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.

I would like to say to believe in your own power for healing, and your own possibility. Believe in the possibilities of others like you that have found healing, peace, meaning, and are writing their own futures that look so different from the beginning of their pain. That what has happened to you and what pain you’re feeling isn’t what defines you or makes you who you are – that you define you, and that you decide who you are, that your survivorship is all your own. That how you feel about yourself, others, and the world can change, and that you can begin to heal. And that having hope you can heal, believing that others can heal but that you’re too lost, believing that you can heal but aren’t going to, and believing that you can heal some scars but not others, are all steps in healing too. You can determine who you are, and you can give yourself every permission to re-connect with that person, and to let that person re-connect with the world.

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