As part of Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), we wanted to continue to answer the Campaign’s call to action to share our stories in support of mental health!

On today’s blog, Little Voice’s illustrator Samantha Clusiau-Lawlor opens up and shares her own personal story:

I have always been a sensitive and anxious kid. From time to time, life would challenge me and this truth would be easily apparent. From public speaking, going to a new school, or even dealing with a death in the family, I often struggled silently to cope with my emotions. This struggle eventually transformed into a difficult journey with my own body image and food.

It can be hard, at any age, to deal with a whirlwind of emotions. While I struggled to control my anxiety, my journey eventually broadened to a deeper struggle with control. At the time I was not conscious of it, but little by little, I started to become consumed by my ability to control my feelings. I thought that by restricting my food, I’d be able to in turn control other aspects of my life that I felt less control over. Pair that with compulsive exercise, and you’ve got a recipe for a full blown eating disorder.

I remember waking up every day fearing my own hunger and believing that my body was a ‘’problem’’ that needed to be fixed. The relationship I had with my eating disorder was so strong that it began to affect all aspects of my life, including college. I began feeling the need to control and perfect other aspects of my life that I slowly noticed how this struggle was now affecting my health, my social life, my creativity etc. I went through life pretending everything was fine when deep down I was really a slave to food rules and compulsive exercise.

It’s sad that it took rock bottom for me to seek help, but that’s what I needed to really change my journey. Once I chose recovery, I discovered that I had to choose recovery every single day. That means eating adequately, talking to someone when I feel off and prioritizing self-care.

I am so happy the conversation around mental health is happening and growing because the amount of support I got in recovery is something I wish everyone has a chance to receive, should they need it.  Whether you are struggling from depression, anxiety, OCD, etc. we are all worthy of receiving the resources we need to manage these hidden illnesses.

You can support Samantha’s own efforts to raise awareness on body positivity and recovery, by supporting her art!