I saw this quote on social media recently and it really rang true with me. I’ve had a personal experience with my daughter who has experienced mental illness in the form of an eating disorder.
I discovered she was suffering totally by accident, and it made me realize how easily it could have gone on without me knowing for a lot longer.
It started with the lead-up to her year 10 formal (September) where she was feeling the pressure, I guess, to look a certain way for the big event. She’s always loved her food so instead of not eating she ate normally but started to throw it up (she has her own bathroom so was easy). Once I went into her bathroom and she had forgotten to flush the chain. I knew she wasn’t sick so asked her about it which led to me finding out the extent of the problem. (There we no other signs).
From September to the following April, we went to regular counselling and there were times we thought we had it under control, but we didn’t. To cut a long heartbreaking story short she ended up going into a facility for a month and living there full-time. It was so hard for her, but I can safely say it broke the cycle. Visitations were limited, she was one of the youngest there and I felt helpless. When I went to see her it took everything in me not to cry (I failed sometimes). I felt her sadness, her anger and loneliness.
Fast forward on to Year 12 formal and it was a completely different experience for her (and me) – one of happiness. What scared me though was how she told me there was a group chat going on whereby the girls posted their formal dresses so that;
- No one else bought the same dress, and
- To get approval.
It was so sad that these girls felt the need to do that, and how does it make them feel when the response from others is negative? There was plenty of those. My daughter never felt compelled to post hers, for which I was very proud of her.
It made me wonder, though…
- What were these girls feeling, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically, when getting ready for their formal?
- How did the experience of the formal and the way they felt about their appearance impact their mental health? And then their behaviour?
- For those who were feeling negative, how did that impact their HSC performance?
- Did their parents know how they were feeling?
It’s immensely hard for teenage girls to feel good about themselves these days, they are bombarded with social media and images of how to get the ‘perfect’ look. I feel that in a lot of the girls that I know, it most definitely affects their mental health for the worse, and then sometimes has a knock-on effect on their grades.
Our kids going through HSCs… obviously we want them to do well but at what cost?
I’ve always told my girls that whatever they want to do in life, they can and there are many routes to get there. Don’t get me wrong – I encourage them to do their best in school and they do, but I don’t want them to think that it’s the only way.
What would that do to their mental health?
What is more important?
Having this experience with my daughter’s mental illness means I know what’s more important to us. I was lucky to find out she was struggling, and I wonder how many are struggling alone.
You should also know I am a Personal Trainer and a Stylist and the guilt I felt was enormous (I should have been able to prevent it or stop it or something right?) but that’s for another blog.
It just proves no one is exempt from mental illness, whatever its form.
Charlie is a Personal Trainer, Stylist and Body Image Counsellor at Into-You Specialised Fitness on Collaroy Plateau, with a passion for helping women feel good about themselves.
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