Today’s post is hard to write/talk about, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not scared to put this out there. That being said, I think this is something that is so crucial to talk about. One of the many things I am passionate about is getting rid of the stigma around mental health and health issues in general. I believe there is a negative stigma around mental health and I think it makes people not want to get help even when they need it. I am not an expert on this topic I only have my experience and my story to share.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was in middle school. I can remember staying up all night in middle school to work on homework and projects but not getting much done because I was so nervous and anxious about making things perfect. I am a perfectionist, and school was pretty hard for me until I got to college. This is because I have a learning disability called dyslexia that makes learning a little more challenging for me. Not only that, but I went to a college prep academy that I feel put a little too much pressure on their students at times. That’s when I started self-harming. I regularly self-harmed until I was in college. There were times when I would go a month or two without self-harming but then something would happen, and I would revert to old habits. This whole time I was seeing a counselor that I did not particularly like.
Fast forward to my senior year of high school. This was when things started to get pretty bad. I was super depressed following the heart surgery that I had the summer before my senior year of high school. I had gained quite a bit of weight, and I started to get bullied at school for my weight and because people thought I was faking my heart problems to get attention. (Like what? Why would someone fake that? Nonetheless, people believed it.) My self-harming got worse, and I developed an eating disorder because I was so focused on losing weight. I ended up losing a little over 50 pounds in about three months. During this time I can remember thinking I don’t want to be alive for the first time. There would be times when I felt alright, but overall I was depressed and numb most of the time.
So it was time to go to college, and I thought this is it. This is my fresh start. This is where I get to be the real me and leave my problems behind me. Unfortunately, that is not what happened. My problems followed me all the way to Memphis, TN where I was attending college. Not only was I struggling but I was far away from my family back in Columbus, Ohio. So after one semester, I transferred to The Ohio State University to be closer to my family and the doctors that had been treating me for a while now.
I started to think things were still not right with me though. I would have these crazy mood swings and think about not being alive almost every day. I had some good friends around me at the time, and my family was there. I started seeing a counselor who I liked, and I was thriving in school, but there was something just not right with me still.
Fast forward to my junior year of college. That’s when my counselor suggested I start seeing a psychiatrist to see if some medications would help. That’s when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety which triggered me to go even lower than I already was. I started taking the medicines that were prescribed, but they take some time to get to the right combination and dosages for the individual. I eventually was taken to the hospital during my last semester of college for suicidal ideation. I spent the night in the hospital and was released into an intensive outpatient program. I completed that program in about a month and was feeling pretty alright. I graduated, started a full-time job, and moved to a different city in Ohio. When I moved, I stopped seeing my psychiatrist, counselor and stopped taking my medicines. So needless to say, things got much worse.
That’s when I got into a major car accident. Again, my depression and anxiety got much worse to the point where my mom said; I need you to get help again. So I made an appointment to see my psychiatrist and started taking my medicines again. Shortly after he suggested, I see a counselor again.
I started seeing a counselor and made a lot of progress working on the traumas that cause many problems I have. But then she quit, and I didn’t find a new counselor, which brings me to now. I have a steady psychiatrist, I’m engaged to the most supportive caring man I have ever been lucky enough to know, I was able to hold down a fulltime job, and I am currently pursuing my MBA.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Just because I have several mental illnesses does not mean that I am strange or incapable of being a part of society. They do not define me; they are just a part of me. Just as you wouldn’t say “I’m cancer” instead you say “I have cancer” you shouldn’t say “I’m (insert mental illness here)” you should say “I have (insert mental illness).” It is not who you are it is just part of what makes you who you are, and yes you might struggle a little more at times, but it does not mean that you are strange or weird. Everyone has things that make them struggle a bit more than others. Embrace the things that make you struggle and learn to be more kind and to accept and understating of people who are struggling.
Let’s get the conversation around mental health to be one of positivity rather than negativity.