Stories From Our Community

Learning about the experiences of others can help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and give those who are suffering the courage to seek help. Remember, you are not alone.

Kelsey W

Since seeking help my family has become aware and more supportive, my friends are more sympathetic and people are starting to understand more.

I’m 15 and I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder. I’m also anemic which doesn’t help my situation at all. I’ve seen 5 different counselors and none have helped me. They’ve only asked if I knew any triggers – which I don’t because there isn’t any reason for me to feel this way. I’ve not had a dramatic loss, I’m not being bullied and my home life is pretty good.

On paper my life is fantastic but for some reason my brain doesn’t see it that way. I’ve been feeling suicidal and sad for the past 18 months but have only sought out help recently. Since seeking help my family has become aware and more supportive, my friends are more sympathetic and people are starting to understand more. I’ve been referred to a mental health association thing and I’m starting a different kind of therapy there tomorrow.

I do feel that speaking out has helped me because although I’m not “cured” people around me get it a bit better which does somewhat help. I would definitely encourage others to speak out about their mental health since I have encouraged 2 other friends to tell their families. It isn’t something which should be taken lightly and although you can’t see it it’s still there and is a daily struggle for anyone who suffers from mental illness.

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Jackson McQ

I want anybody who's struggling to know that I'm okay now even though i never thought i would be.

I am a transgender male. I have been in and out of mental hospitals 6 times since august of 2016, for depression, anxiety, bulimia, self harm, and suicide attempts.

My reason for doing this is to say, I’m stable now. I’m not perfect, I’m not happy. But it went from self harm every other day, to being a month clean.

Death isn’t the only thing on my mind anymore. I want anybody who’s struggling to know that I’m okay now even though i never thought i would be.

So i want anybody reading this to know that it does get better, even now i still think about cutting every time i see a knife. I do think about throwing up every time i eat. It’s not easy. It’s not fun.

But i’m to the point where it’s livable. Which is a lot more than i was. And eventually, anybody struggling with similar things will be too.

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Catlin P

I can’t emphasize enough how important our perception and mindset is to our success in overcoming our symptoms of mental health. This same mindset and perception is what will give you an edge in life as well. If you'll notice, your attitude determines your altitude in everything you do. These two components are directly correlated with each other. We always can decide and dictate what type of attitude we have, which means it’s something that’s always in our control.

“OCD & Me”

I can describe and give an in-depth, detailed account of the intricate ways OCD affects my mind all too well. My mind and the mechanics have always fundamentally been the same. Never once do I remember my mind being any different than the way it already is, was, and always has been. However, I’ve discovered focusing on this path too much ultimately only causes more confusion…and more problems. I’ve experienced how it leads you “down the rabbit hole” into an endless cycle of a game you can’t win. And I know, because I’ve played. Endlessly. Sure, you might win some battles, but it’s never long lived. Eventually, after each loss, you’re left more damaged and confused than the last time.

Not long ago, I was so focused and obsessed on figuring out my mind that I refused to quit, to a fault. No matter how much distress or added suffering it caused me I pushed on. Even though I’ve lived with these conditions my entire life, I had never actually stumbled upon anything tangible until a handful of years ago. I had become obsessed with the intrusive and unwanted thoughts plaguing my mind everyday. Once I discovered these “impostors,” I couldn’t leave them alone. I needed so badly to comprehend the entirety of these conditions. It was like I needed to know almost more than I needed to breathe, quite literally.

Ultimately, I have found that to truly grasp the totality of these conditions on a constant basis is impossible. Even if I could, to always have an answer for every unanswered question is literally hopeless. It’s draining and defeating. However, once I learned that OCD is largely hereditary and biological, it provided me with a figurative sigh of relief. I think it really helped to know that no matter what, these conditions are here to stay regardless of my attempts to fully understand them or not. In other words, it is irrelevant if I am able to understand the ins and outs of OCD if I’m going to let it completely consume me.

As I sit here trying to think of what aspects of my story to elaborate on; I find myself concerned that I won’t hit on all of the insightful and significant aspects I’ve found most paramount to my recovery. I almost feel overwhelmed with the various ideas flooding my mind about the countless things I have learned from my experiences with mental illness. While I have been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I have also been diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety. I do not suffer from the classic OCD symptoms such as physically carrying out compulsions (washing hands, locking/unlocking doors, extreme organization/tidiness, etc.) even though that’s what the general public would assume when they think of OCD. I discovered that “Pure Obsessional” OCD or “Pure O” is the category I fit under most. Pure O describes individuals with OCD to purely have obsessions without physical compulsions, but only mental compulsions. I primarily deal with an onslaught of intrusive, unwanted thoughts, but use mental compulsions (avoidance, reassurance seeking, mental rituals, etc.) to seek relief. These thoughts initiate impulses or mental images of horrible, violent, immoral, or sacrilegious actions. Constantly. All day, every single day, of every single second, I am at the mercy to ALL of these frightening, torturous, and unwanted types of thoughts or images. Put me in any seemingly harmless situation or circumstance and my mind will quickly and quite literally figure out what the worst-case scenario would be. And then it will aggressively spend the rest of the time trying to convince me of this situation becoming a reality. This might include extreme embarrassment, death, ridicule, violence, or failure. Further, all of these same thoughts can and will happen in regards to people I deeply love and care about as well. It doesn’t matter. It could be any of the above. What ever happens to adversely affect me the most at that current point in time is what seems to gain the most strength and momentum over my psyche. Timing is key however. Most of these thoughts don’t bother me in most circumstances because I usually can rationally gauge how unrealistic they are. However, very certain and specific thoughts at just the precise moment, in just the right environment, will still somehow knife its way to my heart. No matter how many walls you build or battle-tested strategies you implement, these thoughts never stop eating at you.

One of the more ironic aspects to my story is that while I can remember being effected by OCD as far back as I can remember, I literally had no idea that this is what plagued me throughout my life until I was about 23 years old. Looking back on it all, it’s almost like I always knew something was different about me, but I wasn’t willing to acknowledge it. And if I wasn’t willing to acknowledge it, then I definitely wasn’t willing to let anybody else either. I seemingly did a good job of hiding my symptoms seeing as nobody ever noticed anything “different” about me. The symptoms of OCD did not quite “debilitate” me as I was able to grow, progress, and develop adequately during the early years of my life. This also might partially explain why nobody ever noticed anything. The most detrimental and debilitating effects did not hamper me until later in life. In fact, it was quite the opposite growing up. I happened to be pretty successful with almost anything I tried and would even go as far as to say I excelled in most areas. I always made honors student (college and high school), participated in competitive sports throughout my life, and always seemed to have plenty of friends. After graduating high school in 2005, I ultimately pursued a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and graduated in 2009. I then furthered my education and graduated with a master’s degree in Social Work by 2011.

I don’t say any of these things to boast or brag, not whatsoever, but mostly to emphasize how fortunate I was growing up. I truly believe that if it were not for my family’s love, support, and cultivation for success, I would be no where close to where I am today. They never let me settle and always pushed me to fulfill my potential. They taught me how to work hard and empowered myself to achieve anything in life. I am forever indebted to them for these lessons. Always having everything I needed growing up, I basically lived as “normal” as a life you could imagine. However, the inner workings of OCD were well at play this entire time. Somehow, someway I was able to live with and manage the symptoms of OCD without truly questioning my organically overactive, over-analytic, obsessive, and ruminative mind. The endless attempts to slow down or stop unwanted intrusive thoughts had just become second nature. Unfortunately, this natural instinct eventually faded away.

I was around the age of 23 when I finally began to realize something wasn’t quite right. Ironically, this is about the time I started experimenting with street drugs. I was later officially diagnosed with OCD, Anxiety, and Depression at age 26. By that time, things had gotten a lot worse. My drug addiction had grown out of control and my symptoms were running rampant controlling my life. Only 2 months after my 26th birthday did I get fired from my job as a social worker. At this point, I seemingly had lost interest in everything (work, friends, girls, family, exercise, etc.). It got to a point where I simply had zero desire to ever want to get out of bed. I’m still ashamed to admit the only thing I ever looked forward to was sleeping or doing drugs…both of which became primary escapes of mine. I had become addicted to the fast guaranteed relief from my symptoms that drugs provided. By coping with drugs on and off for 2 years, I got lost in the facade that drugs can create. I had devolved into what I call some sort of functioning “drug addict.” I was always drawn to the drugs that made me feel most like I was “enough” and no longer inadequate which generally tended to be “uppers.” The lure of this pseudo-freedom became my primary means to escape from all of the pain my symptoms initiate. The blaring noise in my head of constant negative mental chatter, harsh criticisms, absolute discontent, and never-ending despair always left me desperate for an escape.

Of course, by the time I realized how much worse drugs actually made everything; things had already spiraled out of control. My symptoms of depression had severely heightened and before I really knew it, I began contemplating suicide. These thoughts occurred before I was ever fired from my job, but gained added traction from this most recent “failure” of mine. I had not given much attention to the thought of ending my life until then, but once I had, I couldn’t shake it. It was almost like I had become obsessed with the idea of dying. Here is where I by far experienced the darkest moments of my life.

By the end of my worst episode, all and any of my motivation had been sapped. I had lost all interest in doing things I used to consider fun or enjoying. It didn’t matter how much I had loved to spend time with friends or family, go to the beach, or workout. I had lost interest in the hobbies most vital to my survival. I literally had come to lose touch with reality. I spent more time in my head than what was going on in front of me. I can tell you it’s not a fun place to be, at all. Nothing was important to me anymore and the more unimportant everything seemed, the more severe my suicidal thoughts became. It was as if the life I had was so far out of reach that it felt like nothing more than a mirage. My life had lost all meaning to me. For a while leading up to this, things were definitely tough sledding, but not until I hit rock bottom did I truly become suicidal. I was literally contemplating the ways I could take my life.

Wanting to kill your self and not wanting to live are two very different things. I didn’t really want to live at times, but this was different because I wanted to escape the pain, forever. Yet, there is a profound quote that really sums up this whole situation and became the groundwork to digging myself out of this black hole. It says “Suicide doesn’t end the chance of life getting worse. Suicide eliminates the possibility of it ever getting better.” This is such a true statement and inspired me to not give up. In addition, what helped drive me even further is another quote saying “Suicide does not take the pain away; it only gives it to someone else.” The idea of giving my family my pain because I didn’t want to bear it anymore empowered me to never let that happen. I couldn’t imagine how negatively it would have impacted my mother especially. I couldn’t stand the image of horror she would have to withstand caused by my own actions. Ultimately, I dedicated myself to be 100% committed to my recovery, being sober, and spending time with my family. It felt like eons before I began making progress, but I soon saw the fruits of my labor by making headway into my recovery. Once I overcame feeling suicidal or having any inclination to hurt myself, I still did not have much of a desire to live. I knew that my life had changed for the worse without a doubt and I was not hopeful or confident in my ability to regain my life again.

It was still all too easy to beat up on myself. I would get caught up with analyzing how far I had fallen and then wallow in my own pit of self-despair, shame, and guilt. I always had ambition and already held myself to a high standard. So, when I realized how far off I had dropped, it only compounded more feelings of guilt, negativity, and doubt. I was having an extremely difficult time believing it was even a realistic possibility to live a normal life again. I had barely survived up to this point. Any improvement seemed impossible because I knew it would require never-wavering determination and persistence, as well as patience. I was no stranger to working hard but, even then, a deep convicted belief in your self is absolutely paramount, which is an uphill battle I wasn’t sure I was prepared for.

You see, once you’ve lost hope, you’ve damn near lost it all. Hope for a better future is what gets you out of bed in the mornings. Hope allows you to persist and continue on even after defeat. Having hope will always give you a chance, no matter the odds. Without hope, you lose belief in all and any of your capabilities regardless of what your track record has been. However, facing these odds and overcoming them does not have to be impossible even though that’s exactly how it felt. As I sit here typing this, I realize that it’s imperative to point out that losing all hope does not have to be a death sentence. I can say that while it seemed like a death sentence at the time, I’m living proof that it doesn’t have to be. Come to find out, you can actually make progress when you feel hopeless. I found improvement to be a possibility. Although the improvement was very minor, it was still progress. No matter how small, improvement and progress is nothing to underestimate. I had to re-learn how to find satisfaction from even the most minimal of strides, but it was necessary in order to ever build from it. Here is where I truly learned the wonderful value of building momentum from the progress we make. I developed a true appreciation for the value of progress, not perfection. I had come to full-circle to finally grasp the idea that perfection is the enemy of progress. I found that the more progress I made, the more momentum I began to create. And the more momentum I gathered, the more confident I began to feel which allowed me to start re-gaining power over my life again…Now I’m fast forwarding a bit, but this is definitely where the turning point started and I began recovering. I was unemployed for about 6 months where I focused on my mental well-being and overall health until I obtained another job as a social worker and haven’t looked back since.

Understanding that OCD has a prominent biological component was important for me to comprehend because it played a large role in my recovery. I needed to know that this wasn’t “my fault” so-to-speak. I had spent my entire life striving to be “perfect.” I always strove to be the best that I could be, while never tolerating short-comings or inadequacies. Failure, or even average, was not an option. Yet, I had to understand that I didn’t do something “wrong” and that I never did anything to bring upon such debilitating conditions to myself. I had to understand these things because it constantly gave me something to fall back on. It allowed my mind to rest as I sort of had my “answer” as to why I was the way I was. Grasping these concepts also taught me a very hard fact of life. A fact of life we all have to accept at some point if we want to be happy, ourselves. I had to accept that a part of me (a large part) was “flawed” no matter how much I tried to fix it, erase it, or run from it. It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that no matter what you do, you can never rid yourself of this mind cancer. There’s just some things that are out of your control. However, this was a very insightful revelation to my recovery because it taught me about a very powerful word. Acceptance. By grasping how to accept certain facts of life, such as myself, I came to realize that I am already perfect in my own right. To me, true acceptance of yourself means you can acknowledge your faults, but know you are no lesser of a person because of them. Once you have done this, I believe you have achieved true beauty. However, to do so is more of a marathon than a sprint and to completely love your self as a whole (e.g. mind, body, soul) is always a work in progress. I have learned through experience that no matter how hard we try to plan or predict life, we will never ever achieve “perfection.” Just as will we never have EVERY answer to every situation or circumstance. We will never be able to always be right…no matter how hard we try not to be wrong.

It’s the exact same revelation and “coming to” that I think most people have to experience after being tossed and turned by the waves of life. It’s almost like I have been forced to laugh off life’s idiosyncrasies simply because life isn’t always supposed to be logical or “make sense” all of the time. After struggling so much with the anxiety caused by my control issues, I finally realized that it’s impossible to be in control of every single area of your life during every waking second. No matter how hard you tried or how much effort you sacrificed. Sometimes there is simply just nothing you can do about the circumstances life gives you. That’s it, though. There’s nothing less, yet nothing more to think about. It is what it is. You accept it, eventually. You have to. Through acceptance, you achieve transcendence. I absolutely believe that once you can ACCEPT anything, then you can TRANSCEND everything.

No matter what happens to us, at the end of the day, we always get a choice. We may not have control over everything that happens to us, but we CAN have control over how we react to EVERY thing that happens to us. Our reaction is a choice. It always has been and will be. We might not be able to control what someone does to us, but they will NEVER control how we decide to react either. We have the option to exercise that choice every single day of every single moment. After whatever life (or mental illness) happens to throw at us, it’s at our discretion to decide what we do or don’t do. To decide how happy or sad we will let something make us. So long as we believe and have faith that things will always work out for the best, they will. By always seeing the silver lining and choosing to be optimistic, we will greatly increase the odds of success simply by believing it to be so. I know that sounds so cliché, but it reminds me of a quote that helped ground me at times by Deepak Chopra saying “The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.”

I can’t emphasize enough how important our perception and mindset is to our success in overcoming our symptoms of mental health. This same mindset and perception is what will give you an edge in life as well. If you’ll notice, your attitude determines your altitude in everything you do. These two components are directly correlated with each other. We always can decide and dictate what type of attitude we have, which means it’s something that’s always in our control. And if our attitude is always directly in our control, then so is our level of success (i.e. altitude). No matter what we believe, it can always be changed for the better. And if we believe we can be better, we can DO better. Remember, whether we believe we can or can’t, we are right.

Even though, I thought I couldn’t get better (or recover) and although it felt like climbing a mountain of impossibility, I was able to change these beliefs. It’s not a quick process and definitely will not happen over night. Not until I was able to put in a little bit of time and effort, but I can promise that if you’re willing to climb the mountain (work), the view from the top will be breathtaking (results). Finding a way to stay consistent and motivated to keep making progress is the only barrier you’ll experience once you have began to create momentum. Plateau’s are 100% to be expected, but it will be up to you and you alone to continue building off your momentum. What you do with your potential and where you take it is up to you and nobody else. Never lose sight of your dreams because your potential is limitless. Take it from me because I’ve been there. Even though I was certain things would never get better, here I am living my life to the fullest and pursuing my dreams.

I have since created a life coaching business that focuses on transformation of the mind. I believe everything begins and ends in the mind and that a transformation of the mind will lead to a transformation in life. I have a passion and a fierce desire to help people on the grandest scale possible. I created this company in hopes to establish more than just a business, but a movement. A movement to help people liberate their minds to lead a fulfilling life while developing into their potential. I thoroughly believe and promote the slogan that if we can “transform our minds, we can transform our lives.” I officially consider myself a “Transformation Coach” for my expertise in coaching individuals through this mental transformation needed to be happy and finally change their life for good. I hate to be cliché, but I know if I can start from rock bottom and find a way to forge a better life, so can you. So can anybody. I believe that we all have the power and potential to pursue our dreams while making our lives anything we want. The question is, are you courageous enough to take this responsibility?

Thank you for reading and don’t believe everything you think!

-Catlin A. Palmer, LMSW

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Linda H

PTSD is difficult. Brain illness is difficult, but stigma makes it 100 times worse. Thanks for letting me tell my story. I was ashamed to admit the abuse to anyone, even a mental health professional. I am glad I finally discussed it and have the correct diagnosis.

I have an identical twin. I suffered my first bout of depression when I was about 16.

You see, I sided with my father during my parents’ divorce. It was the 3rd marriage for each of my parents. My identical twin sided with my mother. My mother wanted me to be on “her side,” so made me miserable by abusing me sexually, emotionally, and physically. The biggest part of it was emotional abuse. Abusers never abuse in public. All of the abuse directed at me was done by telling me my identical twin sister was beautiful, would marry well, would have a good life, looked better, etc., and I was told I was fat, ugly and stupid.

It wasn’t my twin sister’s fault. My mother would go out shopping with her and buy her clothes and tell me I couldn’t wear any of them (we were the same size) because this was my punishment for “siding” with my father, whom I loved very dearly. The abuse was long-lasting, from the age of 12 to about the age of 20. I never told my sisters about all of the abuse, for I was very ashamed of it.

When I went through depression and mood changes in my 20s, I was diagnosed with depression and then bipolar illness, Type II, but none of the mental health professionals asked me about my upbringing. I know that sounds strange, but no one ever asked me how I was treated when I was a child. I had horrible self esteem. After being told (for 20 years that I had bipolar disorder, Type II), one day, a therapist asked me about my childhood.

I began to relate all of the abusive experiences I had endured….everything from having my head slammed up against the wall, being spanked until my legs bled, to the horrible comments…”Why can’t you be pretty like your twin sister?” I was once locked in a bathroom and told to remain there because I made a statement in support of my father. The light bulbs were removed. I stayed in there for many hours. When I said I wanted to go to college, I was told that I would never make it, that I would flunk out in one quarter! I could go on and on and on.

When the therapist heard about what I had endured, he immediately changed my diagnosis to PTSD secondary to severe child abuse. I feel like I now have the correct diagnosis and it feels good. This explains why I am so sensitive to criticism and am so easily startled. I loved my father and my mother wanted to make me miserable so I would change my loyalty from my dad to her. I was called a lesbian (no crime, but it was abuse) and never had any confidence due to all of the abuse I endured. My self esteem was ZERO. My identical twin grew up confident and secure.

When I finally told my identical twin of all of the abuse I endured, wherein she was the bullet, she reacted with disbelief…..very common in families when a parent only abuses one child. She has stopped communicating with me now because she thinks I made up all of the abuse. It is too bad she was used as a bullet for my mother’s abuse, but she was. PTSD is difficult. Brain illness is difficult, but stigma makes it 100 times worse.

Thanks for letting me tell my story. I was ashamed to admit the abuse to anyone, even a mental health professional. I am glad I finally discussed it and have the correct diagnosis.

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Chris T

I'm in no way ashamed of having most likely inherited this condition any more than a cancer patient has with their condition. Someday people will see those who struggle against biochemical imbalances that manifest to suicide as a much more severe battle than almost any other illness.

Like many, my full and accurate story is just too long to type here. The start of my troubles has a hazy beginning, with an onset either 8 years ago or 3 years ago, depending on how you look at it. The last 3 it has been treated in all sorts of ways, mostly medically as the therapists (6) who are all super and well intended people, just haven’t been able to move the needle. Dozens of doctors have tried, to varying degrees of success. As such, the battle rages and suicidal ideation does continue.

What I would think would be helpful is that people recognize that suicidal ideation is a physical symptom, at least in my case. It won’t go away with a change in life circumstance i.e. money, love, etc… It. Just. Happens. I also question whether or not we should even use the term “mental illness” as so many subheadings get lumped together under this growing umbrella. Eating disorder, alcoholism / addiction, serial killers, etc… A biochemical disorder that interferes with ones ability to enjoy life, unstable energy, I have little to nothing in common with the aforementioned and certainly can’t be fully controlled via psychological interventions.

That said, I’m in no way ashamed of having most likely inherited this condition any more than a cancer patient has with their condition. Someday people will see those who struggle against biochemical imbalances that manifest to suicide as a much more severe battle than almost any other illness. Especially when ones own family (at least in my case) treats the patient like a leper or guilty party for having it. Relatives of mine have turned me down when I asked to stay the night at their house because a new treatment pops up near where they live. My own mother has called me a burden.

A lonely fight it is. Luckily, God and my understanding friends have kept me alive; alive to face another day and keep the prayer alive that purpose, maybe even physical relief, awaits.

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Kelsey W

Since seeking help my family has become aware and more supportive, my friends are more sympathetic and people are starting to understand more.

I’m 15 and I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder. I’m also anemic which doesn’t help my situation at all. I’ve seen 5 different counselors and none have helped me. They’ve only asked if I knew any triggers – which I don’t because there isn’t any reason for me to feel this way. I’ve not had a dramatic loss, I’m not being bullied and my home life is pretty good.

On paper my life is fantastic but for some reason my brain doesn’t see it that way. I’ve been feeling suicidal and sad for the past 18 months but have only sought out help recently. Since seeking help my family has become aware and more supportive, my friends are more sympathetic and people are starting to understand more. I’ve been referred to a mental health association thing and I’m starting a different kind of therapy there tomorrow.

I do feel that speaking out has helped me because although I’m not “cured” people around me get it a bit better which does somewhat help. I would definitely encourage others to speak out about their mental health since I have encouraged 2 other friends to tell their families. It isn’t something which should be taken lightly and although you can’t see it it’s still there and is a daily struggle for anyone who suffers from mental illness.

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Jackson McQ

I want anybody who's struggling to know that I'm okay now even though i never thought i would be.

I am a transgender male. I have been in and out of mental hospitals 6 times since august of 2016, for depression, anxiety, bulimia, self harm, and suicide attempts.

My reason for doing this is to say, I’m stable now. I’m not perfect, I’m not happy. But it went from self harm every other day, to being a month clean.

Death isn’t the only thing on my mind anymore. I want anybody who’s struggling to know that I’m okay now even though i never thought i would be.

So i want anybody reading this to know that it does get better, even now i still think about cutting every time i see a knife. I do think about throwing up every time i eat. It’s not easy. It’s not fun.

But i’m to the point where it’s livable. Which is a lot more than i was. And eventually, anybody struggling with similar things will be too.

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Samantha B.

I am finally learning to live life on life's terms, and to appreciate the fact that I am still alive. Recovery is not always easy but it is beautiful. The poem below reads more like spoken word poetry, I am not into the frilly stuff. Every word is true and every word is real. I hope I can connect to a few readers. We are not alone in this journey.

My name is Samantha and I am 25 years old. I started writing poetry around the age of 9 or 10. I have suffered from addiction since the age of 13 and I have struggled with mental illness for even longer than that. I have been clean since August 25, 2016 and this is the first poem I have written in sobriety.

My diagnoses are BPD, PTSD, dysthymia, GAD, anorexia, and body dysmorphia. I am finally learning to live life on life’s terms, and to appreciate the fact that I am still alive. Recovery is not always easy but it is beautiful.

The poem below reads more like spoken word poetry, I am not into the frilly stuff. Every word is true and every word is real. I hope I can connect to a few readers. We are not alone in this journey.

 

I am trapped in a body of darkness surrounded by light. The me that you see isn’t the me that I see. I am a soul eater. A criminal in the court of love. I demand nothing and I want it all. There’s nothing that can stop me. But you can.

I write in riddles and I speak in tongues. I feel alive and I miss feeling dead. The chaos used to consume me until I choked on sad, sick, rotten air. I picked my face better than I could pick the good from the bad. I hated everything about me. I still hate most things about me.

I can’t even sit here and let the words flow. I want to impress the devil. Make him lust for me like I lust for a hole in my vein. An escape from the world that has never been good to me and never been better to me. I feel like I am owed something. Pay me for my misery. Reward me for not giving up. Fall under the spell of ugly seduction.

I judge everything. I want for everything. I need nothing. My man told me he loved me today. Why do I want him to hate me? Love is beautiful and I cried after I said it back. I waited for him to say it for so long. Why do I want him to hate me?

I got caught lying to my parents. They are sad. I am sad. I feel guilty and I also feel entitled. I want to do whatever I want. Can I continue to live in my false world of no consequences? My stomach drops when I think of their faces. The ‘why do you keep hurting us?’ face. The ‘you are a piece of shit’ face. Does it drop because I am sorry, or does it drop because I now found my excuse to suffer?

I haven’t gotten high but I want to get high. I can feel the meth in my throat. In my chest. In my arms. My track marks are fading and I am grieving. That’s a sick way to feel. I am so ashamed of everything. I’m not wearing makeup today and I keep thinking that everyone thinks I’m tweaking because of my face.

I still think the Feds follow me, but here I am wishing there was still meth scattered in my car. I don’t miss the insanity of thinking there was a demon following me around. I still remember his face. I used to ask him questions but he would just smile at me. Sitting outside of my house or floating above me in the hospital. He was so real. He was so scary. I welcomed him though. I thought he was there because I was going to die soon. I thought he would hold my hand and deliver me to hell. I cried all day because he scared me, yet seeing him was comforting since I knew his presence meant I was high. Too high.

Sometimes I still hear the radio when it isn’t on. Sometimes I hear people screaming when there’s no one there. Sometimes I look for the demon, but he doesn’t come around anymore. It’s telling that when I feel afraid, my first thought is to look up to find that mother fucker hanging out on the wall. I look for the evil before I look for the good.

I put myself in painful situations to validate the belief that I can’t do this. That I don’t deserve this. I am surrounded by love and I can’t stand it. How can I love love and at the same time I want to cast it away? There is so much beauty on this planet. The reaction I get from my dog when I come home. The hugs I get from people like me. The warmth I feel in my family home. The calm I feel when my guy looks into my eyes.

I am so important to other people, yet I am so expendable to myself. I would rather end this entry on a poetic note than get the madness out. I can appreciate a warm breeze today. I can look up at the night sky and find joy in counting the stars. Why do I want to destroy it? I’ll save everyone else before I save myself. I argue with myself until the next best thing is to shut myself up.

I am queen of the jokes and I analyze everything too much. I feel like a whale at 105 pounds or 89 pounds. Will I ever feel at peace or will it always be synthetic? Will I ever learn to trust or will I die alone wondering if people really only loved me out of guilt?

I am running out of time and energy to write. My veins are on fire; my brain wants what I do not. This is the most sincere I’ve been in a long time, yet it isn’t edgy enough for me. Creative enough for me. Good enough for me.

I wonder if I’ll ever see that demon again. If I do, I’ll ask him for forgiveness.

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Peyton

The fight for happiness may not be easy but its definitely worth it. Just remember you're not alone and to hold on.

I was sexually abused by someone I trusted when I was 8. It had changed me a lot. I went from an outgoing, loud little girl to a quiet, shy girl. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD from the incident. And as I got older, I got more problems because growing up is hard in general. I was super insecure. I was bullied. I would have panic attacks almost all the time. I was super depressed. I was hating life. And, I was silent about it all. No one knew what had happened and it was eating me up on the inside.

I turned to unhealthy coping skills to release all the sadness and pain. It got to the point where I couldn’t handle it anymore.  I wanted to make a change because if I didn’t, life would go on and it would stay the same. So, I decided to stop being silent and speak out about what happened. It wasn’t easy but it would never be easy. I had been staying quiet for 7 years and I couldn’t keep going.  I spoke up and put the pain and sadness to an end. And that was the key to becoming healthy and happy. It was the key to healing.

8 years later, I can say it will be okay in the end. It may not seem like it at the time but in the end, everything will work itself out and it will be alright. The fight for happiness may not be easy but its definitely worth it. Just remember you’re not alone and to hold on.

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David M

I was taught to be a good provider, work hard, and things will work themselves out. I struggled with my emotions as a youth, and teenager, and wasn’t quite sure which emotions were appropriate, and which were not. I realize now, that all emotions are to be valued and given equal weight, when they arise, something I think I always knew, but didn’t acknowledge until I was in my 50’s. I was forced to acknowledge in 2012.

A Strong Man
I was born in 1960, an interesting decade to come into the world. I was a little too young to fully grasp what was happening in the U.S. at that time, but I can’t help but feel that, the 60’s shaped how I looked at life. It was a time when older values from post WWII America started to clash with a new awakening in our culture. I was raised to be a strong man, don’t show your emotions, and deal with problems by yourself. If you can’t solve it, don’t ask for help, internalize your feelings, and for god’s sake don’t let anyone see you cry!!

I was taught to be a good provider, work hard, and things will work themselves out. I struggled with my emotions as a youth, and teenager, and wasn’t quite sure which emotions were appropriate, and which were not. I realize now, that all emotions are to be valued and given equal weight, when they arise, something I think I always knew, but didn’t acknowledge until I was in my 50’s. I was forced to acknowledge in 2012.

I was working in a good job, providing for my daughter, and doing all I could to give her a full life, despite the fact that I had been divorced from her mom, when she was 5. Did I forget to mention that divorce was something that happened to weak men, and was a sign of failure? Or so I was led to believe. I had somehow managed to convince myself that this job was going to provide me with the security and longevity that it would take to see me into my golden years. I would not have to worry about taking care of my daughter. I was taught to be loyal and work long and hard, and you will be rewarded, I was convinced this would be my last job, and if I somehow lost it, that I would not find another job. I was in a younger man’s field of work, and it would be difficult if not impossible to find work. I know, sounds crazy doesn’t it, as I write this and read it, I think that! But at the time, and how I was raised, I truly believed it.

A perfect emotional storm had been set up, all by me, and because I am a man, I did not show or share my feelings with anyone. I’m sure you can see what is coming….after 7 years of service with this company, I was fired, not for breaking a company policy or something I did, but because the division I was running was not making enough profit. I was devastated, I had never been fired from a job in my life, and now to be fired for something that I could not understand, and well it just feed into the anxiety that was already building inside of me. I immediately when into an “it’s cool, I’ll find a job soon” mode. I started to look for jobs, and in the next couple of weeks I had interviews set up. I thought, no problem, I’ll ace the interviews and then be able to pick a job, not realizing that I had not fully dealt with how I felt about being fired. I put so much pressure on myself that I did not fully prepare for the interviews, and the longer each one went, I found that finding the closing words I needed to seal the deal escaping me. I was starting to panic on the inside, but doing my best to keep this from my daughter and friends, my worst fears were coming true, and then it happened.

One night I woke up in the middle of the night, wide awake. I thought oh well I’ll just get something to drink and I’ll fall back asleep, but I didn’t. I never fell asleep that night and for the next couple of nights, this scenario played out again. I went to urgent care, to seek some help, and was given a prescription for a generic form of Ambien, I took it that night and fell asleep and stayed asleep. I was so relieved the next morning that I can’t put into words to describe the feeling. I regrouped and made plans to take on the world, but funny thing about the human brain, sometimes it doesn’t go with the plan. The sleep that I so coveted left me after one night and I was back playing the game, “would I stay asleep or would I wake and not be able to sleep?” I took another pill the first night, upping the dose, no luck, eventually I reached a state of complete fear of the night approaching, knowing that now I would not fall asleep at all.

This process played out night after night, for at least a week, each night producing more fear and panic and anxiety the next day. This built up in my mind as a wall builds up so high, that you think, “There is no way that I can climb something that high”. I couldn’t think straight, I was so tired during the day, yet so fearful of taking a nap, because that for sure would keep me from sleeping at night. As the night would approach, the anxiety would build, so no matter how tired I was, there was no way I was going to sleep. I was the mouse on the wheel, going nowhere, and getting nowhere. I could not take it anymore, One morning after repeating this nightmare, in a fit of panic, I took the remaining sleeping pills I had, I think about 10-15, and luckily called someone and said “I can’t take this anymore..” and downed the pills.

I remember waking up in the emergency room, and immediately thought, “What did I do?” I was this close to losing my daughter forever, let alone my own life. I was very upset with myself, and when the psych. people came to talk with me, I professed I did it out of “desperation for not sleeping”.  Can you believe that as it turns out, the professionals they sent to interview me, I knew one of the ladies, and at one time we were very close! I managed to convince them that I wasn’t really suicidal, but I just panicked, they let me go home as long as someone was with me, and my ex-wife said I could stay with her. Now mind you, I was already having trouble sleeping, now I was going to try and sleep on someone else’s couch?, and if that wasn’t enough, I now no longer had any medication to at least try and help me sleep. I think you can see where this is going…yes, disaster city.

After another night of tossing and turning, and I’m not talking just trying to get comfortable, I’m talking violent turning, you see when your brain is telling you “you’re not sleeping”, you actually are, just not a restful sleep. I would find this out later, after talking with a crisis manager, late one night. He asked me if I was hallucinating and talking to imaginary people. I told him no, and he told me then you are sleeping, because if you go without sleep for more than 72 hours, you will be hallucinating. Sorry for getting ahead of myself, so I digress, I was physically tossing and turning violently, because my body was fighting my brain, if you have been there, then you know. For those of you that have not, and I pray you have not!! It’s like boxing someone who isn’t there, throwing your best punches, yet never connecting, and it leaves you physically exhausted the next day. The next morning, my ex acted like “O.K. you got that out of your system, now snap out of it”.  I don’t blame her, because when you have never had to deal with a mental disorder, you are completely unprepared to do so.  Hell I didn’t know what to do, all I knew was there was something terribly wrong with me, and I was completely unable to deal with reality. I apologized to my daughter, and told her I could not take her to her softball tournament, and she could use my car, but I needed to go back to the Hospital, because I thought that was my best bet to get help. I was no good to anyone right now, and I figured if I was somewhere I thought I could get help, it would keep her and my ex from having to worry about me being safe, so back I went.

I know what you’re thinking….”that is a rational thought, so you couldn’t have been that wrong in the head” Even in the midst of a complete breakdown, sometimes you make the clearest decisions, when it concerns how you’re affecting the people around you. I didn’t care about me, I just knew I could not have people I care about being concerned for my safety. I have always thought that way, even though I was fooling myself, because I had just scared the hell out of them, and of course they were going to worry no matter where I was. Only through perseverance on my part, and with the help of some counseling, and here is the key to recovery…COMPLETE HONESTY with yourself and counselor and doctor, can you dig yourself out of that darkest of places, and heal. IT IS POSSIBLE!! I am living proof. I have a successful career and a stronger relationship with my daughter, I promised her I will never scare her like that again. This does not mean everything is puppy dogs and rainbows, I still have to work on it, but learn from what I am saying, and recognize the warning signs in you, and seek help. My motto is “Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness”,
David

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Aaron

I have realized that many with a mental illness are the strong ones. We are the ones who deal with something very difficult on a daily basis and yet we conquer, overcome, and in the end thrive. I refuse to be devoured because I am the lion seeking to devour the fear and the hardships that I face ahead. We are the king of the jungle because time and again we devour our fear, we devour our sadness, we devour our daily struggles with a ferocity many without an illness can not.

While sitting in the hospital working on feeling better there was one nagging thought going through my head. What will my community think? I already knew my employer would not be happy I am in the hospital for a Anxiety Disorder and Mood Disorder. But what would they small community I live in think?

See I moved from a large city where my condition was well managed and not many judged me. Then my wife of 12 years left me and I moved to a small town in Iowa where my family lives about a year after she left. I got a high position with a prominent company in this small community. This kind of illness is looked upon as weak the stigma is very much alive,

Not only do I have to worry about the financial repercussions of this episode I recently had I have to worry about my place in the community now. In short it kind of feels like Daniel in the lions den. Sitting there waiting to be devoured. Then something occurred to me. My family members are by my side and the people I care for are by my side and that’s really all that matters. I can not sit at this moment and give some inspirational quote or idea, but what I can say it that the people who are supposed to be in our lives are the ones who will always support us and thus those are the ones we need to surround ourselves with. While I deal with the stigma that will happen, I will put my sunglasses on to block out the haters. Learn from this and continue to grow. I not only have faith, I have hope and a ridiculous determination. See, I have realized that many with a mental illness are the strong ones. We are the ones who deal with something very difficult on a daily basis and yet we conquer, overcome, and in the end thrive. I refuse to be devoured because I am the lion seeking to devour the fear and the hardships that I face ahead. We are the king of the jungle because time and again we devour our fear, we devour our sadness, we devour our daily struggles with a ferocity many without an illness can not.

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Jessica W.

There is hope. and when you think everyone would be better off without you around or wouldn't miss you if you weren't alive anymore, think again, someone wants you someone needs you and someone out there lives for you. to me those people were my parents. People would tell me not to be selfish and commit suicide but as i thought about it i wasn't being selfish i was doing what i thought i needed to do for me and me only for once in my life. i put me first for once. luckily i got the help i needed. ever day is a struggle by i will get through it and so will you.

I never knew what depression or anxiety was until late high school(I am now 30). My first depressive episode was when I broke up with my high school boyfriend after a year together. Sounds pathetic i know but i was young. I was obviously sad for a long time, but from that time on things were just never right again. I became very self conscious and worried constantly what people thought of me. I thought I was never good enough, for friends, boys or my family. I lived the next few years pretty normal, I dated other guys and graduated high school.

I went to a community college my first year and that’s when I met my first “real” love. He was 2 years younger than me. Anyways I decided to transfer to a University after my first year of college. I was so excited to move into the dorms with my friend and start what i thought was “real” college. So I moved into the dorms and I was nervous of course. Well a few days after moving into the dorms I was sitting on my bed, literally looking at my boyfriend sitting at my desk chair, I blinked my eyes and my world changed. My thoughts started racing, I couldn’t get it all to stop. I felt like my head was going to explode. For the next few days I worried non stop about everything and most of all being alone physically and emotionally.

I went home to visit my parents and was sitting there and all of the sudden i couldn’t breathe, my heart was racing, I was hot and couldn’t calm down. My mom not thinking it was anything like anxiety called my dr thinking it was something with my respiratory system. Well the doctor said everything was fine with an EKG and everything and that she thought it was anxiety and depression. I was put on an anti depressant that day and have been on them ever since. so 12 years now.

The next few days were absolutely miserable. I was scared to death to be left alone, i couldn’t go to my classes, i didn’t want to leave my house and i couldn’t even sit in a room alone. Someone always had to be there or i would have horrible anxiety. It came down to me moving back home with my parents and just commuting to school. I noticed after that episode i started checking things more than just a double checking it would be 3 or more times. I would check my emergency brake in my car thinking i forgot to pull it up, i would check my hair straightener thinking i didn’t turn it off and would burn the house down. If i was counting something, after i was done counting, my head would still continue to count until i fixated on something else. I’d lay awake at night thinking of anything and everything, my mind just didn’t know how to shut off.

My main thoughts were that i didn’t really love my boyfriend i was with and it made me feel horrible. I’d sit around and think for hours and hours, do i love him or don’t i? if i really loved him i wouldn’t be thinking this and so on. This went on for a very long time. I eventually got attention from another guy and cheated on my boyfriend. The guilt was so bad i told my boyfriend everything and he forgave me. The only problem was it happened a few more times after that with more than 1 person. Each time my boyfriend forgave me. It was never that i didn’t love him or wanted to be with someone else, i just had been with him so long that attention from another guy was exciting. Its still no excuse. My boyfriend had to go to Japan for work for a week and i wouldn’t get to talk to him very much. I had cheated on him the night before and told him the next morning. And he said he didn’t know if he could be with me, he would think about it while he was away. That made me lose my mind. I was constantly anxious thinking he was going to come back and just not want to be with me anymore.

Everything i had known for the past 4 years would be gone over something that i could have stopped, it was all my fault i thought. I emailed him while he was away bothering him about staying with me and he was giving me vague answers so i freaked out even more and told him i couldn’t live anymore without him. He instantly found a way to call me because he was worried. A few times after that i had threatened my life to get him to stay with me. Finally in July of 2009 for some reason i told him i thought we needed time apart to figure out what both of us wanted. At this time i lived with him and his parents until i would move into my apartment in the next few months. The morning after i told him this, my anxiety got the best of me and i told him i regretted what i said and i wanted to be with him and to my surprise he finally said no i think this is what we need. I guess i was expecting him to take me back like had all the other times before that.

Anxiety hit full strength. I thought i was going to explode. I ended up writing him a letter on my computer, and told him via text that i couldn’t live anymore i just couldn’t handle it.  I then proceeded to take my bottle of xanax dump it in my hand and get in my car and try to drive to my parents other house 800 miles away. I stopped answering my phone and started swallowing a few pills every few minutes(in the end it was 26 pills i had swallowed) i stopped remembering bits of things as i drove. I ended up getting about 250 miles away before the police for that state pulled me over with guns in the air. My parents had called the police in our state to find me and they contacted the next state overs police. So i got out of my car, the police asked me what was going on and i told them. The officer asked me do you want to go to the hospital and i said yes.

I don’t remember the ride there but i remember being in the ER and having to drink charcoal to counteract the xanax i had swallowed before it killed me. They asked me if i would voluntarily commit myself for a few days or would they have to make me stay which would mean i would be there longer. so i volunteered. I decided pretty quickly that i didn’t want to stay after all because they told me originally 24 hours and then someone said 72 minimum so i freaked i tried to leave and the security guard tried to stop me and i was like um no i’m leaving get the hell out of my way. I ended up staying for 5 days. my parents visited everyday and i spoke to one of my friends on the phone and my aunts. no one else knew what was going on. Well it was time to go home and home meant going to my boyfriends and getting my stuff and moving out. I tried to get him to give me another chance but he said no this is whats best. The anxiety was so bad for the next few months i was scared to be alone again. I missed a lot of work. I drank a lot and did promiscuous things that i am not proud of. All to mask the pain i was going through.

Today i don’t think it was all the breakup that was causing the anxiety. I think it was also the fear of never finding someone else and never being good enough. Well I eventually got the anxiety under control after a few years. And years went on until just recently the end of last month. I woke up the day after my 30th birthday party with horrible anxiety that i hadn’t felt in over 5 or more years. Something was wrong i just knew it in my gut. Well i found out that day that my husband had cheated on me the night before. All i wanted to do was lay in my bed. I couldn’t get the anxiety to go away. It was much worse the time before i had found out. After i found out later that afternoon the anxiety felt different. I was scared of what to do, should i leave him should i give him another chance. Would he fight to keep me or would he walk away. Thoughts just raced on and on like before. I ended up having to go back on an anxiety medicine to take when i had attacks. And now i am back to worrying constantly and thinking the worst of everything. My world was turned upside down all over again.

Now a little more than 2 weeks later, i am here surviving living day by day constantly worried about what he is doing and who he is talking to. I want to question him constantly but i know i have to take control and just live my life and take on whatever is thrown my way. Some moments are better than others. And i don’t know if the anxiety will ever go away again, but i know i wont let it debilitate me again. I have a daughter i have to live for and take care of. I had a few years in between those 2 events where i had hope that there was a chance of living life free of anxiety or at least the severe attacks now i am not so sure again. I hope i make it out of this alive. But i know i am not alone and i have people to support me and push me to get better. There is hope. and when you think everyone would be better off without you around or wouldn’t miss you if you weren’t alive anymore, think again, someone wants you, someone needs you and someone out there lives for you. To me those people were my parents. People would tell me not to be selfish and commit suicide but as i thought about it i wasn’t being selfish i was doing what i thought i needed to do for me and me only for once in my life. I put me first for once. Luckily i got the help i needed. Every day is a struggle but i will get through it and so will you.

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Cassidy C

I wasn't diagnosed with having panic attacks/anxiety until the age of 13. Since then, I've been on and off different medications and therapy for this. But in my opinion, nothing helps more than the medication & counseling. One without the other doesn't cut it for me unfortunately that's how bad it is for me. I can't even experience 'good stress' as in going away on a vacation, going to a friend's wedding, waiting to see one of my favorite bands.

Hi there, I think that sharing your story is VERY important!!!! Unfortunately, I’m a bit camera shy so I’m going to type my story…

I have been dealing with anxiety issues all my life I believe… The first real panic attack I remember is when a bully told me my mom was dead and wouldn’t be there to meet me at the bus stop like she did EVERYDAY! It was horrible! But I wasn’t diagnosed with having panic attacks/anxiety until the age of 13. Since then, I’ve been on and off different medications and therapy for this. But in my opinion, nothing helps more than the medication & counseling. One without the other doesn’t cut it for me unfortunately that’s how bad it is for me. I can’t even experience ‘good stress’ as in going away on a vacation, going to a friend’s wedding, waiting to see one of my favorite bands. Because come on now!!! Who can live without your tunes!?! Lol!

Sometimes I see the light at the end of the tunnel and my anxiety disorder isn’t too bad and I start to taper off of the meds, to be blindsided by crippling attacks AGAIN!!

I went through a 2 year period where a doctor was prescribing adderall 30mg 3 times a say for me while I was going to college. And up until I started this medication, I could keep my anxiety in check for the most part, it wasn’t ruining my life, let’s say. But after I was taken off of the adderall is when I spun out of control with the anxiety and attacks. I believe that being speeded up like that, did something to my brain! I really wish this doctor knew enough to not prescribe this to someone that had preconditions like panic attacks/anxiety. Truth be told though, I believe he was ‘A script dr.’ I’m sure you have heard of them… Go to them, pay them cash, and you will get whatever you want. Basically a legal drug pusher!

I also deal with depression. I’ve been on ssooo many medications for depression that I lost count over the years. Either they make me feel worse than I already feel, I get zombified (meaning ‘Oh, the house is burning down? So what? We have insurance. Our stuff is replaceable.’ No ups, no downs. And I just can’t deal with that AT ALL! What I found was a medication used to treat nerve pain called, Gabapentin. See, what this medication does is creates more gaba (a natural occurring chemical in your brain) and releases more into your brain. I call them my happy pills! Lol. But seriously, if you are like me and have a hard time taking antidepressants/mood stablizers/whatever they like to label them, I suggest asking doc for these.

I’m also a recovering addict. I’m clean 7 years with thanks to the suboxone program. I wasn’t a street drug user, I have legitimate health issues that sometimes disable me from leading a productive life. So here I am diagnosed with a neurovascular non cancerous inoperable tumor and two herniated discs in my back and fibromyalgia all at the age of 13. Little did I know that the doctor’s were getting me hooked on these meds!!! It just seemed that 1 wasn’t doing it anymore, then 2 or 3 wasn’t cutting it… I went to school with people that became addicted to heroin, but that wasn’t me!!! I’m under a doctor’s care, so how can I be labeled a junkie? Is what I kept telling myself anyways… I finally caught wise to the whole thing around age 16/17 when I had helped a friend go through a detox. It’s the same, weather you are under a doctor’s care or you are buying it from the street. I do believe pills are harder to quit than heroin, because they are soooo much stronger!

I guess that’s about it for me and my story, thank you so much for taking the time to read it and if you have ANY questions or something you would like to know more about, please feel free to respond. Much love to you all suffering with mental and physical health issues!

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Sara

I share this because I am a professional working with people living with severe mental illness and I still struggle to practice what I preach. I consider myself an advocate but the stigma around mental illness continues to affect my relationships. I encourage everyone to share their stories to find support and especially to remind those who have a loved one with mental illness that they also need to take care of their own mental health. I seriously believe we can end stigma if we step up, share our stories and not be afraid to talk about the taboo subjects.

When I was a sophomore in college many years ago I fell in love for the first time. I met a boy who was calm, compassionate, funny, down to earth – who loved to have a good time. The majority of the memories I have are of us together laughing but I also have memories that aren’t as pleasant. Somewhere in the few months of being together he shared with me that he had depression -he opened up about a history of abuse and told me not to worry, that he just wanted to share that with me and that he would “get over it” as if he had the power to make it go away. He also asked me not to tell anyone – to keep this to myself.

At the time I found his request appropriate. Who wants all of their private information thrown around to the world? As we continued our relationship together there were some ups and downs, some unrelated to his depressions, and others not. He would have bad days and I would do by best to be there for him – to listen, to support – not knowing what else to do. This began to take a toll on me – I was constantly worried and my anxiety would rise if I noticed he missed class or wasn’t with his friends. In the back of my head I always wondered if he thought about suicide, but I was too afraid to ask and worried it would ruin our relationship.

My inability to ask questions and share with anyone how his mental illness affected me eventually ruined our relationship. I wish I had asked him more about how he was feeling instead of ignoring a big part of his life. I wish I chose to seek help for my own anxiety that this situation caused. Eventually he broke up with me because he knew he had to put himself first – he told me he had thought about killing himself and was going to seek help.

At that point I used my voice and told a counselor at our school what was happening. I was heartbroken for a long time ( I think a part of me still is today). But I opened up and shared how I was feeling with the people close to me. Eventually he got a counselor and was put on some meds and our romantic relationship turned into a platonic on. He opened up to his friends about his history with depression and developed a support system greater that me . I knew his life was not my business like it once was and I knew he was getting help so I never asked him seriously how he was doing. I kept my space and we both tried to keep up a friendship.

A few years later I learned that he had attempted suicide and my heart broke again. He was and still is an amazing person and I was so angry thinking he would leave behind all of the people that care so much about him. To this day we are still friends and I still struggle with out relationship. He is my best friend and was my first love and I still have fear in asking him about his mental illness because it is such a taboo subject.

I share this because I am a professional working with people living with severe mental illness and I still struggle to practice what I preach. I consider myself an advocate but the stigma around mental illness continues to affect my relationships. I encourage everyone to share their stories to find support and especially to remind those who have a loved one with mental illness that they also need to take care of their own mental health. I seriously believe we can end stigma if we step up, share our stories and not be afraid to talk about the taboo subjects. This is the first time I’m sharing my story and I thank you for listening.

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Jasmine V

I only disclosed my diagnosis to maybe 2 or 3 people and even then I didn’t explain the extent of the situation. I was constantly trying to prove that I was just a normal happy girl, even though I was dying inside. Last year, I decided to stop fighting it. I disclosed my diagnosis to all of my family and friends and was both humbled and surprised by the amount of support that I received. This was the best decision I could have ever made. Now that I am able to be open and honest about my diagnosis, I feel like I can live my true self. I can show the world the real me.

As I sit here and look back on that day, the day my life changed, I can’t help but feel emotional. Let me start at the beginning..

My entire life I have always felt off, for lack of a better word, I can remember being a child and wanting nothing more than to feel loved. There was one person in my life that made me feel like my existence mattered, my grandmother. My mom couldn’t bother to be my mom and my sister, well, she had to deal with battling against my mom, so that left my grandmother to focus on me and me only. Living with her were the best years of my life which is why when she was no longer the person raising me, I felt like my world had shattered. I can’t really tell if I felt “depressed” before my grandmother left or after. On one hand, I always wanted my mom to want to be my mom. On the other hand, my grandmother did fill a big part of that void. Don’t get me wrong, My mom wasn’t all bad, we did share some fond memories – Michael Myers movie marathons, candy bars on friday’s, days at the beach. Distant memories.

When I began High School, the emptiness I felt became more apparent. I was so alone. I had no one to talk to and spent many days battling whether or not I wanted to continue living life this way. I never spoke a word about these feelings to anyone. Oftentimes, I would lay in my bath with my face completely submerged in the water contemplating if this would be my way to go. I recall trying to hold my body down until that quick second when I would change my mind. Still, I said nothing. I would skip school to drink because drinking was the only time the pain would go away. I just wanted to escape. No amount of drinking, contemplating suicide, or self harming would change a thing.

Fast forward to the year I was diagnosed..I was 18. I was a single mom, fresh out of an abusive relationship (both physical and emotional) and I really didn’t know where I was headed. At this point, I would contemplate suicide on a regular basis and suffered from panic attacks, sometimes multiple times a day. I went to a doctor’s appointment and informed him that I was having difficulty sleeping, this is when I was referred to a psychiatrist.

The day of my appointment with the psychiatrist..I had not intended to tell her anything other than the fact that I was having difficulty sleeping. I sat in the chair and my heart was beating so hard, I swore that she could hear it. I was nauseous and drained and I haven’t even spoken a word to her yet. “Tell me what’s wrong” – That was all she said. 4 words. That was all it took for me to completely fall apart and say everything that has been on my mind ever since I can remember. She asked if I had contemplated suicide and if so how many times, I was hesitant to answer but then decided that I couldn’t hold it in much longer. I told her that I thought about suicide more than once a day and suffered from constant panic attacks. I explained that just the mere thought of being around people was exhausting and would cause me symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and panic attacks. I couldn’t see people and I didn’t want to live my life, double whammy. At this point, she diagnosed me with major depressive disorder along with some generalized and social anxiety. I was devastated. I was embarrassed, I didn’t want anyone to find out about this diagnosis. What was I supposed to do now? Am I crazy? Whats wrong with me? “Mental Illness” – that term really freaked me out.

I was given the option of taking medications, which I tried for a little while, but in the end decided against it for two reasons.

I didn’t want anyone to find out that I had a mental illness and thought that they would see the medications
I didn’t feel comfortable with how the medications made my body feel

This was 7 years ago. For the last 7 years, I have lived in hiding. I only disclosed my diagnosis to maybe 2 or 3 people and even then I didn’t explain the extent of the situation. I was constantly trying to prove that I was just a normal happy girl, even though I was dying inside. Last year, I decided to stop fighting it. I disclosed my diagnosis to all of my family and friends and was both humbled and surprised by the amount of support that I received. This was the best decision I could have ever made. Now that I am able to be open and honest about my diagnosis, I feel like I can live my true self. I can show the world the real me.

So, you’ve been diagnosed, Now what? – Live your life. Don’t hide who you are and just know that while it is a daily battle, it is a battle that you do not have to fight alone. Confide in your friends and family, seek out support groups, and follow this blog for some tips I use to keep me going.

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Tiffany B

After high school I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and depression. Everyday life can be very difficult, fear rules my life.

As a young child I was diagnosed with PTSD. After high school I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and depression. Everyday life can be very difficult, fear rules my life.

