May is Mental Health Awareness Month and what I feel that needs to be known and reiterated about mental illnesses is that it does not discriminate and it can happen to anyone. 
Rewinding my life almost 8 years ago, I was a normal teenager just starting her sophomore year in high school. I looked in the mirror one morning and thought that I could be skinnier. I was trying to balance dance, chamber choir, basketball and all my AP classes at one time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was experiencing very bad anxiety. I sometimes got too busy to eat, so I would skip a meal here and there and I started noticing myself lose weight and liked it…maybe a little too much. I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in September and just a few months later, I weighed in at a whopping 80 pounds and landed in the hospital. Over the next year, I experienced psychiatric hospitals and a residential treatment facility where I met other young girls like me who had issues with eating and then others who were addicted to drugs and alcohol, suicidal, wanted to self-harm, had trauma and P.T.S.D. Over the 6 months I was there, I prayed and everyday recited the quote, “Keep your head up. God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers,” but most importantly, I regained control of my life.
With pageantry still a big part of my life during all of this, that is when I created my platform, “Staying Hope•Full,” and I wanted to focus my treatment of helping others get the treatment they need. With my platform, I have helped four young girls get the treatment and help that they need, but have talked to hundreds of young girls and women about how that they are truly beautiful and unique, that they should always have hope and belief in themselves and that they can be “full” of life and do anything and everything they set their mind to.
I have been recovered for awhile now and am in the process of writing my own book about all of my experiences that I’ve had with my eating disorder. I want everyone to know this: mental illnesses are ugly. It’s not pretty. It’s tough. And you will always have your good days and bad ones. But, with faith, friends and family to get you through it, like me, you can recover and share your story to help many others who may be struggling. Just remember that you are beautiful and to always “Stay Hope•Full.”