Inspiring Stories: Sarah Rav – changing the stigma surrounding mental illness

Sarah Rav

Sarah Rav is a 22 year old Medical Student from Australia with an INCREDIBLE story to share. 

Growing up, she developed a serious eating disorder, which almost took her life. At her lowest point, in 2018, she weighed 30kgs, with a BMI of 10, at which point she needed to be admitted to hospital, as there were concerns that she would drop dead at any moment. 

Sarah was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. At the time, the diagnosis completely surprised her, as at the time she did NOT believe she had an eating disorder. “It was always about CONTROL for me, never about weight loss,” she claims in her newest IGTV Series My Battle with Anorexia Nervosa – the tell all series. “I would restrict my calories, because I NEEDED to feel in control of something, whilst the rest of my life was spinning around me.”

Sarah states that the disorder blew out of hand when she entered her third year of Medical School, and had to deal with many stressors, including the end of a long-term relationship, moving out of home & pressure from social media. She describes feeling like she was “stuck in a tornado” and that the “only thing to hold onto/control, like a lamp-post in the middle of the street, was her food & exercise intake”. Limiting her food helps her deal with the overwhelming anxiety at the time. 

Her perfectionistic tendencies also contributed to the problem. At the time, she would run EXTREME distances every day; running until she could hardly walk, and until her feet would bleed. “There were times when I would leave for a run, and honestly, didn’t even know if I would make it back home alive”. Even though she HATED every moment of it, she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t bring herself to miss a run, because if she did “the feeling of absolute failure & guilt would CONSUME her”. If she missed a run, she would be unable to think of anything else, except how “unworthy” she was, how “weak” she was that she couldn’t do what she was supposed to do. 

Her life revolved around exercise and food. If anything threatened her allocated exercise time, or had the chance of ruining her diet, she would skip it, for fear of “slipping up”. Over time, she cut herself off from her friends & family, which had a huge impact on her mental health. She recalls feeling “trapped, like there was no way out”, and “couldn’t imagine living the rest of her life this way”. 

Fortunately, things changed when Sarah received her diagnosis. At first, she felt guilty & ashamed, and was scared about revealing her condition to her friends & family. But once she accepted her mental illness, she knew that it was her responsibility to engage in treatment and FIGHT for recovery. To fight for her FUTURE. 

2 years on, and she has come a LONG WAY in her recovery. Since reaching a healthy weight, Sarah has worked tirelessly to fix her disordered relationship with food, and has finally realised what it feels like to be truly HAPPY & FREE from a mental illness that held her back for so long.By working with a psychologist, and challenging herself to try foods that used to scare her (out of fear of being “unhealthy”), Sarah now views food as one of life’s many pleasures. She has managed to shift her mind, and no longer labels foods as “unhealthy” or items that will “make her fat/undesirable/less worthy”. 

Now, Sarah aims to share her story of LIBERATION with her 1.4 million followers on Instagram, in order to help inspire young women who were struggling like she was, to seek help & experience the same freedom & joy that she has been lucky to find. Sarah uses her platform to change the stigma surrounding mental illness & open the conversation surrounding eating disorders, depression & anxiety. She reinforces that having a mental illness is NEVER the fault of the patient, and that one should NEVER be ashamed for suffering from one. However, she emphasises that it IS their responsibility to speak up & seek help if they are struggling.

She states in many of her posts, that her ultimate goal from this arduous journey is to help at least just ONE SINGLE PERSON with a mental illness. To make them understand that they are not alone, that they can get through and that they are BEAUTIFUL, that they are LOVED and that they DESERVE recovery and happiness. “If I can do that, then it makes everything I’ve been through worth it”. 

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