I dropped out of college due to my disorders. I have yet to learn to drive due to my disorders.

Parties, although I love to attend, terrify me.  And phone calls are the worse. I even fear the labels and judgement people place on me due to what I haven’t done or have yet to do; thinking that I am weak or a loser. I dread the fact that I may feel this way for the rest of my life.

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Kaylee

The next day I was at school and for some reason I just lost it. I found myself in the guidance counselors office bawling my eyes out. I told her everything. Before this, no one knew about my depression. I never told because I didn't think I had a reason to be depressed. I had food in my stomach, clothes on my back and a roof over my head.

I’ve always had lingering symptoms of depression and anxiety growing up. My parents fought constantly. My home was a warzone. I was scared to go home from school everyday. I grew up believing that’s what love was. So I hit middle school and of course that’s when you start getting interested in relationships and boys and stuff. I was scared to love. I didn’t know how to love. I didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship. So I treated people pretty bad. Even my friends.

For some odd reason I did have plenty of friends. I was also great at sports and was a straight A student. What more could you ask for right? In 6th grade there was this boy that was a year older than me. I don’t know what I did to make him mad. He would bully me and get his friends to help. They would call me sir and they decided to call me “Kyle” instead of my actual name Kaylee. I pretended it didn’t bother me, but it really damaged my self esteem. This is when I started struggling more with my anxiety.

After 8th grade, I moved to a Christian High School. I loved it. The kids were nicer and so were the staff. This was such a good change for me, but this is when depression hit me like a hurricane. I mentioned it was a Christian school I moved to. Well, I wasn’t very religious. I believed in God, but no one would have ever guess I was a Christian because I sure did not act like it. It was hard to relate to people at this new school. Everyone seemed so happy. They were so involved with God and Church and I wasn’t. I thought that made me a bad person. Also, I was no longer a top athlete or a top student. I started seeing myself as even more worthless than before.

My sophomore year, my grandma got very sick. She had open heart surgery 5 days before my 16th birthday. She was expected to  make a full recovery. She was in and out of the hospital for about 2 months and during those 2 months of watching my best friend suffer, I started cutting. It started off as something I could control, but then it took over and controlled me. I would cut 3-4 times a week maybe more. I was just so numb and I just needed to feel something. I felt guilty that my grandma had to suffer. She was a great person who didn’t deserve that pain. I thought I did. So I punished myself by cutting.

Things slowly got worse. July 15th, 2015, I get a call at 3 in the morning. My grandpa was trying to contact my parents. My grandmas heart rate had slowed down. She was going to be leaving soon. My parents rushed to the hospital. I called my dad to come and get me because I couldn’t go to sleep knowing I would wake up and my grandma wouldn’t. I walked into her hospital room and I grabbed her hand. I watched my best friend take her last breath. That night, part of me died with her. I completely shut down. I didn’t grieve. I built a wall and moved on. I made it through the funeral, but couldn’t even go to the burial. Inside, I was a mess. But I pretended nothing happened and just kept going.

The cutting got worse and eventually I wanted to kill myself. There were nights where I was going to do it. One night was especially bad and I was talking to a friend with the pills in one hand and the phone in the other. Somehow she talked me out of it. That’s when I hit rock bottom. The next day I was at school and for some reason I just lost it. I found myself in the guidance counselors office bawling my eyes out. I told her everything. Before this, no one knew about my depression. I never told because I didn’t think I had a reason to be depressed. I had food in my stomach, clothes on my back and a roof over my head. I thought that since I was a Christian now, I couldn’t be sad. I thought I was over reacting. All those nights I cried and cut. All those panic attacks at social events. I thought it was my fault. I thought I wasn’t trying hard enough to be happy or to be a good Christian.

The guidance counselor helped me tell my parents and I got set up with a counselor. I’ve been seeing a counselor and taking antidepressants for about 9 months now. I’m not where I want to be, but recovery is a day by day process and I’m moving forward.

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Anna W

I have just begun to find my voice, to find ME, and I have no intention of letting depression, anxiety, body image issues or anything else stop that. I really don't have a great way to end this so I'll just say . . . I care. Know that there is someone out there that cares and just try to remember that.

I remember very clearly in the third grade, in a new school, finding it very hard to eat in the crowded lunchroom. I’d never had this problem in my old school. My stomach ached and I felt nauseous, my throat was tight and the food on my tray was suddenly so unappealing. I went to the nurse. The first of many trips throughout the next, long, few years. I wouldn’t want to go out, not even with my family. I could barely eat in restaurants. School was hell even if I was fine on the outside. I became very good at hiding how I felt inside. I was petrified of gym class. Of lunch. Eventually, I couldn’t even focus in class and I felt like nothing mattered, like how I felt didn’t matter, but I had to keep going. I didn’t want to disappoint my family, didn’t want to cause problems at school. I knew the location of every bathroom in school and during which times they were least likely to have people in them. I became more familiar with those four walled stalls than any of my classmates. Not that I would tell them about any of this. I was the listener, the one who had a sarcastic sense if humor you could tell your troubles to.

I had no idea what I was going through was anxiety and depression,that I wasn’t supposed to HATE myself so much. I didn’t know that doing simple things like brushing my teeth and showering weren’t supposed to be so hard. I started counseling with no hope. It was like pulling teeth at first because when did I ever talk about my feelings like they actually mattered? My counselor (and my mom) greatly championed for me to get homeschooling and I will be forever grateful for that, I never would have graduated otherwise.

After, I slipped into depression worse than ever. I started self-harming worse than when I was in high school and will always have the scars. But I also came to know more about my mental illness. I learned that I mattered, even if I didn’t feel like it. I learned that my past, and even my family, had contributed to what I’m facing now and that this will be a life long struggle for me but suicide isn’t the answer and that asking for help when you need it, asking for what YOU need, isn’t being a burden. It’s what you deserve as a human being. Even if that means going to the hospital for your own safety, like I did. I am a patchwork of burn scars, tattoos, self-esteem issues and passion. I have just begun to find my voice, to find ME, and I have no intention of letting depression, anxiety, body image issues or anything else stop that.

I really don’t have a great way to end this so I’ll just say . . . I care. Know that there is someone out there that cares and just try to remember that.

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Katie H

Generalized anxiety started to rule my life around age 13, as did the symptoms of anorexia: restriction, over exercising, calorie counting, and obsessive weighing. By age 14, I was on a cold, dark path toward death.

I was first diagnosed with depression at age 13, but my world was dark long before my first diagnosis. I was never suicidal, but everything was almost painfully numb. My life felt empty. Two years later, I was diagnosed with social and generalized anxiety and anorexia. My eating disorder took its root in my thoughts as early as age six, with body dysmorphia and a perception of food that led me to glamorize extreme weight loss. I’m not sure when these anorexic thoughts were triggered, but I think it had a lot to do with my extreme sensitivity to societal messages, low self esteem that stemmed from bullying, and a mother who struggled with disordered eating.

Around this time, social anxiety ran rampantly in my brain and left me so terrified of the world around me. Generalized anxiety started to rule my life around age 13, as did the symptoms of anorexia: restriction, over exercising, calorie counting, and obsessive weighing. By age 14, I was on a cold, dark path toward death.

At age 15, I was admitted against my will to inpatient treatment for anorexia for five months. I have been out of the hospital for about a year, and am still struggling quite a bit but have come further than I ever imagined. I am fighting PTSD in addition to anxiety, depression, and anorexia. I have battled self harm off and on, as well as suicidality. The eating disorder thoughts are terrible, but they don’t dictate my life most days.

I am living proof that there is hope.

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Joe W

At some point I realized my heart was racing, I was breaking out in a cold sweat and my chest was tightening and and beginning to hurt. It was only a month later I realized I was having a panic attack. During my 25 years serving churches I had often faced hostility of all kinds, even death threats and now I was experiencing the toll all that had taken on me.

Greeting people after the 11:00 worship service was a 25 year old routine for me as pastor of a United Methodist Church. But what happened that Sunday morning changed my whole life and my families’ life. As he was leaving one man was particularly angry at me. He said ugly words which I do not know remember, out of shock I suppose. I do remember his response when I asked him what was wrong. He just said, “Read my email!”.

At some point I realized my heart was racing, I was breaking out in a cold sweat and my chest was tightening and and beginning to hurt. It was only a month later I realized I was having a panic attack.

During my 25 years serving churches I had often faced hostility of all kinds, even death threats and now I was experiencing the toll all that had taken on me.

Now I am on disability and though I dearly love and still feel called to be a pastor, I know I can never do it again. It is not weakness nor is it denying my God given call. It is recognition of the fact that, like Jesus, I had come to the place where I was no longer able to carry the cross that I was still willing to carry.

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Anna K

For mental health week at my school, there was an anonymous drop box where students could write their stories with mental illnesses. I submitted my story, thinking it would be a good outlet to let out my emotions. My story was read in front of the entire school in an assembly, and I told one girl who I thought was my friend that it was my story. She proceeded to tell the entire grade, and of course, the entire grade proceeded to bully me more.

When I was in grade 3, my mom couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be around anybody, and didn’t have many friends. She took me to the doctor, and then to a mental illness hospital, where I was diagnosed with social anxiety. I didn’t really understand what it meant, I thought I was just a bit shy, because that’s what my teacher would tell me. That same year, my teacher noticed I wouldn’t pay attention in class. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get through the lesson without getting distracted by something. I went back to the mental illness hospital, and was diagnosed with ADHD.

Since mental illnesses were something completely new to me, I didn’t understand why I was scared of people or why I couldn’t pay attention and listen to anything. Fast forward a few months, my best friend was switching schools, so I did too. We were at different schools, and he was my only friend, so I was terrified of a new school. First day of 4th grade, I cried the entire day. Nobody wanted to be near me, and nobody tried to talk to me. I isolated myself from everyone else, I was the weird kid. The asshole kids thought it would be funny to make fun of me, and I was emotionally bullied that entire year.

In 5th grade, there were two new people who didn’t get along with the other kids too. I made friends with them, and stuff wasn’t too bad. That’s when the physical bullying started. The mean kids would pile on top of me, and hold me down. They would call me names, throw things like chairs and basketballs at me, they hated me. I started to believe what they were saying was true, and that I really did deserve death.

I figured out what I had was depression after hearing the story of Amanda Todd in grade 6. So I was a 12 year old girl with social anxiety, ADHD, and depression. I finally left the school after grade 6, I thought I was finally free. I decided to go to an all girls private school, what could go wrong? In October of grade 7, one of my friends from my last school was diagnosed with lung cancer. He went through waves of severe depression, and when he was told he had gone terminal, he jumped off his balcony on the 20th floor. I was stricken with the worst depression and anxiety I had ever had, and I didn’t think I could go on. I also have a balcony, on the second floor. I stood on the edge, millimetres away from my wanted death. I thought about my other friend from my last school, and how hard it would be to lose your two best friends. I fell back onto the balcony, and went inside as if nothing had happened.

During grade 7, the emotional bullying started up again. There was one girl in particular who made up countless rumours about me, like that I only self-harmed for the attention and that I was born a boy and was transgender, and that’s why I was so ugly. It was around this time that I got more into music, bands like twenty øne piløts and Panic! At The Disco. By the time I was in grade 8, I was starting to make a recovery from my friends suicide. The bullying continued, I tried to ignore it. Much like what happened in my last school, I started believing what they were saying about me. In May of grade 8, my other friend from my old school took his life too. It was like getting hit by a bus, standing up, then getting hit by ten more immediately. My depression and anxiety multiplied, I wanted to die more than ever. I jumped off my balcony, but survived with merely a broken arm.

For mental health week at my school, there was an anonymous drop box where students could write their stories with mental illnesses. I submitted my story, thinking it would be a good outlet to let out my emotions. My story was read in front of the entire school in an assembly, and I told one girl who I thought was my friend that it was my story. She proceeded to tell the entire grade, and of course, the entire grade proceeded to bully me more. They would ask to sign my cast, then write “kill yourself for real this time” and “attention seeking whore”.

The only things that kept me going were music and my best friend. I changed schools after grade 8, and just recently graduated grade 9 at my new school. My new school is much more welcoming, I haven’t been bullied at all yet. In the 15 years of my life, I’ve dealt with multiple forms of anxiety, adhd, depression, 2 suicides, and endless bullying. Music and my best friends are what have kept and still keep me going.

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Kimberley D

Will I fully come to the surface? Will my true self give into this dark beast inside of me? I will not allow it. For everyday I have shown how I can overcome even a small battle against it, I WILL overcome this. And so can you. Speak up, call out till you are blue in the face if you have to, show how you aren’t a sufferer but a SURVIVOR. If you can even do the smallest thing like getting out of bed and do one thing that your brain tells you that you can’t. Know, that you are fighting it, you have conquered that part and you WILL come out of the darkness.

I have suffered from and still continue this ongoing battle against depression and anxiety.

I first started suffering from it in University, in my last year life was changing rapidly and I started not wanting to leave my bedroom. Life stood still. People carried on as normal and I looked on, amazed at how they can carry on with their day to day lives while I felt stuck, unable to move from the spot I was in. I didn’t want to do any work and being my third and final year, it was very important to graduate, ready for the next stage of my life.

It got so bad that a few times I would end up crying for no reason and contemplate suicide. Once, that happened around my boyfriends house and I had a plan all ready to end my life, I remember sitting there crying hysterically planning to pack my stuff, get on a bus and go down to the river and drown myself. My boyfriend then suggested that I should seek help from my university and so, I got in touch with the university’s mental health support. They provided me with counselling through the university which helped me tremendously. I went to my GP and got anti-depressant pills which I took off and on, just because I felt that I was already better when I took them. I thought I was cured…but thats the thing; depression can be an ongoing process and an off and on process, its not something that can just be overseen or discarded into the back of the mind and never heard from again. It impacts your life in many ways. I managed to finish my degree and just scraped through.

I currently am still suffering from depression and take the anti-depressant pills but it has helped me live a life I once thought I didn’t deserve. I go out with friends, family, co-workers. I do activities, I challenge myself every-single-day to do something different, go out of my comfort zone, ask questions that my brain believes is stupid and not worth it to ask, I talk to strangers in and outside of work, just to make sure that I can beat this depression, this black hole I am in. My confidence is gaining, I feel like I am slowly coming into myself. That the person who I once was? who is dying inside me, is now slowly being pulled out to the surface.

Will I fully come to the surface? Will my true self give into this dark beast inside of me? I will not allow it. For everyday I have shown how I can overcome even a small battle against it, I WILL overcome this. And so can you. Speak up, call out till you are blue in the face if you have to, show how you aren’t a sufferer but a SURVIVOR. If you can even do the smallest thing like getting out of bed and do one thing that your brain tells you that you can’t. Know, that you are fighting it, you have conquered that part and you WILL come out of the darkness.

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Kasmine R

As a writer, this has probably been the toughest story for me to write. Although, I wish I could erase the memories, I know that my story will help other people understand mental illness, and, most importantly, I will help people realize that their not alone. My story begins with the darkness; the darkness that overcomes your world, clouds your mind, and develops into hopelessness.

As a writer, this has probably been the toughest story for me to write. Although, I wish I could erase the memories, I know that my story will help other people understand mental illness, and, most importantly, I will help people realize that their not alone. My story begins with the darkness; the darkness that overcomes your world, clouds your mind, and develops into hopelessness. On May 17th, 2016, I attempted suicide for the second time in my life. I wanted to end all of the pain and I wanted to drown in my depression. I had no faith in seeking help or praying that their was a light at the end of the tunnel. I called my parents right before I proceeded to cut my wrist. I was laying on the kitchen floor, my eyes closed, and silently crying while my parents begged me to not give up on life. “Please, Kasmine, don’t do this,” My daddy cried. “Please, live for me.”

That’s the only reason I’m here to write my story. My neighbors found me, took me to the hospital, and the next morning I was admitted to Peachford Mental Hospital in Atlanta, GA. I stayed in the hospital for three days and at first I refused to believe that I belonged there. I thought that I was stronger than the other patients and I desperately begged to leave, and continue my chaotic life. I was a writer, a blogger, and playwright. I had rehearsals to direct, a cast to manage, and show to put on at the end of June. However, once I accepted the fact that I had to put my mental health on the forefront, I knew that nothing else mattered until I received the help that I needed; the help that I deserved. I met the most amazing friends while in the hospital. For so long, I had battled with depression and my phobias and I felt so alone, but at Peachford Hospital I was able to find women who could relate to me. We were like a group of super heroes with secret powers that the rest of the world couldn’t handle. Sometimes we couldn’t even handle our own “powers”. After I was released from the hospital, my parents picked me up and they, along with my oldest sister, helped me pack all of my belongings from my one bedroom apartment. I had to break my lease and move from Atlanta back to Alabama with my parents to seek much needed therapy, and that’s where I am right now.

That’s pretty much how I ended up sitting on my old bed, in my old bedroom while typing this story to share with you guys. I begin cognitive behavior therapy to confront my two phobias of dogs and cats on Friday. Although I don’t know what the future has in store for me, I no longer allow PTSD, depression, and anxiety to dictate my life. Right before I attempted suicide, I had barricaded myself in my apartment. I was afraid to leave because of my fear of cats and I felt so alone. Only a few people understand how confined and empty you feel when you’re living with a phobia. No one realizes how many times I would sit in my car for two hours hiding from my neighbor’s cats. Once I finally was capable of getting out of my car, I never made it to my apartment door without peeing on myself. That’s only scratching the surface of my phobia, but I am determined to overcome it.

No one said that life is always roses and cupcakes with extra sprinkles. Life isn’t always easy but I’m devoted to ending the stigma of mental illness. I no longer suffer from it but I fight it everyday and I will continue to fight it because I am not a victim, but a survivor. I will conquer this even if it’s only because I need to for someone else. I just want others to know that you’re not alone and we can survive together. Please don’t allow the darkness to drag you down and drain the hope and faith for better days. You have a purpose to live so, please, don’t give up on yourself.

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Rachel B

I'm often told because I'm smiling, because I laugh and enjoy life that there can't possibly be something wrong with me.

I’m often told because I’m smiling, because I laugh and enjoy life that there can’t possibly be something wrong with me. The truth is, every day something will give me some sort of anxiety. Sometimes it’s taking a simple jog, other times it’s something as easy as ordering coffee. For me personally, that anxiety often leads to severe depressive episodes. It’s as if my mind is against me. So I do the fake it until I make it and hope that it works that day.

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TJ

We should share our stories and let our voices be heard. We need to show people that mental illness is not just black & white; that there is an entire plethora of emotions that people deal with. We need to show people that mental illness is NOT a sign of weakness or invalidity. Most importantly, we need for people to understand that this illness isn't born out of ignorance or a crave for attention-- but that it's very, very real.

#WhatsYourStory #MindOurFuture #MentalHealth
Join @bringchange2mind, myself and countless others as we continue to share our stories, and start the conversation to end the stigma.

Yes, it’s true. Everyone knows me as the happy, fun and (hysterically) funny person that I am… but I face an illness, as so many others do, on the daily. Two years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety-depression. My symptoms ranged from nervousness, irritability, lack of sleep and a sadness so great that I often wonder how I even overcame it. I distanced myself from family & friends and constantly struggled to get out of the house to function in society. It took a pretty low moment in my life to finally be able to seek help by talking to a medical professional. I was prescribed medication, and slowly but surely recovered.

Today, I can proudly say I’m stronger than ever. However, this doesn’t mean that the illness has simply disappeared forever. What I went through, happened. And who I was, existed. Mental Health is a very important topic that shouldn’t be talked about lightly.

We should share our stories and let our voices be heard. We need to show people that mental illness is not just black & white; that there is an entire plethora of emotions that people deal with. We need to show people that mental illness is NOT a sign of weakness or invalidity. Most importantly, we need for people to understand that this illness isn’t born out of ignorance or a crave for attention– but that it’s very, very real.

Comment below with questions, I won’t be afraid to answer. Let’s show people that there should be a conversation had, and remind those with mental illness that they are not fighting the great fight alone.
Share your story at @bringchange2mind or comment below.
#WhatsYourStory #MindOurFuture #MentalHealth

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Nicole R

Everything in life takes work. Degrees, relationships, careers etc. I look at mental health in the same manner. For some people it takes work to feel happy, content. There are good professionals out there. They can help. And for anyone who is feeling alone- You Are Not. To all of those who struggle, I have faith in you. Keep going.

I’m a fairly private person. I know there’s a lot about me and my life that would shock people. But I also believe that there’s a chance that sharing could reach a person, touch a person. So, for that reason alone, I choose to share. I’m 38. Ive worked in the mental health field…I also struggle with clinical depression and anxiety.

My life has been challenging, since childhood. I come from a troubled family. (I don’t know why I allow admitting that to cause me so much shame). This caused me to experience depression since as young as 9.

In the past decade alone I lost my father to brain cancer, a close friend in a plane crash, and had two car accidents that left with me with a broken nose, torn labrum, fractured sacrum, herniations, nerve damage and a defeated spirit. I live in chronic pain. I’ve been active my entire life. It has always been an outlet for me. My accidents robbed me of my strongest coping skill. I slipped into the deepest depression, isolating myself from the world. Not showering. Not eating. Crying all night, sleeping all day.

One afternoon in January of 2012 I overdosed on my pain medication in attempt to end my life. The days following were a blur, but I was hospitalized, kept for a few days and returned back into the world in which I had lost faith in.

Baby steps.

It’s taken me years to get back to where I was physically and I continue to journey down the road to get to where I would like to be emotionally.

Baby steps.

The stigma behind mental health is disappointing . One should not feel embarrassed to admit to depression or otherwise just as one shouldn’t feel embarrassed to admit to having cancer. It’s an illness! Its a shame that people easily throw around judgments, opinions, etc. Perhaps it stems from fear and ignorance. After all, how well do you really know a person? Even those you think you know may be carrying a burden so heavy, privately, like I did.

Everything in life takes work. Degrees, relationships, careers etc. I look at mental health in the same manner. For some people it takes work to feel happy, content. There are good professionals out there. They can help. And for anyone who is feeling alone- You Are Not. To all of those who struggle, I have faith in you. Keep going.

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Julia A

Those days were long, exacting, their edges sharp. I would not wish that pain on my worst enemy. I would shield even the most unholy person from it. There was nothing easy about it. There was no miracle remedy, in pill form or otherwise. Make no mistake, I fought my way back to the light, crawling on hands and knees, bruised, bleeding. The light came in small, barely tangible fragments. The darkness still did its best to extinguish it. Then, eventually, it was gone.

Those Days
By Julia K. Agresto

I look in the mirror. My face is foreign, my eyes sullen. My skin is not my own. I am living with a stranger, and the stranger is me.

You’ll feel better tomorrow, I tell myself. You’ll be fine. Tomorrow becomes today, and I still feel the same. I am not better. I am not fine.

I don’t know who I am anymore. I have found myself in the grips of anxiety and depression, the result of a recent string of events – most notably, losing my job – and quite possibly also the culmination of a long series of losses and letdowns, whether of my own volition or not.

I never expected to be single, living alone and unemployed in my mid 20’s, collapsing under the weight of everything that has gone wrong, every personal failure, real or imagined. I see photos on social media of friends and others who appear to be having the time of their lives. Meanwhile, I can barely get out of bed or cook myself a meal, and most of them don’t even seem to notice or care.

Some mornings I wake up, if I’ve even slept, and half expect to jump out of bed with the vigor of my old self. Good as new, miraculously cured, as if the darkness of night carried away all the hurt and the morning light replaced it with healing.

Some nights I close my eyes and think how it would feel to be someone else, even for an hour. To feel whole again. To be able to piece myself together like a jigsaw puzzle until I was complete, a nice coherent picture to hang on the wall. I know this is irrational. I am broken, at least for now. There will be no neat, logical rearranging of my pieces. There is no amount of glue that can hold me together.

I go through the motions as best I can. Even the simple ones feel impossible. I barely eat or sleep. I lose weight, and lose interest in anything and everything I once cared about. I wonder how and when I became so wrecked. How did this happen? The answer never comes. It just happened. That’s the most I can manage. It’s not enough, but it has to be. At least for now.

Many nights I sit frozen, alone in the dark, terrified. The darkness is my keeper now and if I move, if I make myself known, if I try to become too big, it will see me. It will smell my fear and my feigned courage and knock me down again. So I stay small.

Then one day, somehow, the fog begins to lift. I can’t pinpoint exactly how or when it happens, but I slowly start to feel pieces of myself come back to me. I start enjoying things again, even if only slightly. A sunny day, a cup of tea, a warm breeze. I feel less indifferent. These are small victories. It is not instant, but rather a gradual return to my past state of being. It feels uncomfortable, like trying to squeeze into too-small clothing. As if I’ve shed a skin and now am trying to get back inside of it. And then it feels familiar, like returning home after a tiresome journey.

Those days were long, exacting, their edges sharp. I would not wish that pain on my worst enemy. I would shield even the most unholy person from it. There was nothing easy about it. There was no miracle remedy, in pill form or otherwise. Make no mistake, I fought my way back to the light, crawling on hands and knees, bruised, bleeding. The light came in small, barely tangible fragments. The darkness still did its best to extinguish it. Then, eventually, it was gone.

Depression and anxiety are incredibly isolating. It’s a vicious cycle because you want nothing more than to keep yourself hidden, and yet you so desperately need the support and encouragement of others if there is to be any hope of coming out on the other side. I learned this the hard way. I also learned how many other people have experienced what I went through, or something similar. But there is so much shame, so much fear of sharing this deeply personal and painful part of ourselves, that oftentimes it gets banished to that dark corner where we send all of the things we don’t want to see or feel or look at ever again. An eternal time-out. It’s easier that way.

The problem is, for better or worse, like it or not, this experience is part of me. Does it define who I am? No. But it is a small piece of my big story, and to omit it would be to tell an incomplete tale. It has its place and that’s where I keep it. I don’t let it run the show. But acknowledging that it happened gives it some meaning, talking about it helps others who are struggling, and recognizing how I got through it and came out stronger makes me feel like it wasn’t all a fruitless ordeal.

What I want for anyone reading this to realize is this one simple truth: you are not alone. There are people who care and want to help. I realize that all sounds like some nonsense recycled cliché, but it’s not. You aren’t the only person who has ever been where you are, nor are you the last person who will stand in the place that you’re in. To be human is to suffer. To conquer suffering makes us more resilient. You just have to get through the darkness. I’m proof that it can be done.

Those days were hell. These days are light. I couldn’t get here without first being there.

Somehow I found myself again. Somehow I found more than was there before. Somehow I gleaned a lesson from all the pain, even if it was buried deep and had to be sought out and excavated and dusted off. We can never stop fighting, no matter how futile it seems, no matter how many battles we lose along the way. We never know when we will win the war.

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Ruth K

I have a passion to erase the stigma of mental illness and bring attention to the importance of accurate diagnosis and family intervention. As a writer, it gives me the opportunity to tell the story of my siblings and myself. Only I am left and for this reason I have hope that somehow in some way, others will be encouraged by our story. That will make the pain of grieving these losses a bit more easier to bear. I must speak out for them. Their voices have been silenced.

I was diagnosed with chronic post traumatic stress disorder after being treated for bipolar disorder for over ten years. In and out of treatment every year for the ten years that I was in an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship with my first husband. I’m fortunate after having had some less than stellar doctors to have found a neuropsychiatrist that offerred me hope and the opportunity to be a part of my treatment. In addition I see a LCSW for therapy on a regular basis.

I had a brother and sister who passed away that both suffered with depression and anxiety. My sister died in August, 2015 having taken her life after several previous attempts. My brother passed away in a horrific auto accident. I am the remaining sibling of the three of us. Because of this, I have a passion to erase the stigma of mental illness and bring attention to the importance of accurate diagnosis and family intervention.

As a writer, it gives me the opportunity to tell the story of my siblings and myself. Only I am left and for this reason I have hope that somehow in some way, others will be encouraged by our story. That will make the pain of grieving these losses a bit more easier to bear. I must speak out for them. Their voices have been silenced.

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Jon D

I commend Brandon Marshall, Wayne Brady, and others for helping SOOOO MUCH with the stigma of mental illness.

My story is as horrible as they come.

I have led a “successful” life, doing well in school, sports, etc. I am 44 yrs old. I was Top Ten in my college class, was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, and have had a great professional career.

I have struggled with depression/anxiety/OCD my whole life. I first got treated at age 29, after having to take a leave from work and becoming suicidal. I spent my 30’s in “remission”. Something happened at the age of 40 and my existing meds stopped working….I went into a horrible tailspin that resulted in being hospitalized for over a year (with a few times out). They could not find the right drug and I attempted suicide several times, the most major attempt by driving my vehicle head on to a delivery truck at 60 mph each. Somehow I survived and finally got on a drug that worked, but it still is a daily struggle.

I commend Brandon Marshall, Wayne Brady, and others for helping SOOOO MUCH with the stigma of mental illness.

I am trying to find ways to help. I am considering writing a book someday.

Thank you for doing all you can to help others. The sign that says “People with Cancer don’t have to Explain” hits home so much. It’s a brain disease. People need to realize it.

Thanks so much,

Jon

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Craig

A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with OCD, depression, and anxiety. Throughout my life I knew something was different about me. I would do things in my head (count or read things a certain amount of times) without anyone knowing. I was confused and not sure if this was a "normal" thing.

A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with OCD, depression, and anxiety. Throughout my life I knew something was different about me. I would do things in my head (count or read things a certain amount of times) without anyone knowing. I was confused and not sure if this was a “normal” thing.

About 3 years ago I moved on my own to a new state for a change and hoping my depression would get better. It didn’t and only got worse. I ended up getting a job teaching kids with autism. Later in the beginning of my 3rd year of teaching I started getting horrible thoughts of hurting others and myself. I was scared and depressed all the time. I went to my best friend and co-worker for help to explain my thoughts and the fear of possibly hurting my students. She ended up telling the police and I was later fired (over my thoughts).

I lost everything. My job, friends, and worse – I lost the chance to help others. I also got help through counseling and medication.

As a long distance runner I decided that I could persevere and take this as a opportunity to motivate myself and help others. Last September I ended up running and winning my 1st ultra marathon. I ran for 12 hours straight completing 62.5 miles in honor of people with mental illness. After the race I won $500 and donated it to help the people in my community with mental health issues. In the future I will continue to live my life to help others who suffer from mental illness.

Hopefully my story can help others show that know matter what you are going through you can overcome it and help others in the process.

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Kameron S

No one in my family has had a mental illness so it's hard being around them when I'm not feeling right and I cry all the time they just don't understand. But keep pushing and your days will get easier.

I was 17 when my house was raided by the cops. My brother had been selling drugs and the consequences followed. Unfortunately, I was the one to open the door. It was a single sheriff in uniform saying that someone had called 911 from my house. It was 6AM so I was the only one awake about to get ready for school. I told him I’ll go wake up my mom and he can talk to her. He asked if he can stand in the door way so I said yes.

As I’m on my way to get my mom I turn around and the sheriff is yelling with his gun pointed to my brothers room and 10 police guys with their guns out came running straight towards me. I was in instant shock my body couldn’t move and tears were streaming down my face. After they searched my house and did what they needed to I went on with my day like normal.

A few months later I started feeling weird, I wasn’t thinking like myself and I didn’t feel like myself. I felt like I was in a dream and I had anxiety when my mom would leave me. Two weeks later I went to a psychologist and they diagnosed me with PTSD, depression and anxiety. I have been in the darkest places. I have never dealt with a mental illness before this so this was a huge eye opener. I cried everyday for 3 months. I thought about suicide everyday for 3 months. I went to therapy 3 times a week for almost a year.

I’m now 19 and it has gotten a little better. I still have days where I get anxiety out of no where and I still deal with depression. Sometimes I feel the effects of the PTSD also. No one in my family has had a mental illness so it’s hard being around them when I’m not feeling right and I cry all the time they just don’t understand. But keep pushing and your days will get easier.

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Tim E

On behalf of those who want to hide this year, this is my phone call from the cage. It’s a call to action. To those of good cheer, come out into the rain and check on us. We don’t really want to be alone. We don’t necessarily want to be dragged to a big party either. We just need someone to ask how we’re doing. To spend a little time with us. We don’t want to be “fixed” right now, so please don’t try. We just want someone to listen. Or maybe we just want someone to sit with. Nothing fancy. Nothing loud. Just someone to be with for a while during this crazy time of year.

It’s That Time of Year…
…when some of us want to run and hide.

Ah, the holidays. A time to spend with family, exchange gifts, attend festive parties, decorate the house with joy… and totally freak out! I have to be honest. I just barely made it through Thanksgiving and I’m dreading Christmas. Over the past fifteen years I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. Once the life of the party, I’ve found myself avoiding any type of party at all, especially holiday gatherings. This past Thursday, Thanksgiving was hosted at our house with Monica’s family. Where was I? When the bulk of the crowd arrived I had one of the worst panic attacks in years and I ended up hiding out in our dog kennel. (I know you’re picturing me in a doghouse, but it’s a 6-foot-high fenced in area with a pitched tarp over it.) So I stood there, sheltered from the drizzling rain, like a scared little doggy. I called Monica on my cell phone from my cage. I told her I didn’t think I could “do this.” I was content to just stand out there until it was over. In a few minutes my son, Daniel, came outside.

“Whatcha doin’, Dad?”
“Um… just checking to make sure the dogs have their own Thanksgiving set up for them.”
“The dogs are inside, Dad.”
“Oh, yeah. I guess we better go in.”

So, reluctantly, I slipped in the side door. However, I know my house well. And I know how to hide from a house full of people. So I did. I eventually had to make conversation with a couple of people. I tried not to make eye contact. I’m ashamed of how I acted. I don’t understand these feelings. It makes me not want to try at all for the rest of the Season.

I can think back to more dismal days during the holidays and recount stories that make this one seem tame. Years of holidays and birthdays lost because I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. One time I spent alone in a car, in an empty school parking lot, wondering if I could even go on living, let alone force myself to drive to a family Christmas party.

The notion that suicide rates go up over the holidays has been debunked, however no one denies that those who suffer from depression and related illnesses struggle more during Christmastime. Even people with physical illnesses can notice an uptick in symptoms. I had three dystonia attacks before and after Thanksgiving this year. I had been dystonia-free since August. There is probably a correlation.

The point of writing this isn’t to draw attention to myself. I’ll be fine. There have been worse years than this and I thank God that I’m in such a better place than I used to be. I’ll go to the endless annual progressive dinner with my family. I’ll entertain Monica’s co-workers at the annual company party. I’ll get by as best I can. I’ll even hide if I need to.

However, there are so many people out there who are in a much darker place, just like I was a few years ago. Frozen. Scared. Ashamed. Lonely. For some, the holidays will remind them of the people who aren’t with them any longer. I can’t even fathom that. For some, the holidays will remind them of things that they’ve lost. Relationships. Health. Purpose. Dignity. It’s easy to say, “Be of good cheer.” For some, it’s just not possible right now.

For some, they will retreat to a cage.

On behalf of those who want to hide this year, this is my phone call from the cage. It’s a call to action. To those of good cheer, come out into the rain and check on us. We don’t really want to be alone. We don’t necessarily want to be dragged to a big party either. We just need someone to ask how we’re doing. To spend a little time with us. We don’t want to be “fixed” right now, so please don’t try. We just want someone to listen. Or maybe we just want someone to sit with. Nothing fancy. Nothing loud. Just someone to be with for a while during this crazy time of year.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll come inside. Just keep in mind that we’ll probably want to hide in the crowd… and that’s okay.

Tim Eason
November 30, 2015

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Ryan D.

Never did I imagine this would happen to me. I will fight to get the real me back. I will be strong and again be happy in my own mind.

For the past 10+ years I have suffered from ADHD, Depression, and Anxiety. All were well managed until a series of Concussions in early 2015. Little did I know how my life would flip. In and out of doctors offices, frequent panic attacks, double vision, severe mood swings, constant headaches, ringing in my ears, among other things. I nearly lost my job, my family, and my sanity. Although I am still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, it is getting closer. Never did I imagine this would happen to me. I will fight to get the real me back. I will be strong and again be happy in my own mind.

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Skylar

If you’ve been through the same things I have, kudos to you. You strength and perseverance is beyond impressive; to most of the world out there, it’s unimaginable. But what I really want is for all the people out there than are still mired in the thick of it, for those of you who are so tired of fighting that you are ready to give up, to take away from my experience that recovery is possible. Your expectations must be realistic: it will be slow and gradual, there will be highs and lows, setbacks and leaps forward, and there will always be people in your life who just don’t get it, but with the right assistance and support you can lead a wholly satisfying, fulfilling existence. The rest of us who have made it to that point will keep fighting for you, and for ourselves, to make our planet a better and easier place for all of us to succeed in.

I feel as if I never fully understood the effects of stigma until I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That’s not to say I didn’t experience stigma when my diagnosis was major depressive disorder, or that I don’t face stigma when it comes to my anxiety disorders, but the nature of my relationship to my illness changed when my label shifted from something people dismissed, trivialized, and misunderstood to something that — on top of all the rest — people were legitimately afraid of. Yet, the irony is that the recognition of my symptoms for what they were was the only means by which they could be properly addressed. It was the only means by which I could finally get proper treatment, and therefore become less “dangerous.”

To give you some background, I’ve had problems with my mental health from the time I was around twelve or thirteen years old. For a while it was easy to dismiss my moodiness as mere adolescent angst, but eventually it became clear that my general malaise and frequent outbursts of overwhelming sadness were not just normal parts of growing up. I began seeing a therapist, and a psychiatrist shortly thereafter. I often drank to excess to lift my mood and feel less debilitating self-consciousness around other people. I began to occasionally explode in anger at my parents and others, which looking back was a definite early warning signal, but I just thought of it as a consequence of my drunkenness. Getting through schoolwork was a struggle, fraught with anxiety attacks and crying fits, but I managed to keep my grades from suffering. Eventually, by the time I graduated, I thought I had a firm grip on my psychological issues and my abuse of alcohol. No longer mired in self-loathing I felt confident in myself, and comfortable enough with my story that I had no problem sharing it. I was victorious and eager to begin my next chapter.

All of that changed when I arrived at college. It was the first major change I’d had to cope with in my life: I had lived in the same apartment since I was born, and the same school from kindergarten onwards. I quickly realized my newfound self-assuredness was predicated on having found a niche of friends to rely on, and, without them in the same city as me, I felt lost. Then I came down with mononucleosis. I was exhausted at all times, unable to focus on anything, failing classes for the first time ever, totally unable to enjoy anything I had once found fulfillment in, terrified of being judged by all my new classmates, and, because I had no idea I was physically sick, I thought that all of these things were personal failings on my part. When I was eventually tested for the disease two months after I began feeling its symptoms, the damage to my ego had already been done.

I moved back home, and there made a series of impulsive, selfish, inconsiderate, self-destructive, and downright dangerous decisions that caused great harm to both myself and the people I cared about. I am still so deeply ashamed of the way I acted and the choices I made during this time that I can hardly talk about them with anyone. All the way, I was still seeing a talk therapist, and still taking ineffective SSRI after SSRI to no avail. Eventually I stopped going to therapy. I was still taking my pills, but I avoided actually seeing my psychiatrist as much as possible. I still didn’t see my unpredictable mood swings and bouts of rage as symptoms of what was going on with me. I felt like a completely different person, like I had lost who I was. I was worse than I had ever been before, and I had no coping skills to deal with this novel state of misery. I went back to college no more ready for it than I had been before, simply because I felt I couldn’t trust myself with my excess free time any longer. This was what I consider my true breaking point. It like my first attempt all over again, but this time I couldn’t blame flulike bodily symptoms for my lack of motivation and energy. My irritability and instability was out of control. I could go from crushingly despondent to blisteringly furious in an instant, with seemingly no trigger. My professors were kind, and made every effort to aid me through my suffering, but I still just couldn’t get the work in. I took another leave of absence.

The good thing that came of this period, however, was that I finally began to talk to mental health providers about my extreme mood changes. I finally began to realize that my problem wasn’t just that I was melancholy all the time, but that I could rapidly cycle between fury and despair within a single day. I understood the definition of bipolar disorder as very strictly timed, predicable shifts from mania to depression. I thought mania meant euphoria, productivity, invincibility, and nothing else. Finally, a psychiatrist told me differently. They said the definition of bipolar disorder was changing and expanding, and what I was experiencing fit much better into that category than that of mere depression. I was put on mood stabilizers, and, in another first, felt like my medication was actually doing something for me. I started seeing a talk therapist again and later on joined a DBT therapy group, the combination of which allowed me to express my emotions while giving me practical skills with which to manage them. I got a job. I starting coping, and began to hope. Now I’m back in school and I’m immensely proud of my performance.

But there is a catch. It is much harder telling people I have bipolar disorder than it was telling them I had anxiety and depression. It was difficult enough explaining that no, I can’t just “get over” my sadness, that no, I can’t just “relax” about the things I agonize over, that no, I’m not just lazy, or too high strung, etc. without having to explain that my disorder isn’t going to make me hurt anyone. Our society is just now beginning to understand the struggles that all of us with mental illness face, and is still inexcusably harsh on people for symptoms of which they have no control over. But certain illnesses invoke more fear and derision than others, namely those that are most associated with violence in our culture and media: bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia. Because of this, it’s more difficult for me to seek help form others and secure the accommodations that I need than it was before. I’m far enough into my recovery that I feel as if I’m in a catch 22: when my symptoms are preventing me from accomplishing something I want or need to do, I either have to downplay what’s going on and risk people simply not believing me and thinking that I’m merely making excuses, or I can admit the extent of what’s going on and risk worrying or scaring them. I get unsolicited advice from classmates and other near-strangers about how I’m not ambitious enough or working hard enough in complete ignorance of how psychological disorders work, and I don’t know how to correct them without outing myself and therefore opening myself up to even more inappropriate commentary. I’m afraid of telling employers or potential employers that I might need special allowances because, even though those of us in the U.S. are technically protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they may find some other way to get around dealing with me that doesn’t appear outwardly discriminatory. While I am aware there will be always be good days and bad days for me, at this point essentially the stigma against speaking out about mental illness is causing me more harm than the mental illness itself is.

If you’ve made it this far into this rambling essay, thank you for hearing me out. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story and validate my suffering and my triumph. If you’ve been through the same things I have, kudos to you. You strength and perseverance is beyond impressive; to most of the world out there, it’s unimaginable. But what I really want is for all the people out there than are still mired in the thick of it, for those of you who are so tired of fighting that you are ready to give up, to take away from my experience that recovery is possible. Your expectations must be realistic: it will be slow and gradual, there will be highs and lows, setbacks and leaps forward, and there will always be people in your life who just don’t get it, but with the right assistance and support you can lead a wholly satisfying, fulfilling existence. The rest of us who have made it to that point will keep fighting for you, and for ourselves, to make our planet a better and easier place for all of us to succeed in.

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Maryann G

Mental illness comes in all forms and unfortunately is put on a short list. So I understand the stigma and the neglect of all the mentally ill and I am happy to finally have found somewhere that I can tell my story. Thank you to Glenn Close and all the people involved in this cause, I salute you!!

I came out of an abusive marriage after 25 years that left me damaged mentally. I didn’t realize during that whole time that I was suffering from a form of mental disease. I had 2 children and the first, my daughter, who I love dearly, had to see and hear the ravings of her father. No child should have to live through such an experience. The guilt and shame of what I felt was my fault still haunts me to this day.

One day now over 15 plus years ago, my ex called me, out of the blue and told me to come home, collect my belongings and get out! I was in a state of panic. I had to call on my daughter for help. Now my other child, my son, was left with this monster and again I was left with more shame and guilt. I couldn’t think at all. I had been going to a counseling center for domestic abuse, and although I’d made some progress, it just wasn’t enough to really help me. Being forced out of my home put me into a heightened state panic, anxiety and fear.

My sister, who always been there to help me; intervened and took me to our primary care doctor, and told him the story of what I had gone through and now how I needed help. He agreed, sat with and told me he was going to give a script for Xanax, which he said would calm me down and help with the panic attacks and anxiety for the time being. Well after a very long time, I realized I had to take steps to find someone and somewhere to help with my suffering mental state. I was given another prescription by a primary care doctor, who after a time told me that I would have to see a psychiatrist for further examination. Well I went to a place that began my journey into the Medication Factory ! There wasn’t any help there…..just a doctor who had a prescription pad and that was that! Being in such an unfamiliar world, I unfortunately accepted this treatment. I was living alone and had to maintain a job to earn a living and my mental state would keep me home unable to even get out of bed.

The most important thing I missed was a DIAGNOSIS of my condition !!! I was suffering so much and the only thing I had to count on were anti depression meds ! I tried many times to get the help I needed but to no avail. I finally realized that this was all the help I was going to get and it came from a large variety of drugs that I was prescribed ! Till this day I have not been diagnosed or have I been able to find a professional who could really listen and help me.

Mental illness comes in all forms and unfortunately is put on a short list. So I understand the stigma and the neglect of all the mentally ill and I am happy to finally have found somewhere that I can tell my story.

Thank you to Glenn Close and all the people involved in this cause, I salute you !!

I now am retired and live in South Florida near to my sister and her family.

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Julia L

My name is Julia, I am 18 years old. I have suffered from social anxiety for quite some time, and I recently wrote a letter to a stranger that will probably never know it was them. This letter is a very accurate representation of how social anxiety impacts my life. Here is my letter to a stranger:

My name is Julia, I am 18 years old. I have suffered from social anxiety for quite some time, and I recently wrote a letter to a stranger that will probably never know it was them. This letter is a very accurate representation of how social anxiety impacts my life. Here is my letter to a stranger:

Dear stranger,

Yes, I heard that you have just said hello. I know that you are noticing the way my hands are shaking and my cheeks are flushing. I haven’t responded yet, and I know it’s been a whole thirty-two seconds, I’ve counted them in my head. Do not be alarmed, I am not sick, I am not contagious. I will not bite, but I will not talk. And if I do talk, god forbid, I am internally critiquing myself in extreme detail. Yes, I know my voice is shaking. I know I am not making eye-contact. No, I am not being rude. Please don’t roll your eyes when I don’t respond to your questions. I would really like to start a conversation, I just can’t.

Today is a hard day for me, I have those days sometimes. I cannot engage in casual conversation with you, stranger, and I cannot ask the man who gave me tuna-salad instead of egg-salad to make a new sandwich. I guarantee you that on a day like this, I had a difficult time climbing out of bed this morning. Today is not the day to ask me how I’m doing, unless you’d like to hear an extensive dialogue about how my brain is moving a million miles an hour and I didn’t study for this class and I’m worried about failing the test now becauseIamtryingsohardIreallyreallyam.

I’ve just started counseling, and I’m trying new ways to control my thoughts and avoid having a panic attack… But some days I just cannot speak. And I am sorry that all I could say back was a weak “hello,” and I am sorry that we didn’t get to talk about how confusing this chapter is. I’m sorry I didn’t ask for your phone number to start a study group. I’msorryyouseemverynicebuttodaymyheadismovingamillionmilesanhourandIjustcannotspeak.

I’m sorry that today was not a good day for you to say hello, but I promise you I’ve thought about that hello about one-thousand times today. I cannot be gracious enough for that hello. But today is not the day that I will answer your questions. Today is not the day that I will ask for your phone number to start a study group. Today is not the day. But thank you. And I hope you will tell me hello again soon.

With anticipation,

Me

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Richard B

I never take for granted the fact that I am able to do what I want. Like my favorite rapper Drake says, “You can still do what you want to do, you gotta trust that sh*t.” Even though anxiety kicks my ass on a daily basis, I still go to work. I still write. I volunteer. I love. I smile. I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I fight for my happiness. Every day is a battle and I will never give up.

I have been fighting depression, anxiety, and self-harm off and on for the past 13 years. I moved to Los Angeles to follow my dreams of becoming a published writer four years ago. I am now 28 years old and I am still living in Los Angeles. I was happy to be living my dream when I moved here but unfortunately for me, my happiness was only temporary.

Like most people who struggle with mental health, I fell into substance abuse issues. I turned to drugs and alcohol to the numb the pain I was feeling. I would also cut my wrists when things got really bad. I seemed so happy and alive on the outside but that was far from the truth. The darkness I was feeling on the inside consumed me. I was a tortured soul living in disguise.

I slowly felt myself losing touch with reality. My physical and mental health deteriorated to the point where I was underweight, experiencing hallucinations, emotional distress, and dealing with insomnia. Moving back home to live with my parents allowed me to sleep better at night but my anxiety got so bad that I would get panic attacks.

I spent the following year getting my life and mental health in order. I saw a doctor and a therapist. I went on medication to help with my anxiety, I got a job at Chipotle, and with the support of my family, friends, and my faith, I was able to stay sober. I accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior sometime in August after recommendations from my mom and her friend Maria. I repented for my sins and I felt a shift inside of me. I felt like a changed man. I was a changed man.

I am proud to say I officially reached one year of sobriety on September 23rd. It’s also been one year and five months since I last hurt myself. When the side effects from my medication were too much, my doctor told me I could stop taking them. He told me, “You should be proud of yourself. Not a lot of people can be in the position that you’re in. You should give yourself a pat on the back.”

I never take for granted the fact that I am able to do what I want. Like my favorite rapper Drake says, “You can still do what you want to do, you gotta trust that sh*t.” Even though anxiety kicks my ass on a daily basis, I still go to work. I still write. I volunteer. I love. I smile. I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I fight for my happiness. Every day is a battle and I will never give up.

Although God and Jesus Christ have been the sole reason I am sober and clean, I also attribute me being sober to my nephew Adrian. A lot of things from my past bum me out. None more so than when he would ask me to hang out and I would say, “Not right now. We’ll hang out in a little bit. I’m going to sleep.” He would be disappointed and say, “Aw man. Come on. Why do you sleep so much? You sleep too much.”

It breaks my heart knowing I would have rather gotten high than play with my own nephew but I am proud to say I am no longer that person. I apologized to my nephew before he went back to Florida where he lives with his mother. I’m not proud of my past but I had to hit rock bottom to see I was blinded by addiction.

I’d be lying if I said the past five months I have been living in Los Angeles have been a second chance at living my dream because Lord knows He has given me more than two chances. This is like my millionth chance at living my dream and I am more determined than ever to not let it go to waste. The last two months before I had one year of sobriety were the hardest. I struggled with temptation and going through a break up made things even harder.

I ended up moving on with the support of my best friend and co-workers but that doesn’t mean I don’t crave love and affection from another female. I struggle with my faith and at times I feel like God isn’t enough. I have everything I want (health, sobriety, money saved, love from my family, and I’m living in Los Angeles) yet at times it doesn’t feel enough. I reached a low point a couple of weeks ago when I was three days away from being sober.

I was upset over things not working out with a female co-worker and I fell into the vicious cycle of wanting more. I talked to my best friend and he asked me, “Richard, what do you want?” I replied, “I want my own place. I want a car. I want a book deal. I want a better job. I want it to be November so I can visit my family. I wish you lived here.” He then told me something that blew me away. “Richard, you’re asking for the same things you asked for when you were living in Massachusetts.” I didn’t realize it when I was saying those things but he was right. It showed me that everything is mental and it’s all inside of my head.

He told me, “It’s okay to want materialistic things because we are human. But what you need to do is seek something that’s ever-lasting because when you have those things, you won’t be happy anymore. That happiness will only be temporary.” I then told him, “I want peace and patience. I want the peace that God promises all of us. All those things I asked for I know I will get. I just have to be patient.” I felt a bit calm after talking to him but I had one thing on my mind and that was to hurt myself.

I laid in bed for 30 minutes but I couldn’t fall asleep. I went into my kitchen and I grabbed a knife. I placed it in front of me as I sat in my kitchen listening to music and doing everything in my power to not hurt myself. I then did what my best friend recommended I do in my moments of darkness, weakness, and vulnerability. I prayed. God, please don’t let me hurt myself tonight. Let me see you in this moment. Show Yourself. I pray that You protect me. A few minutes passed by and I was ready to put the knife away but a part of me still wanted to hurt myself. I couldn’t put the knife away.

I put the blade on my left wrist. As much as I wanted to hurt myself (and trust me, I did), I couldn’t do it. When I had the knife on my left wrist I kept thinking about my family, my mom, my nieces and nephew, God, Jesus Christ, and myself. I told myself that I want to keep moving forward. I don’t want to go backwards. I then put the knife away. I realized God answered my prayer. Jesus Christ protected me. God revealed Himself to me in that moment. I’m not proud of myself for letting things get to that point but I’m even prouder that I didn’t hurt myself. God never fails me.

Doctors, counselors, friends, and family members always say, “Things will get better.” I would say, “That’s easy for you to say.” But you know what? They were right. Things do get better.

I may have fallen but I have also risen. I am here to share my story of hope, recovery, and the pursuit of happiness. I used to cry every night before going to bed. I used to pray for the peace and happiness I currently have. I know things won’t always be easy but I have faith in God. I will continue to rest on Him. Please don’t give up. Things really do get better.

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Matana Poupko Jacobs, Owner and Founder of GIVIA

That’s why I created GIVIA - to pay it forward. If you feel alone and that you don’t have support, you can’t make the necessary changes. You feel trapped, and it can perpetuate the cycle. Support is important on any journey, but especially when you’re figuring out a mental exceptionality, one that changes your whole identity.

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: How Support Makes a Difference

One night I woke up and thought that I was dying. I couldn’t breathe. The walls were closing in on me. The pressure on my chest was going to break me. Nothing I did helped my situation. In fact, it seemed to intensify everything.

I thought, “This is it.” I thought that I was going crazy. I didn’t know what was going on. I was hesitant and unsure of myself. I didn’t know anyone else who had experienced this. How do you bring this sort of thing up in conversation? More questions arose – “Would I ever be normal again?” “What would people think of me?” “Should I tell someone, and risk their reaction?” I was afraid this would ostracize me from my friends, colleagues, and family. I’d become known as “that one” who had “that thing”.

Eventually, I learned that what I experienced was a panic attack, and I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. At the time, I thought that only medicines with names you could not pronounce would help.

I also learned how people react when they learn you have panic attacks and an anxiety disorder. They either oversimplify it saying, “We all get stressed out,” or dismiss it entirely, “So? Fight it. It’s all in your head.” I was made to feel weak, and as if I were blowing things out of proportion. In ways, I can control it; it’s not that simple and, yet, it is.

I started therapy and began working with healers. It changed my life when I learned that I could work with the trauma using meditation and making other lifestyle changes. I had control. I felt empowered and free. The steps that I took enabled me to stop taking medication. I didn’t need it because I was feeling and experiencing long-lasting positive effects that no drug could give me. I was also able to make these changes because I had the right people around me – friends and family who were positive, understanding, and loving.

Their support brought me back to life in a way that I’ve never experienced before. My support system let me know that I was a part of something greater and that I’m loved and heard – feelings no other experience (especially in the rat race) could give me.

That’s why I created GIVIA – to pay it forward. If you feel alone and that you don’t have support, you can’t make the necessary changes. You feel trapped, and it can perpetuate the cycle. Support is important on any journey, but especially when you’re figuring out a mental exceptionality, one that changes your whole identity.

The right support group will help you accept the fact that it’s okay to be not okay. It’s a very liberating notion that alleviates a lot of pressure, and gifts courage. Movements like Bring Change 2 Mind give that courage and create conversations that we need to have as a society to create a more accepting world.

