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Marissa Pane

Country: United States

I am twenty years old. I graduated college with a 3.6 GPA. I began working immediately after my second year of college at the World’s Most Famous Arena. I founded my own company and started a mental health movement at age 18. 

I’ve also been admitted to a psychiatric hospital during my senior year of high school.

Growing up, I always knew that something was off inside of my mind. I was always alone and was constantly thinking about what could go wrong in the current situation. I never found a group of friends that I could fit in with and I even claimed to my mother that my backpack was my only friend.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always thought I was the problem. I decided that I was better off unseen and continued to live my life hiding in the shadows.

Once I entered high school I realized that there were others like me. We listened to the same bands singing about death and gore and we all saw ourselves as different and alone. It was then that I started to embrace the fact that I suffered from depression.

As high school progressed, my depression worsened. I was trapped in an a mentally abusive relationship for over two years. In the course of those two years he tried to kill himself in front of me twice over Skype, knowing that there was nothing I could do but watch helplessly. He forced me to do things that I will never repeat and he destroyed any hope that I had inside of me.

Midway through that relationship I began to develop anorexia. I had lost control of my life, he made me feel like a puppet on a string. He stole the keys to my house and threatened to kill my family if I ever left him. He hacked into my computer and installed a program that logged every key stroke I typed and knew everything I was doing at all times. He even hacked into my webcam and watched me day in and day out. At the time I never understood how he knew so much about me, and it terrified me. I didn’t know about the computer hacking until two years later which is when I received a restraining order against him.

As I began to drop lower and lower in weight, my classmates and teachers had to know that something was wrong, but no one reached out to me. It made me feel that I wasn’t doing ‘a good enough job’ at losing weight. It wasn’t until my best friend at the time reached over and grabbed my skeleton-like arm, looked deep into my eyes, and asked “...What happened to you?” I could feel the fear and sadness in his voice and in the way he looked at me. His words brought hope into my life again.

I was hospitalized directly after midterms my senior year, I was 95 pounds. During the two weeks that I was hospitalized I met some of the most memorable people of my life. There were women over 50 years old, who still couldn’t get a handle on their eating disorders which led to the end of many of their marriages, friendships, and support of their families.There were girls who hadn’t even reached their teens who had so many demons inside their minds. They saw me as a role model while in the hospital, and for that, I had to be stronger than I ever wanted to be. I had to recover for them, I had to help myself in order to help them fight for their lives back. 

During my hospitalization, I met both men and women who suffered from eating disorders. Seeing the lack of hope, seeing the pain, and hearing their heart-wrenching stories, only made me fight back stronger. I was going to defeat the demons in my mind, I was going to recover, and I was going to come back stronger than ever.

We face many challenges in life, but nothing could ever amount to the challenge of gaining back complete control of your mind. 

Anorexia stole two and a half years of my life and it only seems fair that recovery had taken two years too. With the help of therapists, nutritionists, medication for my anxiety/depression, and most importantly the support of my family, I was able to live a “normal” life again. 

The demons of my past still haunt me at times today, but thanks to the coping mechanisms I’ve learned over the past five years, I am able to push the demons away and they retreat back into the depths of my mind.

Currently in America, one in five adults are suffering from a mental illness. Approximately 16 million American adults are living with depression and 42 million are living with anxiety disorders.

Despite how large these numbers appear, we still feel alone and isolated. The stigma attached to mental illness is so powerful that many of us don’t seek help. In fact, only 60 percent of Americans with mental illness have gotten the help they needed this past year. 

In order to end the stigma, we need to speak out. Sharing our stories with the world is the most powerful way to show that we are not alone.

One voice. One story. Sometimes that’s all it takes to help save a life. Your words will open the door for someone else to contribute and from there the possibilities are infinite. Each individual experience will be united and together we can end the stigma.