Breaking Out of Mental Illness Confinement


Tierra Hohn

date published

Dec. 23, 2015, 8:38 p.m.



For the longest time I felt like I was trapped in a box. I felt isolated and it felt like the life that I always wanted to live was so far out of reach. 

I have always wanted to travel; I wanted to see what was beyond the comfort of my backyard and experience everything this world has to offer. However, between my eating disorder, anxiety and depression, the idea of travelling seemed unimaginable. Living with such illnesses, I would say, feels like you are carrying around a ton of extra weight.

Last summer, I decided to challenge myself. I told myself that I was no longer going to allow myself to be confined from what my heart really desired, I wanted to travel and one way or another I knew that I had to make it happen. I was presented with the opportunity to do a one-month exchange at a university in France. Instead of being entirely excited, this opportunity also filled me with anxiety and an unsettled feeling.

My eating disorder and anxiety were in overdrive - if I decided to accept this opportunity, then I would be placed in situations that were unfamiliar to me. I felt that I needed to be in control at all times and the thought of losing some of that control terrified me because I would have to let go.

Deep down I felt exhilarated. This could finally be my big escape from the mental confinement and torture that I had been enduring. I needed something to lift my spirits, something to make me feel alive again, something that may actually trigger the happiness that lay within me.

I think that was the most important part: my happiness! If travelling brought me closer to uncovering my happiness, why would I not do it?

So you know what? I did it. I decided to take on this challenge and go abroad.

It would be my first time travelling to Europe. My first time travelling alone, and my first time living in another country, even though it was just for one month.

My trip had many personal struggles. I was placed directly in front of my fears with a huge spotlight beaming down. I had a few internal meltdowns and flusters, I felt uncomfortable, I felt uncertain, and I felt apprehensive. Although, slowly I began to feel comfortable with the situation, I felt curious, and I felt willing.

In the midst of recovering from an eating disorder I have learned that you must challenge yourself and go beyond your comfort zone. For me, I had to challenge myself in a way that even if I wanted to turn around and run, I could not. I put myself in a situation where there was no easy exit, I could not escape the situation that terrified me, and I just had to face it, bear it until it no longer felt scary.

The thing about mental illnesses, particularly eating disorders, is that they run on a spectrum. It's important to challenge yourself but it is also important to respect your limits. Recovery takes time. I was at a stable point in my life, stable enough to embark on this journey.

Now, did my trip solve my mental illness? No. However, this trip gave me a reminder that life had so much more to offer, it reminded me that I am not confined to a small space in this world. This trip also helped me put into perspective what really mattered and what was really important to myself. 

Slowly I have begun to loosen my grip on the concepts of control and perfection. I have begun to adopt acceptance. At this point, I have stopped counting calories, and have begun to count experiences instead. I have come to the realization that calories represent energy, and they are embedded in foods along with nutrients needed to give us strength, give us life, and give us the ability to have experiences like travelling.

I have also learned to find comfort and security within myself, as well as when I do things by myself. 

Most importantly I have learned that sometimes challenging ourselves with uncomfortable situations can be the biggest favour we do for ourselves. 

Image credit: Pinterest

Tierra Hohn, is a body image enthusiast, eating disorder advocate, promoter of happiness and a recent graduate from Carleton University's Public Affairs and Policy Management program. After being hospitalized for anorexia nervosa, she decided to dedicate herself towards speaking about her experiences and helping others struggling with similar issues. Through the creation of Untouched Beauty, Tierra was able to begin coordinating workshops and programming for young women struggling with body image and eating disorders. In 2015, Tierra completed her honours research thesis, where she conducted a study looking at the influence of media literacy in Ontario on the body image of adolescent girls. Moreover, since June 2015, Tierra has been blogging. On her blog, she takes a deeper look into topics such as mental health and illness, particularly eating disorders and depression; and overall happiness. Tierra believes that it is important that people are able to live their lives happily, whole heartedly and love themselves and the skin that are in! She strongly encourages reaching out, so please feel free to contact her either through her blog, Twitter or her YouTube page.

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