The unaccepting people that I was afraid of were manifestations of my own fear of uncertainty, of the unknown, and of adjusting to my new identity. With knowledge, a plan in place, and a support system, I am able to send love to those people. My fear was alleviated. I know who I am, and I know that I am more than my challenges.

By making small changes and taking small steps, we can create a greater community and support system so that more and more people know that it’s okay to not be okay. As they live a better life, they can live by example – inspiring and continuing the ripple of change.

Whether it’s small changes to your daily routine or small change you donate to a cause, small change adds up. For this reason, I am thrilled that Bring Change 2 Mind is now one of GIVIA’s selected charities.

Though donating a portion of GIVIA’s fee to a charity of choice may not seem much, I know that we are creating change every time someone processes a credit card.

GIVIA is a non-traditional credit card processor that donates 25% of its net income to wellness charities at no extra cost to its clients.

Together, we will make the world a better place one swipe at a time.

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Meridith B

I am in the entertainment business and accepting my anxiety as an illness has helped me do better in every aspect of life.

I have Generalized Anxiety and panic disorder . With the help of medications I am so much better. I also did a lot of therapy. Many people are not willing to try meds or don’t give them a chance. Mental illnesses are like any other illness, they need to be treated with medication. Otherwise you are not treating the illness. I am very open and do not feel the stigma. I am in the entertainment business and accepting my anxiety as an illness has helped me do better in every aspect of life.

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danielle k

I am a person who happens to have bipolar disorder, anxiety, and OCD. Those do not define me. Oh, but they used to. My mood changes made no one want to be around me. My anxiety and OCD took me to places I never want to go again.

I am a person who happens to have bipolar disorder, anxiety, and OCD. Those do not define me. Oh, but they used to. My mood changes made no one want to be around me. My anxiety and OCD took me to places I never want to go again. I got help after years of self harm and self medicating. I am not saying that I never have days where climbing in a hole sounds better than reality. Everyone has days like that just some more than others. When I finally sought help and had a support system, even if it is just two people, I felt relief. A weight taken off my shoulders. I now have someone to hold my hands when I am picking at my cuticles so I can focus on slowing down my thoughts. I now have someone to help and love me through mania and my depression. My support system and willingness to always make progress but never strive for perfection helps me get through one day at a time.

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Michele R

The truth is, I have mental illness. Depression. Anxiety. Both led to a suicide attempt when I was thirty-six. In remission. Out of remission. I don’t care how the insurance companies or the DSM V defines it. All I know is that mental illness does not define me. It is a part of my mind, body and soul. It is both a stain and badge, but I prefer to think of it as my compass for living authentically.

Witness

As early as the age of three years, my only life witness was a demon who held me down as it mocked quietly in my ear, “You’re nothing. You’re nobody. You don’t count.”

I count. I know this now. And I am my only witness. At age forty-four, something shifted in me. It was my unbound scream, after the same nightmare in which I knew something bad was close. It paralyzed me with my mouth open, without sound. I broke free that night. I still don’t know why then, only that I was ready. I could not fake my life for anyone anymore.

Who am I, this witness? I am fiercely loyal, protective, creative, sensitive, perceptive, an animal lover, and I have a wonderful sense of color. At times, I am easily distracted and discouraged. I am unforgivingly hard on myself. I do not trust many, as I believe this is earned. I am not proud of this, but life is a work in progress. I denied my rage for years. Now I own it. I see what happens when I become what I thought others wanted to see; what I thought would make me count.

The truth is, I have mental illness. Depression. Anxiety. Both led to a suicide attempt when I was thirty-six. In remission. Out of remission. I don’t care how the insurance companies or the DSM V defines it. All I know is that mental illness does not define me. It is a part of my mind, body and soul. It is both a stain and badge, but I prefer to think of it as my compass for living authentically.

My extreme anxiety lasted through childhood into young adulthood, only I couldn’t identify it. I marvel at how I functioned with so much anxiety. I grew up believing I was the burden. I learned much later in life that the mental illness was the burden.

A shroud masked this truth. I couldn’t see it for what it was while I was in the middle of it. I can blame it on childhood abuse, genetic disposition, or culture’s regard of mental illness at that time. All I know is that the message I received was that I was not normal. If I wanted acceptance, I better get my act together and be normal. Do as normal people do. Stay silent. Don’t make anyone else uncomfortable with the slightest glimpse of my pain.

My creed did nothing but practically murder me. Eleven years ago, the intense anxiety with which I functioned quite well during childhood returned. Only this time, I simply did not have the energy to cope. I remember at that time, I was tired, alone and isolated. My anger and despair crushed me. Faith and hope were absent as the bottom fell out.

I wrote a long note instructing my father on what to do about the animals I was leaving behind. That in itself made me feel like a failure. I dared not mention how I felt deeply saddened, abandoned and worthless. I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted it all to stop.

The medication overdose would do this. I didn’t remember much after drinking the bottle of seltzer water that washed them down.

The day after my thirty-sixth birthday, I woke up in ICU. I remember the clock hands pointed to just after eleven o’ clock. Was I alive? I felt no sadness and no joy. Just relief. A gentle voice whispered, “Begin again.”

Things were not instantly better. The long crawl back was like declaring bankruptcy on my life as I restructured my soul’s debt. I felt betrayed for a long time. I never caused my illness. I never asked for my robbed childhood or blighted young adulthood. No one would clean up the collapsed skeleton of my former life except me. It took a while. Years, really. The road was bumpy and filled with pits, potholes and a few sinkholes. I left them there to remember. –So I won’t drive over them again. I left them there for others to see the real me. To pave over them would not repair the damage, but simply mask the pain.

Just last year, I was aware of gratitude for the first time. And joy.

You know, if I were to meet myself in a time warp, I would take us on a drive on our newly paved road. I’d show her the sights, and I would want to tell her our story, even if it made time collapse. I would want her to know that she can find gratitude and joy. I would say to her, “Miss Roberts, you count. You always did. And I should know. I’m your witness.”

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Angelique

I've always had a difficult time letting the world know about any of my mental illnesses. I have always been my biggest judge so I seldom let anyone else in for fear of being judged by them as well. By sharing my story, picture and name attached, I hope to not only inspire others to open up but in hopes of letting the shame I feel go too. Though I've suffered from many different types of mental illnesses for as far back as I can remember, agoraphobia seems to be the one most misunderstood even by my own family so here's my story in the form of a poem.

I’ve always had a difficult time letting the world know about any of my mental illnesses. I have always been my biggest judge so I seldom let anyone else in for fear of being judged by them as well. By sharing my story, picture and name attached, I hope to not only inspire others to open up but in hopes of letting the shame I feel go too. Though I’ve suffered from many different types of mental illnesses for as far back as I can remember, agoraphobia seems to be the one most misunderstood even by my own family so here’s my story in the form of a poem.

How to leave home (Agoraphobic addition)

Step 1. Take a step towards your door and reach out towards the lock.
Step 2. Take a huge step back and realize you’re no where close to turning that knob
Step 3. Remember what others have said, step one isn’t so bad
you won’t get hurt just by opening a door
Step 4. Pay no attention to the false premonitions now playing out in your head
Don’t listen, don’t listen, don’t listen!! Don’t look! People aren’t watching you
can’t see the panic tearing up your guts, ripping out whatever strength you had left can’t see the ugly parts
they can’t look that deep.
Or Can they look that deep?
Oh god they’re all going to look that deep!
stare into my weakness and judgement will be passed
They must notice my ever present distance from the world
So why do people want to come in so closely, that I can hear their breath.. Its terrifying coming so close
coming to kill me
I can’t breath
Someone is
I know Someone’s going to kidnap me at least
is it still kidnapping after 18?
I’m gonna die
I really can’t breath
Think about it, what if I have to cross street, car, boom, smash crashes into me
Im gonna die
No crossing streets
Bridges are out
What if it collapses
that’s for sure to happen
No streets or bridges
so a car in my future is out of the question
I can’t breath I can’t breath!
If I were to leave
they’ll all see me freaking out like this
They can’t see me freaking out like this
Oh fuck now I’m freaking out
legs trembling, sick feeling in my stomach
Completely drenched in sweat
most definitely not taking a single step not like this
I can’t leave because I’m not even alive
Step 5. Please calm down! Brain stop thinking body stop reacting
Xanax
anxiety take your meds..
Forget there ever was a step one for now
Home
inside
safe,
sound
relax
Step 6. Don’t let your inaction get you down, wash the black tear stains off your face
Change your clothes. Breath. look for a reason any reason to believe today, you will make it happen
Step 7. Explain Why the hell you’re laying in that hole of a bed again, sweat pants, a tee, and sheets drenched in tears
Weeping only muffled out by the blasting of netflix.
What happened to trying steps 1 through 6?
Is there even a point to 8?
And then there’s Step 9. After you stop crying and being angry but before you start to hate yourself for giving in so quickly and continuing this pattern
Pretend tomorrow it will all be different
Pretend Tomorrow 1 step will be a dozen more maybe even 100. Tomorrow you’ll walk to the moon, all the way to the stars,
tomorrow.
And finally Step 10. Right before you fall asleep, remember step 9 is the only reason you even woke up today
That little make believe sprinkles the idea that soon you’ll be free of having to take steps to nowhere
no more circling your home in an effort to leave your home the cycle will end if I just keep pretending that one day
One of these days I won’t need Xanax plus a few drinks to complete step 1. One of these days I’ll finish step 1 and forever erase steps 2 through 10
Step 1. Take a step towards my door and reach out towards the lock, turn knob …. now live

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Stephanie

Anxiety is not like catching the cold where you take medicine and it goes away. It is a disorder in the brain. A disorder that takes months even years to recover from. People on the outside who don't have these disorders are not aware of them because they are not visible like scars. I feel that most of us would rather have scars than a debilitating disorder that doesn't let us live normal lives. I feel that everything happens for a reason and that reason is that I was meant to find this wonderful website and tell my story to others who are going through the same thing.

I remember the night like it was just yesterday. I was working a night shift at a retail job where the environment was fast-paced, so you can imagine how overwhelming it must have been experiencing anxiety and all. That day I was already having symptoms of anxiety (e.g. sweaty palms, shortness of breath, irritability, dizziness) I even felt that I was experiencing “depersonalization,” where everything felt surreal, almost like a dream, that would eventually turn into a nightmare for me.

I remember asking one of my supervisors if I could leave early, but it was out of the question since I was the only one on the sales floor. I felt like I wanted to escape because I thought that I was going insane. I could not tell my supervisor what was going on because I didn’t think she would understand. Of course no one knew what was going on inside. Customers would even look at me wondering what was wrong with me, I just couldn’t find a way to tell people what I was going through. I didn’t even know what I was going through myself.

When I got off of work I got into my car wondering what coworkers were thinking about me, then I broke down feeling alone and scared. What I felt in that moment was hopelessness and actual physical pain. I somehow knew that I had been depressed for a while. It’s like all of my emotions were bottled up for so long that I exploded to the point of no return. I couldn’t stop crying. I hardly ever had a history of self-harm, but everything became so overwhelming that I started having thoughts of hurting myself because I hated myself at the time. I felt guilt and shame of being alive because I didn’t feel support from anyone. This was a huge breaking point for me, so I did what I thought was best which was take myself to the nearest ER to have myself evaluated. I was seen by various doctors and one therapist who were giving me words of encouragement to help me get by. I felt calmer when my mom came to see me and all I could see was pain in her face for seeing me in the condition that I was. I thought that by the end of the of the night I would get to go home. Unfortunately, I was taken to another hospital where they specialize with mental patients. I spent nearly three days there.

After going through the evaluations and feeling homesick, I left the hospital feeling hopeful and optimistic but things did not end there. After months of struggling with my anxiety disorder along with other episodes of intrusive thoughts, it has been a long battle for me. Thankfully, the intrusive thoughts have stopped. However, anxiety is not like catching the cold where you take medicine and it goes away. It is a disorder in the brain. A disorder that takes months even years to recover from. People on the outside who don’t have these disorders are not aware of them because they are not visible like scars. I feel that most of us would rather have scars than a debilitating disorder that doesn’t let us live normal lives. I feel that everything happens for a reason and that reason is that I was meant to find this wonderful website and tell my story to others who are going through the same thing.

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Joseph B

“What if.” My entire life revolved around “what if.” What if I can’t do this? What if someone laughs at me? What if someone sees me? What if, what if, what if? Two tiny words, by themselves are not particularly potent, but when put together, have the power to bring pause, to cause fear, and to change the very life and essence of a person.

Social Anxiety, PTSD, Depression, and Hope

I have severe social anxiety. I have PTSD. I have chronic depression. I also have hope!

Growing up was difficult for me. My father left when I was five, I was quite obviously gay, my stepfather was abusive, I was bullied daily at school, and sexually molested several times by three different men. By the time I became an adult, I no longer saw people, I only saw threats. Everyone used to comment on how observant I was and how impressed they were, when actually, it was just hyper sensitivity to my environment. I was constantly on guard for threats and possible uncomfortable situations. I always sat with my back against a wall. I look around and make sure I’m aware of all the exits and all the corners and hidden areas in a building, just in case. All of this was absolutely exhausting. And then when I went to bed, I would have nightmares. Being chased, hiding, being dragged along the ground or just that feeling of overwhelming sadness or evil during a dream for no reason.

After about 30 years of this, I finally decided that I would see a psychologist. It was a tough decision because I was afraid of anyone new and also because of the stigma associated with seeing a mental health professional. I mean, how could I ever live a normal life if I have a mental illness, as if ignoring it meant it didn’t exist. “What would people say,“ I wondered. “What if someone found out,” I asked myself.

“What if.” My entire life revolved around “what if.” What if I can’t do this? What if someone laughs at me? What if someone sees me? What if, what if, what if? Two tiny words, by themselves are not particularly potent, but when put together, have the power to bring pause, to cause fear, and to change the very life and essence of a person. To make a child who hoped to one day make a difference in the world; leave the world just a little bit brighter than when he came into it, stop and cringe at just the tiny little task of opening the front door and going to school. As an adult, fearful of calling the credit card company to tell them that the payment would be a little late. It was just easier to incur the late fee than to call them. What if the person on the phone judges me as a delinquent? What if the person on the phone doesn’t like me and decides to just cancel my card? What if, what if, what if?

I did finally go to the psychologist. I always felt just a little bit better when I left, however, she just wasn’t the right person for me. She questioned me when I said I was gay. And when, after a few weeks, told her that I had thought about it and that I am gay, simply said, “Ok.” So I stopped going. It was expensive anyway, I didn’t have a lot of money and what if I needed it for some sort of emergency, as if I had ever saved anything for emergencies. What if she was actually a homophobe and my going to her was a bad idea. What if, what if, what if!

After a few more years, I went to another psychologist. This time I went because I had an addiction. An addiction to food. The first time we met, I sat across from her and told her a little bit about me. She said that the Native Americans long ago thought of homosexuals as special people who were able to project both male and female and that they celebrated this. Finally, I had found someone whom I could tell my stories without fear, or at least not as much fear. Little did I know that 10 years later and what I can only imagine the limitless patience a person can muster, I have hope. I’ve changed my vocabulary by the smallest amount. One letter, completely insignificant by itself. I replaced the “f” with an “s”. Such a small change. Such an enormous consequence. What if has become What is. What if no longer rules my life, what is helps me to stay present. What is happening is change. What is my life going forward is hope. “What is” is the only thing that matters. What if makes us fearful. What is gives us hope.

What is your story going to be? Mine is Hope!

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Shaina S

But there has been no judgement or stigma from anyone who knows about my conditions. Everyone in my life has been so supportive and no one has changed their views about me, and I want to share this story because IT DOES GET BETTER.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for over a year but I always dealt with it myself. I didn’t want to be labeled as “crazy” or define the issue. After my 16th birthday, everything spiraled out of control and the issues exploded. I had multiple panic attacks a day and was diagnosed with panic disorder and depression. Getting out of bed was struggle enough, going to high school?

My brain told me it was going to end in catastrophe. I went to maybe one class a day and spent the rest of the day in the psychologist’s office. I had a pretty bad streak of self-injury as well; it doesn’t help.

But the stigma surrounding these issues needs to be ended. I haven’t told many people except those closest to me because when people hear things like “panic disorder” or “depression”, they either think about how screwed up you are or how you want attention. But there has been no judgement or stigma from anyone who knows about my conditions. Everyone in my life has been so supportive and no one has changed their views about me, and I want to share this story because IT DOES GET BETTER. I didn’t think it would, but I’ve been on medication for about 2 months and in therapy twice a week and I have seen so much improvement.

I’m not going to lie to you, some days are still bad days. Some days I still hate myself for something I cannot control, and that is okay (even though it is undeserved). Mental illness is a reality, but not something to ever be ashamed of. I’ve learned that now.

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Janine L

Today I am in my senior year of college. I still suffer with anxiety and depression. I have many more strides to make. But I feel more confident that I can make those strides. I am a Social Work major. I chose my major because I thought of my own story.

I have suffered from anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. As a child I didn’t understand what was happening to me and neither did any of the adults in my life. They thought I was just a very emotional kid. I had a very hard time making friends in elementary school because I was so afraid to leave home. I was suicidal for most of high school. It wasn’t until my first year of college when my anxiety increased so much so that I could not function in my daily life. I stopped eating. I had severe insomnia that kept me from sleeping more than a half hour each night for six months. I cried all the time. I stopped hanging out with my friends and started spending much more time alone for fear that I would irritate anyone I was with. During that time was when I saw my first therapist. I learned some coping mechanisms that began to work for me. It was also the first time I talked with any of my family members about my mental illness. The biggest step I made was talking to my mom with whom I’ve never had a good relationship. Soon after talking with her I learned that those closest to you will be your biggest support systems. Even if you don’t think they will be.

Today I am in my senior year of college. I still suffer with anxiety and depression. I have many more strides to make. But I feel more confident that I can make those strides. I am a Social Work major. I chose my major because I thought of my own story. No one in my life spoke up about my behavior as a child. Whether they weren’t informed or they just didn’t want to talk about it, that conversation never happened. Every day of my life I wonder what would have changed if I had been informed about mental illnesses as a child. How would those first seventeen years of my life been different? Through my career and my daily life I hope to spark that conversation in parents. I want the next generation to talk about mental illness so that more children aren’t afraid of or embarrassed by their mental illness growing up. Just reading this website made me cry because it seems like I’m not the only one who wants that too. Thank you all so much.

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Tracy K

Thank you for speaking up and showing our children, who today have so much more stress in their lives then before, that they are not outcasts or shamed by this as they did not choose to get depression or anxiety. This is an illness as any other out there and there is hope for them.

I have a 16 year old daughter that has been battling depression since the 7th grade. This was unbeknownst to me until this past November when she wrote a letter to her brother, who has been battling anxiety for several years, that she wanted to end her life. She could not feel comfortable talking to anybody for the fact that she would be known to all she was mentally ill. After a few visits to a family practice doctor, the doctor finally decided to submit her to a mental health facility as she was having suicidal thoughts again. During her treatment, her medical/therapy team and ourselves confirmed that she did not have any stigma with her illness and that she has nothing to be ashamed about. She’s been a little bit more talkative with us, still hides some thoughts, but with the assistance of therapists and psychiatrists, we are hopefully on the right track in locating the correct balancing medication for her. We have now moved into the adult meds as the FDA approved meds for her age are not working. It’s been a very difficult road for all of us, but we are hopeful that we can get this under control for her and get our sweet loving daughter back.

School has been extremely difficult for her, friends are unkind and immature to say the least. She plans on attending community college next year and hopefully full time the following. Her job has been a godsend for her, as she is working with older people who don’t judge her and gets along wonderfully with them as she is the youngest!

In discussing this with friends and co-workers, we all have been touched in one way or another by a friend or family member diagnosed with depression. Patience and understanding is a must, sometimes very difficult, but well worth our efforts.

Thank you for speaking up and showing our children, who today have so much more stress in their lives then before, that they are not outcasts or shamed by this as they did not choose to get depression or anxiety. This is an illness as any other out there and there is hope for them.

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Tori

For anyone who is struggling with mental illness and is afraid to get help, I can promise you it's not scary. I've been through treatment for anxiety and trust me when I tell you, they are there to help you. There's nothing to be afraid of.

For anyone who is struggling with mental illness and is afraid to get help, I can promise you it’s not scary. I’ve been through treatment for anxiety and trust me when I tell you, they are there to help you. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

If you are a man, I want to tell you I’m sorry for all the stereotypes surrounding mental illness for you. It’s tragic that the stigma exists. I see this in my boyfriend, he is a hard worker and he gets stressed, and recently he has been very anxious. He wants to do everything himself, and it’s hard for him to ask for help because he wants to be strong. I really want him to be strong enough to go for help instead of trying to fix it himself.

Trust me and others who will tell you: it’s okay. You don’t need to do it yourself. Mental illness happens, there is nothing wrong with you. You just need a little push to get back to your happy, healthy life.

So take that step. It will be worth it.

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Anthony R

The nightmares, anxiety issues and the lack of wanting to participate in society have been trying. Nevertheless, I have reasons to be. I have my family, I have you and I have me! I hope that I can share a voice with others who live with mental imperfections. There are more of us than mere numbers show.

In July 2011, I was on a dismounted patrol as a member of the US Army Special Operations Command in Northeastern Afghanistan. Shortly after a firefight, an IED was detonated 8mm from my position. The injuries from this blast have impacted my life tremendously. I now live with PTSD, TBI and other physical/mental disabilities. Moreover, my Wife and Children have to deal with my mental, emotional and physical changes. I have learned not to be afraid of expressing my feelings regarding the events of July 17, 2011. The hardest part of finding my way through this has been to be thankful that I am still here and to gain understanding that my life will never be the same. The nightmares, anxiety issues and the lack of wanting to participate in society have been trying. Nevertheless, I have reasons to be. I have my family, I have you and I have me! I hope that I can share a voice with others who live with mental imperfections. There are more of us than mere numbers show.

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Lukas

I may not get to be a rich and famous musician like I had dreamed, but I won't give up on being a good person and the best father I can be. My heart is with every single sufferer of Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder.

I grew up absolutely certain that I would be a successful professional musician. I knew this was what I was meant to do. At least if I couldn’t attain this rockstar status, I never had doubts about my future or at all expected that panic and Agoraphobia would turn everything upside down. I am 28, and have suffered from Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia and Depression since I was 22. I had panic attacks now and again starting at age 20, and it seems that one day I was immersed into a frightening world of senseless panic and derealization. My body felt numb, weightless, my head experiencing odd new pains, my breath seemed nowhere to be found. And this was the new me. I found a great amount of relief from all my symptoms with medication, however the only medication that seems to effect me positively is frowned upon by doctors. I have experimented with different psychologists and find therapy to be a world in which you must seek out someone who can understand your problem and experiences with empathy, and that can be difficult. Depression has set in for me multiple times, especially when realizing that my panic can and will deter me from achieving my dreams. I know the difficulty of attempting to play music to large crowds in large venues or wide open spaces, the impossibility of touring and flying in airplanes. Although I have been able to play smaller venues with the aid of my medication, I know that the road I was on has come to an end. I am coming to terms with that and am trying to regain my happiness and start living a somewhat normal life. I now have a son, less than a year old, whom I love more than anything, more than I knew was possible. For him I try to push on and find ways to cope with fear. My beautiful boy deserves an amazing life and I will do everything I can to make sure my disorder doesn’t interfere with his life. I have faith in therapy and am looking forward to seeing results. I may not get to be a rich and famous musician like I had dreamed, but I won’t give up on being a good person and the best father I can be. My heart is with every single sufferer of Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder.

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Jessica

I now see my depression and anxiety as a gift. I can feel everything more deeply and understand others so much more than I could have without it. Just know that you are NOT alone and that you will make it through this. The more we talk about what we are going through the faster we can get rid of the stigma of mental health disorders. Love and Light.

I grew up in a home with a father who was always working and not emotionally available and a narcissistic, bi-polar mother. My older and only sister was the golden child of the family and could do no wrong so of course I wanted to be just like her. I was always a very sensitive and emotional child. I can remember sitting next to someone and feeling their pain. I was also a very artistic child. I was always putting on plays and singing. I appeared to be a very happy child on the outside. Inside I was anxious and depressed. When I was eleven I remember having my first bout with major depression. My parents had fought and fought for as long as I can remember but this time, after leaving with my mother for a few weeks and finally returning home, I couldn’t bring myself to feel happy. This happened a lot but I didn’t tell anyone about it instead I wrote and sang along to music that told my story, well at least the way I was feeling at the time.

At the age of fourteen I was raped by my boyfriend in the basement of my parents home. This threw me into a very deep depression and for the first time I started having panic attacks. Music and God were truly the only reason I made it through the days. I eventually began cutting, but on my thighs and other places that could only be seen by me. There were any number of suicide scenarios that played out in my mind nightly. I even attempted two of those but couldn’t get very far. As you can imagine my mother and I didn’t have the greatest relationship and her mental illness certainly affected mine because she was not, and still isn’t, dealing with it. By the time I had reached my senior year in high school I had missed a TON of days, but luckily I had taken enough dance and art credits at a local state college to graduate. In fact I didn’t attend the most of the last half of my senior year because I couldn’t get out of bed. I blamed most of it on migraines, which I did have, but the real reason I couldn’t get out of bed was because I really couldn’t get out of bed! When I finally broke down and told my mother about the rape, she somehow made it all about her of course, I started down the long road of medications. One made me drool and completely unable to hold a pen once it took effect and another made me completely manic. Over the years I’ve felt completely alone in my struggle to become me.

Feelings weren’t something to talk about, they were something to stuff away or if you did talk it was screaming. I’ve had many failed relationships and one failed marriage and I know that a lot of that was from me not being open about having depression and anxiety. Thankfully I have a husband who also understands depression. We talk. We are open. We don’t judge how the other is feeling. Having your feelings validated by your significant other, even just your family or friends, makes all the difference. Just because you don’t understand doesn’t mean that feeling they are having is invalid. I live in LA now and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. We’re all freaks in our own ways and in LA you can let that fly. I find now that being open and being completely myself that others who get it gravitate toward me. I have to give much love to the To Write Love On Her Arm project for giving me hope, but also giving me the power to use my voice for others who are going through what I went through. I now see my depression and anxiety as a gift. I can feel everything more deeply and understand others so much more than I could have without it. Just know that you are NOT alone and that you will make it through this. The more we talk about what we are going through the faster we can get rid of the stigma of mental health disorders. Love and Light.

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Sarah V

Finally, one day I just let go. I let go of all the pain, the worry of people not liking me for me, the anxiety attacks seemed to decrease, and the pain in my heart finally went away.

Seeing this picture now, it represents all the struggle and pain I masked over 6 years without telling anyone. The summer of 2005, I turned 13, but little did I know that all things over the course of the next 3 months would make me turn into an adult. That summer our whole family was shocked over the death of my grandpa. I remembering a few days after his funeral, I came home from school seeing my parents overwhelmed with grief and so much pain. I lived with my grandma (or to me: grandmama) until the summer ended and throughout the school year. I never experienced so much grief in my life until that moment. I asked myself, “What did I do so wrong?” or “How come I have to take care of her”. From that summer of 2005 until 2010 I reached a point in my life where my pain needed to be taken away. Wherever it hurt, I would cut the pain away. I isolated all of my anger, all the tears onto the people I loved. Being 13 and not understanding why your heart aches every time you hear your grandmother cry out loud. After awhile I masked my pain with music and laughter. Just by me telling someone a joke and seeing a person smile made me feel like my life wasn’t a lie. Until I met Jared, I explained my experience and he seemed so sweet, gentle, and loving. I knew right then and there I needed to stop. Although it was hard, I looked into Jared’s warm eyes and knew if he could believe in me I could too. Over the years, I shared my story and every time people would say, “You were so young, I couldn’t ever forgive my parents”, but I did. My parents fought, but they gave me their time and helped me push through it. Especially my mom, she made sure I had the resources I needed, every time a program wouldn’t work she found ways to get me into programs/treatments, she made sure every appointment was paid for, and she held my hand every time I was scared to let go. Finally, one day I just let go. I let go of all the pain, the worry of people not liking me for me, the anxiety attacks seemed to decrease, and the pain in my heart finally went away. Will I ever be completely cured? I’m not sure. I’m not sure if anyone can ever forget the things I’ve seen. I’m not sure if one day, I’ll be depressed or have anxiety attacks again. Although all that pain is gone, my tears have dried up, but I’m sure of this: I’m extremely grateful to my mom for always fighting for me and believing in me, for Jared always holding my hand, for my grandma never giving up.

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Victoria

My story starts at a young age! I was just 9 years old when I told my parents I needed help because I just couldn't handle being so sad anymore. So my parents made me an appointment with a psychiatrist and a therapist. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with depression, anxiety & social phobia. I actually still have the piece of paper to this day that he wrote my diagnosis on.

My story starts at a young age! I was just 9 years old when I told my parents I needed help because I just couldn’t handle being so sad anymore. So my parents made me an appointment with a psychiatrist and a therapist. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with depression, anxiety and social phobia. I actually still have the piece of paper to this day that he wrote my diagnosis on. Even though I got on depression medicine it still didn’t help with my social phobia. Due to my social phobia I missed school… A LOT. I stayed home more than I went & due to that I started failing and my friends abandoned me.

When I was 13 I got in trouble for truancy and I was given an ultimatum to either go inpatient and get help for my depression and social phobia or go to juvenile hall so I chose to go inpatient. So there I was at the front doors of a big mental health hospital and I was scared to death. I was sitting in the waiting room waiting to be evaluated to be put inpatient. Finally they called me back there into a small dark room with a round table and four chairs. There sat me, my mom, my dad and the evaluator. She asked me all kinds of questions like: Have you ever been physically abused? No. Have you ever been sexually abused? No. Have you ever thought about ending your life? I sadly had to answer yes. I looked over at my mom who had tears rolling down her face and I felt so bad. After about 3 hours they finally said they were keeping me.

I had to say goodbye to my Mom and Dad which was so scary for me! I went to the back where they showed me my room & gave me a hospital bracelet. They stripped searched me and then told me it was shower time. They assigned me a “shower box” with baby shampoo, conditioner, a little bar of soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste. I got into the shower and couldn’t figure out how to turn on the shower so I had a panic attack and sat in the floor crying. That first night was very hard, but after that I was so glad that I went! My depression was a lot better after I got on a different medicine. I stayed for 6 days and got out the day before Thanksgiving.

Even though my depression was better my social phobia was still bad and I still didn’t go to school. I was told about a school at the hospital where I  decided to go. It was called day treatment and I met a lot of people like me and a lot of people worse than me. Going to day treatment was one of the best decisions I ever made! I ended up leaving there to go back to school and I did for a little bit, but I decided to drop out because my social phobia was still so bad. Eventually I stopped seeing a psychiatrist because I really thought I was getting better. In July 31st 2011 my Dad passed away.  He was my best friend and my whole world crashed. Every morning when I woke up it felt like a bad dream and I would just cry my eyes out. I eventually went back to the psychiatrist and got back on depression medicine.

I decided I wanted to get my GED and graduate for my Dad so I went back to day treatment because they started a new GED class and I was the first one to get my GED out of the class. It felt so good to be able to say I’d done it – that I got my diploma! I eventually sorta stopped taking my medication. By sorta I mean that I took it a few times a week and that was it. Then I lost my insurance and I couldn’t afford my depression medicine so I let my PCP change it to a $4 script from Walmart and I was doing okay and eventually I got my insurance back, but stupidly I didn’t go back to the psychiatrist and I got to where I was crying myself to sleep every night, but I was hiding it. When I couldn’t hide it anymore I called to get back in to see a psychiatrist and they either didn’t take my insurance or there was a long waiting list. I cried constantly and I didn’t wanna live anymore. If it wasn’t for my Momma I would be dead.  I eventually had to go inpatient to get on some new medicine. It was once again one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only did I get better, but I met a lot of amazing people in the 7 days I was there! I’m always gonna battle my mental illness, but I’ve learned that I can’t go without medicine and to never stop going to my psychiatrist! We need to end the stigma on mental health! People shouldn’t be afraid to tell someone they’re suffering from a mental illness! I believe that if we all share our story we could really help end the stigma! If my story helps just one person then it was completely worth writing! No one should be ashamed or try to hide their mental illness! #EndTheStigma

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Krista

I am fully aware of the fact that there are limited resources surrounding living with and overcoming Depersonalisation and Derealisation, heck I am still learning myself. However, I will always do anything in my power to help fellow sufferers, and so I hope that this short blog has been of some help. While I have yet to find coping strategies that work for me, I have acquired a few through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions which I hope will be effective for others.

“I don’t feel like me anymore. I don’t feel real”
“I don’t know who I am anymore”
“My reflection scares me, it doesn’t look like me”
“It feels as if I am living in a cartoon or a movie”
“It is as if I am looking down on myself, detached from my body”
“I no longer recognise my family or my friends. It’s as if I’m with strangers”
“I’m losing my mind. They’re going to cart me away”

Do any of the above apply to you? I can honestly say that regardless of the inability to breathe, the loss of vision, jelly legs and dizziness, depersonalisation and derealisation are by far the most terrifying symptoms of ‘anxiety’ (something that I will dispute later on), particularly when, like me, you have had to endure it constantly over a long a long period of time. Very often, one of my greatest fears will be to lose my mind and be sectioned indefinitely. I can envisage myself being carted away kicking and screaming, drool dripping down my face with an expression resembling that of the girl out of The Exorcist. However, I have often also questioned this same fear and genuinely believe that, to an extent, a part of me wants to be sectioned. I crave that constant support – having the professionals there to give you your medicine and tell you that what you are experiencing is ‘totally normal’, to be around fellow sufferers and consequently not feel quite so isolated. I want to feel understood. I want to feel ….. safe.

Have you ever tried to get a non – sufferer to understand just how depersonalisation makes you feel? Yes they may try, they may tilt their head at the right time and they may remind you that you are ‘not alone’, but that does not help in the slightest. I have had people tell me to ‘ignore it’ and to ‘remind myself that people will pay good money to experience a similar trip’. How do you actually ignore depersonalisation, though? The level of fear the illness carries can never be put in to words. Trying to get a supposed ‘mental – health professional’ to understand the effects of depersonalisation and derealisation is like banging your head against a brick wall. Are they not supposed to be the ones with all the answers? Are they not supposed to have that magic cure to take away all of the angst? I fail to recall the number of times I have been asked by mental health professionals to explain how I am feeling, as I am left begging them to help me, to wave a magic wand and make me feel at one with my body once more. Throughout my 3 1/2 years living with depersonalisation and derealisation I have spoken to six therapists and nine doctors and I can honestly say that not one of these has been able to empathise with how I am feeling, with most choosing to overlook it as being yet another symptom of anxiety. A ‘symptom of anxiety’ makes it sound so ‘inferior’, does it not? Heart palpitations and dizziness are ‘symptoms of anxiety’ that can be dealt with and forgotten about but depersonalisation and derealisation, really? Well I will tell you ‘professionals’ something for nothing – the next time a patient walks in to your office showing any of the symptoms listed above, take them seriously and do not fob them off like you have done me. You will never understand the strength and courage it takes for a person to go on while experiencing this. While the intrusive thoughts, the vomit inducing fear and the isolation as you struggle to gain an understanding of not only who you are but where you are is something that us sufferers will never be able to explain, we would give everything to hear those four simple words “I can help you”. I am welling up myself right now while writing this.

When having spoken to previous therapists about my depersonalisation and derealisation, one of my first questions asked was always whether they held a basic understanding of each disorder and indeed that they had the resources and expertise to treat them successfully. My mind was, of course, put at ease when their initial replies were yes, and that they had even experienced said disorders themselves at some level or another. Bingo. It was as if all my Christmases had come at once. I had finally cracked it. Someone was finally going to listen to me and take me seriously! However, this level of elation was always short lived (shocker) as, upon starting therapy, this was never the case. Now I am in no way a violent person, Jesus, I feel guilty killing a spider and those things terrify me, but I would often envisage myself smacking each of their faces on the table at least once during our sessions. You know that infamous scene shared between Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez in ‘Monster in Law?’ Keep that one in mind. I found myself having to bite down on my lip on numerous occasions as they each tried to fob me off with answers such as ‘It is your panic attacks’, or ‘you must have been in a high state of anxiety’, or ‘your mind is exhausted’. Huh? I have had this for nearly three and a half years and, after all of your mental health training and your apparent expertise, you are trying to tell me that I am living my life in a constant panic attack? I napped for 3 hours this afternoon and had 6 hours sleep last night but you are trying to tell me that I am not getting enough sleep? I am slowly starting to understand why many mental health sufferers are losing faith in the mental health system. The support and understanding is just not there.

With regards to daily life with depersonalisation and derealisation, to you, the observer, I am me. I smile. I laugh. I function. I can hold a conversation, whether that may be for a limited period of time, and I still bear that same old (cheesy) sense of humour. My hair (mostly) looks nice (we are all allowed off days), I wear makeup and I have a pretty impressive clothes and shoe collection for an agoraphobic whom rarely goes anywhere. My mind, however, tells a different story for it is as if I am trapped inside a locked, invisible box; I am unable to break free from the chains keeping me from stepping back into reality, alone, scared and vulnerable. During a heightened episode of depersonalisation I lose all ability to function, to communicate with those around me. I can hear conversations taking place, see their mouths moving, but I am unable to process what is actually being said, nor form a sentence as a means of involvement. My speech becomes slurred, my breathing shallow and my vision distorted as I can feel the chains tightening. I have even, on a few occasions, been left unable to consume solid foods due to my mouth not feeling like my own, as if I am chowing down on cotton wool (one of the most difficult and surreal sensations to explain). My body will become ‘psychologically’ numb, as if I have been transported into another person’s being. I will very often believe that I am not supposed to be this person. That, without my knowing, the infamous ‘Freaky Friday jolt’ has taken place and I am a trapped soul waiting to be returned to the correct body. That is just how scary these disorders can become!

And then the ‘brain fog’ will slowly begin to creep in as a task as simple as making a hot drink becomes an uphill challenge. Now how do I turn the kettle on again? Where did I put the coffee and sugar? Matthew said he wanted a tea and Lee asked for a black coffee with no sugar, but who are Lee and Matthew? It feels as if I have been placed in a room filled with strangers, like I have accidentally walked in to the wrong house. My surroundings appear to resemble a scene from a movie set as I find myself patting the settee, touching the television cabinet or cuddling my dog, Max. I will pace, through fear, believing that maybe if I walk quickly enough I will be able to ‘get away’ from myself, that the chains will automatically start to unravel. Surprisingly enough I will do the same while having a panic attack, as if crossing the road or moving from my living room to my bedroom will become a game of hide and seek and the dreaded anxiety will not be able to find me. I will pull my hair, bite my skin, claw at my face and even scrape away at my arms and legs with the sharp edges of bottle caps and plastic pots in the hope of inflicting a level of pain strong enough to make me feel ‘something’. But that I cannot. I am both mentally and physically numb. On occasions intrusive thoughts have even led me to believe that I am either being filmed for a sequel to the Truman Show or that I am in a Crime watch re – enactment, and that, somehow, I am merely an actress in a scripted documentary and the producer/director will be calling it a wrap at any given moment. Sounds crazy, does it not? I dare you to not laugh.

However, despite all of this, the most emotive factor of depersonalisation is that my brother no longer feels like my brother and, each time I meet up with my ‘friends’ or those I am supposed to ‘know’, feels as if I am meeting and getting to know them again for the very first time. In a sense, I have had to create a new world for myself (maybe this is why I am such a pro on The Sims). I have had to get to know Matthew and those surrounding me again, as this ‘new Krista person’, while constantly reminding myself of the fact that they are indeed who they say they are, even though it very often does not feel that way. I will experience numerous debilitating panic attacks and heightened ‘out of body’ sensations while browsing through old family photos, or speaking to old friends and family. While it takes every ounce of strength and energy I possess to hold down a conversation with said people, and put on my ‘everything is okay’ mask, that familiar OCD voice of self – doubt will be screaming “Get out!! They’re intruders! They don’t really know you. They’re lying to you! It kills me to say this but while my Mum may ‘only’ have been passed for fourteen years and a very close friend for just over two and a half, I no longer recognise them when I look at their pictures. Were they actually ever really here or have I instead dreamed up this whole fantasy world and will instead wake up tomorrow?

Now can you understand why it feels as if I am a part of some low budget American movie? Through sheer frustration and confusion I want to throw my arms up in the air, to scream, to bang my fists. I want take hold of the nearest person and for them to tell me that I am actually still here and am not losing my mind with such conviction that my tainted mind actually believes it. I have never been one for wallowing (unless it comes to an assignment grade that I knew I deserved higher for) but the effects of depersonalisation and derealisation will often have me curled up on my bed or the floor in the fetal position, staring into thin air with tears streaming down my face as I pray for this torture to be over soon. I have often been told to remember ‘happier times’ when I am feeling low and use them as a method of lifting myself up, but how on earth do I do that when it does not feel as if I was a part of said memories. Was I an intruder? Because of everything listed within this article, I now have great difficulty in building relationships and meeting new people, an act which came so easily before depersonalisation had taken control of my fragile mind. I mentally and emotionally cannot handle human interaction. I will now regularly repeat my name and stare at my reflection in the mirror in the hope of it bringing me back into reality, allowing for my mind and body to reconnect so that I can then break free from the chains of the invisible box. Through desperation, I will spare a silent prayer each night before I go to sleep in the hope that, come morning, this will all be taken away. I just want to feel like me again. I just want to feel part of the real world. I want the old Krista back, even though I am no longer sure who she even is anymore.

I am fully aware of the fact that there are limited resources surrounding living with and overcoming Depersonalisation and Derealisation, heck I am still learning myself. However, I will always do anything in my power to help fellow sufferers, and so I hope that this short blog has been of some help. While I have yet to find coping strategies that work for me, I have acquired a few through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions which I hope will be effective for others.

• Sucking on lemon slices – It has been said that the sheer bitterness of the fruit will jolt sufferers back into reality.
• Playing the senses game – A weird one, but fun for passing the time when stuck in traffic. My depersonalisation will always worsen while travelling so this game has come in handy as a form of distraction. To do this you must name 5 things you can see, 5 you can smell, 5 you can touch and 5 you can hear. If you are playing with a partner it can get pretty difficult as you are not allowed to repeat any answers.
• Blasting your face with ice cold water (not ideal for us girls wearing makeup). It has been suggested that a blast of cold water on the cheeks will help ease symptoms of depersonalisation due to there being numerous nerve endings in our faces.
• Reading self – help books. Overcoming Depersonalization and Feelings of Unreality contains a number of valuable resources such as symptom charts and definitions.

Maybe one day we will be lucky enough to have the medical resources to overcome these illnesses. For now, though, we must continue to support one another and educate ourselves.

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Emily D.

It took unimaginable strength and support to overcome my mental illnesses: severe depression, anxiety, and ADD. Today, I live a happy, healthy, and sober life and I can't thank my family and friends enough for getting me the help I needed when I was suffering from a true medical disorder: mental illness.

Moving to a new school district in the 7th grade, I felt awkward and out of place. I felt as if everyone hated me and I was incapable of being loved. Eventually I began self harming: burning, cutting, anything that caused pain; this went on for about two years. Multiple suicide attempts later, my parents finally became aware of my condition. I was suffering in silence, too embarrassed to reveal my hardships to my family. Few close friends kept me strong through such tough times, and once my parents sent me to therapy I began acting out more than I ever had. Tricking and lying constantly to my therapist who was only trying to help me, I began spiraling even further out of control. Drugs, sex, and alcohol began my source of life; eventually it was all too much and I overdosed one final time. Luckily, a friend realized what I was doing and notified my mom. My parents carried me to the hospital and they were able to keep me alive. I spent 7 days in a psychiatric hospital. After a short amount of time my medication began to take effect and things got better. It wasn’t overnight, nor was it easy. It took unimaginable strength and support to overcome my mental illnesses: severe depression, anxiety, and ADD. Today, I live a happy, healthy, and sober life and I can’t thank my family and friends enough for getting me the help I needed when I was suffering from a true medical disorder: mental illness.

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Sam

My wife said I would go six months without talking. I didn't understand it myself. After struggling through college, and one major breakdown, I thought I was better? I continued to worsen into a darkness I did not understand. I began to research anything I could find, educating myself and trying to educate others.

Hi, my name is Sam, and I have had Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety since I was 17. I am now 50, and wished there would have been someone to share with many years ago. My travels with depression started at 17 when my mother passed away, my father had passed 8 years earlier. I began to what the therapist called “self-medicate” in my late teens. Alcohol and drugs were my release. I worked and drank for 6 years when I finally decided my child was more important. It didn’t take the darkness away, but it did give me something to take my mind off my depression. My wife said I would go six months without talking. I didn’t understand it myself. After struggling through college, and one major breakdown, I thought I was better. I continued to worsen into a darkness I did not understand. I began to research anything I could find, educating myself and trying to educate others. They said the typical things-just get over it and why are you depressed. Not being shy about my depression and anxiety, I found many people that were just as afraid as I used to be. With my openness, I have helped a few get help and not to be afraid. I am a school teacher, and my colleagues that don’t understand, don’t take me seriously, but that is alright. I am open with my students, hoping I can help some that are or will be dealing with mental illness. They are more supporting than the adults. I am still struggling, looking for the newest treatments, but I will survive! The most important thing, TAKE CHARGE OF YOURSELF. I would have gotten nowhere unless I had pressured the doctors to help me. Research! That is how I found BC2M. Thank you for letting me tell just part of the story.

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Jason

I am grateful to organizations like BC2M that advocate for an end to the stigma of mental illness. I am a person, just like you, and I deserve to have the best possible life that I can achieve. Part of doing so is being open about my illness and its effects on my life.

 

 

I live with and manage Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. I went for years untreated, either because I didn’t have insurance/couldn’t afford treatment, or because I was too scared and ashamed to seek help. Seeking treatment for my illness has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

I have been in treatment for a couple of years now, and I work daily to maintain good health. It’s a struggle, but of course, it’s worth it. I have good days and not so good days, like everyone living with mental illness. I am an advocate for myself and others living with mental illness. I believe there should be no shame or stigma surrounding mental health conditions. We must learn to erase the stigma, and talk frankly and openly about our lives and our experiences.

I am grateful to organizations like BC2M that advocate for an end to the stigma of mental illness. I am a person, just like you, and I deserve to have the best possible life that I can achieve. Part of doing so is being open about my illness and its effects on my life.

 

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Sahar

Imagine, there is help out there but people are refraining from getting it because they’re scared of the stigma they will face. I for one won’t have it. My dream is to end the stigma. I know if we all come together we can do it.

Life is scary but it’s even scarier when you suffer with mental illness. Imagine being stuck in a viscous cycle that has no mercy! It is painful and crippling. Every day is filled with darkness and thoughts that can drive the sanest person insane. It feels like someone has just pushed you into a deep dark abyss and just keeps falling into the blackness of hell.

My name is Sahar, I am 18, I live in Belize(located in Central America). I will try to make this story brief and not too boring! I suffer with generalized anxiety disorder, severe depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s drastically changed my life. I had to withdraw from school when I was 16 because the mental illness took over my body. I was terribly depressed and always anxious. I could not get out of bed. I literally could not get out, I tried and I felt stuck. I had no hope, no desires, nothing to live for. I was as empty as a hollow tree. I felt like there was a big gaping hole in me and nothing could fill the void.

Now for me, I like to consider myself too lucky and overly blessed. I have an extremely supportive family. At that time I refused to see any specialists or take any medicine. I thought it was just all a pile of horse shit. Of course it wasn’t and my family thankfully knew I just wasn’t thinking straight and able to want to get help, so they forced me. Literally dragged me out of bed to get to psychiatrist appointments, had to persuade me to do therapy every day, and constantly assure me that my medications had no dangerous side effects just so I would consider taking it. Eventually I gave up and decided it was time. It was time to change. By then my mom had given me a job at her school working with little kids. They inspired me to fix myself because I finally had something to live for. I started taking things more seriously. Each day conquering a new fear whether it was getting out of bed or not washing my hands every five seconds. I finally took the road to recovery.

I am currently still on this road, but I have accomplished so much. I get up and go to work, I am home schooled, I socialize more, and I no longer fear everything. These may seem petty but for me they are some of the biggest accomplishments in my young life. I have many triggers but sometimes it just happens and I can’t pin point why. Sometimes I have flashbacks. There are times where I have felt suicidal and once came extremely close to ending it all. Its all apart of the chaos of mental illness and this is what people don’t understand mental illness is not something you can just shake off its something that sticks on you it craves attention; it’s merciless, and viscous.

That is my story. I am sharing my story because I want to end the stigma towards mental illness and encourage people to come out and get help. The longer you hold your emotions in, the harder it gets and that can lead to the inevitable suicide. Everyday someone takes there life because it’s too much for them to handle and there to scared to get help. We have to end this. We can’t let people do this. We need to help them by accepting that everyone has problems and some people deal with it differently. Imagine, there is help out there but people are refraining from getting it because they’re scared of the stigma they will face. I for one won’t have it. My dream is to end the stigma. I know if we all come together we can do it. If there is anyone out there reading this and feels like they are on the brink of insanity please don’t give up, go and get help. Don’t feel bad for your problems. There is nothing wrong with it. I realize not everyone has accepting family member or friends and I desperately wish I could reach out to all and help but just know you are accepted and appreciated. Thank you for taking time to read this. I hope I was able to somehow inspire and motivate people to seek help and keep going. Thank you to all those who share their stories you inspire not just me but others!

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Isaac

It wasn't until my freshman year of college that I finally opened up to my parents about what had happened. I told them about my depression, the anxiety, the attempts to take my own life, and the bullying and abuse that I had taken from the other kids in my school. My parents had had no idea about everything that had been going on. After this I was able to be treated by a doctor, was given medication and have recovered from most of the effects of my disability.

For most of my life I have suffered alone. When I was in 7th grade, I started having severe bouts of anxiety and sadness that I couldn’t get rid of. I started to realize that what I was going through was depression, so I went to the doctor to see if there was anything I could do. I didn’t tell my parents about what I was going through because I never wanted to worry them, so when the doctor diagnosed me with severe chronic depression and anxiety I had to turn down the medication he prescribed or I would have had to tell my parents.

Instead, I attempted to turn to my friends. I told them about the things I was going through, the terrible depression, the anxiety, the horrid thoughts I had about how easy it would be to just end my life. I thought if I opened up to these people that I would at least have some support. They accused me of trying to get attention and lying. They stopped hanging out with me, stopped talking to me, and eventually wouldn’t even look at me when we walked past each other at school. I felt completely and utterly alone, more so than I have ever felt in my entire life.

I ended up spending most of my time alone and reading, either in the library or in a corner somewhere in the school. I barely spoke to anyone except for my teacher. To make matters worse some teachers praised me in front of the classes for having grades above everyone else’s. Because of this I became the focus for abuse from other students. While my parents thought I had joined wrestling and football, I had actually been sent to the hospital multiple times for the beatings I had received from other students telling me to “stop making everyone else look bad.” I was beaten up on a regular basis and tortured emotionally an psychologically in between. I was called gay and other words that I won’t say.

I attempted suicide twice during that time. The first time I was able to stop myself, but the second time I was lucky enough to be stopped by someone walking by my house who saw me in the window. He happened to be one of the local District Attorneys who would later become my mentor and one of my closest friends.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I finally opened up to my parents about what had happened. I told them about my depression, the anxiety, the attempts to take my own life, and the bullying and abuse that I had taken from the other kids in my school. My parents had had no idea about everything that had been going on. After this I was able to be treated by a doctor, was given medication and have recovered from most of the effects of my disability.

I now work for a university in Colorado working with incoming freshmen and helping them to adjust to a new portion of their lives. I am able to work with many students who suffer from similar or worse things than myself. It is these people, my mentor and now my students, who push me forward each day. They are the motivators in my life to make a difference and remove the stigma. They are the people that help me get up in the morning and the reason I now live up to the meaning of my name – laughter.

Depression and anxiety can have terrible effects on people, especially when you are going through them alone or don’t know what is going on. By reaching out and making a difference, by fighting against the stigma that society has put against people suffering from mental disability, more people can be saved from its effects.

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Meighan

I almost gave up. I almost decided that my depression and anxiety were going to keep me from getting an education, and I told myself that I wouldn't know enough to pass the classes anyway. Something- I don't know what- made me ask to be readmitted. When they let me back in, even though my illness didn't magically go away, I told myself I couldn't waste the opportunity. I didn't only start passing classes, I became a tutor in the campus drop-in English lab, and an instructional aide in two classes.

I was always a little shy. When I got to 7th grade, I was sent from my mother, to my father, to my grandmother, then back to my mother. I felt abandoned (by all but my father, who’d wanted me to stay but was in a bad financial situation) and like I wasn’t good enough for anyone to want me near them. My sister and I were split up. She was always the talkative one who made friends and protected me, even though we didn’t get along very well. Without her, I felt out of place and awkward, and going to my third Middle school in a year, I felt crushing anxiety. I also started feeling empty and having trouble finding anything that made me happy, besides eating and watching TV. I gained about 50 pounds in a very short period of time. That wasn’t the worse thing, though.

I couldn’t handle school. I’d always been a good student, but suddenly I found myself so crippled with discomfort about my looks, the way I talked, and the way I acted, that I couldn’t concentrate on school work or talk to others. I was always sad, and cried a lot. About a week into school, I stopped going. I pretended to go to school in the morning, carrying a book bag and everything, then sneaking back when my parents had gone to work. At night, I’d to the fake homework I’d invented for myself. I wasn’t proud of myself, and I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. I confessed to my mom about a month in to ditching school, and she reacted, as most people would, by being shocked and incredibly angry. I was scared of her reaction, and although I tried to explain how I was feeling when she was more in a mood to listen to me, she told me I was just having a rough time to adjusting to a new place and a new school, and I’d be fine.

I went back to school and was placed in remedial classes because that’s were the troubled kids went, but that was even worse. Although my classmates were nice, I still felt anxiety being around other people. Plus, I already knew the material and being bored made the day seem like it was 12 hours long.

I dropped out again, and this time refused to go back for years. I learned on my own, but I put no value on what I learned because wasn’t in school, where I was supposed to be. Many days I slept all day and watched TV all night. I had one friend, someone who I’d known as a kid, and without her I wouldn’t have made it. She got me out of the house once or twice a month during the school year, and almost everyday during the summer, which was when I felt the best. But I didn’t manage to go back to school. I did Independent study for a year, and tried high-school when I was given a social promotion to the 9th grade. I hung on for a few months, this time a target for bullying on top of everything else. I gradually went less and less until I’d dropped out again.

I became suicidal, especially when my friend moved away. I began cutting, and I started to realize that what I was going through was not normal. I wanted to see a psychiatrist, but my mother was resistant to the idea and said I didn’t need one. My sister was diagnosed bipolar at age 13, and basically grew up in group homes for teens with mental illness. My mom wanted at least one normal child, and I tried to pretend I was okay because I wanted to be that for her. I knew that she’d also received mental health treatment when she was younger, and had felt attacked. I think she didn’t want that to happen to me.

But when I was 17, I cut myself very visibly and was sent to the hospital on a 51/50. (Involuntary hold.) There, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and a possible mood disorder. I didn’t believe I’d get better, though, and only took the medicine I was prescribed for a few weeks.

