Jenna's Battle With Mental Illness

Jenna Drelincourt-O'Connor has faced many battles in her life, including depression and borderline anorexia. This is her story about ongoing battle with mental illness. Throughout the article, there are quotes that help Jenna when she is having a bad day. She hopes that someone else might find comfort in them as well.


How it all began

My battle with mental illness began to unfold in primary school. I was bullied by kids who called me AIDS due to my eczema. They would push me onto the concrete so I would constantly have grazes all over my body.

The battle began again when I started full time dance. Nothing was ever good enough no matter how hard I tried. I would never get a compliment like the other girls. Instead I was told how bad I was. The other girls cottoned on and started teasing me. I would feel sick every morning, sick at the thought of having to go to dancing. Something that I loved I had learned to hate. This lead to an eating disorder- borderline anorexia. Even though I was already skinny and extremely underweight, my size was never good enough.

My anorexia was borderline because it was caused by what I thought was the right thing to do and because I didn’t have time to eat properly. I was exerting so much energy dancing but wasn’t eating enough to supplement it. I collapsed one day and was so scared by it that I snapped out of it pretty quickly.

[caption id="attachment_851" align="aligncenter" width="148"] Quote: Patrick Swayze[/caption]

I lost the dad I knew because of an accident

Dad had a workplace accident. It ruined me. The night before the accident, he told me was only going to work to pay for my dancing. I realised I needed to stop making excuses not to go. I was too scared to go but also scared to not go. Those were the last words we spoke before I lost the dad that I knew and gained a person with a brain injury, internal injuries and mental space injuries to name a few. He remembered me as a kid because of the brain injury. I was 16. That wasn’t helpful for my hormones at a time I was trying to gain independence. He wanted to baby me but I wanted to grow up. We couldn’t be left in the same room together for more than 5 minutes at a time.

Big changes in my life

My husband and I moved house in the last six months. We bought our first home and it was a trying time. It was a time we should have been celebrating but in the background life kept changing dramatically and I feel I no longer have control of my life. For me, this is very hard, especially with my type of personality.

Once upon a time, everything had its place, I was reliable and always on time. Not anymore. Since life has changed in many ways, I’ve had to take time out from things for me and my family. No more sleep ins on my days off and hardly any me time. I struggle to accept this as I’m not the organised and outgoing person I pride myself to be.

Recently, I feel like I just couldn’t be sociable anymore. I don’t have the energy nor the brain space. Recently, I posted on social media to explain this to my friends and family so that people realised that when I couldn’t make their event and my excuse was “I just can’t” they didn’t question me about it. I hoped that people would see that status and just get it.

At this stage, I am struggling to function on a daily basis. If I get out of  bed, that’s a bonus. Work is hard but it shouldn’t be and I push myself to do it because I know it’s the right thing to do. If I succumb to the illness, it will take over. I own it and I will win in the end.

Getting through it all

In between my stages of depression, Anxiety reared its ugly head. I got through it every time thanks to some amazing people in my life. These hard times showed me that I had people to support me and walk me in my journey.

I have learned that when I am triggered by life, I have to find time for myself and feed my soul with the things I need. These are usually my soul food (usually berries), meditation time with essential oil and some yoga.

I make sure I go to appointments when I have made them and I make sure I chat with my husband and my Mum about what I am feeling. Both are such an amazing help.

The one thing I find the hardest to deal with is that the one person I used to go to and used to tell me that everything will be okay is suffering from dementia. My Nan is my best mate. She is the one person that could solve any problem with a conversation, a hug or with her unconditional love for me. She is physically still with us but not mentally or emotionally. I miss her and that’s the hardest part.

The main thing that my Nan and Mum have taught me is that women are strong human beings. We are capable of anything we want to be if we want it bad enough. I want to feel okay again so I work on myself with some self-love and focus. I am learning to be okay with letting people down when I just can’t do something at this point.

What I would teach others

There are many things I would like to teach others but most importantly you are a student of life. You are always learning and this stage is one of those life lessons. Always talk to those around you, it will help you get through the day. Always do something that you love to do every day. It will give you  a focus and a reason why.

I always look for my why in everything that I do. That gives me focus and keeps me on track.


  1. Wow Jenna,
    At high school, I always looked up to you! I thought you were an amazing dancer and a really nice person. It’s sad to hear that you had such a tough time growing up. I hope that the future is only upwards from here.


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