that preceded it or followed it. It was a moment that he wouldn’t even remember. But in that moment I realised I wasn’t reaching for an unattainable goal at all. Despite the voice in my head that told me to give up, I have found happiness.

More Australian young people need to know that under Medicare they are eligible for up to 10 subsidised counselling sessions each year. This is something I had no idea about when I struggled with my own mental health. All you have to do is book a double appointment with your local GP, develop a mental health plan with them, and get their referral to a Psychologist. If you do not connect or enjoy the Psychologist they refer you to, please ask them to refer you to a new one.

This piece was written by Lauren Ravida, a 20-year-old writer from Melbourne who’s upcoming autobiography will be a long receipt for Mcflurries. You can follow Lauren on her Instagram Page

Have you got a story to tell? Email the20sdiary@gmail.com

If you or a loved one is suffering with poor mental health, The 20s Diary encourages you to contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or on their website.