I felt awful, stupid, ugly, and useless. I kept cutting and kept being sent to the hospital. Eventually I realized that I wasn’t going to get better if I didn’t try, so I began seeing a psychiatrist. I started to have hope for the first time in years. I wanted to go back to school.

I passed the GED at 18, but rather than being happy I felt ashamed. My mother lied to the rest of the family that I’d graduated High school, because she was embarrassed. I was hurt, but I felt that I deserved it. I called myself a loser, crazy, stupid. I realize now my mother was just afraid for my future, and didn’t know if I’d be treated badly in the workforce with a GED instead of a diploma. If she’d known the things I was saying to myself, she would have cried.

Eventually, though, I turned 18 and got a job, and surprised myself by being able to do it. I made some friends, I took the bus places by myself, I said Hi to people when they passed me on the street. I started feeling more human, and I wondered if I could do school. Eventually, I went to community college, where I dropped so many classes I was kicked out. I didn’t finish even one class in 3 years.

I almost gave up. I almost decided that my depression and anxiety were going to keep me from getting an education, and I told myself that I wouldn’t know enough to pass the classes anyway. Something- I don’t know what- made me ask to be readmitted. When they let me back in, even though my illness didn’t magically go away, I told myself I couldn’t waste the opportunity. I didn’t only start passing classes, I became a tutor in the campus drop-in English lab, and an instructional aide in two classes. I saw a student struggling one day and went up to help him, not realizing he was actually in a class that was visiting the lab. I didn’t say anything amazing- just told him to listen to himself read out loud and put commas and periods where he paused. He corrected his own paper, had a huge smile on his face, and I felt amazing. What I didn’t know was that his teacher had watched the whole thing. She offered me a job in the disability office being an Instructional Aide for students with learning disabilities. It was a job that usually was only open to people with a bachelor’s degree, and although I thought I was interviewing for it, when I went to the interview I discovered she was trying to convince me to take the job!

My boss was what made me succeed. I told her about my depression and anxiety, and she reacted by telling me if I needed to come in and do paperwork instead of work with students, or if I needed to do work at home, or if I needed any accommodation at all, we could figure it out. I felt respected and like my illness was- finally- just an illness, rather than what controlled my life. I barely missed any days, and when my father passed my work and school were what kept me from breaking down. It was surreal to love and feel at home school- a place that I had been scared of since I was 13.

I didn’t suddenly become better, though. I still had anxiety. I still had problems with depression. I still cut, occasionally. But I knew I could move toward being better, knew that I wasn’t useless, and had found a reason to commit to controlling my illness with therapy and medication. Gradually, people weren’t as scary anymore, and I made friends.

In 2006, I received an AA in social science with High Honors. In 2008, I received my Bachelor’s degree. It wasn’t easy. I did one semester independent study from the hospital. But getting that diploma was a triumph, and when I received it was the first time I truly knew that I was not my illness.

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Monica

No one could fly for me, carry me with their wings, or help me seek solace in their safe branches; recovery does not work that way. You have to want to get better and realize that it doesn’t always mean feeling better. I had to personally commit to my own health and self-esteem, which meant breaking the negative habits I’d developed over that past decade. I needed to be vulnerable, to admit there was a problem, to seek treatment. This would mean opening up to a psychologist, psychiatrist, nutritionist and scariest of all, my own family and friends.

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings.” – Unknown

I’ve read this quote numerous times over the past few years, each time hoping to gain more than just comfort; I wanted to find out the bird’s secret. How did the bird know to trust its own wings? Instinct, right? Well, if so, where was my instinct? How come I didn’t know I was going to be okay?

I wondered about this long and hard. I went through a phase where I wanted this tattooed on my wrist in order to remind myself that I had wings I could trust, not unlike the tattoo I have on rib cage that reminds me I always have the key; the way out to life’s struggles.

I love my key tattoo, because I have used my own “key” before to unlock shackles that held me back and made me feel trapped. However, I felt that if I got the tattoo of the bird, I would feel a bit hypocritical. See, I did not trust my wings. In fact, I never moved from my safe little branch – I sat there, hanging on for dear life, not looking down, and praying that the sucker never broke.

In fact, I took such desperate measures to avoid having to leave my safe, warm, little branch. With the weight of the problems and darkness I carried around with me, this was no easy task. That branch wanted to break, tired and ready to buckle from holding up not only me, but my heavy problems as well.

Knowing I could not bear to fly on my own, I devised a plan. I would hide is the shadows of the biggest leaves I could find, hoping they would never fall away and expose me. I depended on them to keep me safe and warm and happy so I did not need to learn how to do it on my own. When the leaves did fall and I was still there, shaking with fear, I blocked out the outside world.

This plan worked well, until sometime in the middle of July, when I sat in my psychologist’s office and sobbed about all the pain and suffering I went through in my poor little life (on my poor little branch). She looked at me sternly and said, “You don’t want to get better, you want to feel better.”

What? Why would I be sitting in this office pouring out my whole heart and soul if I didn’t want to get better? Also, didn’t “getting better” mean feeling better? Wasn’t that the point?

However, almost instantaneously, my branch snapped – faster than I could have ever imagined. She was calling my bluff—pointing out the fact that I stayed on my safe little branch all balled up with self-pity and lack of courage and called it a life. It became all at once transparent that I could no longer stay there, I needed to move forward. If I ever wanted to live a healthy life, it would have to mean leaving that branch.

For those of you that have read my past blogs, you may have picked up on the depression and anxiety that plagued me for the past few years. I’m pretty much an open book and while I’m always terrified to share how I feel, it’s strangely one of the things I know how to do best.

Looking back now, I read those posts and roll my eyes a bit at my whiny-ness, my own self-proclaimed victimization. I was a victim of the world. I was a victim of my past. I was a victim of the uncomfortable feelings that I was sure no one else had ever dealt with.

This is not to say the thoughts and feelings weren’t very, very real—because they were (and some days still are!). At least they seemed that way for me. I was lonely and felt rejected and had very low self-esteem; three factors that lead me down a road of complete self-destruction.

For a while, I thought I could fix the hole within me by latching on to others or latching on to destructive behaviors. In many ways, these fixes were my branch – they kept me safe. For this very reason I stayed in an unhealthy relationship knowing I was not happy until it eventually completely destroyed me. If I had someone by my side, it would mean that I was normal – the emptiness inside of me could be ignored and I would eventually feel whole.

This was not the case—in fact, it was the exact opposite.

So, when my psychologist said this to me it struck a nerve. It seems so simple, but yet, it was hard to grasp. Judging by my unhealthy behaviors, she was right. I didn’t eat because I wanted to feel better about myself. I became obsessed with guys who treated me badly because I wanted to feel loved. I stayed on the branch because I wanted to feel safe.

However, none of these behaviors actually helped me get better and none of them kept me safe. In fact, not eating led me down a path that pointed right to my grave. Being with guys that were not good for me lead me to lower self esteem. My attachment problems lead me to feel emotionally and physically unhealthy.

As with all major changes, getting better felt a whole lot like getting worse. All of these feelings of self-hatred that I tried to cover up with unhealthy behaviors came back in full force. Taking care of myself—eating right, exercising, therapy—were very difficult at first. The food was the hardest part. I abruptly moved back in with my parents and things were ugly for the first month. They were watching me fall, but no one could convince me that all I needed to do was trust my wings and fly.

No one could fly for me, carry me with their wings, or help me seek solace in their safe branches; recovery does not work that way. You have to want to get better and realize that it doesn’t always mean feeling better. I had to personally commit to my own health and self-esteem, which meant breaking the negative habits I’d developed over that past decade. I needed to be vulnerable, to admit there was a problem, to seek treatment. This would mean opening up to a psychologist, psychiatrist, nutritionist and scariest of all, my own family and friends.

In a recent Ted Talk, Glennon Doyle Melton mentions, “It’s braver to be Clark Kent than it is to be Superman.” If that isn’t the truth, I don’t know what is.

To climb down from this mountain of self-pride and stubbornness and admit that I had a real life problem that was neither glamorous nor easily solvable – well, that was scary. For so long I had fists held high and a shield up to ‘protect’ myself from a world that was ‘out to get me;’ never once taking a minute to realize that I was out to get myself. The real problem came from inside of me and nothing – no guy, no substance, and no low and dangerous number on a scale – was going to get me out of this dark place except me.

For the first time in a long time, I took steps forward. At first I felt completely directionless; I felt blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back. Every time I would start to feel good, the sadness would come back and I’d feel discouraged. The phrase “one step forward and two steps back” became more relevant than ever.

With the help of people who cared about me – truly cared ­­­­– those tiny steps became easier. I wrote down and fought negative thoughts. I worked with my nutritionist and became accountable for my own health by eating like a normal person would. I accepted that the low number on the scale was no true indication of the person inside of me. I challenged all the ‘rules’ I had created about good and bad foods and started to actually enjoy eating again.

The funny thing about disordered eating is that it’s probably the worst solution to any problem in the world. Aside from the obvious fact that your body needs nutrients to survive, sporadic eating habits affect your mood in HUGE ways. This makes perfect sense to me now. However, that is because I am in recovery. I can see clearly; my eyes are no longer broken. I understand now that without food, I will become depressed. When I become depressed, I will stop wanting food. This basic principle was so unbelievable hard to grasp and yet so very enlightening once I did.

I can now proudly say I’m on the road to recovery in so many ways. The pain that I carried on and on about is no longer there. It’s hard to even imagine what that pain is like because I did it; the branch snapped and I trusted myself to fly. I no longer have the urge to engage in destructive behaviors – I know I deserve better than all that. I realize now that no one can save me from myself even if that’s the only thing they want to do.

This is not to say that I’m naïve. I understand my shortcomings and my ability to relapse. However, I now have a better understanding of what triggers can lead me down that dangerous, destructive path and I work hard to avoid them. Life will lead me to many highs and lows but for the first time in a while I feel ready. I feel strong and I feel capable and healthy and blessed, even though not every moment of my life is perfect.

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Kelly

My mother has long-time struggled with mental unrest. Her life has been stricken with anxiety attacks, bouts of depression, social anxiety, etc. Since she was young, being at home in her own bed was more enjoyable than being surrounded by family and friends. However, she pushed through. She forged through life with her illness and never asked for help, until this week.

Last year, as I was looking for internships, I decided I wanted to work for a company that had some personal significance in my life. I had two passions: mental health and eating Chipotle. Since I didn’t want to ruin my love for delicious burritos, I decided to pursue a career in helping to change the landscape of current mental health services. This is when I met the wonderful staff at Mental Health America of Greater Indianapolis, started my internship, and never left.

As a Director at MHA Indy I know that the mental health system in Indiana is… crazy. There are more cracks and flaws in the system than there are strengths. We push for change in the community through education and awareness, we provide resources to those in need of immediate intervention, and we offer guardianship for those who have no one to care for them. I am very much immersed in the mental health field and I hear story after story of the failures of our system. However, these failures didn’t hit home until I saw the devastating look on my mother’s face as she asked me, “so I’m crazy enough to feel horrible, but not crazy enough to get help?”

Let’s back up a little. My mother has long-time struggled with mental unrest. Her life has been stricken with anxiety attacks, bouts of depression, social anxiety, etc. Since she was young, being at home in her own bed was more enjoyable than being surrounded by family and friends. However, she pushed through. She forged through life with her illness and never asked for help, until this week.

Many of us have been there, myself included, in that moment when life seems to keep going but we find ourselves stuck in a deep dark hole with no way out, metaphorically of course. We feel like we can’t participate in daily life, we cannot keep up with the world around us, and we just can’t jump high enough to escape. You wish for that climaxing moment like in a movie where the music is supposed to swell and someone swoops in to save you, pulling you into the brightness of day and you know everything will be alright.

When my mom called me on Monday morning to tell me she was ready to seek treatment for the first time in her life, after a long and hard fought battle, I was thrilled. I was nervous for her, I was excited for her, and I was all but scared. I had confidence that this was the moment the music would swell and there would finally be a light emerging. That is, before we sat at the crisis intervention unit for 5 hours only to be handed a list of referrals to other clinics that could help my mother, charged over $100, and sent home.

When we reached the sidewalk, my heart was racing. I was full of guilt for putting my mom through the painful questions with the therapist and letting her sit alone in a cold, criminal looking room only to be told that there was nothing that could be done for her. I was full of rage for the lack of concern for the fact that I told the therapist “it has taken years for her to ask for help, and I’m certain if you don’t help her today, she will never ask again.” I regretted not taking her somewhere better or nicer. I was heartbroken that this was not the turning point in my mom’s life, but another bad day to add to her already growing collection.

It wasn’t until my mom looked at me and innocently asked, “what just happened?” That I considered the way it must feel to be told, in her words, “you’re crazy, but not crazy enough to get help.” Unfortunately, this struggle was not over. I pushed my anger aside and told her as positively as possible that I was sorry this experience was so negative, but that we will find her the help she needs. That list of resources would guide us to someone who could help.

The night turned into day and the doors continued to slam in our faces. Waiting lists of weeks to months, restrictions on where patients could live, unanswered phone calls… the barriers were endless. And here I sat as the Director of Education for Mental Health America, helpless. I’ve struggled with the question of how do you get someone help when they don’t want it? How do you erase the stigma so people are comfortable reaching out? How do you get the information out to the community about resources that are available? But the one thing I wasn’t asking was – what do you do when someone wants help, but can’t find it?

While our uplifting movie moment hasn’t arrived, I haven’t given up hope. I know now, more than ever, that I chose the right path in life. I was passionate about my job before this week and angry toward the system, but now it’s personal. I would never give up fighting to help my family, and I won’t give up on yours either. Stand with me, tell your story, raise your voice… it’s time for change.

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Laura

Let me start by saying thank you for this website. I have been trying to bring awareness to the stigma attached to mental illness and suicide but it falls on deaf ears. It' s an uphill battle but I will not back down. We may not be able to wipe out stigma in our lifetime, but by talking about it and sharing our stories, we are on the road to change for future generations. Somethings gotta give, right?

Let me start by saying thank you for this website. I have been trying to bring awareness to the stigma attached to mental illness and suicide but it falls on deaf ears. It’ s an uphill battle but I will not back down. We may not be able to wipe out stigma in our lifetime, but by talking about it and sharing our stories, we are on the road to change for future generations. Somethings gotta give, right?

Your website gave me the inspiration to share my story. I thank you for that, as it was a very liberating experience. I feel a weight has been lifted off of my chest. Thank you so much!

Here goes……

When I was diagnosed with stg 3 bc, I was an overnight success. People adored me like a rockstar, treated me like a ninja warrior, I received cards, flowers, gifts etc like I was the queen of the world. It was a bit over-whelming to be honest, I’m not good with praise of any kind let alone being praised for having a death sentence hanging over my head lol. It was over stimulating and I felt kind of uncomfortable with all of the attention. HOWEVER, because of the support I was given – I skated through surgery, treatment and endless complications with ease. I had love and support of friends family – ah hell – even Tom Dick and Harry!!!!!! With that kind of support army on your side – you can almost beat cancer, right? Well so far so good – I’m going on 6+ yrs without any sign of it returning. Here comes the good part. Because of the endless complications -numerous surgeries followed. I was either in the hospital or in bed most of the next few years. I became depressed. It seemed like it was never ending. The pain meds were helping with the pain and the depression – until they stopped helping! Now to be totally honest, I did not get depression from cancer surgery complications. I already had depression, anxiety and panic attacks on and off my whole life. You know how it goes – triggers can pull you back in – and this period of endless surgeries, pain meds, hospitals and beds was certainly a trigger!!! Now comes the good part. Once people caught on that I was “losing it” as some called it – that army of support that I had surrounding me helping me beat cancer – was now abandoning me because I had that dreaded stigmatized “mental” illness! Who would’ve thunk it right? I can honestly say that I needed them LESS when I had doctors, chemo, radiation and the like helping me beat the cancer. I needed them MORE when there was nobody to help me – and that was when my depression came back. I think this is how we ALL feel having sickness in our brains that cause depression, anxiety, panic, etc – we get the support when we need it the least and when we need it the most we feel alone in the fight. That’s where the danger of suicidal thoughts come in. Stigma is dangerous. When is the world going to realize this? How can you be a hero one day because you were diagnosed with cancer, and the next a loser because you were diagnosed with mental illness????????? This is one of the most difficult fights in my life having depression anxiety and panic, and all that comes with it – – and my army left me a prisoner of this war alone. WOW, Ive thought about this too much since I experienced it, but until I wrote it down I didn’t realize how very much I was affected by it. It’s no wonder I was suicidal, huh? Doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure it out, right? We all have these kind of issues. We are all in this together. We need each other to support one another. Everyone struggling with mental illness is my hero. It’s one of thee hardest battles one can go through in life. Not being able to control how you feel from day to day sucks. I would not wish it on my worst enemy let alone the happy shiny people who are bouncing around doing happy dances every day LOL LOL. I am in awe of those who can truly be happy without effort. I wish I knew how that felt. But I do know this – IT’S NOT ME – it’s my brain being sick – that causes these feelings. We are not at fault. We are not causing ourselves to feel this way. We have no control over it. We are also ninja warriors of the universe – just like cancer patients or anyone fighting any disease. We have to fight to hold our heads up high.

HUGS LOVE AND SUPPORT !

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Catherine

I don't hide the fact I have bipolar. Many people I come in contact with are shocked that I have it. "But you seem normal. But you're successful in your career. But you don't live on the street". All of those statements are ridiculous. This is why we have to break the stigma.

I am 39 years old, married, mother of 3 boys, and have Bipolar II and Anxiety Disorder. I have a Bachelors Degree in Nursing and have been in practice for 17 years. I was midiagnosed with Major Depression at age 17, when I tried for the first time to commit suicide to get away from an abusive boyfriend, my horrible self esteem, and the wacked out thoughts in my head. This would be #1 of 3 attempts. So how was I midiagnosed?  First of all, finding a decent psychiatrist was next to impossible. And no one caught my hypomanic episodes because I don’t have euphoria with them. I am irritable, agitated, and prone to anger outbursts, much like some people’s depressive episodes. And no one noticed the extreme anxiety I have felt my whole life, until it got worse in the postpartum period after the birth of my first child, at age 33. Finally, FINALLY at age 36, I found the world’s greatest psychiatrist and got the correct diagnosis. I require med changes every three months still. I think many of us with this disorder do. I don’t hide the fact I have bipolar. Many people I come in contact with are shocked that I have it. “But you seem normal. But you’re successful in your career. But you don’t live on the street”. All of those statements are ridiculous. This is why we have to break the stigma.

Mental illness does not preclude us from intelligence. It does not mean we can’t be successful in our lives. But we need resources to do so. More funding for public mental health clinics. Medicines that are less expensive or more medication assistance programs. More mental health insurance benefits. Help for our veterans. Help for the homeless mentally ill population. More inpatient psychiatric beds. Mental illness needs to be brought up from the bottom of the funding barrel. If we had more resources, there would be less utilization of ER beds, less admissions for overdoses and substance abuse effects, less violent crime, less homelessness. It would be less expensive and better for society if mental illness mattered more. We deserve it because we are your fellow mothers, fathers, children, doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, actors, HUMANS MATTER!

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Anita

I was twenty six years old with the world at my finger tips. I had made it through obstacles and difficult times most of my life. However nothing had prepared me for the road I was going to travel on for the next two years. I was in the middle of 5th Avenue in Manhattan when I froze and had a debilitating panic attack.

I was twenty six years old with the world at my finger tips. I had made it through obstacles and difficult times most of my life. However nothing had prepared me for the road I was going to travel on for the next two years. I was in the middle of 5th Avenue in Manhattan when I froze and had a debilitating panic attack. I was hit with tragedy and disappointment consistently for six months before my life as I knew it was shattered into a million little pieces. I was escorted into the emergency room. I couldn’t stop crying, the doom I felt was like a boulder on top of me. After going through my history with my doctor I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was relieved to finally have an answer for my manic behavior for the past year always following with a debilitating depression. I thought I would take my medicine and be fine. I learned I had a long journey of medicine trials and disappointments. I felt ashamed because many people thought I should just snap out of it.

After going though what felt like a merry-go-round of the same doubtful emotions, I decided to have ECT to correct my rapid cycling. I was so scared but put on a brave face for my family. They were in agony watching their once vibrant daughter and sister become drained of herself, hollow inside. After the ECT my life slowly came back together and one by one each shattered piece began to fit again. The past two years were the darkest times of my life, they shadowed every dream and aspiration I had. With medicine and the correct treatment my dreams and aspirations are no longer shadowed by doubt. They are within arms reach and I will push my self to reach them and beyond.

Having a mental illness is difficult but not impossible. It has made me stronger, given me a multifaceted view of the world, and made me realize that I had already climbed the mountain any other obstacle is merely a hill. I want to help other people with mental illness. I have bipolar and always will. However I had mixed cyle/rapid cycling bipolar. Medication was not sticking I was fighting with everything I had. ECT was a savior for me but I am the one who had the bravery to do so. We are more in control than we give ourselves credit for. Inform yourself, take care of yourself and most important never ever give up on yourself. God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. Best of luck to everyone of you. You are not alone never lose hope it will get better.

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Jaqueline

I was and am your everyday teenager. However, every day I struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression, and anxiety. I've received years of therapy and, last year, even a couple months of electro-convulsive therapy.

I am a 19 year old girl, a college student, a daughter, a sister, a grandchild, a cousin, an employee, and a friend. I went to Catholic school, have held down a job since I was 14, and love reading, video games, and hanging out with friends. I took AP classes in high school, hated math, and hated waking up early for school. I was and am your everyday teenager. However, every day I struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression, and anxiety. I’ve received years of therapy and, last year, even a couple months of electroconvulsive therapy. I’m going to McLean Hospital for a residential OCD treatment within the next few months. I want to get better and I’m hoping I will. I am combating mental illness one day at a time, but you’d never know it just by looking at me. Who knows? I could be YOUR friend, your child, your sister, your granddaughter, your employee, or your student. So don’t discriminate against those who struggle with mental illnesses. Instead, talk about it and educate yourself. Stop the stigma before it starts.

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Stephanie

I deal with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, some days being more bearable than others. It can literally hit me from one day to the next. And what's truly amazing is how quick it comes on. It's almost like changing the filter lens on a camera. Sharp and clear become slightly blurred and hazy.

I deal with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, some days being more bearable than others. It can literally hit me from one day to the next. And what’s truly amazing is how quick it comes on. It’s almost like changing the filter lens on a camera. Sharp and clear become slightly blurred and hazy. Nothing is focused right; my head hurts from straining to get some type of focus back. My muscles become harder to move; slow is the new fast. A new sense of reality sets in and depression becomes so familiar, that it feels just as good as a warm embrace from the people whom I care and understand me the most. Depression becomes home and happiness is a visitor. It’s astounding how comfortable it becomes, almost like a bad habit (and you know what they say about bad habits right?)

And while it all appears so comfy, the scary part is that you can’t get out. Imagine being shoulder deep in quick sand that you didn’t know you stepped in it until just that point. You know you need to get out to stay alive but you don’t know how, because it’s slowly sinking you into oblivion. It seems as though no matter what you do, you’re still sinking. You panic not knowing what to do. The only way you can be saved is if someone reaches out their hand for you to grab or if you stand still and think logically. Then when you’re finally out you swear you will never think like that again, continue on the path of life, being careful and avoiding any signs of danger until….you step into quicksand again.

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Joshua

I have been living with chronic depression and anxiety disorder for the past 5 years. I remember before I ever dealt with this myself, I did not understand others dealing with these same things. I tended to stereotype people as just crazy, or not strong. I firmly believed that they were not strong enough to deal with problems in everyday life and that they just needed to suck it up and get over it.

I have been living with chronic depression and anxiety disorder for the past 5 years. I remember before I ever dealt with this myself, I did not understand others dealing with these same things. I tended to stereotype people as just crazy, or not strong. I firmly believed that they were not strong enough to deal with problems in everyday life and that they just needed to suck it up and get over it. Little did I know that this was much easier said than done. I never realized the impact these things have on people until I found myself walking in their shoes. I didn’t wanna get out of bed, I would have panic attacks at random moments when there seemed to be no trigger at all. I would just wanna run away and crawl in a dark hole. Then I moved into the phase that I like to call despair. I was completely convinced that no one loved or cared about me. I felt that I had spent my entire life trying to please others and take care of others but had left nothing for myself. I began to think that everyone owed me something, I couldn’t keep healthy relationships because the demands that I put on friends and family were so unrealistic. No one could live up to what I needed them to be, I was looking for all my happiness in other people, never realizing that I could make my own happiness and get control of my life.

My biggest problem was the fact that I refused to seek help. I had so many stereotypes and heard what others had to say about people on medications with mental illness. I also came from a religious background and felt that I just didn’t have enough faith to move past this. Finally a friend convinced me to go see my doctor and get some counseling. I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety with some bipolar tendencies. Also ADD. Through medication and counseling I have been able to live my life while dealing  with these things. It wasn’t instant, it takes trial and error with the medications, don’t get discouraged if the first thing doesn’t work. Just keep trying and you will find something that works and you will feel so much better. One thing I will say from experience is that medications without therapy or counseling will not be near as effective. I made the mistake of doing counseling until I felt better and then I quit, which was a bad mistake. It’s during the times I was feeling good that we were really able to work on things. I wasn’t getting any better for a  while because I was only going to counseling for damage control when I was in a really bad state. I would tell anyone dealing with this to go to counseling or therapy consistently for at least 6 months. It will help you more than you realize. I hope this helps someone know that  you can and will make it. You are not alone, we’re all in this together.
    

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Courtney

I knew something was wrong when I was in 4th grade. The only way I knew how to describe how I felt was "I don't feel good". Through high school I found out that I had an anxiety disorder, suffered from depression, and it took over my life. But I was determined to take my life back.

I knew something was wrong when I was in 4th grade. The only way I knew how to describe how I felt was “I don’t feel good”. Through high school I found out that I had an anxiety disorder, suffered from depression, and it took over my life. But I was determined to take my life back. The anxiety and depression took its toll on my eating habits, and I quickly became 90lbs at age 17 at 5’3. I told myself I would challenge myself and would prove anxiety and the stigma around it wrong. I moved 800 miles away to go to a great college, quickly became involved in the dance team, and although I still suffered greatly, I was determined to show others that life was possible. No one knew that behind my smile, and behind the TV appearances and Championship games I was involved in, was a scared and anxious person who dealt with anxiety and depression every minute of every day. I graduated, became a 4-year letterman athlete, and now work in the healthcare industry in a great city. I am living proof that young adults can fight anxiety and depression, and that there is hope. I still suffer, but consider myself a survivor and have decided to dedicate my life to helping others and bringing change to minds that negatively view mental illness. There is no normal, and there is no right or wrong. I am proud of who I am, and want to help others who were or are in my position. I thought I was alone, and I never want anyone to have to feel that way. We are survivors.

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Danielle

"Just call up a friend and go do something." "Go out, have fun for a change." "Speak up." If only it were that easy. I have dealt with social anxiety and depression for almost eight years. At first, I thought I was just shy. It wasn't until I got older how much I realized just how uncomfortable I was around other people.

“Just call up a friend and go do something.” “Go out, have fun for a change.” “Speak up.” If only it were that easy. I have dealt with social anxiety and depression for almost eight years. At first, I thought I was just shy. It wasn’t until I got older how much I realized just how uncomfortable I was around other people. Social anxiety is hard to explain. I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I should be able to go to the store and not feel like every eye is on me, judging me, criticizing me. I should be able to make a phone call without redialing the number several times, for fear that I entered it wrong, and then shaking until the person answers, then fumbling over my words because I’m so overwhelmed. I should be able to drive in my car and not feel like everyone is watching me. I should be able to walk my dog through my neighborhood without feeling like all my neighbors at that exact moment in time are watching me and judging me. I know I should not feel this uncomfortable around people I know. But I cannot help but feel this way. I dread being called on by professors, and, in the unfortunate case when I do get called on, my heart pounds and my hands shake and I get so frazzled I can barely speak. I cannot convince myself that it is ok for me to be out in public and go to class and go to the store and drive!

I firmly believe that unless you have this mental illness, you won’t fully understand what it is like. What it’s like to not feel comfortable in your own skin. Or just plain feel good enough, for anything. My depression is an unfortunate side effect of my anxiety. Some days are worse than others. There are days when I just don’t even want to be touched. would rather sit alone in my room and read or crochet than have human interaction. I feel guilty about a lot of things that come from my anxiety and depression. Not wanting to hug my own mother kills me inside. I tell her I’m sorry and she says it’s ok, that she understands but I tell her, “No! It’s not ok. I should want to hug you.” To which she replies, “You will.” I have been seeing a counselor and I do think it is helping, along with medication I recently started. I don’t know if I will ever be a carefree person that thrives on life and being social. I don’t know that I want to be that way. I just want to feel comfortable enough in my own skin and worry free enough to do simple social things. Even though there are times when I feel like the only person in the world with this illness, I know I’m not alone. Whether it is my family, my counselor, or other socially anxious and depressed people, I don’t have to do this alone.

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Jenna

When the Mental Health Champion Challenge was first introduced by BC2M, I promptly put it in the “Does Not Apply To Me” file. It’s not that I’ve been completely deprived of support - it’s just generally of the arm’s-length variety. It doesn’t help that I fiercely guard my independence and privacy. Asking for help is really not my thing. This seemingly sad situation actually led to an empowering epiphany.

When the Mental Health Champion Challenge was first introduced by BC2M, I promptly put it in the “Does Not Apply To Me” file. It’s not that I’ve been completely deprived of support – it’s just generally of the arm’s-length variety. It doesn’t help that I fiercely guard my independence and privacy. Asking for help is really not my thing.

This seemingly sad situation actually led to an empowering epiphany. Not that I have a special gift for alliteration (which I apparently do), but that… are you ready for it…

I AM MY OWN CHAMPION.

There. The Challenge now applies to me! And I think I’ve been a rather good Champion. No, I’ve been an excellent Champion.

When I hit the lowest point of my depression five years ago, I stopped functioning. I lost my job, barely ate, saw no one, and rarely left my couch. I was broken and didn’t feel I had the right to be repaired. Somehow I was able to come to the conclusion that the care I had been receiving until that point was simply inadequate and the only way it was going to improve was if I reached out and initiated change.

I found a new clinic to attend, where I was listened to and really helped for the first time. I was tested for a definitive diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I set aside my pride to apply for Social Security Disability, knowing that it would buy me time to get the treatment I needed to be whole again.

I’ve now completed a year of Dialectical Behavior Therapy and continue to see a therapist I highly value. I’m taking the appropriate medication for my needs. I don’t sleep on the couch anymore – except maybe on Sunday afternoons. I eat (mostly) healthy meals. I handle household chores and run errands. I can even keep my anxiety down while driving on the freeway!

Clearly, I’ve had little champions assisting along the way – my family, a very close friend, a dedicated therapy team. I just never anticipated that I would be my most important Champion. Even if you don’t feel you “deserve” it right now, be your own greatest Champion. The love and appreciation you’ll feel for yourself is just around the corner.

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Sophie

From the outside someone would see me as “having it all,” a great job, supportive family, amazing friends. On the inside I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety since I was 14, dealing with my emotions by cutting. Shame and embarrassment have been following me around for the past ten years.

Hi, my name is Sophie

From the outside someone would see me as “having it all,” a great job, supportive family, amazing friends. On the inside I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety since I was 14, dealing with my emotions by cutting. Shame and embarrassment have been following me around for the past ten years.

Growing up I dealt with a lot of peer pressure and always felt like an outcast. I never understood how to form friendships that were healthy and felt beaten down and cast aside by many. Cutting was a way to take my emotional pain and turn it physical, a pain that I could handle. When my cutting was discovered during my freshman year of high school my parents tried to be supportive and understand my depression but instead I just found ways to hide it and after a few years everyone thought I was OK.

Almost a year ago I entered a relationship with James, a guy that I was really excited about. It had been ten years since I started cutting and I had entered a phase of denial, thinking there was nothing wrong with me, even though I was continuing to cut in extreme emotional situations. So I entered this new relationship full force but my emotions got the best of me and my entire world was flipped upside down. I became emotionally vulnerable one night and told James about my cutting. Immediately I was rejected.

I was heartbroken, not just by him, but by myself. As people started to ask what happened between us I shared with them that I had told him about my cutting. My family and friends were shocked, they had no idea that the cutting was still going on at the age of 23.

Coming from a family where therapy has never been a part of our lives it was hard for me to tell myself that I needed help. I found my therapist, Melissa, nine months ago and my life has been forever changed. I started realizing that my denial was affecting my ability to build a healthy relationship with myself. Now, once a week I go and talk about my struggles. I’ve learned how to understand rejection, heartbreak and I am in the process of building a great relationship with myself.

There are two parts of my journey that I’ll always remember; the first is how important it is to be open and to share my experience with others. By telling my story I’ve come across many people in my life who have similar stories but have never had the courage to talk about it. The second is the understanding and acceptance that I will always have depression and anxiety. I’ll always have those moments in my life where I struggle but now I am fully aware and capable of managing it in healthy and productive ways.

I don’t regret my past; I know that I’m going to come out on the other side a better person for everything that I’ve gone through. My only wish is that the Sophie today had been there for 14 year old Sophie to let her know that things were going to be OK

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Wendy

I have suffered from depression and anxiety all my life. I have memories of unspecific worry and fear from as early as 5 years old. I didn't know what it was then or even how to describe it. I felt completely alone, misunderstood and ostracized.

I have suffered from depression and anxiety all my life. I have memories of unspecific worry and fear from as early as 5 years old. I didn’t know what it was then or even how to describe it. I felt completely alone, misunderstood and ostracized. As an adult, I know what to call it and can talk about it more readily, but still feel misunderstood and apart from so much of the world. I cried when I found your website and immediately shared it on my and several family member’s FB pages. I cried again when my brother called the next day and demanded I take it off his page and mine and swear to never post anything like it again. He has such a stigma about people with mental illness he can’t even bear to have an organization hoping to change that stigma mentioned on his page. *sigh*

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Eduardo

My Name is Eduardo...I suffer From Anxiety Disorder. I deal with it very day I try to let people know that I have this disorder but they just don't understand me. It is hard for me to have friends that will understand me and also my own family doesn't understand.

My Name is Eduardo…I suffer From Anxiety Disorder. I deal with it very day I try to let people know that I have this disorder but they just don’t understand me. It is hard for me to have friends that will understand me and also my own family doesn’t understand. So that is my story.

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Julia

I am proud to say that I am living with depression and this is because there is hope for me …and you or your loved ones. Treatment is helping me and this is not the end.

My name is Julia. I’m 20 years old and I suffer from Depression, Anxiety and PTSD. I  have been through the darkest places you could ever imagine. I always knew that there was something wrong with me from about the age of 12. I‘d hear commercial‘s for Depression and I think “That is what I feel too. I‘m not alone!”. I never felt normal. I was bullied in school. I was physically and mentally abused growing up. I wanted to run away. I wanted to die. I hated myself and was never good enough. I thought my life had no purpose. I turned into someone I didn’t want to be, jealous, insecure, controlling and angry. I had a failed relationship and was called a “psycho”. This demonstrates the ignorance the name caller had about my depression.

It’s just as serious as cancer. It is not laziness, it is an illness. Nobody seems to understand how you feel, why you feel that way and it makes you feel weird, damaged and alone. I never asked to be this way. When you are like me you feel that you’ve lost control over your emotions. You cry easily and nothing is fun anymore. You want to be alone and your self-esteem is gone. You feel like nobody will love you. It is a dark and horrendous state of mind that has both biological and environmental components. It’s hard when you have a disorder, and instead of people caring, they judge you and even worse blame you for something you cannot control.

I am proud to say that I am living with depression and this is because there is hope for me …and you or your loved ones. Treatment is helping me and this is not the end. I am a Psychology major and my life’s goal is to help others like me who have dealt with the stigma of mental illness, whether it be someone who doesn’t want to be your friend because you are different, bullying, name calling, abuse, getting dumped or neglected because nobody knows how to handle or understand the deep pain mental illness causes. Stay strong. Think of all the good it would do if everyone had knowledge about mental illness instead of ignorance and started to see us as the human beings we are. I hope my story can inspire at least one person to reach out……

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Kelsey W

Since seeking help my family has become aware and more supportive, my friends are more sympathetic and people are starting to understand more.

I’m 15 and I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder. I’m also anemic which doesn’t help my situation at all. I’ve seen 5 different counselors and none have helped me. They’ve only asked if I knew any triggers – which I don’t because there isn’t any reason for me to feel this way. I’ve not had a dramatic loss, I’m not being bullied and my home life is pretty good.

On paper my life is fantastic but for some reason my brain doesn’t see it that way. I’ve been feeling suicidal and sad for the past 18 months but have only sought out help recently. Since seeking help my family has become aware and more supportive, my friends are more sympathetic and people are starting to understand more. I’ve been referred to a mental health association thing and I’m starting a different kind of therapy there tomorrow.

I do feel that speaking out has helped me because although I’m not “cured” people around me get it a bit better which does somewhat help. I would definitely encourage others to speak out about their mental health since I have encouraged 2 other friends to tell their families. It isn’t something which should be taken lightly and although you can’t see it it’s still there and is a daily struggle for anyone who suffers from mental illness.

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Jackson McQ

I want anybody who's struggling to know that I'm okay now even though i never thought i would be.

I am a transgender male. I have been in and out of mental hospitals 6 times since august of 2016, for depression, anxiety, bulimia, self harm, and suicide attempts.

My reason for doing this is to say, I’m stable now. I’m not perfect, I’m not happy. But it went from self harm every other day, to being a month clean.

Death isn’t the only thing on my mind anymore. I want anybody who’s struggling to know that I’m okay now even though i never thought i would be.

So i want anybody reading this to know that it does get better, even now i still think about cutting every time i see a knife. I do think about throwing up every time i eat. It’s not easy. It’s not fun.

But i’m to the point where it’s livable. Which is a lot more than i was. And eventually, anybody struggling with similar things will be too.

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Nancy S

We had a great family. Lots of love and admiration. What happened? People didn't talk about what they were feeling or ask for help. They hid it because they felt they would be shamed. It's a horrible disease and needs to be spoken about more.

My older brother was diagnosed with bipolar late in life when we finally insisted he see a psychiatrist. He was in denial and refused help. My parents did not get him the help he needed at a younger age because of the stigma and their generational denial. They felt he would be okay. They would say he just needed a woman to straighten him out.

He moved to another country and pushed everyone away who tried to help him. He liked the manic side but eventually went into a deep depression and became “paralyzed”. He died of a pulmonary embolism from ( my hypothesis) his reclusive, stagnant lifestyle and lack of feeding himself often and correctly. His own suicide.

My dad suffered a few bouts of depression over my growing years and never sought counseling. His GP put him on a pill and he took that for 15 years with no follow-up, just renewed prescriptions. Since my brother died 5 1/2 years ago at age 57, my dad has not come out of a depression with severe anxiety. He’s now 89 and cannot enjoy a minute of his life. He’s been in 3 psych units since then and tried weekly counseling for 5 years and every medication on the market. He feels he faked his way through life.

His generation didn’t talk about how they felt. Now he looks back on his life as one of negativity, stupidity and remorse. We had a great family. Lots of love and admiration. What happened? People didn’t talk about what they were feeling or ask for help. They hid it because they felt they would be shamed. It’s a horrible disease and needs to be spoken about more.

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Kalyn J-T

Get help Speak up on your illness Find support

I have been dealing with depression ever since I was 16. I have been teased by friends and classmates. I have been pushed to be something I am not. I have been told that I would not be loved or be in positive relationships . But having depression is still a struggle. I went undiagnosed. The depression kicked in after my grandmother died and after finding out that I was adopted. It got worse when I had to hold the family together after my grandmother died.

I came out as a lesbian at 20 and it wasn’t a happy come out with my mother . My mother and myself were arguing a lot . I was losing many friendships due to people and their actions . It had gotten to be unbearable . Around 21 , I tried to take my life . I went to the hospital and finally was diagnosed with major depression. I finally got the help needed and continued help for a year. I thought I felt better so I stopped getting it. I stop my medicine and everything. I went one year without my medicine and help. Unfortunately it did not go well ….. everything was harder to deal with .

I am 24 and still dealing with it. I am now doing counseling again. I say all this to say :
Stop being strong and cover up your mental illness to others
Stop holding on to toxic relationships
Get help
Speak up on your illness
Find support
Get help

But most of all
Keep Fighting

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Anna C

I am independent and free. If you could take anything from this story let it be this, be proactive about what you want and how you feel when it comes to a mental illness. Depression is real and although others may mock you or say its not don't let that bring you down even more. Find the strength within to fight.

Last year I became the mother of my second child Emily. I had my first daughter 16 months prior to Emily’s coming in to the world. There were issues in my marriage such as domestic violence. Because of those issues my two daughters were removed by DCFS , Emily was only a month old. I suffered a great period of grief in addition to the depression I had from delivering my daughters. The isolation one feels from being a new mother with no family around to help and on top of that the domestic violence did not help that feeling of depression. However I enjoyed being a new mother who loves her two girls more than anything.

When they were taken I felt like the earth had been pulled out from under me. I tried to commit suicide knowing exactly what I wanted, which was to die. I was hospitalized and treated for that depression by a psychiatrist who said he would help me with those suicidal tendencies. He prescribed a series of medications each for a different affliction. Some for sleep, others for my mood, and some were psychotropic medications. The combination – little did I know – were for a bipolar patient.

Never in my life had I been diagnosed with such a condition or had any of the symptoms patients with that mental disorder present. It wasn’t until I started these medications that the next 4 suicide attempts were without me being completely aware of what I was doing. Each attempt lead me to another hospitalization. Each time he would add new medications that would only add to my confusion which eventually turned into paranoia, insomnia, lack of appetite. Not to mention many physical side effects such as involuntary muscle movements and light sensitivity. I became aggressive. The police were called to my home many times during this time because of my aggression.

These medications made it impossible for me to care for myself. I became dependent on the man that I wanted to leave due to the abuse. I needed help dressing, feeding, and even moving most days. I had extreme highs and lows. The miracle happened when my ex-husband canceled our insurance plan and was not able to pay for my medications anymore or the psychiatric care. I went cold turkey off 5 different medications. It was excruciating to do so at first and everything was a haze. But after 2 months my thoughts were clear and the aggression was gone. I still had the grief from loosing my kids , nothing but time would ever cure that. But I was strong enough to push forward.

And I did, I took charge and fought my DCFS case, self initiated the services required of me, resumed my career, got a car. Now a year later I am getting primary custody of my girls. During the horrible year that was 2015 my family blamed me for the loss of those girls, my marriage crumbling, and my mental illness. I had no support system that was reliable. But the real strength with a clear mind was me all along, fueled by the memory and hope of my girls.

My mother who studied medicine in her country and has many best friends who are psychiatrists could not or would not understand me and the depression and grief I had in my heart. That it is a disease that takes over your whole being. She would say ” stop faking it” or “you brought this on yourself”. I never understood why my family was so cruel to me during my time of need. And even now as a mother I can’t understand them.

I fought it all anyway and came out better than what I was. It also helped that I underwent certain assessments to disprove that doctors initial diagnosis of Bipolar type 2 disorder. I had neuropsychological testing and 2 other opinions from psychiatrist. It has been a year since I went off the medications and I have never felt better. I do not have the mood swings, the aggression, the light sensitivity, the lack of appetite, or the overall body weakness. Most importantly I do not feel suicidal. Those medications could have killed me and the inexperience that doctor had proved to be fatal. I now have permanent neurological damage to one of my hands due to these medications, which I am working on correcting to be functional again. However despite that I am doing better than ever, I am independent and free. If you could take anything from this story let it be this, be proactive about what you want and how you feel when it comes to a mental illness. Depression is real and although others may mock you or say its not don’t let that bring you down even more. Find the strength within to fight.

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Miki D

Most of us, or possibly all of us with depression are not looking to hear any advice, the million reasons why we shouldn't be depressed, or opinion about how to snap out of it. What I want when I'm depressed is to sit next to me, put your arms around me and say "I'm sorry, this sucks. But you are not alone."

How depression feels… in my own words.

 

When depression gets a hold of me, i have no choice but to surrender. Depression wins and I lose. Instantly. Depression places me in this pit and cover me with this thick, black fog. It doesn’t tell me when it’ll be back to remove the black fog to get me out of here.

 

I can’t see the sunlight.

I can’t feel loved.

I shiver.

I forget what joy feels like.

1 min starts to feel like 1 hour.

I can’t taste food.

I feel like I’m chewing on rubber bands when I do eat.

I feel like a burden to this world.

I sit on the couch and just stare out of the window and cry.

I feel isolated.

I feel hopeless that I must continue living like this.

I feel like I’m alone.

And I turn my brain on the survival mode.

 

I start repeating the things my parents told me when I was diagnosed with depression.

 

“Quit the negative thoughts.”

“Just snap out of it.”

“Stop being such a pessimist.”

“You are depressed because you are ungrateful.”

“How can you possibly depressed?”

“We sent you to private school since you were 4 and picked you up in a Mercedez Benz.”

 

I cry.

I cry more.

I cry until I can’t cry any more.

The two people who caused most of my trauma says it’s my fault that I am depressed.

All I wanted was “are you okay?”

 

Getting out of bed is a struggle.

Taking a shower is a struggle.

Trying not to stop and cry out loud while brushing my teeth is a struggle.

Whole day is a struggle.

Trying not to cry is a struggle.

Battling the feeling of emptiness is a struggle.

Believing this shall pass is a struggle.

Going up the 4 steps in my front porch is a struggle.

Breathing is a struggle.

Keeping my eyes open is a struggle.

 

My head hurts.

My teeth hurt.

My body aches.

My ears hurt.

Everything hurts.

 

The thing about depression is that it’s not just mental. It physically hurts.

 

People assume that they know depression. The thing is, nobody understands it unless they have gone through it. You have to be in my shoes in order to feel how hopeless and empty I feel.

 

I ask you not to assume that you know what it is to battle depression unless you go through it. If you know someone who is clinically depressed, please say this “I am sorry you feel so down. I personally have never gone through it so I don’t know what it is like to battle depression. Can you please tell me what’s in your thoughts? What can i do for you right now?”

 

Most of us, or possibly all of us with depression are not looking to hear any advice, the million reasons why we shouldn’t be depressed, or opinion about how to snap out of it. What I want when I’m depressed is to sit next to me, put your arms around me and say “I’m sorry, this sucks. But you are not alone.”

 

Loneliness and isolation are my biggest fear when I’m depressed. I fear that no one notices me if I disappear. I assume no friends want to see me when I’m depressed. So I stay in this pit with black fog over me and hide.

 

I keep hiding. By myself. Alone. But after a couple of suicide attempts a few years back, I learned to let a close group of people know when depression gets a hold of me.

 

So I did this time and Michael and Leslie are my support. Thank you for making me feel like someone cares. And at the end, us humans simply cannot live alone. We are all in this together.

 

Today, I’m grateful to know I’m not alone.

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Emily

I can't miss a single day of medication, or else I spiral into darkness. Is it worth it? Definitely. Life is so beautifully complex, and without the darkness I would not appreciate the sunlight. Sometimes I feel like my emotional dial is turned all the way up. I feel things so much more powerfully, my world is a prismatic collage of sharply vibrant colors, some intensely dark, some pulsating with life and light, and everyday is a new challenge, learning how to navigate through a sea of torrid emotions. I am grateful for my life.

My name is Emily, and I have Bipolar Disorder 1. I am a fighter, and a survivor. I am also an optimist, and a true believer that “hope springs eternal “.

After enduring a year of sexual abuse/assault at age eight at the hands of a neighbor, I began medication and therapy at age 11, but wasn’t diagnosed until age 14. I had my first hospitalization at age 15…my Sweet Sixteen birthday was spent in an adolescent lockdown ward. That same year I began electro convulsive therapy, as a last ditch effort to fight my pervasive depression. The treatments, along with medications, continued into my twenties. I was on medicines that required weekly blood tests due to potential liver toxicity, and medicines that caused me to gain 100 lbs in a year. Finally I was recommended to receive a vagal nerve stimulator implant, which was placed in my chest to help stave off the depression. It has helped.

I’ve had doctors give up on me, and tell me they’re out of ideas. I’ve been bullied and harassed, told to “get over it” and had my illness and experiences trivialized. I will never be able to quit regular therapy or discontinue my medications. Managing my illness is a continual struggle of finding balance between mania and depression. I don’t just struggle with everyday things like eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, balancing work and fun, and relationships… I also have to manage my numerous doctor appointments, therapy appointments, my struggles with daily suicidal thoughts, my extreme fatigue over constantly fighting my own brain.

I can’t miss a single day of medication, or else I spiral into darkness. Is it worth it? Definitely. Life is so beautifully complex, and without the darkness I would not appreciate the sunlight. Sometimes I feel like my emotional dial is turned all the way up. I feel things so much more powerfully, my world is a prismatic collage of sharply vibrant colors, some intensely dark, some pulsating with life and light, and everyday is a new challenge, learning how to navigate through a sea of torrid emotions. I am grateful for my life.

I have a certain quote written down, that came from Bruce Lee. Like it or not, it describes my life. “Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

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Tori Z.

It is normal to be sad, we are human. A little sadness is what keeps us balanced. The thing is I was sad most of the time. I was sad starting at such a young age. You’re not supposed to feel that way from your earliest memories. I stopped speaking up about it because I was constantly told it was the way I was supposed to feel.

Since I was young I can’t remember a time where I didn’t feel self-conscious about my body. Even when I was in first grade, six years old, I would change my outfits because I would tell myself I looked too fat in them. I was never happy with the way I looked. Being a minority, growing up I thought I wasn’t beautiful because the pretty girls were always depicted as this blonde hair, blue eyed girls. The way I saw myself only got worse once I got into middle school. With so much changing in my body, I couldn’t stand that I was gaining weight and changing in ways I wasn’t educated on.

When I would speak up about the way I was feeling, the sad thoughts, the self-conscious feeling, the isolated feeling, I always got the same response, ‘That’s normal.’. It’s not their fault, though. That’s what we’re taught. It’s normal to feel that way. It’s normal because we don’t talk about it. We need to talk about it. Educate parents to look for the signs.

I have a diary entry from when I was eight. I wrote in my Lisa Frank diary, that I just wanted to die. I wrote in vivid detail for an eight-year-old, how I just wanted to die. At eight you’re not supposed to want to die or be self-conscious about the way you look. Is it still normal?

It is normal to be sad, we are human. A little sadness is what keeps us balanced. The thing is I was sad most of the time. I was sad starting at such a young age. You’re not supposed to feel that way from your earliest memories. I stopped speaking up about it because I was constantly told it was the way I was supposed to feel. I was raised with people making fun of me for crying at movies, but why is it bad to have empathy?

I was scared to show who I was so I bottled up how I was feeling and isolated myself. I wanted to be in control in all of this pain that I couldn’t control. I started to self-harm at twelve years old. I was the one making me hurt, so I could finally be in control. I began feeling more and more isolated from my peers. I didn’t want people to know. I would hide it. All I wanted was to die. I never wanted to be at school. All of the tendencies just got worse over the years.

I thought everyone felt the way I did until my freshman year of high school. I was fourteen and one of my classmates said, ‘I don’t get why people are depressed, just be happy.’. That’s when it really hit me that most people are just uneducated on the subject. At this point, I started to educate myself on what was going on in my head.

Soon after I opened up to my parents about how I was feeling. I still didn’t feel like any of my emotions were validated. Up until I explicitly asked for help from a professional, I didn’t receive any. It’s not their fault, though, they were never taught about this disease. They were raised on the idea that someone with a mental disorder is supposed to be in a straitjacket locked up somewhere.

Once I finally started receiving the professional help I started to see a turnaround. I finally had someone to tell me I’m not crazy. Have someone explain to me that I’m not to blame for being depressed, having anxiety, or self-harming. It all has to do with chemicals in our brains. I finally started to get better. Now it was a long process. I still self-harmed up until over a year later, but it’s been over three years since I last did. Up until the summer, I turned seventeen I really didn’t feel okay.

That summer I sailed the BVI’s and saw life in a different light. Likewise, I had so much time to reflect by myself. I would spend hours by myself thinking about how I want to be able to do this year from now. I thought about how I wanted to bring my future family here and show them what I saw. I knew I couldn’t do that if I didn’t make the choice to be okay.

Now I am beyond happy with where my life is. If you would have asked me three years ago where I see myself in four years I would have answered, ‘dead.’. I never expected to be as happy as I am now. I am the optimist I envied. I used to have a hard time getting out of bed to go to school, but now I love going out and making new friends. Granted there are still hard times, but that’s life. There are hard times, but not hard times like before.

It’s possible to get better, you just have to surround yourself with people that understand you. Every time I speak out now I only receive an outpouring of love. I’ve had some people tell me they went through the same thing but never told anyone. They were too afraid to speak up. It was so difficult for me to speak up, but once I did, things only got better.

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Cassidy C

I wasn't diagnosed with having panic attacks/anxiety until the age of 13. Since then, I've been on and off different medications and therapy for this. But in my opinion, nothing helps more than the medication & counseling. One without the other doesn't cut it for me unfortunately that's how bad it is for me. I can't even experience 'good stress' as in going away on a vacation, going to a friend's wedding, waiting to see one of my favorite bands.

Hi there, I think that sharing your story is VERY important!!!! Unfortunately, I’m a bit camera shy so I’m going to type my story…

I have been dealing with anxiety issues all my life I believe… The first real panic attack I remember is when a bully told me my mom was dead and wouldn’t be there to meet me at the bus stop like she did EVERYDAY! It was horrible! But I wasn’t diagnosed with having panic attacks/anxiety until the age of 13. Since then, I’ve been on and off different medications and therapy for this. But in my opinion, nothing helps more than the medication & counseling. One without the other doesn’t cut it for me unfortunately that’s how bad it is for me. I can’t even experience ‘good stress’ as in going away on a vacation, going to a friend’s wedding, waiting to see one of my favorite bands. Because come on now!!! Who can live without your tunes!?! Lol!

Sometimes I see the light at the end of the tunnel and my anxiety disorder isn’t too bad and I start to taper off of the meds, to be blindsided by crippling attacks AGAIN!!

I went through a 2 year period where a doctor was prescribing adderall 30mg 3 times a say for me while I was going to college. And up until I started this medication, I could keep my anxiety in check for the most part, it wasn’t ruining my life, let’s say. But after I was taken off of the adderall is when I spun out of control with the anxiety and attacks. I believe that being speeded up like that, did something to my brain! I really wish this doctor knew enough to not prescribe this to someone that had preconditions like panic attacks/anxiety. Truth be told though, I believe he was ‘A script dr.’ I’m sure you have heard of them… Go to them, pay them cash, and you will get whatever you want. Basically a legal drug pusher!

I also deal with depression. I’ve been on ssooo many medications for depression that I lost count over the years. Either they make me feel worse than I already feel, I get zombified (meaning ‘Oh, the house is burning down? So what? We have insurance. Our stuff is replaceable.’ No ups, no downs. And I just can’t deal with that AT ALL! What I found was a medication used to treat nerve pain called, Gabapentin. See, what this medication does is creates more gaba (a natural occurring chemical in your brain) and releases more into your brain. I call them my happy pills! Lol. But seriously, if you are like me and have a hard time taking antidepressants/mood stablizers/whatever they like to label them, I suggest asking doc for these.

