I am changing the world in my own way
A published author. A documentary filmmaker. An educator and an advocate for mental health.
Dayna is all of these things. She is also a person with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and an eating disorder. She believes that her openness to treatment and her willingness to speak out about her conditions are major reasons why she has accomplished so much.
Because I didn’t see anyone talking openly about their mental health when I was growing up, I never had words to put to my experience. I have taken it upon myself to ensure that I ease the confusion, burden, and silence, not only in my direct community but in the biggest way I can impact.
Growing up, Dayna was always very anxious. She completed rituals because of her undiagnosed OCD and experienced bouts of depression and feelings of sluggishness. However, she hid her internal struggles and presented a positive face to the world.
I was even nominated for ‘happiest’ during high school, when really I was crumbling inside.
In college, Dayna experienced dramatic weight loss because of her eating disorder, engaged in self-harm, and felt suicidal. She also endured a traumatic sexual assault while traveling overseas. Fortunately, she took steps to get better.
The private anxiety I was managing spilled over into every part of my life to the point where my grades were slipping because I was too anxious to leave my room. I luckily made a huge group of friends early on in college who brought me to the counseling center.
Dayna had her ups and downs during these years, but she made progress. At the Hill Center for Women at McLean Hospital, she met her therapist, a woman who has provided constant support and encouragement for some seven years.
She believes in me and cares about me. With her in my life, I seldom doubt my strength.
Dayna also took part in another therapeutic program at McLean Hospital and became involved in mental health advocacy. Her life was starting to change.
I was admitted into the 3East program at McLean Hospital, and I loved it. I was a leader on the unit and took my recovery very seriously. I even went back to my college in the fall and changed my major to social work. Also during this time, I founded my first organization, The BEA(YOU)TIFUL Project, with my sister. This project was aimed at redefining the beauty standards we set for women in this country. I felt like I found my purpose and passion: helping others through advocacy and sharing my story.
Since then, Dayna has built on this work in many, many ways. She started a second mental health organization, was honored at McLean’s 2014 Annual Dinner for her advocacy work, and studied hard at school.
In May 2015, I graduated from college with honors. I truly have never been so proud of something because I cannot tell you how many moments I thought I would never achieve this.
After graduation, Dayna started working as a community residence counselor at McLean Hospital, and, in time, she was promoted to DBT clinical educator. Although she loved her job, she went back to school to pursue a master’s degree in public health at Northeastern University.
While in school, she created a documentary, “Life After: The Film,” which explored her healing process from sexual assault. She also wrote a first-of-its-kind mental health and resilience cookbook, “Bake It Till You Make It: Breaking Bread, Building Resilience.” The book combines recipes with stories “to make the conversation around mental health more normal and palatable.”
Today, Dayna works as a public health coordinator, focused on substance addiction prevention and education. She’s proud of her accomplishments, excited about the future, and deeply committed to sharing her story.
I still struggle every day. I still take medication every day. I still talk to my therapist. I still cry. I am still anxious, but I am changing the world in my own way, and I am very proud of that.