Moving to the Other Side of the World with Mental Illness

Posted 12/06/2017

I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 14 years old. This diagnosis would send my life and the lives of everyone who cared about me into absolute chaos for a number of years. But I made it through. For me, recovery was not a straightforward, uphill journey, but more of a rollercoaster of pain, hurt and drama.

Fast forward to the year 2016.

I am about to board a flight to Abu Dhabi. I have been preparing for this moment for months, packing bags, organising visas and such. I am about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.

Life has not been simply good since my recovery from anorexia, I have struggled to maintain positive thinking throughout all the trials and tribulations of normal adult life. I have been taking prescription medications to combat lasting anxiety and depression. But in the end I can say I am doing OK.

I am 20 years old, I am alone, and I am going to do this.

I wave goodbye to my mother at the airport gate – blinking back tears not only because did I not know when I would see her again, but because she has been the rock holding me up for all of these years.

Sitting at the terminal I find that not so old feeling return – my hands are shaking, my heart racing. But I am going to do this.

A lovely couple notice my agitation and offer their support, which is greatly welcomed. Even small talk takes my mind off of the journey, and the life ahead of me.

I arrive in Australia 26 hours later, exhausted, and breathe a sigh of relief. But this is only a small victory against the challenges of mental illness. My mind starts to become clouded with irrational thoughts and feelings and mostly – fear.

I suppose this is a natural feeling for those taking such a jump into the unknown, but for me, it was almost overwhelming (and sometimes it still is).

I am now almost a year from the 20-year-old girl who boarded that flight and felt so very frightened.

I am now a Senior support worker, in my dream job, living in paradise. I have met so many wonderful people and seen so many beautiful things.

If this experience has taught me anything, it is that although it is scary to take a leap of faith, to venture into the unknown, it can be so worth it.

Believe in people, believe in your dreams, but most importantly, believe in yourself! 

Contributed by Rebecca