I’m also a recovering addict. I’m clean 7 years with thanks to the suboxone program. I wasn’t a street drug user, I have legitimate health issues that sometimes disable me from leading a productive life. So here I am diagnosed with a neurovascular non cancerous inoperable tumor and two herniated discs in my back and fibromyalgia all at the age of 13. Little did I know that the doctor’s were getting me hooked on these meds!!! It just seemed that 1 wasn’t doing it anymore, then 2 or 3 wasn’t cutting it… I went to school with people that became addicted to heroin, but that wasn’t me!!! I’m under a doctor’s care, so how can I be labeled a junkie? Is what I kept telling myself anyways… I finally caught wise to the whole thing around age 16/17 when I had helped a friend go through a detox. It’s the same, weather you are under a doctor’s care or you are buying it from the street. I do believe pills are harder to quit than heroin, because they are soooo much stronger!

I guess that’s about it for me and my story, thank you so much for taking the time to read it and if you have ANY questions or something you would like to know more about, please feel free to respond. Much love to you all suffering with mental and physical health issues!

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Jasmine V

I only disclosed my diagnosis to maybe 2 or 3 people and even then I didn’t explain the extent of the situation. I was constantly trying to prove that I was just a normal happy girl, even though I was dying inside. Last year, I decided to stop fighting it. I disclosed my diagnosis to all of my family and friends and was both humbled and surprised by the amount of support that I received. This was the best decision I could have ever made. Now that I am able to be open and honest about my diagnosis, I feel like I can live my true self. I can show the world the real me.

As I sit here and look back on that day, the day my life changed, I can’t help but feel emotional. Let me start at the beginning..

My entire life I have always felt off, for lack of a better word, I can remember being a child and wanting nothing more than to feel loved. There was one person in my life that made me feel like my existence mattered, my grandmother. My mom couldn’t bother to be my mom and my sister, well, she had to deal with battling against my mom, so that left my grandmother to focus on me and me only. Living with her were the best years of my life which is why when she was no longer the person raising me, I felt like my world had shattered. I can’t really tell if I felt “depressed” before my grandmother left or after. On one hand, I always wanted my mom to want to be my mom. On the other hand, my grandmother did fill a big part of that void. Don’t get me wrong, My mom wasn’t all bad, we did share some fond memories – Michael Myers movie marathons, candy bars on friday’s, days at the beach. Distant memories.

When I began High School, the emptiness I felt became more apparent. I was so alone. I had no one to talk to and spent many days battling whether or not I wanted to continue living life this way. I never spoke a word about these feelings to anyone. Oftentimes, I would lay in my bath with my face completely submerged in the water contemplating if this would be my way to go. I recall trying to hold my body down until that quick second when I would change my mind. Still, I said nothing. I would skip school to drink because drinking was the only time the pain would go away. I just wanted to escape. No amount of drinking, contemplating suicide, or self harming would change a thing.

Fast forward to the year I was diagnosed..I was 18. I was a single mom, fresh out of an abusive relationship (both physical and emotional) and I really didn’t know where I was headed. At this point, I would contemplate suicide on a regular basis and suffered from panic attacks, sometimes multiple times a day. I went to a doctor’s appointment and informed him that I was having difficulty sleeping, this is when I was referred to a psychiatrist.

The day of my appointment with the psychiatrist..I had not intended to tell her anything other than the fact that I was having difficulty sleeping. I sat in the chair and my heart was beating so hard, I swore that she could hear it. I was nauseous and drained and I haven’t even spoken a word to her yet. “Tell me what’s wrong” – That was all she said. 4 words. That was all it took for me to completely fall apart and say everything that has been on my mind ever since I can remember. She asked if I had contemplated suicide and if so how many times, I was hesitant to answer but then decided that I couldn’t hold it in much longer. I told her that I thought about suicide more than once a day and suffered from constant panic attacks. I explained that just the mere thought of being around people was exhausting and would cause me symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and panic attacks. I couldn’t see people and I didn’t want to live my life, double whammy. At this point, she diagnosed me with major depressive disorder along with some generalized and social anxiety. I was devastated. I was embarrassed, I didn’t want anyone to find out about this diagnosis. What was I supposed to do now? Am I crazy? Whats wrong with me? “Mental Illness” – that term really freaked me out.

I was given the option of taking medications, which I tried for a little while, but in the end decided against it for two reasons.

I didn’t want anyone to find out that I had a mental illness and thought that they would see the medications
I didn’t feel comfortable with how the medications made my body feel

This was 7 years ago. For the last 7 years, I have lived in hiding. I only disclosed my diagnosis to maybe 2 or 3 people and even then I didn’t explain the extent of the situation. I was constantly trying to prove that I was just a normal happy girl, even though I was dying inside. Last year, I decided to stop fighting it. I disclosed my diagnosis to all of my family and friends and was both humbled and surprised by the amount of support that I received. This was the best decision I could have ever made. Now that I am able to be open and honest about my diagnosis, I feel like I can live my true self. I can show the world the real me.

So, you’ve been diagnosed, Now what? – Live your life. Don’t hide who you are and just know that while it is a daily battle, it is a battle that you do not have to fight alone. Confide in your friends and family, seek out support groups, and follow this blog for some tips I use to keep me going.

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Craig F

I have come to know more people who suffer in these shadowed places, friends and family who ache with the pressing waves of anxiety and depression and what comes to feel like shame in the suffering. And I ache to help relieve them. May this place and the people here help you find peace and a joy that can wrap around you when you begin to feel overwhelmed. We stand with you.

It was during my early teen years that I first realized the darkness, the shadows that would often come and block out the light. These were already painful years for me, but this darkness was heavy, it was suffocating, it made me feel so lost in the moment with little or no hope for any moment after. When I turned 20, I began writing a fictional journal of my feelings, expressed through poetry and prose, which was eventually compiled in a book, “An Owl on the Moon: A Journal From the Edge of Darkness.” On those pages I poured out my deeper places that no one knew about, because I was ashamed to express my “weakness” and pain openly, wanting people only to ever think of me as happy.

Though I manage the impact of them better now, the shadows still exist, still seem to lie in wait for seasons of winter, or long endless nights. I have come to know more people who suffer in these shadowed places, friends and family who ache with the pressing waves of anxiety and depression and what comes to feel like shame in the suffering. And I ache to help relieve them. May this place and the people here help you find peace and a joy that can wrap around you when you begin to feel overwhelmed. We stand with you.

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Tiffany B

After high school I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and depression. Everyday life can be very difficult, fear rules my life.

As a young child I was diagnosed with PTSD. After high school I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and depression. Everyday life can be very difficult, fear rules my life.

I dropped out of college due to my disorders. I have yet to learn to drive due to my disorders.

Parties, although I love to attend, terrify me.  And phone calls are the worse. I even fear the labels and judgement people place on me due to what I haven’t done or have yet to do; thinking that I am weak or a loser. I dread the fact that I may feel this way for the rest of my life.

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Sianna S

I worried so much about being liked by others, that I forgot to love myself, and make myself happy.

I do know, I struggle with anxiety and depression. I have tried, three times to take my life, to kill myself. I do self harm, but I’m struggling to stay clean.

I’ve been bullied about my weight since I ever started school. But, I started self harm in 6th grade. Constant bullying, and all the fights at home, it destroyed me. 8th grade, my grandma found out I self harmed. She told me she understood, and wanted me to get help.

Sadly, it cannot happen. My mother, she thinks it’s a huge trend. That it’s for attention. I can’t get her to understand. It’s hard when your mother doesn’t understand. But, I know I’m not the only one. Recovery can happen. It will happen. My mother may not support me, but I have my friends, my grandmother, my brother, and my amazing boyfriend.

Just keep being yourself. I worried so much about being liked by others, that I forgot to love myself, and make myself happy. Be happy with who you are, and don’t change for anyone, because everyone is beautiful the way they are. I’m gonna get through this, and at least I know, and I hope everyone else does –  they’re not alone. For everyone. Someone cares about you, even if it’s only me.

We can do this.

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Kaylee

The next day I was at school and for some reason I just lost it. I found myself in the guidance counselors office bawling my eyes out. I told her everything. Before this, no one knew about my depression. I never told because I didn't think I had a reason to be depressed. I had food in my stomach, clothes on my back and a roof over my head.

I’ve always had lingering symptoms of depression and anxiety growing up. My parents fought constantly. My home was a warzone. I was scared to go home from school everyday. I grew up believing that’s what love was. So I hit middle school and of course that’s when you start getting interested in relationships and boys and stuff. I was scared to love. I didn’t know how to love. I didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship. So I treated people pretty bad. Even my friends.

For some odd reason I did have plenty of friends. I was also great at sports and was a straight A student. What more could you ask for right? In 6th grade there was this boy that was a year older than me. I don’t know what I did to make him mad. He would bully me and get his friends to help. They would call me sir and they decided to call me “Kyle” instead of my actual name Kaylee. I pretended it didn’t bother me, but it really damaged my self esteem. This is when I started struggling more with my anxiety.

After 8th grade, I moved to a Christian High School. I loved it. The kids were nicer and so were the staff. This was such a good change for me, but this is when depression hit me like a hurricane. I mentioned it was a Christian school I moved to. Well, I wasn’t very religious. I believed in God, but no one would have ever guess I was a Christian because I sure did not act like it. It was hard to relate to people at this new school. Everyone seemed so happy. They were so involved with God and Church and I wasn’t. I thought that made me a bad person. Also, I was no longer a top athlete or a top student. I started seeing myself as even more worthless than before.

My sophomore year, my grandma got very sick. She had open heart surgery 5 days before my 16th birthday. She was expected to  make a full recovery. She was in and out of the hospital for about 2 months and during those 2 months of watching my best friend suffer, I started cutting. It started off as something I could control, but then it took over and controlled me. I would cut 3-4 times a week maybe more. I was just so numb and I just needed to feel something. I felt guilty that my grandma had to suffer. She was a great person who didn’t deserve that pain. I thought I did. So I punished myself by cutting.

Things slowly got worse. July 15th, 2015, I get a call at 3 in the morning. My grandpa was trying to contact my parents. My grandmas heart rate had slowed down. She was going to be leaving soon. My parents rushed to the hospital. I called my dad to come and get me because I couldn’t go to sleep knowing I would wake up and my grandma wouldn’t. I walked into her hospital room and I grabbed her hand. I watched my best friend take her last breath. That night, part of me died with her. I completely shut down. I didn’t grieve. I built a wall and moved on. I made it through the funeral, but couldn’t even go to the burial. Inside, I was a mess. But I pretended nothing happened and just kept going.

The cutting got worse and eventually I wanted to kill myself. There were nights where I was going to do it. One night was especially bad and I was talking to a friend with the pills in one hand and the phone in the other. Somehow she talked me out of it. That’s when I hit rock bottom. The next day I was at school and for some reason I just lost it. I found myself in the guidance counselors office bawling my eyes out. I told her everything. Before this, no one knew about my depression. I never told because I didn’t think I had a reason to be depressed. I had food in my stomach, clothes on my back and a roof over my head. I thought that since I was a Christian now, I couldn’t be sad. I thought I was over reacting. All those nights I cried and cut. All those panic attacks at social events. I thought it was my fault. I thought I wasn’t trying hard enough to be happy or to be a good Christian.

The guidance counselor helped me tell my parents and I got set up with a counselor. I’ve been seeing a counselor and taking antidepressants for about 9 months now. I’m not where I want to be, but recovery is a day by day process and I’m moving forward.

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Kyle H

4 months ago, my school guidance counselor died. And we were super close. We talked all the time.

Five years ago, my dad left me. I didn’t take to it that well. In fact, he wasn’t my actual dad. I learned shortly before he left from a letter from my biological dad’s ex-wife. So it made it harder. The feeling that my real dad and my ‘dad’ didn’t want me.

I drank, did drugs, and self-harmed. I even attempted suicide. I eventually lost my best friend / girlfriend, moved and started over. More recently, 4 months ago, my school guidance counselor died. And we were super close. We talked all the time. And then my girlfriend broke up with me right before we spread her ashes.

Then shortly after that, my mom and little brother moved away and I had to move in with my friend. From the moment I knew everything was happening, to when they left, was in total two days. Then I tore up my ankle, which means I can’t play football my senior season. The season that is critical to getting a scholarship.

I am on medication for more recent events. I’ve harmed myself. And I’ve had thoughts of suicide again. In going through all this, I’ve been left with serious issues. I have abandonment issues, trust issues, anxiety, depression, stress, I can’t sleep, I don’t want to eat. I am mentally unstable. And I am trying to pull through this. And I hope to share this story to show people that they are not alone in their situations. And someone is always there.

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Anna W

I have just begun to find my voice, to find ME, and I have no intention of letting depression, anxiety, body image issues or anything else stop that. I really don't have a great way to end this so I'll just say . . . I care. Know that there is someone out there that cares and just try to remember that.

I remember very clearly in the third grade, in a new school, finding it very hard to eat in the crowded lunchroom. I’d never had this problem in my old school. My stomach ached and I felt nauseous, my throat was tight and the food on my tray was suddenly so unappealing. I went to the nurse. The first of many trips throughout the next, long, few years. I wouldn’t want to go out, not even with my family. I could barely eat in restaurants. School was hell even if I was fine on the outside. I became very good at hiding how I felt inside. I was petrified of gym class. Of lunch. Eventually, I couldn’t even focus in class and I felt like nothing mattered, like how I felt didn’t matter, but I had to keep going. I didn’t want to disappoint my family, didn’t want to cause problems at school. I knew the location of every bathroom in school and during which times they were least likely to have people in them. I became more familiar with those four walled stalls than any of my classmates. Not that I would tell them about any of this. I was the listener, the one who had a sarcastic sense if humor you could tell your troubles to.

I had no idea what I was going through was anxiety and depression,that I wasn’t supposed to HATE myself so much. I didn’t know that doing simple things like brushing my teeth and showering weren’t supposed to be so hard. I started counseling with no hope. It was like pulling teeth at first because when did I ever talk about my feelings like they actually mattered? My counselor (and my mom) greatly championed for me to get homeschooling and I will be forever grateful for that, I never would have graduated otherwise.

After, I slipped into depression worse than ever. I started self-harming worse than when I was in high school and will always have the scars. But I also came to know more about my mental illness. I learned that I mattered, even if I didn’t feel like it. I learned that my past, and even my family, had contributed to what I’m facing now and that this will be a life long struggle for me but suicide isn’t the answer and that asking for help when you need it, asking for what YOU need, isn’t being a burden. It’s what you deserve as a human being. Even if that means going to the hospital for your own safety, like I did. I am a patchwork of burn scars, tattoos, self-esteem issues and passion. I have just begun to find my voice, to find ME, and I have no intention of letting depression, anxiety, body image issues or anything else stop that.

I really don’t have a great way to end this so I’ll just say . . . I care. Know that there is someone out there that cares and just try to remember that.

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Mary

We shouldn't have to pretend to be someone else just to feel accepted! I am dedicating my life to removing the stigma associated with mental illness. I am grateful to Bring Change 2 Mind for starting the discussion. The masquerade is over! My illness is a part of me, much like the color of my hair or eyes. But it does not define me.

“Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting”. When I saw these words on a plaque in my therapist’s office, I knew it summed up everything I had been feeling for years.

I have struggled with major depressive disorder since childhood. I learned at an early age to hide my depression in order to be accepted by everyone else. I would never let others see me cry, and so I would go into periods of isolation when I felt a major depressive episode coming on. This often prevented me from getting close to others, because I was terrified of my secret being discovered.

Essentially, the stigma of my illness controlled my life. So much so that I have lost valuable friendships and nearly destroyed my marriage. BUT… Now I am through with the stigma.

We shouldn’t have to pretend to be someone else just to feel accepted! I am dedicating my life to removing the stigma associated with mental illness. I am grateful to Bring Change 2 Mind for starting the discussion. The masquerade is over! My illness is a part of me, much like the color of my hair or eyes. But it does not define me.

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Katie H

Generalized anxiety started to rule my life around age 13, as did the symptoms of anorexia: restriction, over exercising, calorie counting, and obsessive weighing. By age 14, I was on a cold, dark path toward death.

I was first diagnosed with depression at age 13, but my world was dark long before my first diagnosis. I was never suicidal, but everything was almost painfully numb. My life felt empty. Two years later, I was diagnosed with social and generalized anxiety and anorexia. My eating disorder took its root in my thoughts as early as age six, with body dysmorphia and a perception of food that led me to glamorize extreme weight loss. I’m not sure when these anorexic thoughts were triggered, but I think it had a lot to do with my extreme sensitivity to societal messages, low self esteem that stemmed from bullying, and a mother who struggled with disordered eating.

Around this time, social anxiety ran rampantly in my brain and left me so terrified of the world around me. Generalized anxiety started to rule my life around age 13, as did the symptoms of anorexia: restriction, over exercising, calorie counting, and obsessive weighing. By age 14, I was on a cold, dark path toward death.

At age 15, I was admitted against my will to inpatient treatment for anorexia for five months. I have been out of the hospital for about a year, and am still struggling quite a bit but have come further than I ever imagined. I am fighting PTSD in addition to anxiety, depression, and anorexia. I have battled self harm off and on, as well as suicidality. The eating disorder thoughts are terrible, but they don’t dictate my life most days.

I am living proof that there is hope.

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Amanda W

I have a serious problem and I will keep telling my story to every one. No one deserves to suffer like I do. I know that I don't deserve to feel this way. My hope with making this public is for someone to realize it's okay to have mental illness. You are not seeking attention you have a medical issue.

Hello fellow humans my name is Amanda and I have depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I first started experiencing depression when I was 14. I was raped on my high school campus and no matter what I did I was still forced to see him and interact with my rapist. He harassed me through out high school and it made me feel absolutely worthless. So I started cutting. To this day I still cut. I don’t do it with suicidal intentions. I just can’t afford medical care to properly treat my illness.

After high school I started working and going to work really helped my depression. I made friends who did not attend my high school who understood and supported me but in return working nonstop has given me anxiety. I was a server at a restaurant for about a year and I met some of the most amazing people. I even met a guy who understood and helped me deal with my past and move from it. But I was fired from this job and the guy left me. I couldn’t understand why I was fired so I took it out on the amazing people.

Since then I have struggled. Work helps my depression but fuels my anxiety and panic attacks. Some days it also triggers my self harm episodes. Whether it is cutting or hitting myself I have no control over the problem. I have tried to seek help but living in a small close minded town. I often get told I am just looking for attention.

I have a serious problem and I will keep telling my story to every one. No one deserves to suffer like I do. I know that I don’t deserve to feel this way. My hope with making this public is for someone to realize it’s okay to have mental illness. You are not seeking attention you have a medical issue. And that maybe you can stand up and help yourself in ways I have not.

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Angelina

Please if you suffer from mental illness or just some symptoms, go and as for help! I know it's hard, probably one of the hardest things you have to do: but it's worth the panic attack when you're on your way to the doctor, it's worth all the tears you cry just thinking about you appointment, it's worth not being able to eat because you're anxious about the appointment.

I’ve had symptoms like insomnia, carelessness and being in my own world since I was a kid. Back then no one did anything because they didn’t know what to do and it was left on its own for a few years. I always struggled with being extremely aggressive, what made it really hard to find friends. When I was 14 I started self-harming and excessive drinking, but I was good at school so no one really took that seriously. At 17 one of my sisters forced my mum to get me help, because I had cut way too deep. One year later I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Major Depression. Even diagnosed it was really hard for me to ask for help or to even talk about it. I was ashamed of my illnesses.

But I’m glad that after two years and a visit in a psychiatric hospital I can say that I’m better. I asked for help, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m not healed and I’ll never be, no one will, but I know now how my illnesses work and what I can do to prevent a relapse!

Please if you suffer from mental illness or just some symptoms, go and as for help! I know it’s hard, probably one of the hardest things you have to do: but it’s worth the panic attack when you’re on your way to the doctor, it’s worth all the tears you cry just thinking about you appointment, it’s worth not being able to eat because you’re anxious about the appointment.

But you have to go and you’ll get help and it will get better.

I’m 20 now and I can deal with my mental illnesses, and that made my life a lot better and easier.

It gets better, I promise.

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Anna K

For mental health week at my school, there was an anonymous drop box where students could write their stories with mental illnesses. I submitted my story, thinking it would be a good outlet to let out my emotions. My story was read in front of the entire school in an assembly, and I told one girl who I thought was my friend that it was my story. She proceeded to tell the entire grade, and of course, the entire grade proceeded to bully me more.

When I was in grade 3, my mom couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be around anybody, and didn’t have many friends. She took me to the doctor, and then to a mental illness hospital, where I was diagnosed with social anxiety. I didn’t really understand what it meant, I thought I was just a bit shy, because that’s what my teacher would tell me. That same year, my teacher noticed I wouldn’t pay attention in class. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get through the lesson without getting distracted by something. I went back to the mental illness hospital, and was diagnosed with ADHD.

Since mental illnesses were something completely new to me, I didn’t understand why I was scared of people or why I couldn’t pay attention and listen to anything. Fast forward a few months, my best friend was switching schools, so I did too. We were at different schools, and he was my only friend, so I was terrified of a new school. First day of 4th grade, I cried the entire day. Nobody wanted to be near me, and nobody tried to talk to me. I isolated myself from everyone else, I was the weird kid. The asshole kids thought it would be funny to make fun of me, and I was emotionally bullied that entire year.

In 5th grade, there were two new people who didn’t get along with the other kids too. I made friends with them, and stuff wasn’t too bad. That’s when the physical bullying started. The mean kids would pile on top of me, and hold me down. They would call me names, throw things like chairs and basketballs at me, they hated me. I started to believe what they were saying was true, and that I really did deserve death.

I figured out what I had was depression after hearing the story of Amanda Todd in grade 6. So I was a 12 year old girl with social anxiety, ADHD, and depression. I finally left the school after grade 6, I thought I was finally free. I decided to go to an all girls private school, what could go wrong? In October of grade 7, one of my friends from my last school was diagnosed with lung cancer. He went through waves of severe depression, and when he was told he had gone terminal, he jumped off his balcony on the 20th floor. I was stricken with the worst depression and anxiety I had ever had, and I didn’t think I could go on. I also have a balcony, on the second floor. I stood on the edge, millimetres away from my wanted death. I thought about my other friend from my last school, and how hard it would be to lose your two best friends. I fell back onto the balcony, and went inside as if nothing had happened.

During grade 7, the emotional bullying started up again. There was one girl in particular who made up countless rumours about me, like that I only self-harmed for the attention and that I was born a boy and was transgender, and that’s why I was so ugly. It was around this time that I got more into music, bands like twenty øne piløts and Panic! At The Disco. By the time I was in grade 8, I was starting to make a recovery from my friends suicide. The bullying continued, I tried to ignore it. Much like what happened in my last school, I started believing what they were saying about me. In May of grade 8, my other friend from my old school took his life too. It was like getting hit by a bus, standing up, then getting hit by ten more immediately. My depression and anxiety multiplied, I wanted to die more than ever. I jumped off my balcony, but survived with merely a broken arm.

For mental health week at my school, there was an anonymous drop box where students could write their stories with mental illnesses. I submitted my story, thinking it would be a good outlet to let out my emotions. My story was read in front of the entire school in an assembly, and I told one girl who I thought was my friend that it was my story. She proceeded to tell the entire grade, and of course, the entire grade proceeded to bully me more. They would ask to sign my cast, then write “kill yourself for real this time” and “attention seeking whore”.

The only things that kept me going were music and my best friend. I changed schools after grade 8, and just recently graduated grade 9 at my new school. My new school is much more welcoming, I haven’t been bullied at all yet. In the 15 years of my life, I’ve dealt with multiple forms of anxiety, adhd, depression, 2 suicides, and endless bullying. Music and my best friends are what have kept and still keep me going.

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Katie O

A small thing that helped me was when a friend of mine asked me what panic attacks felt like. It felt amazing to tell her what they felt like to me and it took so much weight off my chest. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

I have anxiety, I have not been diagnosed by a psychiatrist, but mental illness runs in my family and my family and I are very well educated on mental illness. My sister has depression and many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins struggle with mental illnesses.

There is a reason I am not diagnosed… I am scared. I physically don’t feel as though I can talk to a psychiatrist. It scares me… everything got even worse when I switched schools this year. I had very consistent panic attacks.

In addition to this, there was a small time when I exercised more than I should have and ate less than I was supposed too. At the same time as all of this I started to really question my sexuality, something I have come to grips with now. I feel, at the current time, that I am doing slightly better.

A small thing that helped me was when a friend of mine asked me what panic attacks felt like. It felt amazing to tell her what they felt like to me and it took so much weight off my chest. Thanks for taking the time to read this. If I can (albeit slowly) be helped so can you

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Jay R

I began to study about happiness and now I am studying for my PhD in happiness -- psychology really, but with a focus on positive psychology and happiness. Now I want to teach others what I have learned and teach them to find happiness in their lives.

When I was six years old my grandmother came from Ohio and lived with my family in California for almost a year. The next time I saw my grandmother was several years later and the first thing she said to me was, “What happened? You used to be such a happy child!”

Somewhere along the line I had lost my happiness. Most of my adult life I have suffered from depression, sometimes trying to commit suicide. But then I made a determination to be happy no matter what. I knew that I wouldn’t always be happy and that at times I would still be sad or depressed, but I made the determination to get through these tough times and return to happiness once again.

I began to study about happiness and now I am studying for my PhD in happiness — psychology really, but with a focus on positive psychology and happiness.

Now I want to teach others what I have learned and teach them to find happiness in their lives.

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Kimberley D

Will I fully come to the surface? Will my true self give into this dark beast inside of me? I will not allow it. For everyday I have shown how I can overcome even a small battle against it, I WILL overcome this. And so can you. Speak up, call out till you are blue in the face if you have to, show how you aren’t a sufferer but a SURVIVOR. If you can even do the smallest thing like getting out of bed and do one thing that your brain tells you that you can’t. Know, that you are fighting it, you have conquered that part and you WILL come out of the darkness.

I have suffered from and still continue this ongoing battle against depression and anxiety.

I first started suffering from it in University, in my last year life was changing rapidly and I started not wanting to leave my bedroom. Life stood still. People carried on as normal and I looked on, amazed at how they can carry on with their day to day lives while I felt stuck, unable to move from the spot I was in. I didn’t want to do any work and being my third and final year, it was very important to graduate, ready for the next stage of my life.

It got so bad that a few times I would end up crying for no reason and contemplate suicide. Once, that happened around my boyfriends house and I had a plan all ready to end my life, I remember sitting there crying hysterically planning to pack my stuff, get on a bus and go down to the river and drown myself. My boyfriend then suggested that I should seek help from my university and so, I got in touch with the university’s mental health support. They provided me with counselling through the university which helped me tremendously. I went to my GP and got anti-depressant pills which I took off and on, just because I felt that I was already better when I took them. I thought I was cured…but thats the thing; depression can be an ongoing process and an off and on process, its not something that can just be overseen or discarded into the back of the mind and never heard from again. It impacts your life in many ways. I managed to finish my degree and just scraped through.

I currently am still suffering from depression and take the anti-depressant pills but it has helped me live a life I once thought I didn’t deserve. I go out with friends, family, co-workers. I do activities, I challenge myself every-single-day to do something different, go out of my comfort zone, ask questions that my brain believes is stupid and not worth it to ask, I talk to strangers in and outside of work, just to make sure that I can beat this depression, this black hole I am in. My confidence is gaining, I feel like I am slowly coming into myself. That the person who I once was? who is dying inside me, is now slowly being pulled out to the surface.

Will I fully come to the surface? Will my true self give into this dark beast inside of me? I will not allow it. For everyday I have shown how I can overcome even a small battle against it, I WILL overcome this. And so can you. Speak up, call out till you are blue in the face if you have to, show how you aren’t a sufferer but a SURVIVOR. If you can even do the smallest thing like getting out of bed and do one thing that your brain tells you that you can’t. Know, that you are fighting it, you have conquered that part and you WILL come out of the darkness.

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David S

I cannot lose hope. I've discovered this word brings meaning to life.

I have always been afraid of being sick. Since I was a kid, I would have really bad anxiety surrounding people vomiting, or myself. But I used to think it was normal and that someday I would get rid of it. I think I have been sick only twice in my whole life. But in 2012, after thinking more about this fear, I developed my first Panic attack. It was terrifying, and still is. I couldn’t eat without feeling anxious, going to school was hard and I would constantly think about this body reaction. So, in 2013, I discovered I had EMETOPHOBIA. I have always been really ashamed of my fears, but last year I decided to talk to my family and to my friends about it. College is really hard, and this year I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It was horrible as well.

I have better days, but the hard ones beat me and let me down in despair and hopelessness. I have been on antidepressants, which really helped me with the sleep and the eating. I feel better about depression, but I haven’t overcome this phobia. Right now I am having an anxiety attack. I cannot lose hope. I’ve discovered this word brings meaning to life.

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Kasmine R

As a writer, this has probably been the toughest story for me to write. Although, I wish I could erase the memories, I know that my story will help other people understand mental illness, and, most importantly, I will help people realize that their not alone. My story begins with the darkness; the darkness that overcomes your world, clouds your mind, and develops into hopelessness.

As a writer, this has probably been the toughest story for me to write. Although, I wish I could erase the memories, I know that my story will help other people understand mental illness, and, most importantly, I will help people realize that their not alone. My story begins with the darkness; the darkness that overcomes your world, clouds your mind, and develops into hopelessness. On May 17th, 2016, I attempted suicide for the second time in my life. I wanted to end all of the pain and I wanted to drown in my depression. I had no faith in seeking help or praying that their was a light at the end of the tunnel. I called my parents right before I proceeded to cut my wrist. I was laying on the kitchen floor, my eyes closed, and silently crying while my parents begged me to not give up on life. “Please, Kasmine, don’t do this,” My daddy cried. “Please, live for me.”

That’s the only reason I’m here to write my story. My neighbors found me, took me to the hospital, and the next morning I was admitted to Peachford Mental Hospital in Atlanta, GA. I stayed in the hospital for three days and at first I refused to believe that I belonged there. I thought that I was stronger than the other patients and I desperately begged to leave, and continue my chaotic life. I was a writer, a blogger, and playwright. I had rehearsals to direct, a cast to manage, and show to put on at the end of June. However, once I accepted the fact that I had to put my mental health on the forefront, I knew that nothing else mattered until I received the help that I needed; the help that I deserved. I met the most amazing friends while in the hospital. For so long, I had battled with depression and my phobias and I felt so alone, but at Peachford Hospital I was able to find women who could relate to me. We were like a group of super heroes with secret powers that the rest of the world couldn’t handle. Sometimes we couldn’t even handle our own “powers”. After I was released from the hospital, my parents picked me up and they, along with my oldest sister, helped me pack all of my belongings from my one bedroom apartment. I had to break my lease and move from Atlanta back to Alabama with my parents to seek much needed therapy, and that’s where I am right now.

That’s pretty much how I ended up sitting on my old bed, in my old bedroom while typing this story to share with you guys. I begin cognitive behavior therapy to confront my two phobias of dogs and cats on Friday. Although I don’t know what the future has in store for me, I no longer allow PTSD, depression, and anxiety to dictate my life. Right before I attempted suicide, I had barricaded myself in my apartment. I was afraid to leave because of my fear of cats and I felt so alone. Only a few people understand how confined and empty you feel when you’re living with a phobia. No one realizes how many times I would sit in my car for two hours hiding from my neighbor’s cats. Once I finally was capable of getting out of my car, I never made it to my apartment door without peeing on myself. That’s only scratching the surface of my phobia, but I am determined to overcome it.

No one said that life is always roses and cupcakes with extra sprinkles. Life isn’t always easy but I’m devoted to ending the stigma of mental illness. I no longer suffer from it but I fight it everyday and I will continue to fight it because I am not a victim, but a survivor. I will conquer this even if it’s only because I need to for someone else. I just want others to know that you’re not alone and we can survive together. Please don’t allow the darkness to drag you down and drain the hope and faith for better days. You have a purpose to live so, please, don’t give up on yourself.

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Rachel B

I'm often told because I'm smiling, because I laugh and enjoy life that there can't possibly be something wrong with me.

I’m often told because I’m smiling, because I laugh and enjoy life that there can’t possibly be something wrong with me. The truth is, every day something will give me some sort of anxiety. Sometimes it’s taking a simple jog, other times it’s something as easy as ordering coffee. For me personally, that anxiety often leads to severe depressive episodes. It’s as if my mind is against me. So I do the fake it until I make it and hope that it works that day.

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Roger R

In my household growing up, I have come to realize that there were more things not discussed than were ever talked about. Most of these topics left out of conversations would be the basics of our lives. Items like how I REALLY felt about something, problems from a parent's childhood that were left unspoken, the ability to sit down and talk about something that was a TABOO item.

How do you view your life and the life of those around you? This includes family, friends, neighbors and the people you pass on the street every day. Is your life better or worse than others are? Perhaps you don’t really care about others and the status of their lives and that’s fine. But whether you realize it or not people do “size” each other up. If we look close we can see more things that make us more alike than different. We all started as infants with a parent or guardian to teach us what we needed to know as we grew. That is what makes up the similarity of humans, but the way our teaching occurred will probably be where the differences start.

From infancy we are taught what is “good” and “bad” but as we develop and grow, we sometimes learn that our teachings may not always be accurate. Our parents taught us what THEY believed to be correct. If you don’t personally like spinach, it will be tough to teach someone that spinach is a good thing. But learning about the factors of life is much more complicated than spinach. This brings out the radical in us, when we realize something that has been labeled bad for so many years may not in fact be so bad. We live today as we were taught to, that is life. The baby boomer generation to me (I’m in that group too) has so many obstacles that are needed to overcome. This is NOT saying anything negative about our parents; they were doing what they knew as they knew it. Our parents’ generation was so much different (not bad) than todays. Simpler is probably not the correct adjective as it was not simple, but things were thought of in a different fashion. The one that I would like to focus on is the role of communication between people as it was then and now. I will only speak of my own perception of my family, but I think there will be a lot of people that will see striking similarities between my upbringing and theirs. Maybe we will learn something about ourselves that we didn’t know before and if it was something troublesome, then that much better for us.

In my household growing up, I have come to realize that there were more things not discussed than were ever talked about. Most of these topics left out of conversations would be the basics of our lives. Items like how I REALLY felt about something, problems from a parent’s childhood that were left unspoken, the ability to sit down and talk about something that was a TABOO item.

That did not have to always mean sex, but more so about personal topics like feelings, love and to be simply able to openly discuss ANYTHING freely to each other. As many conversations I shared with my parents, I cannot recall a single one that was in depth enough to ever change anything. Very superficial I would say, but that was the way it was and life went on.

Another factor that I realized had a very negative effect on me as I grew up was the fact that I was completely sheltered by my mother. She was extremely over protective of me and that cost me dearly as I grew. At age 20-30-40 and up I simply was not my mother’s “little baby” and that was never accepted totally. Her shadow covered me well into adulthood and caused me to mentally stunt my growth. Despite what is being said, I do not want to paint a picture that my parents were anything but loving and caring. I loved them dearly, but personal factors within their lives that were rarely discussed openly, affected them as well as me.

My life was being controlled by Depression and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and that condition went undiagnosed until around 40 years old. Early childhood memories are vague, of course, but I do remember some symptoms appearing before my teens. It is so strange to realize that I know firsthand what these diseases can do to alter a life, but it’s true. Where this ever came from is again another mystery, although the probable suggestion is it came either through heredity or by means of upbringing. It’s irrelevant where this condition came from, although the idea of heredity does frighten me. The reason that it went so long without treatment is the one fact that will always make me angry, both with parents and me. The defense, for both parties, is that there was nothing ever discussed about these conditions and nobody recognized or knew it was present. No one’s fault for not recognizing something we knew anything about. I’m not sure if fortunate is the right word to use here, but my meltdown did occur (fortunately) and it was realized that I was in desperate need of professional help.

Recovery and the healing process had begun, this will be ongoing. Since that time it seems that I have been able to step back and actually view my life from early on to present with such a different perspective. The events that occurred on the negative side are now viewed as lessons for the future and I’ve learned more about myself then I thought possible.

This also taught me to look back at my parents and growing years, viewing this with a better understanding of why and how different things factored in. You really never do stop learning about life and to a certain degree I’ve only started.

The complete story behind the factors in my parent’s lives will probably never be known. I refer to factors as issues that probably affected the lives of my mom and dad in a negative way. I do know that my father was a heavy drinker, perhaps an alcoholic. He drank, smoked and never took care of himself in a way that most of us will today. In retrospect I think he lived in a rut. Same routine every day, no change. I never recall any father and son talks, but I now know we both had a lot to discuss. Perhaps he did not know how to talk to his son because his father never talked to him. Again the teaching and learning factor comes in. He lived his life with total disregard of his health, but I wonder if he was happy in doing so. If he was, then is that to say he was wrong? I think so, but that is my own opinion and we’re back to the correct teaching of Good and Bad.

My mother was a nervous wreck and my dad gave that term to her. She worried about everything and as was mentioned earlier became very over protective of me. If you can remember that dork in your classroom that came to school with boots on when it was raining, well that was me. I wish I could have said “no” to my mom on occasion. Respectfully of course and with all my love intact, but a simple no might have worked. I want again to reiterate that I don’t endorse “talking back” or any form of disrespect toward anyone. But even at an early age, I think it’s ok to voice your opinion in a way that promotes conversation. The child should not always, if at all, win but putting two separate opinions together and reaching a conclusion is healthy and compared to what I did as a child which was say nothing, is a better alternative. Yes, parents are in charge and if you want your son to wear a sweater on an eighty-degree day, he had better do so. But if he doesn’t want to, talk about it to reach a good conclusion. Sometimes I feel that my mom controlled all that I did in some way. Again, that is how it was but the over protection caused me to grow very slowly mentally.

Once I explored the world on my own it became a very scary place and lacked the experience to do things for myself. But mom was still watching, even though I was going further and further from her sight. Don’t think she ever accepted that and tried to continue to hold but it was getting more difficult.

So why do I claim problems in my parents’ lives? Maybe there were no problems in their own minds, but I still think they lived their lives with things that never were resolved and had they been about to bring some closure, might have had an impact on the things they did and way they felt. At this point we will most likely never know the answer to questions relating to our parents, but this certainly can serve as a valuable lesson to their children. If you are fortunate enough to have a living parent there would be no reason to think they would change anything at this point. Don’t try to, unless it’s something that relates to health or overall wellbeing. Their lives are being lived as they see fit for themselves. Could there be a change? That would certainly depend on their own beliefs and desires. Love them for what they are and do what is needed to fulfill their lives. And don’t ever forget to be thankful for all they gave for you, even though the life they live may not be ideal to you. Whether or not you think of it, there are life experiences that made them the way they are today and how they were before. They were brought up to know good and bad from their parents, just as you taught from them. Have we made adjustments to their teachings? Probably and that is good as you have changed something to bring it up to date in today’s world. One difference now is that we seem to want to talk more openly to each other with the hope of learning and growing from our personal experiences. Sharing, teaching, learning, and practicing is the pattern we follow with adjustments being constantly done throughout the generations, as we continue the cycle over and over again.

There are many forms of communication that people use to express themselves to others. To get ideas or points across I have found writing it down (like here) and talking to others in similar situations to be helpful. This is not the main reason for my presentations existing, but it’s a very human form of communication that brings across thoughts and opinions. It also covers various chapters in life that are both eventful and meaningful. There are frequent references to Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as Dysfunction within the family. In reality this is what I lived through every day. At the time, my feelings were developing and it’s a fair statement that my emotions were being stretched out of bounds and even though some things within my parent’s actions may have been disagreeable to me, I would have not questioned them.

You didn’t question them because they KNEW what was right and wrong. End of story, at least that’s what I thought, never realizing how would I would be effected as I grew older. My hope is to seek out the many similarities that people have regarding each other’s lives and to share those moments with others. Maybe we can all learn something along the way, too. That can have a very positive effect on an individual’s own life and act as the learning tool we sometimes need.

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Candy

Being brave enough to acknowledge that there's a line between feeling my feelings and allowing my feelings to overwhelm me, I was able to take back control of my life. There's no shame in acknowledging your feelings.

Almost two years ago I packed up my bags and a U-Haul truck and drove, by myself, from New York City to Los Angeles, CA to pursue my dreams. I left all of my close friends and family behind on the East Coast, which made the transition a little harder and I definitely felt isolated, lonely, and home sick.

In a city full of people and potential, I would feel lost and alone. Depression, to greater or lesser degrees, runs in my family, just like it does in many families. I spotted the signs of being on a slippery slope of allowing myself to feel the natural feelings of missing my family and friends and accepting change in my life, to allowing sadness, fatigue, and loneliness to consume me.

I took control and started to meditate, keep a journal, exercise daily, talked daily to family and friends, and was mindful to eat healthy foods that gave me energy. Being brave enough to acknowledge that there’s a line between feeling my feelings and allowing my feelings to overwhelm me, I was able to take back control of my life. There’s no shame in acknowledging your feelings.

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TJ

We should share our stories and let our voices be heard. We need to show people that mental illness is not just black & white; that there is an entire plethora of emotions that people deal with. We need to show people that mental illness is NOT a sign of weakness or invalidity. Most importantly, we need for people to understand that this illness isn't born out of ignorance or a crave for attention-- but that it's very, very real.

#WhatsYourStory #MindOurFuture #MentalHealth
Join @bringchange2mind, myself and countless others as we continue to share our stories, and start the conversation to end the stigma.

Yes, it’s true. Everyone knows me as the happy, fun and (hysterically) funny person that I am… but I face an illness, as so many others do, on the daily. Two years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety-depression. My symptoms ranged from nervousness, irritability, lack of sleep and a sadness so great that I often wonder how I even overcame it. I distanced myself from family & friends and constantly struggled to get out of the house to function in society. It took a pretty low moment in my life to finally be able to seek help by talking to a medical professional. I was prescribed medication, and slowly but surely recovered.

Today, I can proudly say I’m stronger than ever. However, this doesn’t mean that the illness has simply disappeared forever. What I went through, happened. And who I was, existed. Mental Health is a very important topic that shouldn’t be talked about lightly.

We should share our stories and let our voices be heard. We need to show people that mental illness is not just black & white; that there is an entire plethora of emotions that people deal with. We need to show people that mental illness is NOT a sign of weakness or invalidity. Most importantly, we need for people to understand that this illness isn’t born out of ignorance or a crave for attention– but that it’s very, very real.

Comment below with questions, I won’t be afraid to answer. Let’s show people that there should be a conversation had, and remind those with mental illness that they are not fighting the great fight alone.
Share your story at @bringchange2mind or comment below.
#WhatsYourStory #MindOurFuture #MentalHealth

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Nicole R

Everything in life takes work. Degrees, relationships, careers etc. I look at mental health in the same manner. For some people it takes work to feel happy, content. There are good professionals out there. They can help. And for anyone who is feeling alone- You Are Not. To all of those who struggle, I have faith in you. Keep going.

I’m a fairly private person. I know there’s a lot about me and my life that would shock people. But I also believe that there’s a chance that sharing could reach a person, touch a person. So, for that reason alone, I choose to share. I’m 38. Ive worked in the mental health field…I also struggle with clinical depression and anxiety.

My life has been challenging, since childhood. I come from a troubled family. (I don’t know why I allow admitting that to cause me so much shame). This caused me to experience depression since as young as 9.

In the past decade alone I lost my father to brain cancer, a close friend in a plane crash, and had two car accidents that left with me with a broken nose, torn labrum, fractured sacrum, herniations, nerve damage and a defeated spirit. I live in chronic pain. I’ve been active my entire life. It has always been an outlet for me. My accidents robbed me of my strongest coping skill. I slipped into the deepest depression, isolating myself from the world. Not showering. Not eating. Crying all night, sleeping all day.

One afternoon in January of 2012 I overdosed on my pain medication in attempt to end my life. The days following were a blur, but I was hospitalized, kept for a few days and returned back into the world in which I had lost faith in.

Baby steps.

It’s taken me years to get back to where I was physically and I continue to journey down the road to get to where I would like to be emotionally.

Baby steps.

The stigma behind mental health is disappointing . One should not feel embarrassed to admit to depression or otherwise just as one shouldn’t feel embarrassed to admit to having cancer. It’s an illness! Its a shame that people easily throw around judgments, opinions, etc. Perhaps it stems from fear and ignorance. After all, how well do you really know a person? Even those you think you know may be carrying a burden so heavy, privately, like I did.

Everything in life takes work. Degrees, relationships, careers etc. I look at mental health in the same manner. For some people it takes work to feel happy, content. There are good professionals out there. They can help. And for anyone who is feeling alone- You Are Not. To all of those who struggle, I have faith in you. Keep going.

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Carmen D

Did you know it's possible to be depressed and grateful at the same time?

Depression is your fault OR IS IT?

Hey do you know that you have control over how you feel good and bad? Oh did you know there is someone way worse than you? Well how about things could be worse? Why are you being ungrateful? What is there to be sad about? You are always sad and look outside the sky is blue someone lost their life today? Someone is blind and someone is deaf and you’re acting like this? Suicide is so selfish how dare you leave people asking and wondering forever you coward!

Hey do you know that you don’t have control over if you feel good or bad even to a certain extent? Did you know someone is better off than you? How do you justify that? Things could be better but how would that help saying a person is worse off than you? Did you know it’s possible to be depressed and grateful at the same time? Did you know that suicide isn’t selfish but it’s selfish not to listen to the cry for help? Did you know all your words hurt? Do you know they make us blind to our reality? It makes us deaf to hope? What if I told you it wasn’t a pity party but you blaming and throwing a pity party?

So depression IsN’t your fault! Did you know it could be inherited? Did you know there could be a chemical imbalance? Did you know people who have physical infirmities get a pass but people with mental illness don’t get a pass? What if I told you right now at any minute you could have clinical depression? How would you feel if someone said these things to you after a major event.

Depression is a prisoner in itself and you shouldn’t be blamed for it. Seek help. There are people out there so don’t feel alone. Know that your feelings and concerns are valid. Know that there is hope even if it seems cliche and most of all never feel inferior because of your illness. Because in the end you’re stronger anyway.

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Dalena

Mental health is just as important as our physical health. Our attitudes in regards to mental health needs to be of compassion, support and openness. Let’s not look down and let’s not silence those who are affected by mental illness.

Two years ago I went through a period of time where I lived with mental illness. I had lost my car, and depression took over my life. I ended up on a walk that was to result on the Lion’s Gate Bridge where I would end my life. By some miracle, I fought the thoughts and sought support. I became better, and the illness started to have less of a grip on me.

As of last week, I started my first counseling session and will continue until I speak kinder to myself and believe in my worth; until I learn how to better cope with the fears and anxiety that overcomes me during trying times.

Mental health is just as important as our physical health. Our attitudes in regards to mental health needs to be of compassion, support and openness. Let’s not look down and let’s not silence those who are affected by mental illness.

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Scott

I'm not going to lie, i'm not cured, it's just not possible. But one thing I can promise is that it will ALWAYS get better. No matter what you're going through, it's going to pass. Everything happens for a reason, so no matter what it is, something good will come out of it eventually.

I’m not good at this but i’m gonna try. Since the age of about 11 i’ve had problems with depression. I would pick up a knife and just wish I could end it. I got help that year, and it went away for a little while for the most part. Then at around the time of Sophomore year of high school it came back. I had just transferred to a new school that was absolute shit. I hated everything, the classes and the students mainly. I needed help so we went looking again. After a few therapists that I didn’t like I finally found one. I saw him for about a year until I was also sent to a psychiatrist.

I’ve been put on just about everything that’s been approved for my age, and either they wouldn’t work or they would cause weight gain which would make my situation 10 times worse. Then I was officially diagnosed, Major Depressive Disorder, a few months ago. I needed a diagnosis because i kept wondering “what the hell is wrong with me?” I thought it was something else, even though deep down i knew it was depression.

My mother was diagnosed a few years ago and i’m a lot like her, so I guess it was self explanatory. There’s always been so much anger, insecurity, all the other bad stuff. I’m not going to lie, i’m not cured, it’s just not possible. But one thing I can promise is that it will ALWAYS get better. No matter what you’re going through, it’s going to pass. Everything happens for a reason, so no matter what it is, something good will come out of it eventually.

I’m currently in senior year of high school and I can see the (figurative) finish line. Even though these last few weeks are going by as slowly as humanly possible, I know the struggle of high school will end soon. This is getting long, so i’m going to end this soon. But even though things aren’t perfect right now, i don’t regret anything, because everything that has happened to me has led me here. And though it’s not perfect, for the moment, i’m alright. And that’s all I can ask for.

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Daniel W

I think if I had found this website sooner, I could have saved my family this despair. And now, 6 months later, I'm glad I found a website that can help people who are going through what I did. And for all the people out there in the BC2M community, I say : THANK YOU. You guys are doing a magnificent job!

When I was a child, if I had heard that someone had depression, I would think that this person was idle.  All this, because we live in such a conservative society that has a ridiculous social stigma.

This year I was diagnosed with depression after I tried to kill myself. I’ve spent months living with horrible thoughts, and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t take them out of my head and I appealed to suicide. I took three boxes of sleeping pills. After taking them all, I blacked out.  I just remember being at home after two days in the hospital.

I think if I had found this website sooner, I could have saved my family this despair. And now, 6 months later, I’m glad I found a website that can help people who are going through what I did.  And for all the people out there in the BC2M community, I say : THANK YOU. You guys are doing a magnificent job!

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Julia A

Those days were long, exacting, their edges sharp. I would not wish that pain on my worst enemy. I would shield even the most unholy person from it. There was nothing easy about it. There was no miracle remedy, in pill form or otherwise. Make no mistake, I fought my way back to the light, crawling on hands and knees, bruised, bleeding. The light came in small, barely tangible fragments. The darkness still did its best to extinguish it. Then, eventually, it was gone.

Those Days
By Julia K. Agresto

I look in the mirror. My face is foreign, my eyes sullen. My skin is not my own. I am living with a stranger, and the stranger is me.

You’ll feel better tomorrow, I tell myself. You’ll be fine. Tomorrow becomes today, and I still feel the same. I am not better. I am not fine.

I don’t know who I am anymore. I have found myself in the grips of anxiety and depression, the result of a recent string of events – most notably, losing my job – and quite possibly also the culmination of a long series of losses and letdowns, whether of my own volition or not.

I never expected to be single, living alone and unemployed in my mid 20’s, collapsing under the weight of everything that has gone wrong, every personal failure, real or imagined. I see photos on social media of friends and others who appear to be having the time of their lives. Meanwhile, I can barely get out of bed or cook myself a meal, and most of them don’t even seem to notice or care.

Some mornings I wake up, if I’ve even slept, and half expect to jump out of bed with the vigor of my old self. Good as new, miraculously cured, as if the darkness of night carried away all the hurt and the morning light replaced it with healing.

Some nights I close my eyes and think how it would feel to be someone else, even for an hour. To feel whole again. To be able to piece myself together like a jigsaw puzzle until I was complete, a nice coherent picture to hang on the wall. I know this is irrational. I am broken, at least for now. There will be no neat, logical rearranging of my pieces. There is no amount of glue that can hold me together.

I go through the motions as best I can. Even the simple ones feel impossible. I barely eat or sleep. I lose weight, and lose interest in anything and everything I once cared about. I wonder how and when I became so wrecked. How did this happen? The answer never comes. It just happened. That’s the most I can manage. It’s not enough, but it has to be. At least for now.

Many nights I sit frozen, alone in the dark, terrified. The darkness is my keeper now and if I move, if I make myself known, if I try to become too big, it will see me. It will smell my fear and my feigned courage and knock me down again. So I stay small.

Then one day, somehow, the fog begins to lift. I can’t pinpoint exactly how or when it happens, but I slowly start to feel pieces of myself come back to me. I start enjoying things again, even if only slightly. A sunny day, a cup of tea, a warm breeze. I feel less indifferent. These are small victories. It is not instant, but rather a gradual return to my past state of being. It feels uncomfortable, like trying to squeeze into too-small clothing. As if I’ve shed a skin and now am trying to get back inside of it. And then it feels familiar, like returning home after a tiresome journey.

Those days were long, exacting, their edges sharp. I would not wish that pain on my worst enemy. I would shield even the most unholy person from it. There was nothing easy about it. There was no miracle remedy, in pill form or otherwise. Make no mistake, I fought my way back to the light, crawling on hands and knees, bruised, bleeding. The light came in small, barely tangible fragments. The darkness still did its best to extinguish it. Then, eventually, it was gone.

Depression and anxiety are incredibly isolating. It’s a vicious cycle because you want nothing more than to keep yourself hidden, and yet you so desperately need the support and encouragement of others if there is to be any hope of coming out on the other side. I learned this the hard way. I also learned how many other people have experienced what I went through, or something similar. But there is so much shame, so much fear of sharing this deeply personal and painful part of ourselves, that oftentimes it gets banished to that dark corner where we send all of the things we don’t want to see or feel or look at ever again. An eternal time-out. It’s easier that way.

The problem is, for better or worse, like it or not, this experience is part of me. Does it define who I am? No. But it is a small piece of my big story, and to omit it would be to tell an incomplete tale. It has its place and that’s where I keep it. I don’t let it run the show. But acknowledging that it happened gives it some meaning, talking about it helps others who are struggling, and recognizing how I got through it and came out stronger makes me feel like it wasn’t all a fruitless ordeal.

What I want for anyone reading this to realize is this one simple truth: you are not alone. There are people who care and want to help. I realize that all sounds like some nonsense recycled cliché, but it’s not. You aren’t the only person who has ever been where you are, nor are you the last person who will stand in the place that you’re in. To be human is to suffer. To conquer suffering makes us more resilient. You just have to get through the darkness. I’m proof that it can be done.

Those days were hell. These days are light. I couldn’t get here without first being there.

Somehow I found myself again. Somehow I found more than was there before. Somehow I gleaned a lesson from all the pain, even if it was buried deep and had to be sought out and excavated and dusted off. We can never stop fighting, no matter how futile it seems, no matter how many battles we lose along the way. We never know when we will win the war.

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Meg F

The reason I felt this urge today to share my story is that the stigma we all talk about and fight against happened to me in a very real and intimate way just yesterday, by my very own family, the people who love me most. My husband and 14 year old daughter.

Hi. My name is Meg. 47 year old wife and mother. I am a person living with depression from as far back as I can remember. It is a mild, yet chronic, coming and going dependent on sunlight and seasonal changes, and triggered by just about anything. Been on the same med for quite a while now and thinking it may be time to seek therapy again. I sleep way more than the average person needs to because it feels peaceful and safe. The dark days, unfortunately, are greater than the days that I feel pure joy and contentment.

I have never felt that I did not want to live, but there are some periods of time that it is hard to function, with even the simplest of daily tasks being excruciating to participate in and accomplish. Then comes the guilt. It is just this constant grind of angst, and the process of pushing it away and keeping it at bay. And then on the good days I try to truly acknowledge it and live in the moment.

