Talking about this subject is something that terrifies me. Sitting here typing this right now my heart is racing and my hands are shaking. The point of me typing this out is to get over that fear. This is something I shouldn’t be terrified of and I shouldn’t be ashamed. I want to find peace with my past and I feel like this is my first step in doing that. There are millions of people in this world living with some type of mental illness, yet rarely does anyone feel okay to talk about it. I first want to start out and say that this isn’t a story of self-pity. This is a story of hope for someone who may be going through the same thing. I want anyone who may be struggling right now and thinking that it will never get better to read this and see that it can get better.
With that being said, I’ll start with what I was diagnosed with: Anxiety, Panic Disorder and Depression. I fought a battle with my brain for years. Some days I didn’t know if I would be better off dead or alive. It was scary when out of nowhere my brain didn’t work the way it used to. I started getting panic attacks when I was 10. By the time I was 11 they were so severe I couldn’t function in normal life. I had completely lost control of myself. I constantly thought I was going to die. It didn’t matter what I was doing or where I was. I would hallucinate and see things that weren’t there. It didn’t make any sense but at the time it was very real. The attacks then brought on depression. I was in and out of hospitals. I felt hopeless and helpless, like nothing was ever going to get better. I couldn’t go to school and I wouldn’t leave my house or do any of the activities that used to make me happy.
My whole life changed so quickly. People didn’t understand and neither did I. I was constantly told to just stop being so dramatic or that I was faking it. That comment hurt the most because I would never put myself through something like that on purpose. Friends didn’t understand why I stayed home from school or stopped coming over for sleepovers. Everyone was frustrated with me for something I couldn’t help. I hated who I was. It was like I was a prisoner in my own brain. Sometimes I would be so exhausted. I would have these out of body experiences where it was like I was watching myself go insane with these panic attacks but I couldn’t do anything to help myself. I put my family through a lot. I know it wasn’t my fault but I can’t help but feel guilty about it. I started lashing out at everyone around me. Not because I was mad at them but because I was mad at myself for not being in control. It was 24/7 - my brother and sister would have to hear me crying hysterically in fear because I always thought there was something wrong. They started to resent me and I don’t blame them for it. If I had been in their shoes, I wouldn’t understand either. Our family felt broken.
When I was 12, I was sent against my will to a long-term treatment center out of state. I was held like a criminal and taken from my mom to a room with bars on the windows. I’ll never forget when they told me I wouldn’t go home or leave that place for a year. I was completely numb at this point, just a shell of my former self. My friends and classmates were told that I was sent to boarding school. Thinking about it now, it’s messed up that there’s so many stigmas associated with mental illness that the school had to lie about where I was. I don’t blame my mom at all for sending me there. She only wanted the best for me and doctors told her this was the best treatment I could get. They painted this picture of an amazing place with swimming pools and a camp-like atmosphere to her. In reality, I didn’t see the light of day. It was just one big open room with beds in a row. I wasn’t even allowed to look out the window because they thought it would give you thoughts of escaping. I couldn’t understand how I ever got to this point. Treatment is hard with a mental disorder. What might work great for one person might not work for another, so it’s likely there is going to be some mistakes made in choosing the best treatment options. My mom started to realize that something was wrong and came and got me a month after I had arrived there. I can’t say that place made me better or worse but I can say it motivated me to try harder in my treatment. My mom never gave up on me even though so many people did. She put all the energy she had into me and was my biggest support system. I can’t thank her enough for everything she did.
After I returned home, I slowly started the process of taking my life back. Through therapy and a lot of time spent working on myself I finally started feeling like I was living again. It took many years to get to where I am today and to be able to cope with my anxiety/depression. I’m proud to say I no longer let fear run my life. I take spontaneous road trips and I laugh until my stomach hurts. I live with my boyfriend in our own home. I’m not deathly afraid to get on an airplane anymore. I can fly to see my family who I have the best relationships with now. I’m close with my dad and so thankful for the relationship I have with him. My brother and sister are two of my best friends. I even went skydiving with my brother! I could remember years earlier thinking that was impossible. There was no way I would ever be brave enough to get on a plane again, let alone jump out of one. But there I was, free falling from 14,000 feet. I got a tattoo to remind myself every day to not let my thoughts take over my life. I still have days that I feel off but it’s manageable. I won’t let it take over my happiness again. I was lucky to have the support that I did and to be able to get help, but not everyone is that lucky. I think people are afraid to ask for help or admit that they’re struggling for fear of judgment. Nobody chooses to suffer from a mental illness and it's not just something in our heads we can get over. It's very real and a long road to being able to cope. If you know anyone going through something, reach out to them and try to understand the best you can. Support is everything. I don’t want to be ashamed or afraid of judgment anymore. I’ve spent 10 years feeling like I’m walking around with this secret on my shoulders. I’m no longer allowing that to weigh me down. I'm learning to accept that not everyone is going to understand but that doesn't mean I should live my life in fear of what they think. This is me and what I went through but it doesn’t define who I am. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to fight for it and never give up on yourself. I'm not dwelling on the past, I've moved on. I’m happy to say I love living life now with all the ups and downs that come with it.