My name is Olivia Bennell and I am sick.

Wow. I never really said that out loud before. I have to be honest, it doesn't feel good. I find it hard to be sharing my story, leaving it open, raw, for anyone to learn.

But I have to.

It's learn to be who I am and love it; or die trying to hide away from the stares and judgement. I couldn't pick the latter, though at times I tried.

It started a long time ago, when I was still young. I'd entered high school, happy, bright eyed; as I always was. But things started to get to me. I worried what the other girls thought, what the boys thought, what my teachers thought, what my parents thought.

Their opinions were always so important. I wanted to make them happy. The stress was too much, I needed some control.

That's the funny thing about my illness, because while I thought I knew everything and thought I was in control. I was wrong. It had a funny way of making me think I was making all the choices, but really my illness controlled my life. I was lost in my own body. Lost in my own sickness.

As an underaged girl, I was hospitalized for my dwindling health. It was awful because while I was still lost inside myself, I also lost all control. I ate what they told me to eat. I stayed where they told me to stay. I was visited when they told me I could be visited. I went where they told me to go. I sat when they told me to sit.

When the hospital deemed me healthy once more, they released me and I was given a chance to grow up. I went to university. I met friends. I got a boyfriend. I joined sports teams. I stayed in dorms, in houses, went to bars, frat parties. And I lived.

But all the while, I continued to die inside, getting lost in myself and letting my illness consume me. Judging myself and hating me for who I was, even if I had those around me who loved me. How could they be right when I told myself they were wrong?

Things gradually got worse. You don't realize how gradual it is until you watch it slowly happen to yourself. You watch it and you hate it and you let it control more. Ingraining it's morbid beliefs in your mind.

You know you aren't good enough.

You aren't very pretty either.

You jiggled when you walked in here.

That lunch you ate is making your gut bulge.

Nobody really likes you.

Lies being planted in your mind, clouding your vision and warping your sense of the world; the reflection you see is no longer you, but the removed version of you, because the voice makes you believe that you aren't enough for people. It takes all your deepest fears and brings them to the front until you are no longer a person but a shell of the human you were. You are lost.

People notice, sure, but what will they really say?

"We're worried about you." Their eyes and voices filled with sorrow, begging me to give in. Begging me to just get better.

“Why can’t you act like a grownup?” Sadness turning into accusations.

But I couldn't. This wasn't something I could change. I was lost. I no longer had control.

So I shut down, closing myself off to the world around me. If I couldn’t love myself, then how could I expect others to love me? Though they meant it well, their stares were accusing and their words hurtful. I could find no freedom among those that once brought me love. I fell into myself, letting the shell of who I was take over and control.

I burrowed into my sadness, into their judgmental stares, and gave into the voice. Letting myself believe they were true. Even when they weren’t, it didn’t matter. The voice was all I heard. The warped images of my life were all I saw.

Then I sank.

And people got angry, pushing me further and further down. Their fears for my life and misunderstanding, became anger.

Why wasn’t I being responsible? Why was I hiding behind my mother? I was no longer a teenager, why wasn’t I acting like the adult that I was?

Because I wasn’t me. I couldn’t be me. The voice wouldn’t let me. I wouldn’t let me. I was lost. Where was the worth in being me? Who would really miss me if I shrunk away and disappeared?

They didn’t understand and I couldn’t help them understand. I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know how it got so far. I can’t even determine when it all started.

But I know when it changed.

My illness has been a part of me for as long as I can remember, seeping into my mind and telling me I’m not enough, making me take steps towards the depression that spiraled ever so close, moving deeper into my sick state, that when I finally tried to get away, I finally tried to stop, it was discouraging and easy to fall back on my illness. It was easy to blame.

Then, I had my first doctor's appointment, and even if he never spoke the words, the look on his face was enough. I was dying, and I wasn’t far from it.

People who loved me didn’t look at me like that. People who loved me couldn’t. They feared the thought almost as much as they feared the possibility. Nothing they could say would help. I didn’t want help. I was in a downward spiral, all I wanted was to hide.

When you are lost in this place, no one can help you and you begin to believe you are stuck. This is you. This is what you were always going to be.

That’s not true. But the voice tries to make it true.

Your only way out is if you pull yourself there. Claw your way out of the darkness, gasping for air, drowning beneath the pressure. Most of us aren’t strong enough. Most of us fail. I almost did.

I was lucky.

When I hit my breaking point, nothing in my life fit. I was a jagged puzzle piece, dying for a space, but none would let me fit comfortably. I was on the outside, looking in. My body was there, but I was not.

It wasn’t easy. It was the furthest thing for easy. But it was necessary.

I was twenty-one years old. Did I really want to throw my life away? Did I really want to end it all here? How could I let the voice change everything, take all control and lead me to my death? That was never the intention.

The doctor made me realize what the voice refused to let me see. I was sick. I was dying. And if I didn’t do something now, I likely wouldn’t come back. He didn’t say it, but I think he already thought I was too far gone.

I proved him wrong, though even I had my doubts.

It was then that I realized, that I wasn’t in control of my situation, which was one of the scariest ideas in my life. If I am not in control then anything could happen and I am left to adapt to a new situation that I hadn't planned for, I may need to change in ways that I am not comfortable with, feeling more out of control.

A vicious circle.

But then I considered, when did I ever really have control? Truthfully, no one ever does. No one has control over what is going to happen and no one has control over you. It's scary, but it's true. No matter how hard I try to be in control of my life, things still happen that throw me; things that I hadn't planned for or predicted; things that force me to change my plans.

This was where my understanding began. Once I was finally able to accept that I had little control over what would happen, I was able to heal. When I released my hold on that desperate need to have control, I was able to release myself from the hold the voice had. When I stopped fighting it, understanding came and control was no longer what I desired. I no longer felt lost.

I was able to live again.

It hasn't always been easy. And it won't. I will struggle with my illness every step of the way. The voice constant fighting me for power, constantly polluting my changing mind. But I must fight to silence that voice.

I cannot let negativity and hatred warp who I am anymore.

My name is Olivia Bennell and I am getting better.

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