The reason I felt this urge today to share my story is that the stigma we all talk about and fight against happened to me in a very real and intimate way just yesterday, by my very own family, the people who love me most. My husband and 14 year old daughter. I am very open about my depression and my life is very much like an open book to people who care to listen. It is a way to educate, plus it is healing and therapeutic for me personally to allow myself to be vulnerable and open about my struggles. So we talk openly about my depression as a family, but there is no real acknowledgement there, no real action of their part to know fully what it is like. They are afraid of it, as if it is contagious and they might catch it, and it is just too uncomfortable for them to talk about. They could ask me anything and I would share. I’ve talked quite a bit, in fact, with my 3 teenage children, so that they know what they could be up against in case the genetics of my family line of mental illness disrupt their lives. So last night they openly mocked me for having “multiple personalities like Sybil”, joked and laughed in front of me about it, and expected that I, too, would not be offended and should join in on the fun. My husband make a crack about me not being normal, and I finally had to say something along the lines of “wow, you certainly wouldn’t make fun of a person living with cancer, but it’s ok to when it is a condition affecting someone’s brain and moods.”

It hurt deeply, but I didn’t let on. I just sucked it in and pushed it away and got over it. But it was very real for me in that moment and just crushed me that they could be so cruel. So I’ll end with a poem I scribbled today, which I sometimes do, out of no where, when I can’t sleep:

She saw the world all around her, but wasn’t in it.

The edge of the cocoon, that thickness of numbness,
existed between her and what normal life looked like.

Beyond her reach.
Where happy people did life.
What was it to feel that?
Only fleeting moments to know.

Yet life happened, or whatever this is called.
Not a wasted life, to be sure.
Blessings and gratitude fill up many a day.
But also guilt.
For the ineptness.

Trapped, she is banging on the window.
Don’t you see her?
Can’t you hear her?
She’s screaming.
No sound.
And she is so tired.
Tired of her.

She sits motionless.
Feeling foolish, but not lonely.
A slug, yet not sad.
Just lifeless. Hollow.
With fake smiles so the kids won’t see and have their lives be less than what they deserve.
Hold it together, please.
Oh joy, to be you.

Thank you for allowing this space to write. It can be very healing!

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Ruth K

I have a passion to erase the stigma of mental illness and bring attention to the importance of accurate diagnosis and family intervention. As a writer, it gives me the opportunity to tell the story of my siblings and myself. Only I am left and for this reason I have hope that somehow in some way, others will be encouraged by our story. That will make the pain of grieving these losses a bit more easier to bear. I must speak out for them. Their voices have been silenced.

I was diagnosed with chronic post traumatic stress disorder after being treated for bipolar disorder for over ten years. In and out of treatment every year for the ten years that I was in an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship with my first husband. I’m fortunate after having had some less than stellar doctors to have found a neuropsychiatrist that offerred me hope and the opportunity to be a part of my treatment. In addition I see a LCSW for therapy on a regular basis.

I had a brother and sister who passed away that both suffered with depression and anxiety. My sister died in August, 2015 having taken her life after several previous attempts. My brother passed away in a horrific auto accident. I am the remaining sibling of the three of us. Because of this, I have a passion to erase the stigma of mental illness and bring attention to the importance of accurate diagnosis and family intervention.

As a writer, it gives me the opportunity to tell the story of my siblings and myself. Only I am left and for this reason I have hope that somehow in some way, others will be encouraged by our story. That will make the pain of grieving these losses a bit more easier to bear. I must speak out for them. Their voices have been silenced.

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Sara B

When I was living through the darkest, scariest part of this ordeal, I knew I was no different than Philip Seymour Hoffman. Addicts are addicts. Withdrawal symptoms are painful, no matter the drug. I don’t know why people don’t believe us when we say we do not choose to be mentally ill, we do not choose to become addicted to anything. It was hurtful to read the comments I read on Facebook following Hoffman’s death. Following Whitney Houston’s death. Following Amy Winehouse’s death. Hurtful because I get it. I completely get it, and telling me that the completely horrible feeling of not wanting to feel at all anymore is something I choose to feel, couldn’t be further from the truth.

We do not choose mental illness and we do not choose addiction.

If you think otherwise, then get on your knees right now and thank God, because you have never experienced the true horror that is addiction. You have never suffered through mental illness. You are one of those people who happened to be born with a “normal” brain. Many times I’ve been jealous of you, but I’m not anymore. These are the cards I was dealt. I often think that God just took the stack of cards and flicked them out onto the population, and is then sitting back, watching crazy situation after crazy situation unfold. God has one hell of a sense of humor.

I quit drinking two and a half years ago. I didn’t choose to become an alcoholic. An addict is born an addict. We are born with a genetic predisposition, something in our brains that doesn’t signify when enough is enough. It’s never enough. Never. It took for me to become a completely different person, and one that I didn’t like at all anymore, for me to realize I had to quit drinking. Something else happened; this power came over me, and helped me make the decision. God was part of the decision.

I’ve never been someone of blind faith. I’m always questioning the existence of God. The intellectual part of me overpowers the intuitive part of me, and because I don’t have concrete proof of God, I don’t believe. At least, that’s how it’s been up until this point. What happened to me this week changed all that.

When I quit drinking, I felt as if God for the first time in my life was really present. I felt it. This decision to quit was bigger than I was. It was fate, combined with my decision to quit. That’s something else I’ve always had a hard time with. Is it fate or is it free will? Well, my therapist thinks it’s both. Now I believe that, too. It is incredibly hard for me to not think in black and white terms. It’s all or nothing. Go big or go home. My brain is wired differently than a “normal” person’s. I am bipolar. I am an addict. This is where much of the population seems to step in and voice their opinions about addiction being a choice. About anxiety being for “pussies,” as one of my Facebook friends stated quite confidently this week. Man up, pussy.

Anxiety is real. It is very real. It is biological, not a choice. I know this with every fiber of my being. Depression is real. So horribly, horrifically, terribly real. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to die. And I’m an intelligent person with a lot going for me – everything going for me. Please tell me why I’d choose to feel suicidal. The answer is, I don’t. And for people to minimize depression, to scoff at it, to trivialize the very real thoughts I’ve had about wanting to kill myself because nothing is good – I don’t care how everything appears to people on the outside – depression is biological. I love my children more than anything. I love Andy. I love my parents. Yet, when I’m depressed, that doesn’t matter. All that matters is the here and now, and it is horrible. There is no future in depression. The only thing I can ask you to do is to take my word for it. Trust me, Philip Seymour Hoffman did not choose to die. He did not choose his mental state. He did not choose to be an addict. I am no different than he is. Addicts crave a high. Once the high is achieved, the brain is automatically chasing the next level of high. It’s like an elevator that’s rising to the top, but stops on every floor. And suddenly is going by itself; no one is pushing the buttons. One beer used to get me tipsy. That wasn’t enough anymore. I needed that next level of high. Two beers was a little better, but nothing like the euphoria of three beers. Of four. Of five. It’s never enough. Never.

I found God again this week. I was telling my therapist yesterday, that all this time, the past few months, I’ve been wondering, where the fuck is God? The answer is, God’s always been here. It’s, where the fuck was I? I know this because I felt God’s arm around me this week in a way that I’ve never experienced. True, I had a life-changing experience when I quit drinking. I found God. As my therapist said, though, as human beings we grow, and then we regress. It’s normal. We take a few steps forward, then take a few steps back. It’s life. Well, I had regressed and didn’t seem to be going forward again. I was frustrated and lost. I lost God. In the back of my mind, I knew this. It just took a dramatic experience for it to really sink in for me.

While I gave up alcohol, I still smoked, and I took Ativan for anxiety. It calmed my nerves. It was something I could still do to achieve pleasure. Except I discovered the electronic cigarette. You see, in the past when I thought I was addicted to smoking, I was wrong. I really didn’t smoke much at all. With this new invention, however, I could do it anywhere. All day.

My electronic cigarette had become a permanent fixture. I had a routine. Wake up, reach for the electronic cigarette. Drink coffee and vape on the e cig. Write an article and vape on the e cig. Drive somewhere and vape on the e cig. In the beginning, I was going through maybe a cartridge a day. That turned into two. Which turned into two packs. Then, this week, I blew through the equivalent of a few cartons of cigarettes. I don’t know about regular cigarettes, but my e cigs contain 16 mg of nicotine. And I never understand nicotine withdrawal until this week. Because I’d never really been addicted to it until now.

I’ve been in a cloud the past several months. I was feeling better mentally, so I stopped taking my mood stabilizers. This happens often with bipolar people. Even thinking about it now sounds stupid, but when you’re high, you don’t remember what it’s like to be low. When you’re low, you think you’ll never be happy again. Take my word for it. So since I was feeling better (and I’ve done this numerous times), I thought I didn’t need that medication anymore. The thing is, I was feeling better because I was taking the pills. In order to continue to feel good, I had to keep taking my medication. When you’re manic, that makes no sense. At all. You often feel great, so you think you’re fine. You’re not.

I noticed my highs and lows were cycling much more rapidly than they usually did. It didn’t occur to me that the absence of a mood stabilizer was responsible for this. After all, I was fine. I went off the meds because I was fine. Sometimes, it takes getting down to the lowest low to think otherwise.

I’d been in a fog. No inspiration to write. Nothing. I thought maybe by ingesting as much caffeine and nicotine as possible, I’d push myself into a nice manic mood and feel inspired to write. I did become manic, but it was not a good manic. Think of the best you’ve ever felt. Multiply it by one hundred. That’s mania. Except lately, my mania wasn’t euphoric this time. It was agitation and restlessness. Extreme uncomfortability. Thoughts darting in and out of my light at lightning speed, and nothing I could do to turn them off or shut them out. Picture how in movies or TV shows when they speed the cameras up so fast that you see traffic moving at lightning fast speed, flashes of colors and lights. That’s a manic brain. Burning, burning, burning, and nothing can stop it.

My therapist said it was a perfect storm for me to have the major panic attack I ended up having Thursday morning. I slept Monday night. I did not sleep Tuesday night. Or Wednesday night. I’d been awake for days. I’d also unknowingly been sucking down nicotine around the clock. I say unknowingly because it really was. It was like breathing at that point. I didn’t even notice it. I was constantly switching from whichever cig I was vaping on to the one that was charging, because I was using it to the point that it needed charged every few minutes. I was manically sucking on this thing. With every breath I took. For about two days straight. I had also been taking Ativan every day, three a day. But then three didn’t cut it. I was up to five a day. (Most people are prescribed one a day.)

Ativan is classified as a benzodiazepine. Benzos are extremely addictive, incredibly hard to come off of, and easy to build up a tolerance for, which is what I’d done. In the back of my mind, I’ve known since I quit drinking that I probably shouldn’t take them. But what did I have left? I needed something to take the edge off. But my addictive brain could no longer be satiated with the edge being taken off. I needed more and more and more pills to achieve the desired effect. Well, I ran out. Before my prescription could be refilled. This happened right around the same time I took my final puff of the electronic cigarette. I was out of cartridges. I wanted more. I didn’t have any more. It was the middle of the night, and I’d been awake for days. This was when I started having withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms that are the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. Symptoms that scared the living shit out of me. I was shaking all over. I couldn’t stop. No part of my body was still. And it couldn’t stay still. I couldn’t lie down. I’d lie down and my legs thrashed around involuntarily. My arms were flailing. I paced around the house. And paced. And paced. And paced.

Then, the really scary shit started happening. My lips were making the puckering motion made when inhaling the cigarette – involuntarily. They would pucker up, the twitch back to normal. Pucker, retract. Pucker, retract. Pucker retract. I was scared as hell. I woke up Andy, having involuntary muscle spasms, telling him I didn’t feel right. I couldn’t stop.
This went on for hours.

Andy told me to try lying down. This was the pattern for the next 24 hours – lie down, get up, lie down, get up, lie down, get up. Right away. When I was walking, I felt uncomfortable. When I was lying down, I felt uncomfortable. I was horrifically, painfully uncomfortable for hours. My heart was beating out of my chest. My skin was crawling so badly. I wanted to jump out of my skin. I couldn’t breathe. I just started breathing like you do when you’re in labor, and with every passing millisecond, I had to tell myself that I would live through this – through this pain that was worse than childbirth – worse than anything I’ve experienced in my life.

That’s when I felt God’s arm around me. I could just feel it. I told myself that I could live through this, I would live through this, I had to.

My jaw and neck were still involuntarily tensing up, my mouth was still moving on its own. Still, I tried to breathe and tell myself that with each passing second, it would get better. I would live through this. See, the thing is, during the past few months, I haven’t cared if I lived. I wasn’t really doing anything to attempt to actively kill myself, but I also wasn’t doing anything to help myself. If I died, I died.

It was in the midst of this withdrawal Hell that I decided I want to live.

And I don’t mean just live; I want to take an active role in my well-being. I’d been stuck at this plateau for so long. As my therapist said yesterday, It is only through pain that we grow. No one grows when they’re comfortable. It is only through pain that we grow. He said he knows that without a doubt in his mind. I believe him.

While I was experiencing these symptoms, I wished more than anything that it could just be over. I’d have given anything. Now, though, I see that it was essential. I’d been passively sitting here, letting whatever be, be, when deep down I’ve known something is missing. I’ve known I had more potential than what I was showing, but I was too scared to let go.
Thursday morning came, and there was a two-hour delay at school. At this point, I had been awake since Tuesday morning, and things were really starting to accelerate. I felt like I was going to die. I was sure of it. There was nothing I could do; I couldn’t fall asleep, my body was still involuntarily twitching. Yet if I went through this much longer, I would die. I couldn’t drive Adele to school. I couldn’t function.

I called the doctor’s office, thinking at the time that my Ativan was due to get refilled that day. I asked the nurse about it on the phone, who said, “That’s not supposed to be refilled until the 15th.” I told her I’d thought it was the 13th, and she told me again it wasn’t until the 15th, because it was a 28-day prescription, not 30, as I’d thought. “You’re not supposed to get it refilled until the 15th,” is all she kept saying. Then, “Have you been taking more than you’re supposed to?” I told her, “Sometimes…to help me sleep.” Then she told me she knew the doctor wouldn’t refill it until the 15th, and I wanted to scream at her, “Do you know what I’m going through, you stupid bitch?! I need something!” And I thought I did – I thought, if I just take a few Ativan, it’ll take the edge off; maybe I’ll feel better. Instead, “I asked, “Well, is there anything I could have for anxiety? I was having trouble with my speech, along with all the other withdrawal symptoms. I was kind of slurring, and sentences were longer and more drawn out than normal. She just said no, and I felt like some sort of drug seeker, of a junkie begging for a fix.

Suddenly I was up outside of my body looking down at myself. I was having a panic attack. I called Andy, saying, “I feel like I’m going to die,” and I started crying, saying I’d called the doctor, that I desperately needed something, and the nurse made me feel like a criminal. “I can’t do this,” is all I kept saying.

At the same time, I had to somehow find the strength to get my kids through the day. I love my kids more than life itself, but this made me appreciate them even more. I heard Adele whisper to Eleanor, “Something’s wrong. Mommy’s upset.” Eleanor came over to me as I was crying and asked, “’Cause you lost your job?” For the first time in days, I started laughing. The girl’s obviously noticed a pattern with my inability to keep a job and my ability to cry about it. I was still on the phone with Andy, and he told me, “See? Just do stuff like that. Sit with Eleanor and laugh.” I called about ten people before someone answered. It was Lisa, Eleanor’s preschool teacher. I told her, “Ummm…I wondered if there’s any way you could drive Adele to school? I’m having a panic attack and I can’t function,” as my voice cracked and I started sobbing again. “I’m gonna start crying,” I told her, and she said it’s okay, that she would be here to pick up Adele.

When she got here, I told her not to look at my house, which was in complete disarray. I was wearing my stained bathrobe, crying, still enduring waves of impending death. She came in the house and the sun was shining directly on her through the kitchen window. She was an angel, here to save me.

Not long after she left, I called the woman who helps with my support group, who also used to be a psychiatric nurse, and told her all my symptoms. She calmly helped me understand that I wouldn’t die, that I could get through this. I called my therapist, who told me to take a walk outside, to do whatever I could to expend energy so I’d finally crash. My feet were raw at this point from pacing around the hardwood floors and walking up and down the stairs of our house, nonstop, for days. My whole body ached as if I just ran a marathon – my joints were swollen, everything throbbed. Still, I was willing to do whatever these people suggested to feel better.

My mom came over and confiscated my electronic cigarette, which I gladly handed over. We had some good times. I remember looking at it in the middle of the night, thinking it was the devil. And it is. For me it is.

I was starting to get better. While my mouth was no longer involuntarily puckering, it was still involuntarily tightening up. Part of me wanted to lie down now but I was still anxious. I threw snow boots on over my sweatpants, threw a coat on, and took a walk.

As I walked down the street, suddenly everything seemed perfectly peaceful. I was still in pain. But I all of a sudden knew that it would all be okay. I was feeling so much better than I’d felt hours ago. I could do this. I heard the birds in the trees, which for the first time in months sounded beautiful. Lately the sound had agitated me and only made me want to shoot them.

The snow was pristine and sparkling. I could see my breath, so I knew I was alive. I walked to the IGA and bought lots of candy. My oral fixation was out of control. It’s exactly like newborn babies, when they crave the nipple. It’s painful. It’s uncomfortable. You need it. I understand. I understand why they scream their fucking heads off. I needed something in my mouth. As I walked home, I sucked on one of the Dum-Dums I’d bought, and it was the best thing I’ve tasted in my life.

I came home and ran water to take a bath, something else I was told to do to try and relax and come down from this panic attack. I poured some lavender bath fizz in the tub and played some Kings of Convenience, music I listen to when I want to zone out. My head-to-toe aching body felt so good getting into that water. It was like experiencing a hot bath for the very first time. It was indescribably amazing.

I’ve always hated my body. My looks in general. I compare myself to supermodels and live in a constant state of negativity. When I got out of that bathtub, though, and looked in the mirror, for the first time maybe ever, I thought, you know what? My body is just fine. In fact, it’s pretty fucking spectacular.

It was like my entire outlook on life changed from going through this experience. On Friday I went to the psychiatrist and explained everything, and I’m back on mood stabilizers. I will stay on them this time. I went to my therapist after that, and covered pretty much every issue going through my head. He asked me how I’ll make sure I’ll keep taking them this time. I will never forget the pain I was in, and I never want to go through that again. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I will re-read this if I ever think I should go off my meds again.
All of my cognitive distortions were making sense now. I could change my thinking, my therapist said. I’ve never believed I could change my thinking. I now believe it’s possible. I now see myself as a creation of God, and who am I to criticize one of God’s creations? I need to try to be the best version of myself and stop comparing myself to everyone. I need to focus on what’s good about me. And there’s a lot. I feel like a bad mom a lot. I don’t want my kids to see me this way. I want to shelter them from this. I feel guilty for possibly passing my DNA on to them. I don’t want them to be like me. “But what about the good things you’ve possibly passed on to them?” my therapist asked. “What are some good things about you?” I never think of it like that. As for sheltering them from this, this is life. They will learn that there are bad days. And when they’re old enough to understand, I will sit them down and explain Mommy’s disease.

I will never forget how horrible I felt during this withdrawal. I’ve never in my life felt more like I wanted out. I wanted to not feel this pain anymore. But I made it through. I know for sure now I can’t handle nicotine. I can’t handle Ativan. I can’t do moderation. I am an addict. I was born this way.

The misconception so many people have is that it’s the choice to do drugs. The genetic predisposition is there. Lots of people try cigarettes and stop. An addict can’t. Our brains are wired differently. Cancer patients get nothing but sympathy. The mentally ill are still largely seen as weak, and addicts are seen as people who choose to fuck up their lives. Why would someone with the talent and luxuries of Philip Seymour Hoffman choose to fuck up everything he had? Choose to leave his children?

When I was living through the darkest, scariest part of this ordeal, I knew I was no different than Philip Seymour Hoffman. Addicts are addicts. Withdrawal symptoms are painful, no matter the drug. I don’t know why people don’t believe us when we say we do not choose to be mentally ill, we do not choose to become addicted to anything. It was hurtful to read the comments I read on Facebook following Hoffman’s death. Following Whitney Houston’s death. Following Amy Winehouse’s death. Hurtful because I get it. I completely get it, and telling me that the completely horrible feeling of not wanting to feel at all anymore is something I choose to feel, couldn’t be further from the truth. I would have traded places with any one of you during that time. Believe me. We do not choose this.

Why would any talented celebrities want to throw away their lives? They have it all. Addiction is an equal opportunity disease. It doesn’t care how much money you have, how well you can sing, how many Oscars you’ve won. We do not choose this.

I’ve gained empathy from this experience. I’ve been kind of questioning lately whether I should be going back to school at all; what if I’m not meant to be a chemical dependency counselor? I have a renewed sense of wanting to help people. I want people to understand that having a mental illness is no different than having cancer. To state otherwise slices through me like a knife, hurts me at the core of my being. If only you could experience this. Then you’d get it. You’d understand, and you’d realize how ignorant and hurtful you’ve been to those of us who suffer with abnormal brains. Trust me.

We do not choose mental illness and we do not choose addiction.

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Risa S

So, this is me being authentic. It’s been a rough road but I am finally beginning to allow myself to heal, to really heal. Instead of manipulating situations where the end result is me feeling intense psychological pain, it is time to let go of the pain and allow myself some peace. That is my goal at this point in my treatment and while this will be a difficult goal to accomplish, this is what is left: It is time for me to accept that I deserve peace and all of the blessings I have in my life. How much more authentic can I get?

The Authenticity of Self

If it’s easy, then it’s not real.

Authenticity is a powerful attribute. For the first time, I was not only honest with myself, I was honest with friends. When asked how I was feeling, instead of being dishonest and sugarcoating a hopeful response, as I have done my entire life, I was truthful. I was able to open myself to a degree that felt comfortable and real. I explained how I was feeling better but still not yet at the place I want to be. Not only was this important for me but this is important for all of my relationships. Most significantly, though, I want to model this for my daughter so she will know what being authentic really means.

One of the most startling realizations that I have had recently in therapy was that I have been waiting for a false self to emerge. Last year as I was feeling better from that episode of depression, I experienced joy, true joy and bliss. This occurred with my husband, our daughter, family and friends. I had never before felt such feelings of happiness. I believed I would continue to feel this level of happiness but as I became ill again, I lost it. I still felt moments of happiness in my relationships but not at the same level. Since I became ill again, I have been patiently waiting for that joy and elation to return, however it hasn’t. It was only during a recent therapy session when I learned it won’t. My therapist explained that those euphoric feelings were real but only because I had never felt them before. Those feelings were not realistic though in the long-term and as the tears fell down my cheeks, she also explained how I actually had been experiencing those “moments” in the past months, which she pointed out with numerous examples of things I had brought up during past sessions. I am still absorbing this information and in some ways, mourning the loss. I know that what I have gained is so much more, but the memories of feeling the joy and pleasure at such a high level are still so fresh in my mind. This is how I can be authentic: own my feelings and accept them while moving forward.

While I know who I am, as a wife and a mother, I am still learning who I am to myself. This is a difficult process and requires more than my weekly therapy session, more than the pills that help promote my stability and more than the ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) that I receive. For the person who believed she was receiving exactly the kinds of treatment needed, I was informed that I actually could benefit from an additional mode of therapy. While it took some months to accept this and understand how I would benefit from it, I have finally agreed with my therapist that DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) would greatly benefit me as I move forward in my recovery. I will be starting group therapy, which will be another new experience and will work on myself in a way that I never have before.

So, this is me being authentic. It’s been a rough road but I am finally beginning to allow myself to heal, to really heal. Instead of manipulating situations where the end result is me feeling intense psychological pain, it is time to let go of the pain and allow myself some peace. That is my goal at this point in my treatment and while this will be a difficult goal to accomplish, this is what is left: It is time for me to accept that I deserve peace and all of the blessings I have in my life. How much more authentic can I get?

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Jon D

I commend Brandon Marshall, Wayne Brady, and others for helping SOOOO MUCH with the stigma of mental illness.

My story is as horrible as they come.

I have led a “successful” life, doing well in school, sports, etc. I am 44 yrs old. I was Top Ten in my college class, was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, and have had a great professional career.

I have struggled with depression/anxiety/OCD my whole life. I first got treated at age 29, after having to take a leave from work and becoming suicidal. I spent my 30’s in “remission”. Something happened at the age of 40 and my existing meds stopped working….I went into a horrible tailspin that resulted in being hospitalized for over a year (with a few times out). They could not find the right drug and I attempted suicide several times, the most major attempt by driving my vehicle head on to a delivery truck at 60 mph each. Somehow I survived and finally got on a drug that worked, but it still is a daily struggle.

I commend Brandon Marshall, Wayne Brady, and others for helping SOOOO MUCH with the stigma of mental illness.

I am trying to find ways to help. I am considering writing a book someday.

Thank you for doing all you can to help others. The sign that says “People with Cancer don’t have to Explain” hits home so much. It’s a brain disease. People need to realize it.

Thanks so much,

Jon

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Craig

A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with OCD, depression, and anxiety. Throughout my life I knew something was different about me. I would do things in my head (count or read things a certain amount of times) without anyone knowing. I was confused and not sure if this was a "normal" thing.

A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with OCD, depression, and anxiety. Throughout my life I knew something was different about me. I would do things in my head (count or read things a certain amount of times) without anyone knowing. I was confused and not sure if this was a “normal” thing.

About 3 years ago I moved on my own to a new state for a change and hoping my depression would get better. It didn’t and only got worse. I ended up getting a job teaching kids with autism. Later in the beginning of my 3rd year of teaching I started getting horrible thoughts of hurting others and myself. I was scared and depressed all the time. I went to my best friend and co-worker for help to explain my thoughts and the fear of possibly hurting my students. She ended up telling the police and I was later fired (over my thoughts).

I lost everything. My job, friends, and worse – I lost the chance to help others. I also got help through counseling and medication.

As a long distance runner I decided that I could persevere and take this as a opportunity to motivate myself and help others. Last September I ended up running and winning my 1st ultra marathon. I ran for 12 hours straight completing 62.5 miles in honor of people with mental illness. After the race I won $500 and donated it to help the people in my community with mental health issues. In the future I will continue to live my life to help others who suffer from mental illness.

Hopefully my story can help others show that know matter what you are going through you can overcome it and help others in the process.

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Kameron S

No one in my family has had a mental illness so it's hard being around them when I'm not feeling right and I cry all the time they just don't understand. But keep pushing and your days will get easier.

I was 17 when my house was raided by the cops. My brother had been selling drugs and the consequences followed. Unfortunately, I was the one to open the door. It was a single sheriff in uniform saying that someone had called 911 from my house. It was 6AM so I was the only one awake about to get ready for school. I told him I’ll go wake up my mom and he can talk to her. He asked if he can stand in the door way so I said yes.

As I’m on my way to get my mom I turn around and the sheriff is yelling with his gun pointed to my brothers room and 10 police guys with their guns out came running straight towards me. I was in instant shock my body couldn’t move and tears were streaming down my face. After they searched my house and did what they needed to I went on with my day like normal.

A few months later I started feeling weird, I wasn’t thinking like myself and I didn’t feel like myself. I felt like I was in a dream and I had anxiety when my mom would leave me. Two weeks later I went to a psychologist and they diagnosed me with PTSD, depression and anxiety. I have been in the darkest places. I have never dealt with a mental illness before this so this was a huge eye opener. I cried everyday for 3 months. I thought about suicide everyday for 3 months. I went to therapy 3 times a week for almost a year.

I’m now 19 and it has gotten a little better. I still have days where I get anxiety out of no where and I still deal with depression. Sometimes I feel the effects of the PTSD also. No one in my family has had a mental illness so it’s hard being around them when I’m not feeling right and I cry all the time they just don’t understand. But keep pushing and your days will get easier.

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Lia's Story

Mental Illness. Two words. Many assumptions. Two words, synonymous with guilt, shame and stigma. Two words, misunderstood. Two words, silenced. That is why I am here today to speak to this silence. I am here to share my story. By adding this story to the collage created by many, I aim to change perceptions and create awareness.

Mental Illness. Two words. Many assumptions. Two words, synonymous with guilt, shame and stigma. Two words, misunderstood. Two words, silenced. That is why I am here today to speak to this silence. I am here to share my story. By adding this story to the collage created by many, I aim to change perceptions and create awareness. I am not trying to shift the tectonic plates of your brain enough to create a mountain, in fact I know I can’t, but I am aiming to create a small earthquake. I hope that this earthquake will bring up awareness, spark new ideas and form positive perceptions of the words mental illness and the disease itself.

There is a story of a man who grew up with little but formed his own future. He graduated from Georgetown University, and was accepted by Stanford Business School. Surprisingly, he turned down the offer for a local start-up by the name of eBay. He married, had 3 daughters, and worked so hard, always striving for new ideas and innovations. This man, and the smartest person I knew, was my father. He had mental illness.

My dad passed away from mental illness 3 and a half years ago. I had no idea that he was suffering until I found out that it took his life. I ask myself why I didn’t know, or even if I wanted to – but when I look at how mental illness is portrayed, I understand. Less than 15 people knew that my dad was suffering from the time he was diagnosed until his death, and I wasn’t one of them. 15 people is way too few, but serves as a definite call to action. We need to be the change for those suffering in silence.

When the news was shared with me, I didn’t know what mental illness was or what it meant – even though explanations were attempted. All I knew was that it had stolen my father, and that it was overpoweringly terrifying. But my perceptions have evolved, and I am no longer scared. My tragedy is an opportunity for me to start the conversation about mental illness, and to be part of ending the stigma around it.

What my dad was going through was the result of a disease. He was not crazy. He did not want this difficult illness much less cause it himself. My father was brilliant, and the most caring parent I could wish for. And yes he had bipolar, OCD and depression – but that did not form his amazing character. I know that what I just said is the truth, but I also know that ignorance can blind people and that is what has always been hardest for me. Some people might think that my dad chose to die, because the way that he died is traditionally thought of as a choice – suicide. But his passing was the result of a sickness. The mixed up chemistry in his brain had a horrible fatal result, just like any other disease would mess with your body.

That is the actuality of the illness. As a society we have to dig up this actuality and learn to honor and believe it. When these truths are mangled, twisted and turned into offensive stigma, the silence and pain continues on. So things need to revolutionize – we need to be able to talk about mental illness like any other disease. The volumes on the voices that that offend, discriminate, and isolate people struggling – should be muted. The voices that are talking about mental illness like a disease and respecting the struggles of the people dealing with it – those voices need to be shouted.

My mom tells me that pink clouds are the mark of someone who has passed smiling down at you, wherever there are pink clouds right now, dad – this speech is for you. I am doing this for you – to give back to all you have given me. I love you and miss you all the time. I promise that things are going to change, that mental illness will not be something to be ashamed of and the conversation will start. We need to bring change to mind, and educate the truth. Also – I am going to edit my earlier analogy – I do want to create a mountain, but with small earthquakes, and you are going to be one of the many. The negative perceptions of the disease will be destroyed by the shaking in your brain, and newer more positive ones rebuilt. The news of these earthquakes will spread around the world, with many more people offering support. I believe that this mountain will form, it will be tall and strong and proud. Many people will climb this mountain, and it will be harder for some than others, but the ends will justify the means. The view from the peak of the mountain will make the whole journey worth it, because there will be those beautiful pink clouds smiling down on this marvelous mountain that has been created. Thank you.

Lia’s Speech at the Third Annual BC2M Gala on November 9, 2015 in NYC

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Tim E

On behalf of those who want to hide this year, this is my phone call from the cage. It’s a call to action. To those of good cheer, come out into the rain and check on us. We don’t really want to be alone. We don’t necessarily want to be dragged to a big party either. We just need someone to ask how we’re doing. To spend a little time with us. We don’t want to be “fixed” right now, so please don’t try. We just want someone to listen. Or maybe we just want someone to sit with. Nothing fancy. Nothing loud. Just someone to be with for a while during this crazy time of year.

It’s That Time of Year…
…when some of us want to run and hide.

Ah, the holidays. A time to spend with family, exchange gifts, attend festive parties, decorate the house with joy… and totally freak out! I have to be honest. I just barely made it through Thanksgiving and I’m dreading Christmas. Over the past fifteen years I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. Once the life of the party, I’ve found myself avoiding any type of party at all, especially holiday gatherings. This past Thursday, Thanksgiving was hosted at our house with Monica’s family. Where was I? When the bulk of the crowd arrived I had one of the worst panic attacks in years and I ended up hiding out in our dog kennel. (I know you’re picturing me in a doghouse, but it’s a 6-foot-high fenced in area with a pitched tarp over it.) So I stood there, sheltered from the drizzling rain, like a scared little doggy. I called Monica on my cell phone from my cage. I told her I didn’t think I could “do this.” I was content to just stand out there until it was over. In a few minutes my son, Daniel, came outside.

“Whatcha doin’, Dad?”
“Um… just checking to make sure the dogs have their own Thanksgiving set up for them.”
“The dogs are inside, Dad.”
“Oh, yeah. I guess we better go in.”

So, reluctantly, I slipped in the side door. However, I know my house well. And I know how to hide from a house full of people. So I did. I eventually had to make conversation with a couple of people. I tried not to make eye contact. I’m ashamed of how I acted. I don’t understand these feelings. It makes me not want to try at all for the rest of the Season.

I can think back to more dismal days during the holidays and recount stories that make this one seem tame. Years of holidays and birthdays lost because I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. One time I spent alone in a car, in an empty school parking lot, wondering if I could even go on living, let alone force myself to drive to a family Christmas party.

The notion that suicide rates go up over the holidays has been debunked, however no one denies that those who suffer from depression and related illnesses struggle more during Christmastime. Even people with physical illnesses can notice an uptick in symptoms. I had three dystonia attacks before and after Thanksgiving this year. I had been dystonia-free since August. There is probably a correlation.

The point of writing this isn’t to draw attention to myself. I’ll be fine. There have been worse years than this and I thank God that I’m in such a better place than I used to be. I’ll go to the endless annual progressive dinner with my family. I’ll entertain Monica’s co-workers at the annual company party. I’ll get by as best I can. I’ll even hide if I need to.

However, there are so many people out there who are in a much darker place, just like I was a few years ago. Frozen. Scared. Ashamed. Lonely. For some, the holidays will remind them of the people who aren’t with them any longer. I can’t even fathom that. For some, the holidays will remind them of things that they’ve lost. Relationships. Health. Purpose. Dignity. It’s easy to say, “Be of good cheer.” For some, it’s just not possible right now.

For some, they will retreat to a cage.

On behalf of those who want to hide this year, this is my phone call from the cage. It’s a call to action. To those of good cheer, come out into the rain and check on us. We don’t really want to be alone. We don’t necessarily want to be dragged to a big party either. We just need someone to ask how we’re doing. To spend a little time with us. We don’t want to be “fixed” right now, so please don’t try. We just want someone to listen. Or maybe we just want someone to sit with. Nothing fancy. Nothing loud. Just someone to be with for a while during this crazy time of year.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll come inside. Just keep in mind that we’ll probably want to hide in the crowd… and that’s okay.

Tim Eason
November 30, 2015

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Ryan D.

Never did I imagine this would happen to me. I will fight to get the real me back. I will be strong and again be happy in my own mind.

For the past 10+ years I have suffered from ADHD, Depression, and Anxiety. All were well managed until a series of Concussions in early 2015. Little did I know how my life would flip. In and out of doctors offices, frequent panic attacks, double vision, severe mood swings, constant headaches, ringing in my ears, among other things. I nearly lost my job, my family, and my sanity. Although I am still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, it is getting closer. Never did I imagine this would happen to me. I will fight to get the real me back. I will be strong and again be happy in my own mind.

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Skylar

If you’ve been through the same things I have, kudos to you. You strength and perseverance is beyond impressive; to most of the world out there, it’s unimaginable. But what I really want is for all the people out there than are still mired in the thick of it, for those of you who are so tired of fighting that you are ready to give up, to take away from my experience that recovery is possible. Your expectations must be realistic: it will be slow and gradual, there will be highs and lows, setbacks and leaps forward, and there will always be people in your life who just don’t get it, but with the right assistance and support you can lead a wholly satisfying, fulfilling existence. The rest of us who have made it to that point will keep fighting for you, and for ourselves, to make our planet a better and easier place for all of us to succeed in.

I feel as if I never fully understood the effects of stigma until I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That’s not to say I didn’t experience stigma when my diagnosis was major depressive disorder, or that I don’t face stigma when it comes to my anxiety disorders, but the nature of my relationship to my illness changed when my label shifted from something people dismissed, trivialized, and misunderstood to something that — on top of all the rest — people were legitimately afraid of. Yet, the irony is that the recognition of my symptoms for what they were was the only means by which they could be properly addressed. It was the only means by which I could finally get proper treatment, and therefore become less “dangerous.”

To give you some background, I’ve had problems with my mental health from the time I was around twelve or thirteen years old. For a while it was easy to dismiss my moodiness as mere adolescent angst, but eventually it became clear that my general malaise and frequent outbursts of overwhelming sadness were not just normal parts of growing up. I began seeing a therapist, and a psychiatrist shortly thereafter. I often drank to excess to lift my mood and feel less debilitating self-consciousness around other people. I began to occasionally explode in anger at my parents and others, which looking back was a definite early warning signal, but I just thought of it as a consequence of my drunkenness. Getting through schoolwork was a struggle, fraught with anxiety attacks and crying fits, but I managed to keep my grades from suffering. Eventually, by the time I graduated, I thought I had a firm grip on my psychological issues and my abuse of alcohol. No longer mired in self-loathing I felt confident in myself, and comfortable enough with my story that I had no problem sharing it. I was victorious and eager to begin my next chapter.

All of that changed when I arrived at college. It was the first major change I’d had to cope with in my life: I had lived in the same apartment since I was born, and the same school from kindergarten onwards. I quickly realized my newfound self-assuredness was predicated on having found a niche of friends to rely on, and, without them in the same city as me, I felt lost. Then I came down with mononucleosis. I was exhausted at all times, unable to focus on anything, failing classes for the first time ever, totally unable to enjoy anything I had once found fulfillment in, terrified of being judged by all my new classmates, and, because I had no idea I was physically sick, I thought that all of these things were personal failings on my part. When I was eventually tested for the disease two months after I began feeling its symptoms, the damage to my ego had already been done.

I moved back home, and there made a series of impulsive, selfish, inconsiderate, self-destructive, and downright dangerous decisions that caused great harm to both myself and the people I cared about. I am still so deeply ashamed of the way I acted and the choices I made during this time that I can hardly talk about them with anyone. All the way, I was still seeing a talk therapist, and still taking ineffective SSRI after SSRI to no avail. Eventually I stopped going to therapy. I was still taking my pills, but I avoided actually seeing my psychiatrist as much as possible. I still didn’t see my unpredictable mood swings and bouts of rage as symptoms of what was going on with me. I felt like a completely different person, like I had lost who I was. I was worse than I had ever been before, and I had no coping skills to deal with this novel state of misery. I went back to college no more ready for it than I had been before, simply because I felt I couldn’t trust myself with my excess free time any longer. This was what I consider my true breaking point. It like my first attempt all over again, but this time I couldn’t blame flulike bodily symptoms for my lack of motivation and energy. My irritability and instability was out of control. I could go from crushingly despondent to blisteringly furious in an instant, with seemingly no trigger. My professors were kind, and made every effort to aid me through my suffering, but I still just couldn’t get the work in. I took another leave of absence.

The good thing that came of this period, however, was that I finally began to talk to mental health providers about my extreme mood changes. I finally began to realize that my problem wasn’t just that I was melancholy all the time, but that I could rapidly cycle between fury and despair within a single day. I understood the definition of bipolar disorder as very strictly timed, predicable shifts from mania to depression. I thought mania meant euphoria, productivity, invincibility, and nothing else. Finally, a psychiatrist told me differently. They said the definition of bipolar disorder was changing and expanding, and what I was experiencing fit much better into that category than that of mere depression. I was put on mood stabilizers, and, in another first, felt like my medication was actually doing something for me. I started seeing a talk therapist again and later on joined a DBT therapy group, the combination of which allowed me to express my emotions while giving me practical skills with which to manage them. I got a job. I starting coping, and began to hope. Now I’m back in school and I’m immensely proud of my performance.

But there is a catch. It is much harder telling people I have bipolar disorder than it was telling them I had anxiety and depression. It was difficult enough explaining that no, I can’t just “get over” my sadness, that no, I can’t just “relax” about the things I agonize over, that no, I’m not just lazy, or too high strung, etc. without having to explain that my disorder isn’t going to make me hurt anyone. Our society is just now beginning to understand the struggles that all of us with mental illness face, and is still inexcusably harsh on people for symptoms of which they have no control over. But certain illnesses invoke more fear and derision than others, namely those that are most associated with violence in our culture and media: bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia. Because of this, it’s more difficult for me to seek help form others and secure the accommodations that I need than it was before. I’m far enough into my recovery that I feel as if I’m in a catch 22: when my symptoms are preventing me from accomplishing something I want or need to do, I either have to downplay what’s going on and risk people simply not believing me and thinking that I’m merely making excuses, or I can admit the extent of what’s going on and risk worrying or scaring them. I get unsolicited advice from classmates and other near-strangers about how I’m not ambitious enough or working hard enough in complete ignorance of how psychological disorders work, and I don’t know how to correct them without outing myself and therefore opening myself up to even more inappropriate commentary. I’m afraid of telling employers or potential employers that I might need special allowances because, even though those of us in the U.S. are technically protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they may find some other way to get around dealing with me that doesn’t appear outwardly discriminatory. While I am aware there will be always be good days and bad days for me, at this point essentially the stigma against speaking out about mental illness is causing me more harm than the mental illness itself is.

If you’ve made it this far into this rambling essay, thank you for hearing me out. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story and validate my suffering and my triumph. If you’ve been through the same things I have, kudos to you. You strength and perseverance is beyond impressive; to most of the world out there, it’s unimaginable. But what I really want is for all the people out there than are still mired in the thick of it, for those of you who are so tired of fighting that you are ready to give up, to take away from my experience that recovery is possible. Your expectations must be realistic: it will be slow and gradual, there will be highs and lows, setbacks and leaps forward, and there will always be people in your life who just don’t get it, but with the right assistance and support you can lead a wholly satisfying, fulfilling existence. The rest of us who have made it to that point will keep fighting for you, and for ourselves, to make our planet a better and easier place for all of us to succeed in.

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Janet H-C

As a woman who has been dealing with debilitating depression for nearly 20 years, I have come to understand the ebbing and flowing of this illness. From depression to hope and back again. Over and over it goes—surviving ultimate despair and rediscovering joy.

As a woman who has been dealing with debilitating depression for nearly 20 years, I have come to understand the ebbing and flowing of this illness. From depression to hope and back again. Over and over it goes—surviving ultimate despair and rediscovering joy. Wanting so desperately to end my life—and trying to make it happen several times—while discovering an abundance of happiness as a mom to an incredible daughter, as a wife to an amazing and supportive husband, and as a successful career woman when I’m well enough to pursue the writing and marketing I love. The pieces of my puzzle are of many colors, shapes and sizes, representing a vast variety of experiences and relationships. A couple of my psychiatrists have labeled my illness “treatment-resistant” while others have tried every medical treatment known. I’ve found the multi-faceted approach to my health the best—meds combined with weekly therapy and monthly maintenance ElectroConvulsiveTherapy (ECT) and, when motivated, accents of exercise, good nutrition and alcohol abstinence. Once I read the article, “What I Wish People Knew about Depression” on psychcentral.com, my intense feelings of being alone started to dissipate and the shimmers of hope I cherish began to relight my world. For the first time someone described exactly what it felt like to be depressed. Someone understood me! I feel the same sense of kinship and belonging reading these stories on the Bring Change 2 Mind web site. Let’s keep the discussion alive!

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Asheley

I’m an easy-going person, have a positive upbeat can-do attitude about life, and I possess the profound ability to herd cats and juggle monkeys at the same time (aka my family and their disparate schedules). But about a month ago I lost myself somewhere. For a whole week I was an emotional mess, lethargic, and convinced I was the worst human being in the world. One night I couldn’t hold myself together any longer.

I’m crying again. Why am I crying? I’m not in crisis, my family’s not in crisis. Why am I so overwhelmed? This is not normal. I need help.

These are the thoughts that are running through my head this morning as I dial one number after another trying to find a psychiatrist in my area accepting new patients. This is part of the homework my gynecologist gave me yesterday after I described a list of symptoms I was experiencing, which she and I both suspect are resulting from a change in my normal hormone cycles. Most concerning of all: my normal PMS symptoms have switched from irritable and bloaty (symptoms easily soothed by chocolate anything and a jar of dill pickles) to severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Not exactly something you can treat with a bottle of Midol and a heating pad.

I’m an easy-going person, have a positive upbeat can-do attitude about life, and I possess the profound ability to herd cats and juggle monkeys at the same time (aka my family and their disparate schedules). But about a month ago I lost myself somewhere. For a whole week I was an emotional mess, lethargic, and convinced I was the worst human being in the world. One night I couldn’t hold myself together any longer. I texted pastors I knew and asked them to pray for me during their prayer meetings that night, took two powerful sedatives and put myself to bed. I had entered a special type of hell and had lost the will to be a living conscious being.

If you’re curious what the special hell is like, the one they reserve for people who talk in theaters, this is it: It’s the inability to find a reason to live. To lack joy when you are snuggling your children, to stare at the world from a window and wonder if you could evaporate like the mist in the woods on a sunny morning, to find the concept of nothingness more soothing than sitting with a friend for a cup of tea. You live by halves and wonder why your existence is so critical that you are still roaming around this earth while so many others are not. Why they and not me?

The next week the sun came out and my world righted itself. I regained my energy, my happiness, and my drive to accomplish as much as I can in whatever time I am given. I chalked the awful experience up to another round of the Seasonal Affective Disorder I periodically experience during our rainy seasons.

You’re a licensed counselor. You know what depression is. You know you struggle with this AND you know what you’re supposed to do. Come on! I give myself a good mental lashing for not doing better with my self-care. I know better. I really do. I promise myself I’ll be more attentive to my emotional shifts and purposely set reminders on my phone to get more sunlight. I also send up a thank you to God that I didn’t do something truly harmful to myself. Because when I’m normal, I really am grateful for my life and I marvel at how blessed I am to have so much.

Then just a few days ago the special hell started all over again. I found myself reaching for the narcotics I had leftover from a previous injury. I didn’t want to be conscious anymore, I just wanted to sleep. And I cried all the time. In the shower, at the table after breakfast, in my room while dressing, in the bathroom, at my desk, and in my car at the grocery store. I used sunglasses to hide my red, swollen eyes from curious glances. I felt weak and stupid for crying so much.

I’m not a crier. Unless I’m watching a sad movie, then I just keep the tissue box handy. But crying is not a normal part of my personality. I get mad, annoyed, frustrated, call up my best friends and vent. Shtuff happens! I take fifteen-minutes to pitch my hissy fit with the world or with God, and then I shift gears and move forward. But crying because I can’t find a psychiatrist who will take my insurance or accept new patients? Nope. That is NOT me.

But it is and I can already feel the tears forming as yet another receptionist informs me that I’m out of luck. I’ll have to try another place. Wanting to cry again just makes everything worse because it reinforces the understanding that something is wrong with me. I start to wonder if I’m like Humpty Dumpty, so broken I’ll never be put back together again.

Then my husband calls me. He’s got an office on the line and I’m being added into the call. A few minutes later I have an appointment scheduled eleven days out. It seems like forever, but I know I can wait eleven days. I’m so relieved when we hang up the phone that I start crying again. But this time it’s happy tears. I smile a little as I brew myself some tea and call my best friend. I’m going to be okay. I’m getting help.

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Richard B

I never take for granted the fact that I am able to do what I want. Like my favorite rapper Drake says, “You can still do what you want to do, you gotta trust that sh*t.” Even though anxiety kicks my ass on a daily basis, I still go to work. I still write. I volunteer. I love. I smile. I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I fight for my happiness. Every day is a battle and I will never give up.

I have been fighting depression, anxiety, and self-harm off and on for the past 13 years. I moved to Los Angeles to follow my dreams of becoming a published writer four years ago. I am now 28 years old and I am still living in Los Angeles. I was happy to be living my dream when I moved here but unfortunately for me, my happiness was only temporary.

Like most people who struggle with mental health, I fell into substance abuse issues. I turned to drugs and alcohol to the numb the pain I was feeling. I would also cut my wrists when things got really bad. I seemed so happy and alive on the outside but that was far from the truth. The darkness I was feeling on the inside consumed me. I was a tortured soul living in disguise.

I slowly felt myself losing touch with reality. My physical and mental health deteriorated to the point where I was underweight, experiencing hallucinations, emotional distress, and dealing with insomnia. Moving back home to live with my parents allowed me to sleep better at night but my anxiety got so bad that I would get panic attacks.

I spent the following year getting my life and mental health in order. I saw a doctor and a therapist. I went on medication to help with my anxiety, I got a job at Chipotle, and with the support of my family, friends, and my faith, I was able to stay sober. I accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior sometime in August after recommendations from my mom and her friend Maria. I repented for my sins and I felt a shift inside of me. I felt like a changed man. I was a changed man.

I am proud to say I officially reached one year of sobriety on September 23rd. It’s also been one year and five months since I last hurt myself. When the side effects from my medication were too much, my doctor told me I could stop taking them. He told me, “You should be proud of yourself. Not a lot of people can be in the position that you’re in. You should give yourself a pat on the back.”

I never take for granted the fact that I am able to do what I want. Like my favorite rapper Drake says, “You can still do what you want to do, you gotta trust that sh*t.” Even though anxiety kicks my ass on a daily basis, I still go to work. I still write. I volunteer. I love. I smile. I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I fight for my happiness. Every day is a battle and I will never give up.

Although God and Jesus Christ have been the sole reason I am sober and clean, I also attribute me being sober to my nephew Adrian. A lot of things from my past bum me out. None more so than when he would ask me to hang out and I would say, “Not right now. We’ll hang out in a little bit. I’m going to sleep.” He would be disappointed and say, “Aw man. Come on. Why do you sleep so much? You sleep too much.”

It breaks my heart knowing I would have rather gotten high than play with my own nephew but I am proud to say I am no longer that person. I apologized to my nephew before he went back to Florida where he lives with his mother. I’m not proud of my past but I had to hit rock bottom to see I was blinded by addiction.

I’d be lying if I said the past five months I have been living in Los Angeles have been a second chance at living my dream because Lord knows He has given me more than two chances. This is like my millionth chance at living my dream and I am more determined than ever to not let it go to waste. The last two months before I had one year of sobriety were the hardest. I struggled with temptation and going through a break up made things even harder.

I ended up moving on with the support of my best friend and co-workers but that doesn’t mean I don’t crave love and affection from another female. I struggle with my faith and at times I feel like God isn’t enough. I have everything I want (health, sobriety, money saved, love from my family, and I’m living in Los Angeles) yet at times it doesn’t feel enough. I reached a low point a couple of weeks ago when I was three days away from being sober.

I was upset over things not working out with a female co-worker and I fell into the vicious cycle of wanting more. I talked to my best friend and he asked me, “Richard, what do you want?” I replied, “I want my own place. I want a car. I want a book deal. I want a better job. I want it to be November so I can visit my family. I wish you lived here.” He then told me something that blew me away. “Richard, you’re asking for the same things you asked for when you were living in Massachusetts.” I didn’t realize it when I was saying those things but he was right. It showed me that everything is mental and it’s all inside of my head.

He told me, “It’s okay to want materialistic things because we are human. But what you need to do is seek something that’s ever-lasting because when you have those things, you won’t be happy anymore. That happiness will only be temporary.” I then told him, “I want peace and patience. I want the peace that God promises all of us. All those things I asked for I know I will get. I just have to be patient.” I felt a bit calm after talking to him but I had one thing on my mind and that was to hurt myself.

I laid in bed for 30 minutes but I couldn’t fall asleep. I went into my kitchen and I grabbed a knife. I placed it in front of me as I sat in my kitchen listening to music and doing everything in my power to not hurt myself. I then did what my best friend recommended I do in my moments of darkness, weakness, and vulnerability. I prayed. God, please don’t let me hurt myself tonight. Let me see you in this moment. Show Yourself. I pray that You protect me. A few minutes passed by and I was ready to put the knife away but a part of me still wanted to hurt myself. I couldn’t put the knife away.

I put the blade on my left wrist. As much as I wanted to hurt myself (and trust me, I did), I couldn’t do it. When I had the knife on my left wrist I kept thinking about my family, my mom, my nieces and nephew, God, Jesus Christ, and myself. I told myself that I want to keep moving forward. I don’t want to go backwards. I then put the knife away. I realized God answered my prayer. Jesus Christ protected me. God revealed Himself to me in that moment. I’m not proud of myself for letting things get to that point but I’m even prouder that I didn’t hurt myself. God never fails me.

Doctors, counselors, friends, and family members always say, “Things will get better.” I would say, “That’s easy for you to say.” But you know what? They were right. Things do get better.

I may have fallen but I have also risen. I am here to share my story of hope, recovery, and the pursuit of happiness. I used to cry every night before going to bed. I used to pray for the peace and happiness I currently have. I know things won’t always be easy but I have faith in God. I will continue to rest on Him. Please don’t give up. Things really do get better.

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Danielle K

No I don’t think I will never be cured of depression, but I do not let the darkness of depression consume me, I know what my triggers are and I know how to deal with them. I know when I need to ask for help before it’s too late. I will never forget the pain I put my family through, but it was that pain that saved my life. It was them never getting up on me, that made me fight harder. Getting to the place I am now, was a long and extremely difficult journey, but it’s my journey and I can say that I made it through it. And that is something I very proud of!!

You’re being such a bitch!!! It was that simple phrase that anyone with sisters would say to each other. But to me, it was that statement that broke me down. It was that moment that I fell apart, and admitted to my mom and sister that I needed help. I remember it like it was yesterday, but it feels like a lifetime ago. But it’s only been 20 months since that moment, the moment that changed who I was.

Before I tell you all about my journey, let me give you some history. My father committed suicide 8 years ago. He was suffering from the disease MS. Was he depressed? In my eyes, NO not at all, but that’s one of the many answers my family will never have. When you lose a loved one to suicide it is a different kind of grieving. All rules go out the window. There is no book on how to grieve and how to cope with losing someone that way. I had a million different emotions in my grieving process.

On that day all I felt was shock, it wasn’t till the next day that I finally had a real emotion. ANGER!!! I remember sitting on the couch with my mom and sisters, and screaming how mad I was. I didn’t understand why my dad, decided that he no longer wanted to be our dad. I didn’t think of it in a way that he was sick and suffering, I took it was a personal attack. He left us with all this pain and I didn’t know how to handle it. So I handled it the way, I thought you should. I didn’t cry because I missed my dad, I cried because I had so much hate and anger in me. My family didn’t feel the way I did, and to me they were dealing with it wrong. Those not being angry with him just made me angrier. I let the anger and hate I had for him consume me. I let it take over every memory I ever had of him.

I have come to learn that anger is just depression turn inwards. I do not blame my dad for my depression. I know that I have a mental illness and it’s called depression. I suffered with my depression for a while before I admitted to anyone and to myself that I was depressed. Whenever someone would ask me how I was, I would say, “I’M FINE, I’M JUST TIRED” or “I’M OKAY, JUST LONG DAY AT WORK”. But in reality every day that I lied to myself, I let the darkness get worse. I let it consume who I was.

