Admitting Your Weaknesses
May 17th, 2019
Natalie has had her share of obstacles, but that hasn’t stopped her from being vulnerable with others about her struggles.
NAME — Natalie Thwaites
AGE — 18
OCCUPATION — Psychology major at Lipscomb University
HOMETOWN — Highlands Ranch, CO
FUN FACT — Natalie was born on Mother’s Day
How would you define yourself?
“Loving and accepting, though I haven’t always felt that way and want others to feel loved. Strong, because of the hardships I’ve gone through. Empathetic, since I can sit with others and help them work through things because I’ve been there, too.”
What is your experience with mental illness?
“When I was 4, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, which is still part of my life today. I was verbally abused by my principal in 5th grade and started having thoughts of suicide at age 10. Things hit hard in 7th grade after being diagnosed with celiac disease, which led to a developed anorexia. My mood, self-esteem, energy — they all plummeted. That December, I struggled with ADHD, depression, self-harm and anxiety. I had a lot of support, though, from my family and was able to feel God’s love to see it through.
In May that year, I had plans to end my life. But I remember God speaking to me saying, ‘Your time isn’t done. I can turn your brokenness into beauty and speak to others through you.’ That was the hardest time of my life, but also the best time. I started to experience the cycle of recovery and rebounding in 8th grade. High school brought depression back, but that time it wasn’t as strong. Since, I’ve been able to use my story to help others feel understood.”
Have you ever gone to counseling? If so, what was your experience like and what would you tell others about counseling?
“I started counseling in preschool and then went back during 7th grade. The biggest thing I realized is that you are the only one who can ‘save yourself,’ so to speak. You have to choose counseling and be open to changing. Even if you’re not going through mental illness, I think you should still consider counseling. There’s no reason to be ashamed. When you recognize your weaknesses, you are truly strong.”
Why are you passionate about mental health awareness?
“Society is more aware of mental health now, but they still don’t fully understand it. We need to go in depth and be comfortable talking about mental health. We need to admit our weaknesses and struggles. Counselors know those things, but I also need to know how I can recognize that in my friends and thus better help and support them. Understanding mental health is crucial.”
What do you want to change about mental health and awareness of it?
“I want people with mental illness to feel heard. Some try to speak out and help. But there are also others who don’t know how to react and comprehend it. If you have struggled with mental illness, you can sometimes feel stuck. I want those struggling to feel a sense of comfort.”
Even though you struggle with mental illness, that doesn't define you. What would you want others to know about yourself?
“People who look at me typically think I’m all bubbly and happy. But in order to get here, I’ve been broken time and time again. I’ve hit rock bottom before. That’s what it takes sometimes. When I share advice or a story, I want them to know that I’m in a good place now, but I struggle just like others. I’ve known unhappiness more than I’ve known happiness.”
What do you want others to know about mental illness?
“I want people to know that mental illness is real. People aren’t simply seeking attention. Many think there’s no way out, which is when they resort to suicide. But there is a way out, even if you can’t see it. Others have gone through it and found a different way out. There are healthy coping mechanisms that aren’t suicide, anorexia or self-harm. It’s hard to see that alone, and you have to search for it. It’s so worth it in the end, though.”
My name is Natalie, and I am not defined by my struggle with mental health.
You're Not Alone
Over 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. alone. At least one of those people dies every 62 minutes as a direct result of an eating disorder.