Rosiel Elwyn

Rosie’s Personal Story

I am a survivor of anorexia nervosa for over 20 years, having developed anorexia as a child. I struggled with depression and anxiety early, as well as obsessive thoughts and need for routine. I had numerous early traumatic experiences, which meant that it was difficult for me to develop self-compassion. I struggled with self-harming, and attempted suicide multiple times as an adolescent and young adult. I also experienced bereavement through the death of two friends who I had  become close to after years in mental health support groups.

In high school, I was also being physically and emotionally bullied for being an LGBTQ+ person, in addition to being bullied for my scars and having attempted suicide. This led to more feelings of worthlessness, as I didn’t feel safe anywhere, and my eating disorder became more severe. As an adolescent and young adult I began to experience episodes of extreme states, such as hearing voices and having unusual sensory experiences and unusual beliefs, which I believe was also related to the healing of years of being in danger. These experiences were perceived differently, and I was often forcibly hospitalised. For a number of years, I was hospitalised in mental health wards, and experienced a lot of iatrogenic harm and trauma from harmful treatment. I found it impossible to begin healing in environments that felt unsafe to me, and compounded my traumas and worthlessness. As my anorexia nervosa became more and more dangerous, I was often hospitalised for medical stabilisation, and experienced secondary damage to my body from years of malnutrition.

Through years of darkness, chaos, pain, and hollowness, what always kept me going was an unwavering belief in the power of Lived Experience in healing – I read memoirs as a source of hope, and I learned about peer work. Throughout these many hospitalisations over the years, I studied a psychology degree, because I believe the mental health system needed and needs to be reformed, it needed Lived Experience clinicians, and I wanted to be an advocate, peer worker, Lived Experience lecturer and clinician, and ultimately a change agent.

I became a peer support worker, and I worked in peer support for 10 years while I studied my degree. I continued to fight to complete my studies, often from hospital, often against the constant message that I was too ill and broken to heal and succeed, and in the face of painful stigma within the profession. I began Lived Experience research, graduated from my Master’s degree, and was accepted into a PhD. The underlying goal for me is to keep elevating Lived Experience voices and wisdom as a source of hope and healing. I truly believe in the power of Lived Experience stories as rafts in the darkness, and want to be part of creating safer spaces and to support others in their healing.

Rosie’s message to others is to believe in your own power for healing, and your own possibility to heal. Know that others like you have found healing, re-connection to themselves others and the world, after their disconnection and pain. Others like you have found meaning after suicidal thoughts, surviving suicide and surviving suicide loss. We are writing our own futures that look so different from the beginning of our pain. Futures we could not have imagined, and futures that terrified us to think of. Know that it’s possible, and it’s possible for you. Know that you’re not beyond healing – you’re not beyond help, or too broken, or too different from those who have healed and those who will. All that you’ve survived, all that’s happened to you, the harms that have been done to you, and the pain you are feeling: isn’t what defines you or makes you who you are. You define you, and you decide who you are. Your story and survivorship is all your own. Healing can take place in the ‘smallest’ acts of self-compassion that build over time. In finding ways to make it easier between each breath until survival has to be thought about less. In talking and expressing yourself more and realising your voice is meaningful and deserves space. You are more powerful than you know, and you have the power to heal.

Find out more about the Suicide Prevention Australia Lived Experience Panel.