I think that it hit me that I needed help was when I felt nothing, I felt numb. The only way I can explain it is I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t sad either. I felt like I was living because I had to, not because I wanted too. December 31st 2013, is the day I finally admitted the secret that I was holding in for so long, I was DEPRESSED! Thinking about it now I can’t even tell you why my sister called me bitch, but I’m thankful she did. It’s that comment when I broke down and cried. When I got asked what was wrong, I just cried harder. I remember telling my mom that “I can’t do this anymore”, she explained to me that it wasn’t my fault that I was depressed. And that it was okay. She asked my sister to run upstairs for something, I waited till I thought she couldn’t hear me and I finally said out loud “Mom, I don’t want to live anymore, I want to kill myself.” The look on her face is something that I will never forget, and I hope to never see again.

My sister never made a comment on what I said, she never questioned me or made me feel horrible for putting us through this again. My mom hugged me tighter and told me we were going to get me help. Within seconds she was on the phone making doctor’s appointments for me. Since it was New Year’s Eve we all went over my oldest sister’s house. It was that night that my mom and I told the other two sisters what was going on. My family never made me like I was alone in this horrible battle. I remember lying in bed one night just crying, that you would have thought my world just collapsed, my sister just lay with me and let me cry. She didn’t let go of me until there were no more tears left.

Within the next few days, I was never left alone. It was something that made them feel better and made me know I was safe. I got put on medication and went to see a therapist. Because I was never left alone for months, I became reliant on my family always staying with me. I would get a panic attack if I was left home for more than a half hour. It wasn’t a simple thing to just have someone with me at all times; I need my mom or my sister that was there when everything happened. They were my safety zone. I was put on medication and went to therapy. They are not miracle solutions. I was not cured the next day, or the next month. I had good days and bad days, there were days that I would laugh and feel like myself again. And then there days where I would just lay in bed and cry and sleep.

It took me going to an intense outpatient place for me to really understand things about my mental illness and to understand that I am not the only one going through this, that there is sun at the end of this long journey. But most of all I understood why my dad did, what he did and I no longer hated him. When I cry for him now, it’s because I miss my dad, my dad that I was lucky enough to have for 20 years. I went to the outpatient place for 3 months; it was during that process that I started to feel like myself again. It has been 6 months since I’ve done with my intense therapy.

Am I cured of this disease? No, I don’t think I will never be cured of depression, but I do not let the darkness of depression consume me, I know what my triggers are and I know how to deal with them. I know when I need to ask for help before it’s too late. I will never forget the pain I put my family through, but it was that pain that saved my life. It was them never giving up on me, that made me fight harder. Getting to the place I am now, was a long and extremely difficult journey, but it’s my journey and I can say that I made it through it. And that is something I very proud of!!

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Jane

Highly educated, high powered, highly paid corporate attorney. Wife, mother, daughter, friend, PTO rep, -- yes, the classic American success story. But behind it all was a deep pain that no one could see. I was literally in pain every day.

Highly educated, high powered, highly paid corporate attorney. Wife, mother, daughter, friend, PTO rep, — yes, the classic American success story. But behind it all was a deep pain that no one could see. I was literally in pain every day. Emotional pain (for over 40 years my parents emotionally abused me and convinced me I wasn’t “good enough” that I’d never amount to anything and no one would ever love me. They told me I was fat, ugly, obnoxious, a pain in the ass and that I better change if I was ever going to fit into our family or society”. Psychological abuse (bullying because I was overweight, had glasses, etc and also from my family). Physical abuse (“back then” it was seen as ok to hit your child with a belt if they didn’t do exactly what you wanted or if your father had such anger management issues that he took his anger out on his children and your mother was a classic narcissist that only “approved” of you if you were a shining light in the world and a perfect reflection of her).

One day enough was enough. Why be here? Why stay? If all of that is true, what’s the point. So I finally let the depression monster out (or it came raging out on it’s own, I honestly don’t remember a lot from that time) and I became actively suicidal.

But with therapy, medication, breaking free from the people who were continuing to drag me down the rabbit hole, I found love. True, honest, unconditional love with a wonderful man and we then were blessed with a wonderful son. He is now 13. Every day I fight for him. I take my meds. I see my therapist and my psychopharmachologist and I stay away from unhealthy, unsafe relationships especially with my former family. I’m not all the way “back” yet, and maybe I never will be. But I’m here, I’m healthy, I’m happy, I love and I am loved. I went to hell and came out the other side. So many other people can’t say that because our country doesn’t put a priority on mental health care.

We have to do more. We have to get involved. We have to CARE for those who have no one else to care about them and make sure they know they matter.

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A Survivor

Depression is a dark lonely place but with the right person who understands you and helps you things will get better. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or in 3 months, but it will get better soon.

I’m a college student, son, brother, cousin, uncle, friend and can relate to everyone in some way but one thing that makes me different is that I have bipolar depression. Depression in our society is a taboo – not to be talked about, the subject changed when it is brought up – but people don’t realize that it is as serious as someone who has cancer. I should know because on April 22, 2015 I tried to commit suicide. I was going 140 mph on the freeway and totaled my car.  Everyone said I shouldn’t of been alive but I am and I’m glad I survived because there are people out there who feel that every day is going to be the same and never change, but take it from me…a survivor. Depression is a dark lonely place but with the right person who understands you and helps you things will get better.  Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or in 3 months, but it will get better soon. Bipolar depression is a serious mental disorder that is laughed at by people saying, “its only done for attention.” Its not. It makes people take their lives everyday and it’s not acknowledged what so ever. I hope this helps people understand. Please help someone who doesn’t seem like themselves. Always understand why they want to make others happy – because they don’t want others to feel how they feel everyday.

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Michele R

The truth is, I have mental illness. Depression. Anxiety. Both led to a suicide attempt when I was thirty-six. In remission. Out of remission. I don’t care how the insurance companies or the DSM V defines it. All I know is that mental illness does not define me. It is a part of my mind, body and soul. It is both a stain and badge, but I prefer to think of it as my compass for living authentically.

Witness

As early as the age of three years, my only life witness was a demon who held me down as it mocked quietly in my ear, “You’re nothing. You’re nobody. You don’t count.”

I count. I know this now. And I am my only witness. At age forty-four, something shifted in me. It was my unbound scream, after the same nightmare in which I knew something bad was close. It paralyzed me with my mouth open, without sound. I broke free that night. I still don’t know why then, only that I was ready. I could not fake my life for anyone anymore.

Who am I, this witness? I am fiercely loyal, protective, creative, sensitive, perceptive, an animal lover, and I have a wonderful sense of color. At times, I am easily distracted and discouraged. I am unforgivingly hard on myself. I do not trust many, as I believe this is earned. I am not proud of this, but life is a work in progress. I denied my rage for years. Now I own it. I see what happens when I become what I thought others wanted to see; what I thought would make me count.

The truth is, I have mental illness. Depression. Anxiety. Both led to a suicide attempt when I was thirty-six. In remission. Out of remission. I don’t care how the insurance companies or the DSM V defines it. All I know is that mental illness does not define me. It is a part of my mind, body and soul. It is both a stain and badge, but I prefer to think of it as my compass for living authentically.

My extreme anxiety lasted through childhood into young adulthood, only I couldn’t identify it. I marvel at how I functioned with so much anxiety. I grew up believing I was the burden. I learned much later in life that the mental illness was the burden.

A shroud masked this truth. I couldn’t see it for what it was while I was in the middle of it. I can blame it on childhood abuse, genetic disposition, or culture’s regard of mental illness at that time. All I know is that the message I received was that I was not normal. If I wanted acceptance, I better get my act together and be normal. Do as normal people do. Stay silent. Don’t make anyone else uncomfortable with the slightest glimpse of my pain.

My creed did nothing but practically murder me. Eleven years ago, the intense anxiety with which I functioned quite well during childhood returned. Only this time, I simply did not have the energy to cope. I remember at that time, I was tired, alone and isolated. My anger and despair crushed me. Faith and hope were absent as the bottom fell out.

I wrote a long note instructing my father on what to do about the animals I was leaving behind. That in itself made me feel like a failure. I dared not mention how I felt deeply saddened, abandoned and worthless. I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted it all to stop.

The medication overdose would do this. I didn’t remember much after drinking the bottle of seltzer water that washed them down.

The day after my thirty-sixth birthday, I woke up in ICU. I remember the clock hands pointed to just after eleven o’ clock. Was I alive? I felt no sadness and no joy. Just relief. A gentle voice whispered, “Begin again.”

Things were not instantly better. The long crawl back was like declaring bankruptcy on my life as I restructured my soul’s debt. I felt betrayed for a long time. I never caused my illness. I never asked for my robbed childhood or blighted young adulthood. No one would clean up the collapsed skeleton of my former life except me. It took a while. Years, really. The road was bumpy and filled with pits, potholes and a few sinkholes. I left them there to remember. –So I won’t drive over them again. I left them there for others to see the real me. To pave over them would not repair the damage, but simply mask the pain.

Just last year, I was aware of gratitude for the first time. And joy.

You know, if I were to meet myself in a time warp, I would take us on a drive on our newly paved road. I’d show her the sights, and I would want to tell her our story, even if it made time collapse. I would want her to know that she can find gratitude and joy. I would say to her, “Miss Roberts, you count. You always did. And I should know. I’m your witness.”

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Maddi H

I finally got to a point in my life where I was sick and tired of basically being sick and tired. I tried my hardest to use my coping skills. I started meditation, yoga. It helps so much to slow down my thoughts and ground me. I'm learning how to love myself again and that's the hardest thing I think a person can do. It takes strength EVERY day to get through the day but just taking it hour by hour is sometimes how you need to get through it. I now am surrounded by supportive people, and I am recovering.

About 2 years ago I started noticing changes in how I felt. I wasn’t as excited over things that in the past I would be excited for. I woke up in the morning just to go back to sleep, life literally seemed like a black and white world. I had nothing to add color to my days. I started crying at night because that’s when I got the most sad, because everything was still and quiet and everyone was asleep and I felt most alone then. One day my mom heard me crying in the back seat of the car, she asked me what was wrong. “Do you ever feel like you aren’t suppose to be here?” I said to her, as I was crying. She then cried and said she would like to take me in to see a psychiatrist. Days passed and I went into the office, told the doctor all my symptoms and she prescribed me an antidepressant.

Weeks went by and I had my first suicide attempt, not bad but had to be in the hospital for a day. Then I got sent to a psych ward. I was there for a week and they caught on to my eating disorder as I had been losing weight fast and barely eating. I got medically unstable from that and had to be transferred to an Eating disorder unit. I was there for a couple of weeks and got released – but I was nowhere near wanting to recover.  A couple of weeks later I tried to kill myself again, and was life flighted to an ICU 2 hours away. I was there for awhile until I got better then was sent to a psych ward again. Again, they couldn’t handle my eating disorder so I was sent to that eating disorder unit again.

I was again released a couple weeks later and sent back to the Psych hospital for suicidal tendencies, sent home, sent back to the psych hospital, sent home, tried to kill myself, went into the ICU again, went to psych ward, went home. I had lost a lot of weight by then and we knew something had to be done about my eating disorder. I was then sent to a residential place for depression that had just a little bit of knowledge on eating disorders. I was there for a week and then kicked out and sent straight to a medical hospital because they could not handle the eating disorder.

Everything was still so black and white for me and no medication would help, this was something I had to defeat on my own. In the hospital I was on an eating disorder floor and had a feeding tube put it. I then was sent to a different residential for my eating disorder, had the feeding tube thru out that and was sent back to the hospital because they were unable to keep me safe. I learned so much through all that.

I finally got to a point in my life where I was sick and tired of basically being sick and tired. I tried my hardest to use my coping skills. I started meditation, yoga. It helps so much to slow down my thoughts and ground me. I’m learning how to love myself again and that’s the hardest thing I think a person can do. It takes strength EVERY day to get through the day but just taking it hour by hour is sometimes how you need to get through it. I now am surrounded by supportive people, and I am recovering. I never once thought I would get better but I am slowly getting there.

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Miriam N

When I was 13 I started to have depression. I've never understood how it started. My first year with this mental disorder I was alone, I cried every day in school, in the house, in the bath. My family had never been worried for me. Then I lost my friends. In addition, when I started high school teenagers didn't want be my friends because I'm Asian.

My name is Miriam, I’m from Spain and I’m 17 years old. When I was 13 I started to have depression. I’ve never understood how it started. My first year with this mental disorder I was alone, I cried every day in school, in the house, in the bath.  My family had never been worried for me. Then I lost my friends. In addition, when I started high school teenagers didn’t want be my friends because I’m Asian. The time was passing and I was not improving but I was deteriorating increasingly. Nobody wanted to know about me. When I was 16 my sister confessed to me that she had depression since 13 but she never told me. At this moment my heart was broken because she’s like my mom. Since then I always wonder why she has never been worried for me.

This year I met a boy on Twitter who has depression too. I felt loved for the first time, but when I was to meet him face to face … he didn’t exist, he just was a lie. Thanks to the event I thought that what happened was meant to be this way.  I didn’t have answers just questions. Then I thought I needed to visit a psychologist. I was very dark, I could only think of suicide (and I tried), heard sad music, come up to such a point of seeing series of suicides and murders, etc. I wasted time with the psychologist but they couldn’t understand me and didn’t help me like I wanted. Nowadays I continue with this, doctors have diagnosed me with eating disorders, OCD, and obviously depression. Everything in my world has changed, I really feel alone and I’m trying to control my mental disorder but sometimes I can’t..

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Xandy M.

I want to say, yes, I was scared to admit there was something wrong with my mental health. I was scared to say ‘no I am not okay’ instead of ‘I’m fine’. I was scared of looks and about what other people would say. In the end I know, the stigma attached to mental illness has held me back a lot. But now, I want to share my story so maybe someone in a similar situation can say ‘yes, she got out of that; and I can too’. You’re stronger than you might think in that kind of situation. And I wish someone had told me that when I was down at rock bottom.

I hit rock bottom and I picked myself back up. That’s how I mostly start my story when I start to tell it. Of course, my story is a little bit longer than that. Growing up, most people would have described me as quite the happy child. I had a few friends, had some good and bad experiences, and never really had a lot of problems in school when it came to grades. Or so I thought. Thinking back, I now see a lot of holes that needed to be filled, however, those holes always stayed empty. I remember all too vividly how my parents told me they were getting divorced when I was five years old.

My mother sat at the kitchen table, crying, while my father stood about six feet away from her. I remember being told about what was going to happen and me asking myself if it was my fault and where I was going to go. Over time, I got used to the situation. Fast forward a few years and everything seemed to be going well, except for my grades in school. I was fourteen years old — in eighth grade — when I started questioning my sexuality. I remember getting bullied in my school over a rumor that said I liked girls, even though I wasn’t sure. I blocked it off and didn’t want to hear about it. Of course I denied it. My grades were bad enough that I had to repeat the eighth grade. By then, I had already been in therapy my mother arranged for me when I was thirteen. Nobody I knew had a therapist. To me, I was the only one in my environment who apparently ‘needed’ this. Now I know that even back then, I had depressive tendencies.

My mother sent me to a boarding school my second year in eighth grade. I was 15 by then. Even now I still don’t know if she did it because she couldn’t handle having me in the house anymore, because even then, I mostly wanted to be by myself. But even there, two hundred miles away from home, the cycle started again. Once again rumors came up that I heavily denied. However, this time around, I tried focusing on my grades — successfully in the end. I was sixteen and in ninth grade when I finally was ready to come out of the closet. I told myself ‘yes, I’m gay, and I don’t need anyone in my life who can’t accept me for who I really am’. And that’s how I went through the tenth and final grade until I graduated.

All this time, I had never really acknowledged that I indeed had depressive tendencies this whole time. However they first really came noticeably to the surface, noticeable, when my first real relationship ended after almost three years. I was nineteen at the time and I moved alone to a city I had only been to for a few days every now and then. I started working at a lawyer’s office, however, I didn’t take it seriously enough. I kept calling in sick and I remember wanting to hide in the deepest darkest corner there was. And after a while, that was exactly what I did. I got fired, I couldn’t afford the room I was living in anymore; I had to move back home to my mother.

Add a building up anxiety disorder to a depressive episode; and to that add pressure from everywhere in your environment and you get a mix that you do not manage to get out of on your own anymore. I got pressured into working at a hotel, something that has never been something I wanted to do. I lasted two months, then once again I crawled into the familiarity that was my deep, dark hole. I rarely left my room, not to mention the house, my sleep schedule was a mess and over the whole time until the beginning of this year, every day had been the same. I got up, maybe took a shower, I ate something, and I continued staying in the comfort zone that was my room. Over the span of the past few years, I had taken care of myself less and less, which slowly also had its affect on my weight. While I had never been someone who was completely skinny, over the time where I was down that far, I gained about 20kg (45lbs). I began fearing encounters with people I had met through the years of my life, which made me go out even less.

When I was at the lowest spot of my depression, the desire to move became less and less. A few friends of mine tried to contact me, and yet, I blocked them off. At some point, they would ask me if I would join them for anything and I told them I was busy. And in my mind, I knew it was a lie, since all I did was lie in bed all day and basically do nothing. Some people might think that depression means being sad all the time. For me, it was almost like a complete lack of emotion. I got told I didn’t care about anyone or anything, and yes, that was the truth. And while I wanted to feel bad for it, I couldn’t. I got vaguely suicidal, yet never enough that I would actually go through with it. However, I remember also not being completely opposed to the idea of suddenly stopping to exist. I remember some people not taking me seriously because yes, at some points I did laugh. I could watch the most adorable video of kittens on YouTube and I laughed and my mood lightened up. But as soon as I exited the video, I was out of that state again. I had no desire to change anything. I just didn’t care enough.

It was in June 2014 that my mother had me committed to a psychiatric hospital. However, back then I thought she was crazy. The whole time, I blamed her for giving me one of the worst experiences in my life thus far, even though now I know she only wanted to help me. After a week, I got out, and I packed my things and left the country. For two and a half months, I lived with a friend in England, for some reason thinking I was going to be able to build a life there from scratch. Just like that. And yet soon I realized, that there was indeed something wrong with me. After all these years pretending I was okay, I had started to believe it myself, and finally, it hit me like a ton of bricks that, yes, I was suffering from depression.

I flew back home to Germany, knowing I needed and wanted to change something. I started taking antidepressants and about half a year later, I spent five weeks in a clinic to get treatment for my depression. I noticed how the state of my mental health was improving. However, when I got back out, I lost balance once again. Not as bad as I had before, but quite similar.

Finally now, in July 2015, I can say that yes I hit rock bottom last year, but I managed to pull myself out of it. I started eating healthier and I started drinking a lot of water instead of juice or soda like I used to. I have started exercising, I go out to swim or to take long walks with my dog. And I am finally losing some of the weight I gained over those years. I am ready to take on life again, and I know there will be challenges ahead of me. But now I know I can do it. I pulled myself out of a very dark place in my life and I know that I can accomplish so much more.

In closing I want to say, yes, I was scared to admit there was something wrong with my mental health. I was scared to say ‘no I am not okay’ instead of ‘I’m fine’. I was scared of looks and about what other people would say. In the end I know, the stigma attached to mental illness has held me back a lot. But now, I want to share my story so maybe someone in a similar situation can say ‘yes, she got out of that; and I can too’. You’re stronger than you might think in that kind of situation. And I wish someone had told me that when I was down at rock bottom.

Twitter:  @xandy_93

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Joseph B

“What if.” My entire life revolved around “what if.” What if I can’t do this? What if someone laughs at me? What if someone sees me? What if, what if, what if? Two tiny words, by themselves are not particularly potent, but when put together, have the power to bring pause, to cause fear, and to change the very life and essence of a person.

Social Anxiety, PTSD, Depression, and Hope

I have severe social anxiety. I have PTSD. I have chronic depression. I also have hope!

Growing up was difficult for me. My father left when I was five, I was quite obviously gay, my stepfather was abusive, I was bullied daily at school, and sexually molested several times by three different men. By the time I became an adult, I no longer saw people, I only saw threats. Everyone used to comment on how observant I was and how impressed they were, when actually, it was just hyper sensitivity to my environment. I was constantly on guard for threats and possible uncomfortable situations. I always sat with my back against a wall. I look around and make sure I’m aware of all the exits and all the corners and hidden areas in a building, just in case. All of this was absolutely exhausting. And then when I went to bed, I would have nightmares. Being chased, hiding, being dragged along the ground or just that feeling of overwhelming sadness or evil during a dream for no reason.

After about 30 years of this, I finally decided that I would see a psychologist. It was a tough decision because I was afraid of anyone new and also because of the stigma associated with seeing a mental health professional. I mean, how could I ever live a normal life if I have a mental illness, as if ignoring it meant it didn’t exist. “What would people say,“ I wondered. “What if someone found out,” I asked myself.

“What if.” My entire life revolved around “what if.” What if I can’t do this? What if someone laughs at me? What if someone sees me? What if, what if, what if? Two tiny words, by themselves are not particularly potent, but when put together, have the power to bring pause, to cause fear, and to change the very life and essence of a person. To make a child who hoped to one day make a difference in the world; leave the world just a little bit brighter than when he came into it, stop and cringe at just the tiny little task of opening the front door and going to school. As an adult, fearful of calling the credit card company to tell them that the payment would be a little late. It was just easier to incur the late fee than to call them. What if the person on the phone judges me as a delinquent? What if the person on the phone doesn’t like me and decides to just cancel my card? What if, what if, what if?

I did finally go to the psychologist. I always felt just a little bit better when I left, however, she just wasn’t the right person for me. She questioned me when I said I was gay. And when, after a few weeks, told her that I had thought about it and that I am gay, simply said, “Ok.” So I stopped going. It was expensive anyway, I didn’t have a lot of money and what if I needed it for some sort of emergency, as if I had ever saved anything for emergencies. What if she was actually a homophobe and my going to her was a bad idea. What if, what if, what if!

After a few more years, I went to another psychologist. This time I went because I had an addiction. An addiction to food. The first time we met, I sat across from her and told her a little bit about me. She said that the Native Americans long ago thought of homosexuals as special people who were able to project both male and female and that they celebrated this. Finally, I had found someone whom I could tell my stories without fear, or at least not as much fear. Little did I know that 10 years later and what I can only imagine the limitless patience a person can muster, I have hope. I’ve changed my vocabulary by the smallest amount. One letter, completely insignificant by itself. I replaced the “f” with an “s”. Such a small change. Such an enormous consequence. What if has become What is. What if no longer rules my life, what is helps me to stay present. What is happening is change. What is my life going forward is hope. “What is” is the only thing that matters. What if makes us fearful. What is gives us hope.

What is your story going to be? Mine is Hope!

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Lauren

I still struggle every single day with my illness but I have learned that there is nothing wrong with it. I embrace it. I am me...and it is the most empowering and incredible feeling in the world. I am not crazy. I am creative and weird and smiley and sometimes a bit more emotional than others, but that is okay. It is all okay.

I was always different. I lied about who I was. I talked to myself like there was someone standing there listening. If I was happy…I got so hyper that I couldn’t control myself. If I was sad…I would lock myself in my room for days. I remember once in college I locked myself in my room for a week and only left my room when no one was there. And if I was mad…I would snap…you would want to stand clear of me. I always had this behavior with a smile…always “happy”. I should have become an actress. I hid everything. I did it all on my own because I was so scared that no one would understand it and that I would be deemed as “crazy”. Then I finally snapped…

About two years ago I began to slowly fall apart. My bucket overflowed… Thinking I was depressed and anxious, I went to my doctor and she put me on an insane cocktail of medication…200mg of Zoloft, 15mg of Busbar, 6mg of Ativan (the lethal dosage) and 40mg of Ritalin a day. I can’t even tell you how I functioned as a human. It is all a bit of a blackout. I was an absolute disaster. In my past, with all the shit I had been through, I was lost. Lauren was gone. I couldn’t even recognize myself in the mirror. It was like I was at my own funeral saying goodbye to the old me…the beautiful, lovable, smiley girl. I would have rather not be here on this earth than have people notice I was different.

Last July I had a nervous breakdown and tried to end my life, the night of July 11th, 2013.  My best friend took me to the hospital. Luckily nothing happened to me. No slowness of heartbeat or breath. The doctors couldn’t believe it.

My mother and uncle came to the hospital and brought me back to NY. I went straight to the doctor from the airport. After tests and extensive therapy, I was diagnosed with Bipolar and Hypo Mania disorder. Finding out later on that all the meds I was previously on actually have an extremely negative effect when a patient is bipolar and not “depressed” (and that amount of meds should not be given to a human anyway…its insane!).

I moved home to get back on my feet. I went to the doctor almost everyday. I started to workout. I began to write, draw and paint again. I had come back to life.

I still struggle every single day with my illness but I have learned that there is nothing wrong with it. I embrace it. I am me…and it is the most empowering and incredible feeling in the world. I am not crazy. I am creative and weird and smiley and sometimes a bit more emotional than others, but that is okay. It is all okay.

I once saw a painting titled “A black rainbow”. Such a simple piece. It is a black arch with gold at the bottom. But its meaning is so powerful and true. It’s life. You have to go through all the darkness to get to the gold…but you can never give up.

I wouldn’t take back anything in the world that I have been through. It makes me…me.

And anyone who thinks that life is all sparkles and cupcakes is kookier than I am.

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Shaina S

But there has been no judgement or stigma from anyone who knows about my conditions. Everyone in my life has been so supportive and no one has changed their views about me, and I want to share this story because IT DOES GET BETTER.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for over a year but I always dealt with it myself. I didn’t want to be labeled as “crazy” or define the issue. After my 16th birthday, everything spiraled out of control and the issues exploded. I had multiple panic attacks a day and was diagnosed with panic disorder and depression. Getting out of bed was struggle enough, going to high school?

My brain told me it was going to end in catastrophe. I went to maybe one class a day and spent the rest of the day in the psychologist’s office. I had a pretty bad streak of self-injury as well; it doesn’t help.

But the stigma surrounding these issues needs to be ended. I haven’t told many people except those closest to me because when people hear things like “panic disorder” or “depression”, they either think about how screwed up you are or how you want attention. But there has been no judgement or stigma from anyone who knows about my conditions. Everyone in my life has been so supportive and no one has changed their views about me, and I want to share this story because IT DOES GET BETTER. I didn’t think it would, but I’ve been on medication for about 2 months and in therapy twice a week and I have seen so much improvement.

I’m not going to lie to you, some days are still bad days. Some days I still hate myself for something I cannot control, and that is okay (even though it is undeserved). Mental illness is a reality, but not something to ever be ashamed of. I’ve learned that now.

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John B

Removing the stigma has been a tremendous blessing. If you are suffering, I tell you this straightforward. The stigma is as bad or worse. But you, in a place where you feel powerless, have the greatest power. To ask for help. To share your story. To be part of your own recovery, and to be part of others'. Removing the stigma allows us to be strongest when we are weakest, to help when we need help, and to show the way when we feel lost.

Thank you for your wonderful work. My name is John and I suffer from Depressive Episodes. They come, then they go. I am also the Senior and Founding Partner in a mediation firm, so at any given time there can be literally 100 people relying on or interacting with me. Because of that, I was forced to be very open about my condition. What I discovered was amazing.

My openness, which I thought was going to cost me business, family, friends, – instead, brought me closer to each. My transparency was not only the major part of my healing and is not only the major part of my management, but it is also one of the touchstones about how I relate to people.

The disease has humbled me, which made me more compassionate. The disease has had financial impact, which has made me appreciate resources. The disease has forced me to come out from behind the rock I portrayed, and as a result people know the real me, and then show me the real them, and my relationships on all fronts have been enriched and have become something I couldn’t have made them were I not suffering.

Removing the stigma has been a tremendous blessing. If you are suffering, I tell you this straightforward. The stigma is as bad or worse. But you, in a place where you feel powerless, have the greatest power. To ask for help. To share your story. To be part of your own recovery, and to be part of others’. Removing the stigma allows us to be strongest when we are weakest, to help when we need help, and to show the way when we feel lost.

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Loving Daughter

I remember looking over to the passenger seat to see my father with his hands holding his head up as he sobbed uncontrollably. He was supposed to be teaching me to drive, but instead his depression was winning without contest.

I think back to over a decade ago – to a time when I was in high school and learning to drive. I remember looking over to the passenger seat to see my father with his hands holding his head up as he sobbed uncontrollably. He was supposed to be teaching me to drive, but instead his depression was winning without contest. This was not what he wanted to do. He is an amazing dad, a former physician, and a loving human being. He wanted to be there for me, just as the day he taught me to ride a bike. This was the illness – this wasn’t my father.

I think back to such memories with great pain and sadness. I hear stories from mom about how others abandoned my father as a friend and a colleague following his diagnosis. That is stigma. This stigma gave me anger for so long, as I knew my father deserved to be understood and loved. Today, I have come to a place far away from anger and to a place of acceptance. I’ve come to understand the lessons that his illness has brought me and chosen to share those moments with others. I hope one day that this ugly stigma won’t hurt families loving those with mental illness… And I want to be a part of that change.

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Janine L

Today I am in my senior year of college. I still suffer with anxiety and depression. I have many more strides to make. But I feel more confident that I can make those strides. I am a Social Work major. I chose my major because I thought of my own story.

I have suffered from anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. As a child I didn’t understand what was happening to me and neither did any of the adults in my life. They thought I was just a very emotional kid. I had a very hard time making friends in elementary school because I was so afraid to leave home. I was suicidal for most of high school. It wasn’t until my first year of college when my anxiety increased so much so that I could not function in my daily life. I stopped eating. I had severe insomnia that kept me from sleeping more than a half hour each night for six months. I cried all the time. I stopped hanging out with my friends and started spending much more time alone for fear that I would irritate anyone I was with. During that time was when I saw my first therapist. I learned some coping mechanisms that began to work for me. It was also the first time I talked with any of my family members about my mental illness. The biggest step I made was talking to my mom with whom I’ve never had a good relationship. Soon after talking with her I learned that those closest to you will be your biggest support systems. Even if you don’t think they will be.

Today I am in my senior year of college. I still suffer with anxiety and depression. I have many more strides to make. But I feel more confident that I can make those strides. I am a Social Work major. I chose my major because I thought of my own story. No one in my life spoke up about my behavior as a child. Whether they weren’t informed or they just didn’t want to talk about it, that conversation never happened. Every day of my life I wonder what would have changed if I had been informed about mental illnesses as a child. How would those first seventeen years of my life been different? Through my career and my daily life I hope to spark that conversation in parents. I want the next generation to talk about mental illness so that more children aren’t afraid of or embarrassed by their mental illness growing up. Just reading this website made me cry because it seems like I’m not the only one who wants that too. Thank you all so much.

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Paula G

I just wanted you to know that your efforts to educate and increase awareness about mental illness are helping my children understand me, and everyone else with mental illness. That means so much to me. You are impacting families and helping them learn to love and support one another, while they become more compassionate people. I thank you deeply for that. It means so much.

It is Mother’s Day and my daughters just told me how much they have learned from my illness and thanked me for being the mother I was to them. This is 8 years after my husband divorced me when they were 14 and 16 due to my first real mania after 25 years of being misdiagnosed with only depression. Neither I nor my husband had any idea of what behavior could be caused by mania.

I kept my depressions hidden and was the active suburban mom. My hypomania showed in increased enthusiasm, projects, lack of sleep, but never severe misbehavior. My husband’s response to keep me from living at home with my children and try to convince them that I was not capable of being their mother had a bewildering effect upon them, and caused me pain you cannot imagine. It took many years for our relationships to be restored.

I am now well into my recovery and they know how hard it has been and that I was treated unfairly. But one of the things my daughter mentioned was that now she and her sister know the symptoms and she quoted from the ad from the campaign you have running to increase awareness of mental illness among men. She said, “Even people like …(some star athlete I can’t remember) can get this and 1 out of 4 people have it. They are concerned that their older sister has it, whereas my ex-husband will not even acknowledge that possibility.

Through the long hard road to recovery, they have learned that I am not dangerous, bizarre, scary, or incapable of being their mother as they were told. In fact, up until the time I became seriously ill, I did a good job in spite of battling my illness and being in an un-supportive marriage. Motherhood is not easy and is especially difficult when you have any kind of illness.

I just wanted you to know that your efforts to educate and increase awareness about mental illness are helping my children understand me, and everyone else with mental illness. That means so much to me. You are impacting families and helping them learn to love and support one another, while they become more compassionate people. I thank you deeply for that. It means so much.

After 8 years of pain and struggle, I have been affirmed by my children as they expressed their love for me, and I start a full-time job tomorrow that is just right for me. Not what I was educated for, or the salary I made in the past, but good, honest work that is not too stressful, so I can continue to maintain wellness. I will never be wealthy or have material luxuries, but I have wonderful daughters all graduating from college and making it on their own.

Thank you again for helping them see that their family situation was not so out of the ordinary, or anything to be ashamed of. What you are doing is so very important in ending the shame and stigma that come with mental illness and for the family members that are painfully affected by it, often times in silent isolation. My goal is to promote advocacy and ministry to families with mental health needs within the church and create church outreach to the community. I am very glad to have BC2M as a reference in this endeavor.

No family should have to hide in shame in order to feel accepted in a community that should be demonstrating the compassion of God. My vision is that one day, people with mental illness will be eager to come to church because they know it is a safe haven of understanding, love and practical help in time of need, instead of being afraid of being misjudged, met with suspicion and mistrust, or just totally ignored out of ignorance. Or worse, being blamed for their own illness, which creates unimaginable suffering for all, and may very well prove to be fatal. Thank you again for being a voice for those that may be too ill to speak and a blessing to children with mentally ill parents.

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Chris

Contrary to what most people think I would not change a thing about myself, including being bipolar. Yes, the depressions can be relentless and sometimes feel dehumanizing, but before my disorder was affecting me I had a much smaller perspective, and by going through the ups and downs my eyes have been opened to so much.

My name is C.J., I’m 19 and I have bipolar 1 disorder. Contrary to what most people think I would not change a thing about myself, including being bipolar. Yes, the depressions can be relentless and sometimes feel dehumanizing, but before my disorder was affecting me I had a much smaller perspective, and by going through the ups and downs my eyes have been opened to so much. I was lucky to get a medication that worked well for me early but I still struggle, and have never forgotten the vacation days in Florida when I would think about jumping off the balcony and even look over the edge for awhile…in fucking Florida.

But I’m not writing this for sympathy, I’m writing this for change and also a personal idea I’ve been thinking about to help everyone with a mental illness.

First of all, I’m going to modify a common saying in which I don’t like, and that is: your illness doesn’t define you. Instead I would change it to: your illness defines a lot about you (how you think, feel, and respond), but it doesn’t take away all of your humanity unless you give it the missing piece it needs to consume you. I believe that no matter how little you are able to feel, there are still some left, but if even that doesn’t exist there are memories of feeling. Hold on for those memories, remind yourself whenever you see a natural smile that all is not lost…that’s how I survived.

Also, when I get really depressed, I avoid all those people around me because most of the people I’m around don’t make any sense to me. Most are happy, and talkative. Two of the things I hate most while depressed are happy people and talking to happy people (I’m sure many of you know what I mean). Its partially because we want to be happy ourselves and are so far from it we don’t know how to have a happy conversation, so we hide.

But then I came up with this great idea, why don’t we all hide together, come together. One thing I know for sure is being around people that have never had a personal experience with depression or a mental illness can be very unhelpful with regards to the illness itself. They tend to go for the heart when really the head is the thing experiencing trauma. Of course in those times you appreciate the support but its not enough.

I also tend to shy away from even those who are closest to me. The one refuge I found (besides proper medication) is to have some type of social interaction with someone. That person is someone just like you, someone who feels alone even when surrounded. So by talking about their depression or about depressing things actually lifted my spirits, and I’m sure talking with someone who can empathize will be great for you too. By finding a genuine bond with someone and helping each other to find the positive in the problem.

Using this structure I want to create more than a website. I want to create a rehab type place where you can come and go as you please without any requirements of any kind. Therapy outside of the psychiatrists office and into a hangout spot with listeners, ‘understanders’, and friends. That sounds much better than going to see a guy who nods and tells you its only temporary and you will get over it eventually.

So ya if anyone thinks this is a good/bad idea please leave a comment. Everyone’s input matters, even those who may not think it does ☺

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Lukas

I may not get to be a rich and famous musician like I had dreamed, but I won't give up on being a good person and the best father I can be. My heart is with every single sufferer of Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder.

I grew up absolutely certain that I would be a successful professional musician. I knew this was what I was meant to do. At least if I couldn’t attain this rockstar status, I never had doubts about my future or at all expected that panic and Agoraphobia would turn everything upside down. I am 28, and have suffered from Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia and Depression since I was 22. I had panic attacks now and again starting at age 20, and it seems that one day I was immersed into a frightening world of senseless panic and derealization. My body felt numb, weightless, my head experiencing odd new pains, my breath seemed nowhere to be found. And this was the new me. I found a great amount of relief from all my symptoms with medication, however the only medication that seems to effect me positively is frowned upon by doctors. I have experimented with different psychologists and find therapy to be a world in which you must seek out someone who can understand your problem and experiences with empathy, and that can be difficult. Depression has set in for me multiple times, especially when realizing that my panic can and will deter me from achieving my dreams. I know the difficulty of attempting to play music to large crowds in large venues or wide open spaces, the impossibility of touring and flying in airplanes. Although I have been able to play smaller venues with the aid of my medication, I know that the road I was on has come to an end. I am coming to terms with that and am trying to regain my happiness and start living a somewhat normal life. I now have a son, less than a year old, whom I love more than anything, more than I knew was possible. For him I try to push on and find ways to cope with fear. My beautiful boy deserves an amazing life and I will do everything I can to make sure my disorder doesn’t interfere with his life. I have faith in therapy and am looking forward to seeing results. I may not get to be a rich and famous musician like I had dreamed, but I won’t give up on being a good person and the best father I can be. My heart is with every single sufferer of Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder.

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Windows 7 Product Key | Windows 7 Product Key Free For You Kallie C

I was in denial of what was happening. I was only 24 years old and my life was in complete chaos. This was not how my life was supposed to turn out. I found that after 3 years of fighting the truth, I was EXHAUSTED.

MY STORY
“Why be mediocre, when you can be extraordinary?” This is a statement that will both encourage me and haunt me throughout the rest of my life. This was the statement said to me on my first day as a division 1 volleyball player by my coach. This statement can be said to thousands and to them it is just another quote of inspiration. This is not the case with me. This statement was a challenge that I had to conquer. I was OBSESSED.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with living by this statement. If anything, it is a great statement to live your life by! You will never make excuses and ultimately you will find success. To any outsider I did have success during my collegiate career; Virginia Freshman and Player of the Year, Conference Player of the year, multiple All- Tournament teams, Tournament MVP’s, conference Player of the Year, #3 in the nation in triple doubles, Honorable Mention All- American and 2000-2009 Conference All- Decade Honoree. These honors were nice, but they were not enough. I did not celebrate these achievements. Each honor added more of a burden to do better the next time around. I would not allow myself to be satisfied with anything. I believed that if I was satisfied, then I would become relaxed in my training and never be great. I saw this way of life as that of someone training to be extraordinary. I was in CONTROL.

Here are the facts of my senior year Fall 2009 season; I entered preseason on a high dose of anti- depressants which caused me to be restless, I kept my roommates in the dark on my mental health, I removed myself from the relationships I had formed on the team and decided that my Coach’s words were more important than the Word of God. Without going into too much detail, for it is a long story, I ended up leaving school after the semester was over. I finished my schooling online. God showed me that He could strip me of everything that I believed to be important with an injury less than 3mm long. I had failed my team, my coach and my family. I had become just another statistic of athletes whom had a career ending injury. I was washed up and forgotten by my community. I was a FAILURE.

I was angry. I didn’t care anymore. I loved God, but I let the world decide what was best for me. I immersed myself with the wrong people and allowed myself to do things that I knew were wrong. Drinking, partying and bitterness replaced prayer, devotion and peace. But I didn’t care; I was mediocre now, so nothing mattered. I was LOST.

As fast as my life had changed in college, it changed just as fast again. I moved back home and re- entered the life that had been recently foreign to me. I realized that I had been a prodigal child and yet, nobody knew it. I only saw mediocrity when I looked in the mirror and so, it became an obsession to be perfect. I relied on my abusive friendship with compulsive rituals to help solve this quest for perfection. These habits caused me to spiral back into anxiety and depression. I substituted my faith for works. The mirror that originally reflected only mediocrity now reflected shame. I had knowingly sinned against my Creator. I had disappointed God. I had failed my God. I was a DISAPPOINTMENT.

I believed that I had to humble myself to God through self-hate and self- harm. I believed that I had to earn God’s trust and love. I believed that I had to hold onto my shame, for if I let go of it, it would be like accepting that my sinful actions were acceptable. I was CONFUSED.

I don’t know why God would want someone so confused and damaged, but He did. In His perfect timing, God introduced just the right people into my life. When these people met me I could not accept love, so they pursued me. I could not read scripture nor pray out loud, so they taught me confidence. I would try and run, but they showed me persistence. I would deny their words, but they showed me patience. I refused peace, so they would hold me until I was calm. I could not face my shame, so they denounced its authority for me. I could not see the truth, so they immersed me in it. They showed me that I was a High Priestess, Fearfully and Wonderfully made, a Champion for Christ and Forgiven. The only problem was I didn’t want to fully accept it. I was STUBBORN.

I grew up listening to gut wrenching testimonies from people who said they didn’t realize how bad it was until they hit rock bottom. I was no different. Even though I had an army fighting my battles, I still allowed my stubbornness to ultimately propel me into a mental health hospital. I was in denial of what was happening. I was only 24 years old and my life was in complete chaos. This was not how my life was supposed to turn out. I found that after 3 years of fighting the truth, I was EXHAUSTED.

I will never forget the night before I was released from the hospital. Earlier that morning my parents decided that they wanted me to move with them to Texas. They believed that it would be good for me to be around family and to have time to heal. I was torn on the decision, but agreed to move. That night I was sitting in the common area reading a devotional book. A woman, who had attempted suicide the day before, approached me and asked me what I was reading. Instead of becoming anxious, shameful or scared, I decided to read aloud to her. As it turns out others heard me reading. When I looked up from the book, 4 other patients had joined our circle. After 5 minutes, our little book club had grown to about 8 people. We shared testimonies. We talked about God. We talked about His grace. We talked about His sacrifice. It was starting to get late and our group was starting to disperse. I had planned on trying to remove myself from the group without anybody seeing me, but before I knew it, I asked the group if I could pray for them instead. This was the defining moment in my life. Days before this moment, I would have gone into an incapacitating anxiety attack, full of shaking, jerking, stuttering and the overwhelming need to run away at even the mention of me having to pray out loud in front of people. The difference at this moment was that the Holy Spirit calmed me and whispered, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” And He was with me. I was FREE.

I wish I could say that after that moment I was perfect and that I never dealt with the temptations of my intrusive rituals; however that is not the case. It took many more months and many more challenging moments to completely expel my prior way of thinking. It is only by God’s amazing grace that today, I am CHANGED.

So, “Why be mediocre, when you can be extraordinary?” I still live by this mantra; however I do not see myself as mediocre. If I was mediocre, I would still be obsessed with perfection. If I was mediocre, I would still believe that I am in control of everything in my life. If I was mediocre, I would still see myself as a failure. If I was mediocre, I would still be lost in my destructive thoughts. If I was mediocre, then I would still be a disappointing mess. If I was mediocre, I would still be confused about the difference between truth and lies. If I was mediocre, I would still be stubbornly defending my abusive lifestyle. If I truly was mediocre, I would be exhausted with the fight and I would be dead. A mediocre person gives up, but I am not mediocre. I am alive and extraordinary because HE is the ultimate I AM!

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Dana M

Who thinks like this? I was a pharmaceutical rep in the psychiatry division. I know how the meds works and what chemical changes are happening in my brain. I have literally tried to will my neurotransmitters to behave.

On September 25, 2012 I tried to end my life with a bunch of pills and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Most people don’t know that. Most people don’t know that I have been struggling with mental illness since my late 20’s. People don’t know this because I made my family promise not to tell anyone how damaged and weak I thought I was. It has only been recently that my extended family was told the horror that has been my life off and on for the last 8 years.

I was ashamed and embarrassed that I couldn’t control my own thoughts. A person should be able to do at least that, right? What did I have to be so sad about? I had a blessed life. Went to a good college, had a great job, great friends, I was healthy, I traveled, and I had started graduate school.

When you finally admit that this is not normal and that you cannot control the depression, you try everything to get your brain and your life back to how it was when you were on top of the world. All the doctors, medications, treatments, therapy, yoga, meditation, acupressure didn’t work. Do you know how expensive it is to be crazy? I lost my job, my boyfriend, friends, my mind and my 24 inch waist.

The darkness is not quiet. Sometimes it speaks loudly to me. The darkness pierces through my logical, rational and reasonable mind. It shouts, “You will never find a husband nor ever be a good mother. You tricked everyone at school into thinking you were smart and talked your way into that 6 figure job. Soon they will all find out the truth. You are a burden and draining all the goodness and love out of the people who care about you. You are not fun anymore because you are so sad. You are not helping anyone nor contributing anything good. You are just a load of stress and drama for anyone who knows you.” The darkness clings to me like wet clothes. I yell back, “But I love things! I love game night and I love food and my friends and family. I don’t want to leave.” The darkness roars back. “You should just end it.” I cannot breathe because the darkness is squeezing my body and taking up all the good air. I try to bark back, “Shut up…” but it comes out feebly because of all the tears. The darkness is not just hopelessness and desperation. It is overwhelming despair and all consuming misery screaming its penetrating lies.

Knowing that those thoughts aren’t healthy or normal, and not being able to control the rapid and persistent onslaught of negativity and anguish in my own mind. Who thinks like this? I was a pharmaceutical rep in the psychiatry division. I know how the meds works and what chemical changes are happening in my brain. I have literally tried to will my neurotransmitters to behave.

By God’s grace, I am still alive. It’s been almost 2 years since that devastating and yet redeeming day. I have found not only eternal salvation in God, but an earthly salvation in Him daily.

I am feeling better than I have in years. I have a great doctor who has finally found a combination of medications that help keep the depression at bay. My family is amazing; infinitely loving and incredibly supportive. (If you know them- give them a hug, because they have been through a lot too.) I have friends whose love for me convinces me there is a God. Where else could such love come from?

I am not an eloquent writer nor do I have a unique story. I write this in part, selfishly. I don’t want to have to explain why I am not working or why I had to drop out of grad school. But I also write this to try to explain how depression feels and how it destroys. And to give hope that it isn’t always a death sentence.

Things people said that helped me:

“Can I come over and vacuum your house?”
“Can I go pick up some groceries for you?”
“God loves you.”
“I love you.”

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Jessica

I now see my depression and anxiety as a gift. I can feel everything more deeply and understand others so much more than I could have without it. Just know that you are NOT alone and that you will make it through this. The more we talk about what we are going through the faster we can get rid of the stigma of mental health disorders. Love and Light.

I grew up in a home with a father who was always working and not emotionally available and a narcissistic, bi-polar mother. My older and only sister was the golden child of the family and could do no wrong so of course I wanted to be just like her. I was always a very sensitive and emotional child. I can remember sitting next to someone and feeling their pain. I was also a very artistic child. I was always putting on plays and singing. I appeared to be a very happy child on the outside. Inside I was anxious and depressed. When I was eleven I remember having my first bout with major depression. My parents had fought and fought for as long as I can remember but this time, after leaving with my mother for a few weeks and finally returning home, I couldn’t bring myself to feel happy. This happened a lot but I didn’t tell anyone about it instead I wrote and sang along to music that told my story, well at least the way I was feeling at the time.

At the age of fourteen I was raped by my boyfriend in the basement of my parents home. This threw me into a very deep depression and for the first time I started having panic attacks. Music and God were truly the only reason I made it through the days. I eventually began cutting, but on my thighs and other places that could only be seen by me. There were any number of suicide scenarios that played out in my mind nightly. I even attempted two of those but couldn’t get very far. As you can imagine my mother and I didn’t have the greatest relationship and her mental illness certainly affected mine because she was not, and still isn’t, dealing with it. By the time I had reached my senior year in high school I had missed a TON of days, but luckily I had taken enough dance and art credits at a local state college to graduate. In fact I didn’t attend the most of the last half of my senior year because I couldn’t get out of bed. I blamed most of it on migraines, which I did have, but the real reason I couldn’t get out of bed was because I really couldn’t get out of bed! When I finally broke down and told my mother about the rape, she somehow made it all about her of course, I started down the long road of medications. One made me drool and completely unable to hold a pen once it took effect and another made me completely manic. Over the years I’ve felt completely alone in my struggle to become me.

Feelings weren’t something to talk about, they were something to stuff away or if you did talk it was screaming. I’ve had many failed relationships and one failed marriage and I know that a lot of that was from me not being open about having depression and anxiety. Thankfully I have a husband who also understands depression. We talk. We are open. We don’t judge how the other is feeling. Having your feelings validated by your significant other, even just your family or friends, makes all the difference. Just because you don’t understand doesn’t mean that feeling they are having is invalid. I live in LA now and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. We’re all freaks in our own ways and in LA you can let that fly. I find now that being open and being completely myself that others who get it gravitate toward me. I have to give much love to the To Write Love On Her Arm project for giving me hope, but also giving me the power to use my voice for others who are going through what I went through. I now see my depression and anxiety as a gift. I can feel everything more deeply and understand others so much more than I could have without it. Just know that you are NOT alone and that you will make it through this. The more we talk about what we are going through the faster we can get rid of the stigma of mental health disorders. Love and Light.

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#Scooting4Scooter

Mental illness is just that - an illness. It's no different than heart disease or cancer; people are fighting every day, and these diseases do not discriminate. If you had met my dad, you would never have guessed he was sick. That's one of the scariest and saddest parts of mental illness - so many people struggle silently.

My dad was the best at nicknames; everyone in our family had one. Mik and I are Boo Boo and The Mikker. He had quite a few himself throughout his life, too. He was known as Scotty, Scamp, and Stallion (to name a few!), but the one that really stuck was Scooter.

He wouldn’t let Mik call him “Mr. Scampini” when they met, and once his first grandson was born, “Grandpa” didn’t really suit him, so Scooter it was. His affinity for nicknames was just one of the MANY things that made my dad the wonderful, unique guy he was. He was handsome, charming, smart, goofy, loving, business-savvy, and quite the golfer.

He also lived most of his life with depression and bipolar disorder, but I didn’t really know about it until I was in my late twenties.  He didn’t let it define him. Unfortunately, though, like many individuals with mental illness, he was also ashamed to discuss it with his parents, closest friends, and even with us, his own family.

He lost his battle with depression and mental illness in October 2013, and I still can’t believe he’s gone. I also can’t imagine the isolation he felt hiding this massive struggle for his entire life.

Mental illness is just that – an illness. It’s no different than heart disease or cancer; people are fighting every day, and these diseases do not discriminate. If you had met my dad, you would never have guessed he was sick. That’s one of the scariest and saddest parts of mental illness – so many people struggle silently.

So, we’re going to take some time and money out of our trip to dedicate our #Scooting4Scooter. Every dollar we spend on scooting (which we hope to do in every country!), we’ll match and donate to BringChange2Mind. It might not be much, but it’s something.  And more importantly, we hope to shed some light and chip away at the wall of stigma surrounding mental illness.

We invite you to join us on each scooter ride through our photographs and videos, with a soundtrack provided by Scooter’s favorite tunes. Perhaps you’ll feel inclined to match our donations. (*If you do decide to match us, mention #Scooting4Scooter in your comments, please.)

Or, better yet, help break down the wall and foster a community of support:  Share your story with BringChange2Mind.

Originally published on Becca and Mik’s Blog, Major Departure.

http://www.majordeparture.com/scooting4scooter/

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Liz B.

I am a survivor because my mom made me get help. I’m a survivor because of a wonderful therapist and an anti-depressant that worked like a bloody miracle for me. I am alive because a few friends stood by me when I was not much fun to be around, and when isolation and sleep were my only escape from this exhausting life. How lucky I am.

I remember my 30th birthday well. I was given a surprise party by my two best friends; they coordinated an amazing fete without having met, while living on different coasts. It was really wonderful, but my real gift that year was passing a grave milestone I had set for myself. I had somehow convinced myself that if I lived to be 30, I would have crossed a threshold that ensured I would not become schizophrenic like my brother.

I made it. I had dodged a bullet, or so I thought. What I didn’t know then was that a numbing and severe depression would overtake me decades later. I come by this naturally. Disorders of the brain, including, but not limited to depression, alcoholism and other addictions, exist on both sides of our family tree. My family is not unusual in that regard. One in three of us will suffer from mental illness at some point in our lives.

I was plunged into an abyss from which I could not get out on my own. The New Englander in me figured I could pull myself up by my bootstraps; I wasted a year of my life thinking like that. The reality was that I barely had the energy to feed myself and dropped 13 pounds before I even had a name for my indifference to life, everyday social interactions, or the fall leaves that I had always looked forward to each year.

Most of you would never guess this about me and that’s exactly why I am telling you now. My silence has been at odds with my desire to erase the terrible stigma that is all too real and pervades our common vernacular, the workplace, places of worship, and our private conversations.

There is something safer about sharing it now. The Affordable Care Act means I can not be excluded by an insurer for my pre-existing condition, nor can I be dropped because of it. This is a Godsend not just for me, but for the millions of Americans who suffer from some form of mental illness. My brother lost his insurance just 20 days after his first psychotic break; he was deemed uninsurable—too expensive. Unworthy.

I am a survivor because my mom made me get help. I’m a survivor because of a wonderful therapist and an anti-depressant that worked like a bloody miracle for me. I am alive because a few friends stood by me when I was not much fun to be around, and when isolation and sleep were my only escape from this exhausting life. How lucky I am.

At the end of the month, I will be 57, twice as old as my brother was when he took his own life. I want to honor my good health and my life with a birthday wish that was also his: to give to mental health research so that we can improve treatment options and one day find a cure.

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Victoria

My story starts at a young age! I was just 9 years old when I told my parents I needed help because I just couldn't handle being so sad anymore. So my parents made me an appointment with a psychiatrist and a therapist. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with depression, anxiety & social phobia. I actually still have the piece of paper to this day that he wrote my diagnosis on.

My story starts at a young age! I was just 9 years old when I told my parents I needed help because I just couldn’t handle being so sad anymore. So my parents made me an appointment with a psychiatrist and a therapist. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with depression, anxiety and social phobia. I actually still have the piece of paper to this day that he wrote my diagnosis on. Even though I got on depression medicine it still didn’t help with my social phobia. Due to my social phobia I missed school… A LOT. I stayed home more than I went & due to that I started failing and my friends abandoned me.

When I was 13 I got in trouble for truancy and I was given an ultimatum to either go inpatient and get help for my depression and social phobia or go to juvenile hall so I chose to go inpatient. So there I was at the front doors of a big mental health hospital and I was scared to death. I was sitting in the waiting room waiting to be evaluated to be put inpatient. Finally they called me back there into a small dark room with a round table and four chairs. There sat me, my mom, my dad and the evaluator. She asked me all kinds of questions like: Have you ever been physically abused? No. Have you ever been sexually abused? No. Have you ever thought about ending your life? I sadly had to answer yes. I looked over at my mom who had tears rolling down her face and I felt so bad. After about 3 hours they finally said they were keeping me.

