I remember being probably 4-5 years old at the pediatrician. I was there for another reason, but my mom asked the doctor in the hallway about some behaviors I was having. The doctor said that I was “just weird.” Looking back, those were the early warning signs of mental illness. I began treatment at 10 years old, when I began disclosing to my parents thoughts and plans of suicide, for obsessive compulsive disorder and major depressive disorder. Medication helped diminish intrusive thoughts, and therapy helped cull my obsessive behaviors. I wish I could say that’s where my journey ended, but it didn’t. A few years later, it was evident I did not experience just a single episode of depression, but what actually was happening was Bipolar Disorder. A tricky diagnosis to make, but at 15 years old I began a course of mood stabilizers. I was too young to know it at the time, but “feeling better” was not a good reason to stop taking my medication, but I stopped seeing my therapist and taking my medication anyway. As I entered college, sex, drugs, and alcohol became my life. At the same time, I became so obsessed with looking good that I spiraled into anorexia nervosa which nearly ended my life. After extensive outpatient treatment, I successfully finished college at the age of 20, to begin work in the mental health field. Now pursuing my graduate degree in counseling psychology, I hope to help the many others like me who have walked this road. I still struggle daily. I still see my doctor and psychiatrist regularly. I still take my medication. I still have to talk about my disorder with a therapist. I still have some hefty mood swings from time to time, and in those times I think I can’t get through it. But I’m still here. Still living and breathing. I’m here changing lives in my school and workplace. I am not my mental illness. I am Kristina. I am a fighter. I fight to be me everyday and not let my disorder win. And I will fight to end stigma with all my strength.