As someone who has struggled with anxiety, the past year of following Ileana on social media has been so empowering. She has opened up about her struggle with depression and being diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (a mental illness based on an obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance) and honestly, it’s fueled a lot of people to take charge of their own battles.
Recently, at the 21st World Congress of Mental Health, organised by World Federation for Mental Health, Ileana was presented with the Woman of Substance Award for her efforts in creating awareness about mental health and getting rid of the stigma that surrounds it.
“I was always a very self-conscious person and was picked on for my body type. I used to feel low and sad all the time but didn’t know I was suffering from depression and Body Dysmorphic Disorder till I got help. All I wanted to do was to be accepted by everyone.
At one point, I even had suicidal thoughts and wanted to end things. However, all of it changed when I accepted myself and what I was going through. I think that is the first step towards fighting depression.” Ileana said during her discussion with Dr Sunil Mittal, Organizing Chairman World Congress of Mental Health.
Her words of encouragement included a little something for everybody, “However, all of it changed when I accepted myself and what I was going through. I think that is the first step towards fighting depression. Depression is very, very real. It is a chemical imbalance in your brain, and needs to be treated. Don't sit back and think it'll get okay but go get help. Like you have a sprain and go get yourself checked, if you have depression, seek help. You know Winnie the pooh - he wore a crop top, ate his favorite food all day and loved himself, you can too.”
She discussed the fact that everyday is a struggle, “I am not saying that I had this miraculous recovery, every day is a process, every day is a step towards healing yourself and getting better. You are a human being and are allowed to be imperfect; you are allowed to be flawed. There is a lot of beauty in your imperfections, in your uniqueness. You may look at us actors and think that oh my god they are so pretty, so perfect but that's not how it is, it takes two hours to get ready and look like this. Love yourself for who you are and trust me if you are happy from within, you are the most beautiful person and your smile is your best asset. Despite the fact that I have a loving family, friends, a successful career, I am all over the place emotionally. If I am struggling, others are too and as someone people look up to, even if I can help a handful of people cope, it is worth talking about it."
Ileana, you should be proud of your journey, you’ve shown all of us what it’s like to be at your lowest and still come out a winner. There is a form of sheer perfection in accepting your mental illness and becoming one with the healing process. You do you, girl!