Humxns of UCT – Sarah-Kate Bergstedt

What makes Her Campus UCT so special and unique from the other chapters is that our members, writers, and students are incredibly diverse. Each person has something beautiful and interesting about them – a story to share, a talent, or an outlook on life. We’d like to celebrate our diversity by zooming in on individual’s stories, speaking to them about what they’re most passionate about and letting them shine on our platform. Whether it be just for a chuckle or to actually share some wise words, we’d like to introduce a new series to Her Campus UCT: Humxns of UCT

This Humxn of UCT is Sarah-Kate, a second year Psychology, English Literature, and Drama major, and a blogger. This is the full interview that was conducted to share her story over social media. Sarah-Kate, with experiences suffering from generalized and social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression, and an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa), uses her blog, Sarah-Kate Says, to explore the difficult terrain of mental illness and recovery. Her recovery ethos is that “recovery is a journey, not a destination”. Sarah-Kate considers herself an intersectional feminist and aspires for her blog to empower womxn.

 

What inspired you to start your blog, Sarah-Kate Says?

I started my blog in 2014 when I was sixteen years old purely out of a deep passion for writing. I often find it easier to write down what I’m feeling as opposed to speaking because my words written down often say things that my heart can’t speak out loud.

My blog started as a safe space for me to talk about my experiences with life and school, as well as a way for me to expand my writing skills and become familiar with different online platforms for expression. Rather than feeling anonymous on the internet, I grew to feel empowered as my voice heralded listeners from around the world. I began to write about more intimate experiences and suffering as I grew up and was diagnosed with my mental illnesses. I realized, coming from all-girls schools, how much pressure young womxn experience every single day to fit a specific mound of femininity, and how much we are pushed to perfectionism. I decided that I needed to become the person I needed when I was in high school, a person who told young womxn that it is okay to be who you are, it is okay simply to do the best that you can, and that who you are is most certainly good enough. 

I am trying so hard with everything I post, say, and do to spread the message that you never have to be anyone in this world but yourself. Who you are is the greatest gift to the world. Since realizing that being a good person is so much more important and worth fighting for than good grades, a dress size, a meal portion, or my number of friend requests, I have never been happier. 

When I was taken out of school to recover from my eating disorder, my blog became an important part of my recovery. I found solace in other people around the world who were recovering or had recovered from anorexia nervosa. I became a part of a community of empowered womxn all advocacy for recovery and the freedom from restrictive eating. This is not a community I necessarily aspired to be a part of as I never wished this illness on myself, nor would I wish it on anyone else. But, in the end, I am stronger because of what I have been through, and I have made such wonderful friendships with inspiring womxn. 

I am who I am and it’s part of God’s plan. 

 

Can you tell us about your experiences sharing your eating disorder and recovery process on your blog and social media?

Sharing such an intimate part of my life for the world to see and consume has been a different journey in itself. I have had to open my heart to free the monsters and my head, and allow my family, friends, and people I don’t know to meet them, see them, and hear my dialogues with them. 

Opening your heart to vulnerability is a very scary thing to do. It feels like falling without knowing if someone will catch you. My life and my story are freely available for people to consume, spread, and judge. I do not know how many people know my story, if they are judging me in negative ways, if they see me as weak or attention-seeking, or if they are laughing at me from behind their screens. 

I, however, refuse to allow myself to be retraumatized by my monsters. That is why I am giving them names, calling them out, and holding them responsible for all of the hurt, shame, anger, sorrow, and regret they have put me through. Once you give your monster a name and actualize what you have been through, you have two choices: To let it define you, or to let it revive you. I chose revival and survival. I chose not to let my eating disorder become my identity. I chose not to let myself be defined by the voices in my head. And since I have accepted that, I have gained a pure and true sense of empowerment through sharing my story. I am no longer afraid of bearing my soul. In fact, people have congratulated me and admired me for being so brave. I suppose that is what I am. Brave. 

Have you ever received negative messages/comments? If so, how do you deal with them?

I am lucky enough not to have been on the receiving end of any hateful, spiteful, or negative comments or messages. However, I am no stranger to the pressure one puts on oneself when trying to create content that suits your online personality. I am constantly worrying about how my words come across, how I am portraying myself on social media, and whether or not I am a genuine mental health warrior. 

But, when I sit down to think about this way of thinking (metacognition for days), I realize that these thoughts come from my illness, not from me. I am consistently trying to separate myself and the person my illnesses make me. So whenever I feel intense feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem, I sit down with my anxiety and ask her to tell me why she is feeling this way. I give her a voice so that she can speak, not through me, but through herself. I free myself by freeing her. And through giving a voice to the negative thoughts inside my head that threaten to silence me into submission, I am whole. I hear the negative, but I weigh in and mediate with my own true compassionate and calm thoughts. And in that, I am a balanced and whole human being.

 

What advice would you give to someone going through a similar time?

Let people in. Speak about your struggles, let your monsters speak, and speak to them back. Keeping your crippling and self-deprecating thoughts inside will do nothing but hurt you even more. Letting your mind speak will liberate you like never before. If not to a psychologist or medical professional, speak to your parents, your guardians, your friends, a journal, a blog, any medium that allows will you to pour the poison out of your cup. 

Staying positive all the time is not feasible. You will have days where the sun will not shine, where the cold will tear you apart, and where your head will be the most deafening and silent space. But, like I always say, recovery is not linear. There is no end point from the start. It is a journey. A winding road. But the energy you attract and emit on your journey is very important. Try and harbour as much positive, kind, and glowing energy as you nurture yourself in this space. Reward yourself for achievements, however small. Brushing your teeth. Eating an oats bar. No one need know about these achievements, but as long as you are moving forward in your strengthening. 

Remember that your illness is not your identity. And your illness is not your weakness. It will weaken and define you only as far as you allow it to. Once you realize how much strength you have inside you, the voices in your head will beg to meet the real you. 

And I am on my way to meeting the Real Sarah-Kate.