I had to say goodbye to my Mom and Dad which was so scary for me! I went to the back where they showed me my room & gave me a hospital bracelet. They stripped searched me and then told me it was shower time. They assigned me a “shower box” with baby shampoo, conditioner, a little bar of soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste. I got into the shower and couldn’t figure out how to turn on the shower so I had a panic attack and sat in the floor crying. That first night was very hard, but after that I was so glad that I went! My depression was a lot better after I got on a different medicine. I stayed for 6 days and got out the day before Thanksgiving.

Even though my depression was better my social phobia was still bad and I still didn’t go to school. I was told about a school at the hospital where I  decided to go. It was called day treatment and I met a lot of people like me and a lot of people worse than me. Going to day treatment was one of the best decisions I ever made! I ended up leaving there to go back to school and I did for a little bit, but I decided to drop out because my social phobia was still so bad. Eventually I stopped seeing a psychiatrist because I really thought I was getting better. In July 31st 2011 my Dad passed away.  He was my best friend and my whole world crashed. Every morning when I woke up it felt like a bad dream and I would just cry my eyes out. I eventually went back to the psychiatrist and got back on depression medicine.

I decided I wanted to get my GED and graduate for my Dad so I went back to day treatment because they started a new GED class and I was the first one to get my GED out of the class. It felt so good to be able to say I’d done it – that I got my diploma! I eventually sorta stopped taking my medication. By sorta I mean that I took it a few times a week and that was it. Then I lost my insurance and I couldn’t afford my depression medicine so I let my PCP change it to a $4 script from Walmart and I was doing okay and eventually I got my insurance back, but stupidly I didn’t go back to the psychiatrist and I got to where I was crying myself to sleep every night, but I was hiding it. When I couldn’t hide it anymore I called to get back in to see a psychiatrist and they either didn’t take my insurance or there was a long waiting list. I cried constantly and I didn’t wanna live anymore. If it wasn’t for my Momma I would be dead.  I eventually had to go inpatient to get on some new medicine. It was once again one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only did I get better, but I met a lot of amazing people in the 7 days I was there! I’m always gonna battle my mental illness, but I’ve learned that I can’t go without medicine and to never stop going to my psychiatrist! We need to end the stigma on mental health! People shouldn’t be afraid to tell someone they’re suffering from a mental illness! I believe that if we all share our story we could really help end the stigma! If my story helps just one person then it was completely worth writing! No one should be ashamed or try to hide their mental illness! #EndTheStigma

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Emily D.

It took unimaginable strength and support to overcome my mental illnesses: severe depression, anxiety, and ADD. Today, I live a happy, healthy, and sober life and I can't thank my family and friends enough for getting me the help I needed when I was suffering from a true medical disorder: mental illness.

Moving to a new school district in the 7th grade, I felt awkward and out of place. I felt as if everyone hated me and I was incapable of being loved. Eventually I began self harming: burning, cutting, anything that caused pain; this went on for about two years. Multiple suicide attempts later, my parents finally became aware of my condition. I was suffering in silence, too embarrassed to reveal my hardships to my family. Few close friends kept me strong through such tough times, and once my parents sent me to therapy I began acting out more than I ever had. Tricking and lying constantly to my therapist who was only trying to help me, I began spiraling even further out of control. Drugs, sex, and alcohol began my source of life; eventually it was all too much and I overdosed one final time. Luckily, a friend realized what I was doing and notified my mom. My parents carried me to the hospital and they were able to keep me alive. I spent 7 days in a psychiatric hospital. After a short amount of time my medication began to take effect and things got better. It wasn’t overnight, nor was it easy. It took unimaginable strength and support to overcome my mental illnesses: severe depression, anxiety, and ADD. Today, I live a happy, healthy, and sober life and I can’t thank my family and friends enough for getting me the help I needed when I was suffering from a true medical disorder: mental illness.

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Thomas S.

Never give up never! My story is here today to stop people from holding on to pain so long to themselves and to tell someone before you can't! Don't wait and make the same mistakes I did for 2 years!!! Just say help.

I used to have a perfect life. I had all the friends in the world and everyone loved me. I started getting a lot of concussions around 9th grade. No big deal right? Well, I never got treated for them and they all happened together and a short period of time. I just thought all my problems would go away. They didn’t, and I didn’t know what was going on with me so I tried to run away from my problems. I was depressed all of a sudden. Extremely. I thought it was just because my parents were getting a divorce, but I didn’t know. I started smoking pot, going down the wrong path, hanging out with the wrong people. Acting different and in turn I was never the same man again. Long story short, I got my life together but my depression still weighed on me everyday. From waking up and staring at the ceiling for an hour, not wanting to wake up and go deal with the world. I felt like I didn’t belong. I’m not the same anymore, I tried to take my life one night. I regret that every second of every hour of everyday. I LOVE MY LIFE and this mental illness pushed me to my limit. Once I had gotten help from a doctor and on anti depressants my life started to change. For the better but slowly, it’s still a struggle and you have to keep fighting! Never give up, never! My story is here today to stop people from holding on to pain so long to themselves and to tell someone before you can’t! Don’t wait and make the same mistakes I did for 2 years!!! Just say help.

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Sam

My wife said I would go six months without talking. I didn't understand it myself. After struggling through college, and one major breakdown, I thought I was better? I continued to worsen into a darkness I did not understand. I began to research anything I could find, educating myself and trying to educate others.

Hi, my name is Sam, and I have had Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety since I was 17. I am now 50, and wished there would have been someone to share with many years ago. My travels with depression started at 17 when my mother passed away, my father had passed 8 years earlier. I began to what the therapist called “self-medicate” in my late teens. Alcohol and drugs were my release. I worked and drank for 6 years when I finally decided my child was more important. It didn’t take the darkness away, but it did give me something to take my mind off my depression. My wife said I would go six months without talking. I didn’t understand it myself. After struggling through college, and one major breakdown, I thought I was better. I continued to worsen into a darkness I did not understand. I began to research anything I could find, educating myself and trying to educate others. They said the typical things-just get over it and why are you depressed. Not being shy about my depression and anxiety, I found many people that were just as afraid as I used to be. With my openness, I have helped a few get help and not to be afraid. I am a school teacher, and my colleagues that don’t understand, don’t take me seriously, but that is alright. I am open with my students, hoping I can help some that are or will be dealing with mental illness. They are more supporting than the adults. I am still struggling, looking for the newest treatments, but I will survive! The most important thing, TAKE CHARGE OF YOURSELF. I would have gotten nowhere unless I had pressured the doctors to help me. Research! That is how I found BC2M. Thank you for letting me tell just part of the story.

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Chris

All I can say is to anyone out there is know you are not alone. Seek help and don't feel ashamed if you do.

I have battled with depression for the better part of 10 years now even though I am only 23 years old. Some days are fine I can wake up and have a regular day of school and work. Other days I wake up and I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and I don’t know what to do. I have harmed myself, wrote suicide notes and pushed people out of my life so I couldn’t hurt them either. I have learned that you are not alone which I am finally starting to understand. I told no one for the longest time trying to figure out what was going on in my head because I couldn’t explain it to anyone if they asked and I know I was so different. Now after doing my own research I know no one is alone. Even if you don’t have someone in your immediate life know that there is someone out there that knows what you are going through and can help. I will struggle with this everyday and have my good days. All I can say is to anyone out there is know you are not alone. Seek help and don’t feel ashamed if you do.

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Joan

Humans seem hard wired to wonder about causes of death and even to ask point blank or to fish for answers. I realized I could neither lie nor bear the face to face reactions if I spoke the truth. My family had hidden it's mental illness issues from everyone pretty darn well....

Both parents committed suicide, Daddy in the garage via carbon monoxide and Mom by her request to not be force fed. She died of starvation 21 days later. He was 74 and she was 81, living fully independent lives in their own home. Daddy was still working part-time delivering prescriptions and his sunny disposition to disabled people… But both had struggled for years with mental illness. He had taken anti-depressants for many years. She was supportive of him but did never acknowledged she was also in deep water.

I am writing to let you know how my 4 other siblings and I dealt with their obituaries. Tell the truth about their deaths? Mention nothing and leave everyone not in the know to speculate? Leave future generations of the family living with stories passed down that were just wrong? Try to keep it a secret as if we were ashamed?? Humans seem hard wired to wonder about causes of death and even to ask point blank or to fish for answers. I realized I could neither lie nor bear the face to face reactions if I spoke the truth. My family had hidden it’s mental illness issues from everyone pretty darn well….

We voted and it was 4 for truth and one no. We went with truth and the no voter cut off contact with us for several years. (Everyone was hurting and grief makes you say/do the wacky.) We mentioned his long-term psychiatrist by name, thanking him for helping Daddy be with us for this long. We thanked Daddy for dealing with the side effects of medication so he could function as the sunny-dispositioned, pun-loving kind man he really was. He was so active in the community it would shock/surprise most people to learn he had chronic depression, taking meds, etc.

The local paper, with our support, did a story and editorial about Daddy in addition to our paid obituary. It started on the front page with his photo and title of article something like “Local Icon” passes away. The editorial was about inadequate funding of mental health services in our county. We had notes from strangers on the online memorial thing thanking us for honesty, revealing their own stories of loved ones who had committed suicide but it was kept secret. Losing a loved one is a heavy enough blow to one’s heart. Must we add the burden of carrying secrecy/shame about its cause as well??

Four years later, despite having been on anti-depressants since 2 years before their deaths, a loving husband, great career, and comfortable living circumstances, I had spiraled down so far mentally that I sought admission for in-patient mental health treatment. I stabilized within a week and happened to be discharged on my 50th birthday. Again I faced the issue of telling people the truth or not. I elected truth when appropriate. There is such a thing as TMI. 🙂

Is there still a stigma? Yes, but I have personally witnessed it fading over the past 40 years. I am doing my small part to have people view seeking mental health treatment like getting an eye exam. Wearing glasses can help you see better. Appropriate mental health treatment helps you think more clearly and that, too, can make all the difference in your world and those who love you.

I did not know of this site until reading the People magazine article today. It is New Year’s Day 2015. I decided to take time to do this in gratitude for my loving parents and and family, starting this year by speaking truth once again.

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Andrea

My passion, the one that keeps my sane is writing. I love creating something where there once was nothing. I derive great pleasure out of choosing exactly the right word, crafting a sentence, then a paragraph and finally a finished essay. Writing primarily about mental health and recovery, about my own experiences with my illness, I find that translating my thoughts to the page helps me process what I’ve been through.

I typically identify myself in three ways. Not in any particular order, I am a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), a writer and a person with a severe and persistent mental illness.

When I was around thirty (I’ll be 54 in two months), over the course of three years, I was diagnosed with anorexia, major depressive disorder (the qualifier of psychotic features was added later) and borderline personality disorder (BPD). Those were the days when people didn’t know as much about BPD as we do now; the diagnosis carried many negative connotations and a great deal of stigma. I’ve had over twenty inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations, numerous admissions to day programs and partial hospitalization programs and I lived for three-and-a-half years in a 24/7 supervised residence. I’ve been in therapy for thirty years; the first four were an exercise in futility, the next fifteen were spent in dialectal behavior therapy which was effective in grounding me in the here and now, and putting a halt to the bulk of my self-destructive behaviors. The remaining years have been spent in Transference Focused Psychotherapy (a more psychodynamic treatment for BPD) and it has been extraordinarily helpful.

I’ve been working as an LCSW since 2000. I’ve had to take a bunch of short leaves-of-absence from the two jobs where I was employed for a number of hospitalizations. At my first job, where I worked for almost six years, I returned from a hospitalization and management had curtailed my clinical responsibilities. Humiliated I resigned. I was depressed and it was three years before I could return to even a part-time job. I’ve been working at the outpatient mental health clinic where I am currently employed for six-and-a-half years. My responsibilities include primarily administrative responsibilities and not so much clinical. I prefer the detail-oriented and almost obsessive-like qualities that are needed for this more global approach to my work. It satisfies my thirst for clinical knowledge while feeding my need to be almost, but not quite perfect. Imperfectly perfect. Like the anorexic I once was.

My passion, the one that keeps me sane, is writing. I love creating something where there once was nothing. I derive great pleasure out of choosing exactly the right word, crafting a sentence, then a paragraph and finally a finished essay. Writing primarily about mental health and recovery, about my own experiences with my illness, I find that translating my thoughts to the page helps me process what I’ve been through. Often, I’ll bring a piece of writing into my therapy session and we’ll both be surprised by the insights that emerge. I’ve published my work primarily in literary journals and anthologies. I post a blog almost every weekend on the website of a national magazine and I enjoy reading and responding to the comments.

I’ve come a long way, but I have a ways to go. I’ll continue in therapy and at my job, and with my writing. I’m working on a book, a memoir of how my illness affected me and the insights I’ve gained along the way. I’m proud of what I have accomplished and I also have regrets. A sweet sadness is tinged because there are some deeds that can’t be undone.

It’s been a long haul. And now I can finally say that I like myself.

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Jolene

So here I sit anonymously sharing my daughter’s story. Why? Because I am old enough to face those who judge me, but my daughter is still young and I need to protect her. She is in the middle of her fight. Yet I need to write. I need to get this all off of my chest. I want others out there who are silently struggling to know they are not alone. We may be quiet, but we can all work together. We are all fighters.

Hello reflection, it has been forever. For a long time you had changed. The disheveled hair was gone, dark circles had disappeared, and the sad and hollow eyes had become bright. A smile had replaced the downward turn of your mouth. There was hope and strength in place of hopelessness and loss. I had thought you were gone, but yet again here I am in front of you. Those eyes have returned. The smile no longer exists. You are lost.

However, this time it is not me I see. Although the reflection is clear and I know the face well, it is not I. You have taken it upon yourself, my old dark friend, to haunt my daughter. Why are you doing this? She is only 12, almost 13. When you visited me old friend it was after a terrible event and I was a bit older. Now here you are again and you were not invited. I understand you like to torment those who are struggling with great pain. In my daughter’s case it is bullying and overwhelming hormones, the curse of being young in this day and age. We have tried everything to prevent your visit though because I knew my genes were present in my child’s body. What do they say about genetics? I think once Michael J. Fox said that all it takes is a pull of the trigger and the gene will turn on. Whether that trigger be environmental, physical, or a stressful event all that it takes is one shot. We knew the bullying at our daughter’s school made her sad. We tried to stop it and help her through. We asked her school to listen and help. We talked to her daily about it. We were too late though. Old dark friend you had already entered her spirit. You had snuck into our house and crossed the barriers we had placed up. We did not invite you here. You took without asking and are no different than you were years ago with me.

Depression is haunting and painful. It is a silent killer. Why you did not come to me this time I do not know? If I could place my hands on my daughter and suck every ounce of you out I would. I know the pain you bring and have survived you. There is no fear in my soul anymore because I know I am stronger than you. Damn you. There is little in life that I hate, but I hate you. Right now I am so angry with you for invading my child’s body. For haunting my child’s mind. How dare you enter without permission!! Get out of her and enter me. I know you well and I can rid of you quickly because I no longer fear you.

Now I must sit and listen to my daughter say words I once spoke. I have to see in her the reflection of a younger me. I did not want this for her. In fact I feel great guilt. Perhaps it is my messed up genes that caused you to come to her. Perhaps if I had not taken an anti-depressant when I was pregnant with her 12 years ago, then maybe you would not be here. My last suicide attempt was when she was 2. Did that mess her up? Does she remember it? For eight years now I have not taken a medication or gone to a therapist. One day it was like the gene turned off and I could breath again. You are always with me, but I now control you and no longer fear you. I credit my daughter daily for saving my life. Yes, I had an amazing support system. A mother, father, and sister that stood by me every day. A husband who never left my side, even in the darkest moments. Yet, it is my daughter that I give the most credit. In her I saw pure joy and true love. Those big eyes would look up at me and in them was no judgment, but there was so much faith. She needed me and she loved me. She saved me. So what you do not see, my old friend depression is that I will now do the same for her. I am a warrior. I have fought you and won. You may place thoughts in her head or send irrational thoughts, but you will not win. When she tries to push me away I will hold on tight. When she tells me she hates me, I will tell her I love her. When she struggles, I will hold her up. She has my blood coursing through her veins and she is a warrior too. You will not win this battle, my old dark friend.

So here I sit anonymously writing this entry because I know there are people out there who still judge. There are people who think that those with depression should just “suck it up” or should remain quiet about what is going on with them. This causes those with depression or any mental health issue to feel dirty and crazy. They are not though. In fact they are no different than a person struggling with hypertension or diabetes. A gene was triggered or a hormone is imbalanced. It is that simple, yet many do not see it that way. Mental health is still the silent killer. One no one is willing to talk about in a society that is full of happy selfies and perfect lives. Yet, that is what kills us is the inability to talk or feel. What if someone posted a selfie with a sad face? How many likes would that get? What if someone posted that they had depression? How many likes would that get? I can tell you from experience that it would get very few and it would also get many people walking away + plenty of gossip. Although when I was younger and had severe depression + PTSD there was no social media, but when I would share secretly my diagnosis people often left my side. People fear what they do not understand. Many do not understand mental health issues, even though it is not much different from any other disease. For depression I often tell people to think of a day when they felt sad and then to think of how it would feel not to be able to turn that off, for that sadness to literally be out of your control. That is depression. It is a jumbled mess in your brain. Irrational thoughts float everywhere. You truly feel like people would be better without you and that you are a burden because you cannot be happy, even though you try. Trust me when I was in my darkest times I would try to be happy and fail, then my dark friend would speak louder and I would feel worse. Two of my own suicide attempts were not truly to die. I thought taking a bunch of my anti-depressants would make me happy. My brain was full of thoughts and many were not rational. I could not switch it off. One reason I speak openly about my past now is because I survived and to help others, yet I still have people tell me to “be silent because it could hurt your reputation”. When did being honest hurt your reputation? How backwards is that? I want to hear people’s stories because it helps me understand who they are. I know the world is not full of perfect selfies and lives. We all have struggles. Some cultures embrace those struggles and embrace emotions, but we do not.

So here I sit anonymously sharing my daughter’s story. Why? Because I am old enough to face those who judge me, but my daughter is still young and I need to protect her. She is in the middle of her fight. Yet I need to write. I need to get this all off of my chest. I want others out there who are silently struggling to know they are not alone. We may be quiet, but we can all work together. We are all fighters. I also write because I want those whose child is bullied or those who have children who are bullies to open their eyes. If you child is bullied seek help and fight for them. If your child is a bully do not take it as an insult, instead help them to change. Do not allow your child to put other children in the position my daughter is in. Words and actions can deeply hurt a young mind. We as the older generation can set the example and create the change. So lets talk and let’s put it all out there. Lets fight for our children and create a better world. One free from judgment and labels. Instead lets take personal responsibility and be the voice that is needed. We are the change. Finally, to my dear dark friend……..you are dismissed. You are no longer welcome in my house. Today and every day I am my daughter’s voice and I will teach her to roar loudly. As change comes the trigger that sets you off will begin to disappear. I believe in this world and I believe in each individual. Change is coming.

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Jason

I am grateful to organizations like BC2M that advocate for an end to the stigma of mental illness. I am a person, just like you, and I deserve to have the best possible life that I can achieve. Part of doing so is being open about my illness and its effects on my life.

 

 

I live with and manage Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. I went for years untreated, either because I didn’t have insurance/couldn’t afford treatment, or because I was too scared and ashamed to seek help. Seeking treatment for my illness has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

I have been in treatment for a couple of years now, and I work daily to maintain good health. It’s a struggle, but of course, it’s worth it. I have good days and not so good days, like everyone living with mental illness. I am an advocate for myself and others living with mental illness. I believe there should be no shame or stigma surrounding mental health conditions. We must learn to erase the stigma, and talk frankly and openly about our lives and our experiences.

I am grateful to organizations like BC2M that advocate for an end to the stigma of mental illness. I am a person, just like you, and I deserve to have the best possible life that I can achieve. Part of doing so is being open about my illness and its effects on my life.

 

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Melissa

I want to shine a light on the stigma surrounding mental health issues and suicide. I look in the eyes of my wonderful children and I do not want them to feel the stigma surrounding mental health issues. I do not want them to feel as if they cannot reach out for help if they need it. I do not want anyone to feel ashamed, weak, or embarrassed about reaching out for help.

Let me start by telling you a little bit about who I am today. I have been married to my best friend and the love of my life for almost 10 years. My husband is a captain in the US Army. We are currently living in North Carolina 2 hours from the beach. We live in a nice house in a good community so our children can go to one of the best schools in the area. We have two children that are perfect in every way. My daughter is eight and is at the top of her class in school. My son is a typical three year old and keeps us on our toes all the time. We have had the opportunity to live all over the country and see many different places. We have made many good friends all over the country. I have had the opportunity to support our community and country in many different ways.

I finished my LPN program in 2004 and was awarded best clinician out of my graduating class. In May of 2014, I finished my Associate’s degree in General Studies with a 3.9 GPA. I am currently receiving a scholarship from the University of AZ and projected to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Human Services next fall. I have gotten to do things that some people could only dream of doing. I have shaken hands with advisors to the president and rubbed shoulders with three star generals. It may look as if I have a good life and I would agree that yes I do have a good life. However, at one point in my life I would have never imagined any of what I have today. Let me tell you my story.

I was raised in a lower middle class family by my grandparents. On the outside, it looked like I had everything that I ever needed. I had a roof over my head, food in my stomach, clothes on my back, and normally a smile on my face. I was a good student, mostly A’s and B’s, never giving my teachers any trouble. My grandparents were always told during PTA meetings that the teacher wished that they had a classroom full of students just like me. I was involved in church and other community activities. I found out that I had a passion for Karate and became pretty good at it. My picture was in the local newspaper after winning trophies at statewide competitions and achieving my black belt at only 12 years old. To many people on the outside I looked like I had a great life. No one and not even I knew what was starting to happen inside my brain.

In my teen years, I started to experience low self-esteem and felt as if I did not fit in. I always needed to please everyone else. Be the good student, the good grandchild, and always help when needed. Looking back at it now, I realize that I was probably starting to deal with depression in my early teenage years. I can recall one point in middle school when my friends were talking about how they saw their lives after high school and what they wanted to do in the future. I really was not able to picture my life too far in the future. All I could really imagine was a hopeless dark road ahead.

The stigma surrounding depression and mental illness led me to keep my feelings to myself for many years and until I found the strength to trust in an adult friend and let her know how I had been feeling. She recommended that I go talk to a professional. At that time, we only had one local mental health clinic and the stigma surrounding this clinic was that everyone that went there was crazy. I did not want to be seen as crazy. After entering High school, my grades started dropping a little, my life seemed to be even more hopeless, and I needed to take the advice of my friend and see a professional.

Even though I would not need permission to see a therapist, I was told because I was underage it would be a good idea to let my legal guardians know, which were my grandparents. It took me a few days but I finally got up enough courage to talk to my grandmother and tell her that I wanted to see a therapist. The first thing that came out of her mouth was “Why would you want to talk to a therapist you have a good life.” This made me feel even worse and made me second-guess myself. Why am I feeling like this, I do have a good life? I was dealt some bad cards early on in my childhood, but I did currently have a good life, I should not be feeling this way. I never truly told my grandparents how I had been feeling. Just like everywhere else, I wore a mask. I wore a mask at home. I wore a mask at school. I wore a mask everywhere I went. My grandmother did allow me to go see a therapist; however, it was kept secret.

In Feb 1997 at the age of 16, I was diagnosis with depression and PTSD that had resulted from an early childhood trauma. I was started on Prozac soon after that. I wish this were the end of my story but it is not. I started to wear a mask even in therapy sessions and I did not realize how life threatening that would be in the year to come. The stigma sounding mental health issues that I was so used to hearing about kept me from confiding in, and trusting the people that could truly help me. I was afraid of being thought of as crazy or mental.

I was seeing the same therapist on a regular basis, dealing with issues as they surfaced but not really allowing her to know how depressed and hopeless I was. I also hid the fact that the medication at times really was not working. Every session I would go see my therapist, she would ask me how I was doing today and my response was always the same, “I am FINE”. I was not fine; I was going through life on autopilot, trying to make it through to the next day. I would have good days and bad days. I felt as if I had no control over my life. I felt I had no control over my emotions. I would wake up every day never knowing what that day would bring.

I was still maintaining passing grades in high school, involved in Beta Club, had some good friends. Most people did not have a clue that I was wearing a mask. There were a few teachers and family members that saw through the mask at certain times but I always assured everyone that I was doing just FINE. So days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and before I knew it, a year had passed. I found myself in my senior year of high school. My senior year of high school finally arrived and it should had been one of the greatest years of my life. I would soon be going on to college and trying to find myself in the world. However, for me it was not one of the greatest years of my life.

To everyone else I looked like I was doing great. However my depression was getting worse in spite of being in therapy and on medication, but I kept that to myself. I felt even more out of control of my life and my feelings. At this point, I became anorexic, not because I wanted to be skinny but because I could control something, I could control what I put in my body. I could control what I ate and how much I ate. In the short term controlling what I put in my body made me feel more in control of my life but in the long run it made everything even worse.

Feb 1998 the month that I would turn 18, this should had been a very happy time in my life; however, my life was spiraling even more out of control. I would soon be an adult; I would soon be out of high school. I soon would be looked at to become successful in life. However, because of my depression, I was scared and I saw myself having no future. It had been particularly snowy that week in Feb, two weeks before my 18th birthday. School had been cancelled for a couple of days and cancelled again Feb 9. After being stuck in the house for a couple of days where I had been alone with my thoughts, I found myself needing to get out and do something.

Normally when I was feeling down, I would find something to do and try to be around my friends. This day I could not find anyone to hang out with so I started to drive around by myself. The more I drove around the more the depression started to take hold. I started feeling hopeless for my impending future. I was struggling in high school, how would I make it in college? What if someone at college found out about my depression? I had been able to wear a mask in my small town, could I get away with it in college?

No one seemed to understand how I was feeling, heck I really did not understand my own feelings. I felt as if I was a disappointment to everyone. I was supposed to be the one in my family that made a life for herself. Driving around in my car, I hit rock bottom. The depression had taken complete control. I had thoughts about suicide in the past, cutting at my wrist but never able to go through with it. I reached over and took out a bottle of Tylenol that I had in my glove compartment. Once I swallowed the pills that were in the bottle there was no turning back. I would end my pain and would no longer be a disappointment or burden to anyone else.

Sitting in my car around 45 minutes or so after emptying the bottle of Tylenol, nothing seemed to be happening. At this point feeling even more depressed, I could not even kill myself correctly. I remember thinking to myself the next time I will have to figure out a better way. Little did I know the Tylenol was starting to damage my body. I went to a friend’s house acting as if nothing had ever happened. I started slowly feeling tried and nauseated and soon my friend became aware that something was going on. I finally broke down and told her what I had done.

My friend called my grandmother and she rushed me to the hospital. The 30-minute drive to get me to the hospital was probably one of the longest drives I have ever had. My grandmother continued asking me why I would do something like this. All I could reply was that she would not understand. As soon as I got to the hospital, blood was drawn and it was soon revealed that I had indeed taken an overdose of Tylenol and my blood levels were life threatening. At this point it was a wait and see game. Would my liver filter out the Tylenol or would my liver fail and kill me? I remained in ICU for three days after my suicide attempt, but I survived.

My story does not end here either. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health issues and suicide, my suicide attempt was swept under the rug. I went back to school the day after being released from the hospital. I told my teachers and friends that I had had problems with low blood sugar and had to stay at the hospital for a couple of days. My family started to watch me like a hawk but never discussed what had happened. I continued to avoid telling my therapist how I was truly feeling out fear of being put back in a hospital. The stigma kept me suffering in silence for a very long time.

I finished high school and went on to college but flunked out after a year, and it would take many years before I would go back to college and get my LPN and later my Associate’s degree. I found a wonderful man and I married him. He is a wonderful husband and stands by my side no matter what. I became a mother of two wonderful children and they bring light into the darkest of days. However, from time to time my depression does start to come back. I have learned over the years how to take care of myself. Depression is a treatable disease. If I feel like I need to go see a therapist, I will. If I think, I need to go back on antidepressants, I will. I will no longer let depression control my life because I can control my depression.

You are probably asking why I am sharing my story. I am sharing my story because I do not want anyone to suffer in silence as I once did. No one should feel as if their only way out is by suicide. I want to shine a light on the stigma surrounding mental health issues and suicide. I look in the eyes of my wonderful children and I do not want them to feel the stigma surrounding mental health issues. I do not want them to feel as if they cannot reach out for help if they need it. I do not want anyone to feel ashamed, weak, or embarrassed about reaching out for help.

There are people out there that are willing to help. If you feel like you need to talk to someone and the person, you choose to talk to is unwilling or does not know how to help, tell someone else. I wish I would have broken the silence about my depression years ago and told my family, friends, and even my therapist how I truly felt. I do not blame my family or friends for not helping me out more. I truly do believe that they loved and cared about me but had no idea how to help me. How could they help when I really did not reach out and allow them to? That is why education about mental health issues and suicide prevention is so important. Educate yourself so maybe you can be there for someone if he or she needs your help. If you ever need help just keep reaching out because the help is out there. Finally yet importantly, I do not want anyone after hearing this feeling sorry for me. I do not feel sorry for myself. I have overcome and received more in life then I could ever imagined. I do hope you feel inspired to reach out to someone in need or feel encouraged to seek help for yourself.

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Sahar

Imagine, there is help out there but people are refraining from getting it because they’re scared of the stigma they will face. I for one won’t have it. My dream is to end the stigma. I know if we all come together we can do it.

Life is scary but it’s even scarier when you suffer with mental illness. Imagine being stuck in a viscous cycle that has no mercy! It is painful and crippling. Every day is filled with darkness and thoughts that can drive the sanest person insane. It feels like someone has just pushed you into a deep dark abyss and just keeps falling into the blackness of hell.

My name is Sahar, I am 18, I live in Belize(located in Central America). I will try to make this story brief and not too boring! I suffer with generalized anxiety disorder, severe depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s drastically changed my life. I had to withdraw from school when I was 16 because the mental illness took over my body. I was terribly depressed and always anxious. I could not get out of bed. I literally could not get out, I tried and I felt stuck. I had no hope, no desires, nothing to live for. I was as empty as a hollow tree. I felt like there was a big gaping hole in me and nothing could fill the void.

Now for me, I like to consider myself too lucky and overly blessed. I have an extremely supportive family. At that time I refused to see any specialists or take any medicine. I thought it was just all a pile of horse shit. Of course it wasn’t and my family thankfully knew I just wasn’t thinking straight and able to want to get help, so they forced me. Literally dragged me out of bed to get to psychiatrist appointments, had to persuade me to do therapy every day, and constantly assure me that my medications had no dangerous side effects just so I would consider taking it. Eventually I gave up and decided it was time. It was time to change. By then my mom had given me a job at her school working with little kids. They inspired me to fix myself because I finally had something to live for. I started taking things more seriously. Each day conquering a new fear whether it was getting out of bed or not washing my hands every five seconds. I finally took the road to recovery.

I am currently still on this road, but I have accomplished so much. I get up and go to work, I am home schooled, I socialize more, and I no longer fear everything. These may seem petty but for me they are some of the biggest accomplishments in my young life. I have many triggers but sometimes it just happens and I can’t pin point why. Sometimes I have flashbacks. There are times where I have felt suicidal and once came extremely close to ending it all. Its all apart of the chaos of mental illness and this is what people don’t understand mental illness is not something you can just shake off its something that sticks on you it craves attention; it’s merciless, and viscous.

That is my story. I am sharing my story because I want to end the stigma towards mental illness and encourage people to come out and get help. The longer you hold your emotions in, the harder it gets and that can lead to the inevitable suicide. Everyday someone takes there life because it’s too much for them to handle and there to scared to get help. We have to end this. We can’t let people do this. We need to help them by accepting that everyone has problems and some people deal with it differently. Imagine, there is help out there but people are refraining from getting it because they’re scared of the stigma they will face. I for one won’t have it. My dream is to end the stigma. I know if we all come together we can do it. If there is anyone out there reading this and feels like they are on the brink of insanity please don’t give up, go and get help. Don’t feel bad for your problems. There is nothing wrong with it. I realize not everyone has accepting family member or friends and I desperately wish I could reach out to all and help but just know you are accepted and appreciated. Thank you for taking time to read this. I hope I was able to somehow inspire and motivate people to seek help and keep going. Thank you to all those who share their stories you inspire not just me but others!

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Isaac

It wasn't until my freshman year of college that I finally opened up to my parents about what had happened. I told them about my depression, the anxiety, the attempts to take my own life, and the bullying and abuse that I had taken from the other kids in my school. My parents had had no idea about everything that had been going on. After this I was able to be treated by a doctor, was given medication and have recovered from most of the effects of my disability.

For most of my life I have suffered alone. When I was in 7th grade, I started having severe bouts of anxiety and sadness that I couldn’t get rid of. I started to realize that what I was going through was depression, so I went to the doctor to see if there was anything I could do. I didn’t tell my parents about what I was going through because I never wanted to worry them, so when the doctor diagnosed me with severe chronic depression and anxiety I had to turn down the medication he prescribed or I would have had to tell my parents.

Instead, I attempted to turn to my friends. I told them about the things I was going through, the terrible depression, the anxiety, the horrid thoughts I had about how easy it would be to just end my life. I thought if I opened up to these people that I would at least have some support. They accused me of trying to get attention and lying. They stopped hanging out with me, stopped talking to me, and eventually wouldn’t even look at me when we walked past each other at school. I felt completely and utterly alone, more so than I have ever felt in my entire life.

I ended up spending most of my time alone and reading, either in the library or in a corner somewhere in the school. I barely spoke to anyone except for my teacher. To make matters worse some teachers praised me in front of the classes for having grades above everyone else’s. Because of this I became the focus for abuse from other students. While my parents thought I had joined wrestling and football, I had actually been sent to the hospital multiple times for the beatings I had received from other students telling me to “stop making everyone else look bad.” I was beaten up on a regular basis and tortured emotionally an psychologically in between. I was called gay and other words that I won’t say.

I attempted suicide twice during that time. The first time I was able to stop myself, but the second time I was lucky enough to be stopped by someone walking by my house who saw me in the window. He happened to be one of the local District Attorneys who would later become my mentor and one of my closest friends.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I finally opened up to my parents about what had happened. I told them about my depression, the anxiety, the attempts to take my own life, and the bullying and abuse that I had taken from the other kids in my school. My parents had had no idea about everything that had been going on. After this I was able to be treated by a doctor, was given medication and have recovered from most of the effects of my disability.

I now work for a university in Colorado working with incoming freshmen and helping them to adjust to a new portion of their lives. I am able to work with many students who suffer from similar or worse things than myself. It is these people, my mentor and now my students, who push me forward each day. They are the motivators in my life to make a difference and remove the stigma. They are the people that help me get up in the morning and the reason I now live up to the meaning of my name – laughter.

Depression and anxiety can have terrible effects on people, especially when you are going through them alone or don’t know what is going on. By reaching out and making a difference, by fighting against the stigma that society has put against people suffering from mental disability, more people can be saved from its effects.

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Meighan

I almost gave up. I almost decided that my depression and anxiety were going to keep me from getting an education, and I told myself that I wouldn't know enough to pass the classes anyway. Something- I don't know what- made me ask to be readmitted. When they let me back in, even though my illness didn't magically go away, I told myself I couldn't waste the opportunity. I didn't only start passing classes, I became a tutor in the campus drop-in English lab, and an instructional aide in two classes.

I was always a little shy. When I got to 7th grade, I was sent from my mother, to my father, to my grandmother, then back to my mother. I felt abandoned (by all but my father, who’d wanted me to stay but was in a bad financial situation) and like I wasn’t good enough for anyone to want me near them. My sister and I were split up. She was always the talkative one who made friends and protected me, even though we didn’t get along very well. Without her, I felt out of place and awkward, and going to my third Middle school in a year, I felt crushing anxiety. I also started feeling empty and having trouble finding anything that made me happy, besides eating and watching TV. I gained about 50 pounds in a very short period of time. That wasn’t the worse thing, though.

I couldn’t handle school. I’d always been a good student, but suddenly I found myself so crippled with discomfort about my looks, the way I talked, and the way I acted, that I couldn’t concentrate on school work or talk to others. I was always sad, and cried a lot. About a week into school, I stopped going. I pretended to go to school in the morning, carrying a book bag and everything, then sneaking back when my parents had gone to work. At night, I’d to the fake homework I’d invented for myself. I wasn’t proud of myself, and I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. I confessed to my mom about a month in to ditching school, and she reacted, as most people would, by being shocked and incredibly angry. I was scared of her reaction, and although I tried to explain how I was feeling when she was more in a mood to listen to me, she told me I was just having a rough time to adjusting to a new place and a new school, and I’d be fine.

I went back to school and was placed in remedial classes because that’s were the troubled kids went, but that was even worse. Although my classmates were nice, I still felt anxiety being around other people. Plus, I already knew the material and being bored made the day seem like it was 12 hours long.

I dropped out again, and this time refused to go back for years. I learned on my own, but I put no value on what I learned because wasn’t in school, where I was supposed to be. Many days I slept all day and watched TV all night. I had one friend, someone who I’d known as a kid, and without her I wouldn’t have made it. She got me out of the house once or twice a month during the school year, and almost everyday during the summer, which was when I felt the best. But I didn’t manage to go back to school. I did Independent study for a year, and tried high-school when I was given a social promotion to the 9th grade. I hung on for a few months, this time a target for bullying on top of everything else. I gradually went less and less until I’d dropped out again.

I became suicidal, especially when my friend moved away. I began cutting, and I started to realize that what I was going through was not normal. I wanted to see a psychiatrist, but my mother was resistant to the idea and said I didn’t need one. My sister was diagnosed bipolar at age 13, and basically grew up in group homes for teens with mental illness. My mom wanted at least one normal child, and I tried to pretend I was okay because I wanted to be that for her. I knew that she’d also received mental health treatment when she was younger, and had felt attacked. I think she didn’t want that to happen to me.

But when I was 17, I cut myself very visibly and was sent to the hospital on a 51/50. (Involuntary hold.) There, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and a possible mood disorder. I didn’t believe I’d get better, though, and only took the medicine I was prescribed for a few weeks.

I felt awful, stupid, ugly, and useless. I kept cutting and kept being sent to the hospital. Eventually I realized that I wasn’t going to get better if I didn’t try, so I began seeing a psychiatrist. I started to have hope for the first time in years. I wanted to go back to school.

I passed the GED at 18, but rather than being happy I felt ashamed. My mother lied to the rest of the family that I’d graduated High school, because she was embarrassed. I was hurt, but I felt that I deserved it. I called myself a loser, crazy, stupid. I realize now my mother was just afraid for my future, and didn’t know if I’d be treated badly in the workforce with a GED instead of a diploma. If she’d known the things I was saying to myself, she would have cried.

Eventually, though, I turned 18 and got a job, and surprised myself by being able to do it. I made some friends, I took the bus places by myself, I said Hi to people when they passed me on the street. I started feeling more human, and I wondered if I could do school. Eventually, I went to community college, where I dropped so many classes I was kicked out. I didn’t finish even one class in 3 years.

I almost gave up. I almost decided that my depression and anxiety were going to keep me from getting an education, and I told myself that I wouldn’t know enough to pass the classes anyway. Something- I don’t know what- made me ask to be readmitted. When they let me back in, even though my illness didn’t magically go away, I told myself I couldn’t waste the opportunity. I didn’t only start passing classes, I became a tutor in the campus drop-in English lab, and an instructional aide in two classes. I saw a student struggling one day and went up to help him, not realizing he was actually in a class that was visiting the lab. I didn’t say anything amazing- just told him to listen to himself read out loud and put commas and periods where he paused. He corrected his own paper, had a huge smile on his face, and I felt amazing. What I didn’t know was that his teacher had watched the whole thing. She offered me a job in the disability office being an Instructional Aide for students with learning disabilities. It was a job that usually was only open to people with a bachelor’s degree, and although I thought I was interviewing for it, when I went to the interview I discovered she was trying to convince me to take the job!

My boss was what made me succeed. I told her about my depression and anxiety, and she reacted by telling me if I needed to come in and do paperwork instead of work with students, or if I needed to do work at home, or if I needed any accommodation at all, we could figure it out. I felt respected and like my illness was- finally- just an illness, rather than what controlled my life. I barely missed any days, and when my father passed my work and school were what kept me from breaking down. It was surreal to love and feel at home school- a place that I had been scared of since I was 13.

I didn’t suddenly become better, though. I still had anxiety. I still had problems with depression. I still cut, occasionally. But I knew I could move toward being better, knew that I wasn’t useless, and had found a reason to commit to controlling my illness with therapy and medication. Gradually, people weren’t as scary anymore, and I made friends.

In 2006, I received an AA in social science with High Honors. In 2008, I received my Bachelor’s degree. It wasn’t easy. I did one semester independent study from the hospital. But getting that diploma was a triumph, and when I received it was the first time I truly knew that I was not my illness.

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Wes K

Now, I consider myself in a "reconstruction period" in my life. I'm building back my life by trying to make it better.

Hi my name is Wes. I have Schizoaffective Disorder and Depression. I probably had mental illness all my life but wasn’t diagnosed until I was 18. I had a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of college. I have a great support system of doctors and family that has helped me throughout my life. I’m one of the lucky ones. My parents advocated for me so that I could talk to the Nevada legislature and tell them that with my illness, I could not take a full load of classes, and I needed my scholarship to make an exception so I could take 1 to 2 classes a semester instead of the required 4 classes. The legislature agreed and I was able to go part time to college with my scholarship paying a portion. I believe that this action might have helped countless of other students with disabilities get access to their scholarships.

Starting over with my life, I changed majors from Architecture to Special Education, and just kept chipping away at the degree, slowly but surely. I had a few hospitalizations in between, but I survived. Ten years after my first breakdown, I finally graduated from college. It was the happiest day of my life. My parents were so proud and I had a bunch of family members come and join us for a nice pizza dinner after the ceremony.

After college, life was not so easy. I didn’t get hired as a teacher, so I tried my hand at selling cars. That put me in a tailspin that eventually led me into a deep depression and the following year, I was hospitalized for two months in two different hospitals.

Now, I consider myself in a “reconstruction period” in my life. I’m building back my life by trying to make it better. I joined a small group from church and go to Overeaters Anonymous meetings. I am also learning to be an emissions technician. I’m picking up the pieces slowly but surely.

Thanks for reading my story. I wish you nothing but the best in your recovery as well!

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Monica

No one could fly for me, carry me with their wings, or help me seek solace in their safe branches; recovery does not work that way. You have to want to get better and realize that it doesn’t always mean feeling better. I had to personally commit to my own health and self-esteem, which meant breaking the negative habits I’d developed over that past decade. I needed to be vulnerable, to admit there was a problem, to seek treatment. This would mean opening up to a psychologist, psychiatrist, nutritionist and scariest of all, my own family and friends.

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings.” – Unknown

I’ve read this quote numerous times over the past few years, each time hoping to gain more than just comfort; I wanted to find out the bird’s secret. How did the bird know to trust its own wings? Instinct, right? Well, if so, where was my instinct? How come I didn’t know I was going to be okay?

I wondered about this long and hard. I went through a phase where I wanted this tattooed on my wrist in order to remind myself that I had wings I could trust, not unlike the tattoo I have on rib cage that reminds me I always have the key; the way out to life’s struggles.

I love my key tattoo, because I have used my own “key” before to unlock shackles that held me back and made me feel trapped. However, I felt that if I got the tattoo of the bird, I would feel a bit hypocritical. See, I did not trust my wings. In fact, I never moved from my safe little branch – I sat there, hanging on for dear life, not looking down, and praying that the sucker never broke.

In fact, I took such desperate measures to avoid having to leave my safe, warm, little branch. With the weight of the problems and darkness I carried around with me, this was no easy task. That branch wanted to break, tired and ready to buckle from holding up not only me, but my heavy problems as well.

Knowing I could not bear to fly on my own, I devised a plan. I would hide is the shadows of the biggest leaves I could find, hoping they would never fall away and expose me. I depended on them to keep me safe and warm and happy so I did not need to learn how to do it on my own. When the leaves did fall and I was still there, shaking with fear, I blocked out the outside world.

This plan worked well, until sometime in the middle of July, when I sat in my psychologist’s office and sobbed about all the pain and suffering I went through in my poor little life (on my poor little branch). She looked at me sternly and said, “You don’t want to get better, you want to feel better.”

What? Why would I be sitting in this office pouring out my whole heart and soul if I didn’t want to get better? Also, didn’t “getting better” mean feeling better? Wasn’t that the point?

However, almost instantaneously, my branch snapped – faster than I could have ever imagined. She was calling my bluff—pointing out the fact that I stayed on my safe little branch all balled up with self-pity and lack of courage and called it a life. It became all at once transparent that I could no longer stay there, I needed to move forward. If I ever wanted to live a healthy life, it would have to mean leaving that branch.

For those of you that have read my past blogs, you may have picked up on the depression and anxiety that plagued me for the past few years. I’m pretty much an open book and while I’m always terrified to share how I feel, it’s strangely one of the things I know how to do best.

Looking back now, I read those posts and roll my eyes a bit at my whiny-ness, my own self-proclaimed victimization. I was a victim of the world. I was a victim of my past. I was a victim of the uncomfortable feelings that I was sure no one else had ever dealt with.

This is not to say the thoughts and feelings weren’t very, very real—because they were (and some days still are!). At least they seemed that way for me. I was lonely and felt rejected and had very low self-esteem; three factors that lead me down a road of complete self-destruction.

For a while, I thought I could fix the hole within me by latching on to others or latching on to destructive behaviors. In many ways, these fixes were my branch – they kept me safe. For this very reason I stayed in an unhealthy relationship knowing I was not happy until it eventually completely destroyed me. If I had someone by my side, it would mean that I was normal – the emptiness inside of me could be ignored and I would eventually feel whole.

This was not the case—in fact, it was the exact opposite.

So, when my psychologist said this to me it struck a nerve. It seems so simple, but yet, it was hard to grasp. Judging by my unhealthy behaviors, she was right. I didn’t eat because I wanted to feel better about myself. I became obsessed with guys who treated me badly because I wanted to feel loved. I stayed on the branch because I wanted to feel safe.

However, none of these behaviors actually helped me get better and none of them kept me safe. In fact, not eating led me down a path that pointed right to my grave. Being with guys that were not good for me lead me to lower self esteem. My attachment problems lead me to feel emotionally and physically unhealthy.

As with all major changes, getting better felt a whole lot like getting worse. All of these feelings of self-hatred that I tried to cover up with unhealthy behaviors came back in full force. Taking care of myself—eating right, exercising, therapy—were very difficult at first. The food was the hardest part. I abruptly moved back in with my parents and things were ugly for the first month. They were watching me fall, but no one could convince me that all I needed to do was trust my wings and fly.

No one could fly for me, carry me with their wings, or help me seek solace in their safe branches; recovery does not work that way. You have to want to get better and realize that it doesn’t always mean feeling better. I had to personally commit to my own health and self-esteem, which meant breaking the negative habits I’d developed over that past decade. I needed to be vulnerable, to admit there was a problem, to seek treatment. This would mean opening up to a psychologist, psychiatrist, nutritionist and scariest of all, my own family and friends.

In a recent Ted Talk, Glennon Doyle Melton mentions, “It’s braver to be Clark Kent than it is to be Superman.” If that isn’t the truth, I don’t know what is.

To climb down from this mountain of self-pride and stubbornness and admit that I had a real life problem that was neither glamorous nor easily solvable – well, that was scary. For so long I had fists held high and a shield up to ‘protect’ myself from a world that was ‘out to get me;’ never once taking a minute to realize that I was out to get myself. The real problem came from inside of me and nothing – no guy, no substance, and no low and dangerous number on a scale – was going to get me out of this dark place except me.

For the first time in a long time, I took steps forward. At first I felt completely directionless; I felt blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back. Every time I would start to feel good, the sadness would come back and I’d feel discouraged. The phrase “one step forward and two steps back” became more relevant than ever.

With the help of people who cared about me – truly cared ­­­­– those tiny steps became easier. I wrote down and fought negative thoughts. I worked with my nutritionist and became accountable for my own health by eating like a normal person would. I accepted that the low number on the scale was no true indication of the person inside of me. I challenged all the ‘rules’ I had created about good and bad foods and started to actually enjoy eating again.

The funny thing about disordered eating is that it’s probably the worst solution to any problem in the world. Aside from the obvious fact that your body needs nutrients to survive, sporadic eating habits affect your mood in HUGE ways. This makes perfect sense to me now. However, that is because I am in recovery. I can see clearly; my eyes are no longer broken. I understand now that without food, I will become depressed. When I become depressed, I will stop wanting food. This basic principle was so unbelievable hard to grasp and yet so very enlightening once I did.

I can now proudly say I’m on the road to recovery in so many ways. The pain that I carried on and on about is no longer there. It’s hard to even imagine what that pain is like because I did it; the branch snapped and I trusted myself to fly. I no longer have the urge to engage in destructive behaviors – I know I deserve better than all that. I realize now that no one can save me from myself even if that’s the only thing they want to do.

This is not to say that I’m naïve. I understand my shortcomings and my ability to relapse. However, I now have a better understanding of what triggers can lead me down that dangerous, destructive path and I work hard to avoid them. Life will lead me to many highs and lows but for the first time in a while I feel ready. I feel strong and I feel capable and healthy and blessed, even though not every moment of my life is perfect.

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Kelly

My mother has long-time struggled with mental unrest. Her life has been stricken with anxiety attacks, bouts of depression, social anxiety, etc. Since she was young, being at home in her own bed was more enjoyable than being surrounded by family and friends. However, she pushed through. She forged through life with her illness and never asked for help, until this week.

Last year, as I was looking for internships, I decided I wanted to work for a company that had some personal significance in my life. I had two passions: mental health and eating Chipotle. Since I didn’t want to ruin my love for delicious burritos, I decided to pursue a career in helping to change the landscape of current mental health services. This is when I met the wonderful staff at Mental Health America of Greater Indianapolis, started my internship, and never left.

As a Director at MHA Indy I know that the mental health system in Indiana is… crazy. There are more cracks and flaws in the system than there are strengths. We push for change in the community through education and awareness, we provide resources to those in need of immediate intervention, and we offer guardianship for those who have no one to care for them. I am very much immersed in the mental health field and I hear story after story of the failures of our system. However, these failures didn’t hit home until I saw the devastating look on my mother’s face as she asked me, “so I’m crazy enough to feel horrible, but not crazy enough to get help?”

Let’s back up a little. My mother has long-time struggled with mental unrest. Her life has been stricken with anxiety attacks, bouts of depression, social anxiety, etc. Since she was young, being at home in her own bed was more enjoyable than being surrounded by family and friends. However, she pushed through. She forged through life with her illness and never asked for help, until this week.

Many of us have been there, myself included, in that moment when life seems to keep going but we find ourselves stuck in a deep dark hole with no way out, metaphorically of course. We feel like we can’t participate in daily life, we cannot keep up with the world around us, and we just can’t jump high enough to escape. You wish for that climaxing moment like in a movie where the music is supposed to swell and someone swoops in to save you, pulling you into the brightness of day and you know everything will be alright.

When my mom called me on Monday morning to tell me she was ready to seek treatment for the first time in her life, after a long and hard fought battle, I was thrilled. I was nervous for her, I was excited for her, and I was all but scared. I had confidence that this was the moment the music would swell and there would finally be a light emerging. That is, before we sat at the crisis intervention unit for 5 hours only to be handed a list of referrals to other clinics that could help my mother, charged over $100, and sent home.

When we reached the sidewalk, my heart was racing. I was full of guilt for putting my mom through the painful questions with the therapist and letting her sit alone in a cold, criminal looking room only to be told that there was nothing that could be done for her. I was full of rage for the lack of concern for the fact that I told the therapist “it has taken years for her to ask for help, and I’m certain if you don’t help her today, she will never ask again.” I regretted not taking her somewhere better or nicer. I was heartbroken that this was not the turning point in my mom’s life, but another bad day to add to her already growing collection.

It wasn’t until my mom looked at me and innocently asked, “what just happened?” That I considered the way it must feel to be told, in her words, “you’re crazy, but not crazy enough to get help.” Unfortunately, this struggle was not over. I pushed my anger aside and told her as positively as possible that I was sorry this experience was so negative, but that we will find her the help she needs. That list of resources would guide us to someone who could help.

The night turned into day and the doors continued to slam in our faces. Waiting lists of weeks to months, restrictions on where patients could live, unanswered phone calls… the barriers were endless. And here I sat as the Director of Education for Mental Health America, helpless. I’ve struggled with the question of how do you get someone help when they don’t want it? How do you erase the stigma so people are comfortable reaching out? How do you get the information out to the community about resources that are available? But the one thing I wasn’t asking was – what do you do when someone wants help, but can’t find it?

While our uplifting movie moment hasn’t arrived, I haven’t given up hope. I know now, more than ever, that I chose the right path in life. I was passionate about my job before this week and angry toward the system, but now it’s personal. I would never give up fighting to help my family, and I won’t give up on yours either. Stand with me, tell your story, raise your voice… it’s time for change.

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Laura

Let me start by saying thank you for this website. I have been trying to bring awareness to the stigma attached to mental illness and suicide but it falls on deaf ears. It' s an uphill battle but I will not back down. We may not be able to wipe out stigma in our lifetime, but by talking about it and sharing our stories, we are on the road to change for future generations. Somethings gotta give, right?

Let me start by saying thank you for this website. I have been trying to bring awareness to the stigma attached to mental illness and suicide but it falls on deaf ears. It’ s an uphill battle but I will not back down. We may not be able to wipe out stigma in our lifetime, but by talking about it and sharing our stories, we are on the road to change for future generations. Somethings gotta give, right?

Your website gave me the inspiration to share my story. I thank you for that, as it was a very liberating experience. I feel a weight has been lifted off of my chest. Thank you so much!

Here goes……

When I was diagnosed with stg 3 bc, I was an overnight success. People adored me like a rockstar, treated me like a ninja warrior, I received cards, flowers, gifts etc like I was the queen of the world. It was a bit over-whelming to be honest, I’m not good with praise of any kind let alone being praised for having a death sentence hanging over my head lol. It was over stimulating and I felt kind of uncomfortable with all of the attention. HOWEVER, because of the support I was given – I skated through surgery, treatment and endless complications with ease. I had love and support of friends family – ah hell – even Tom Dick and Harry!!!!!! With that kind of support army on your side – you can almost beat cancer, right? Well so far so good – I’m going on 6+ yrs without any sign of it returning. Here comes the good part. Because of the endless complications -numerous surgeries followed. I was either in the hospital or in bed most of the next few years. I became depressed. It seemed like it was never ending. The pain meds were helping with the pain and the depression – until they stopped helping! Now to be totally honest, I did not get depression from cancer surgery complications. I already had depression, anxiety and panic attacks on and off my whole life. You know how it goes – triggers can pull you back in – and this period of endless surgeries, pain meds, hospitals and beds was certainly a trigger!!! Now comes the good part. Once people caught on that I was “losing it” as some called it – that army of support that I had surrounding me helping me beat cancer – was now abandoning me because I had that dreaded stigmatized “mental” illness! Who would’ve thunk it right? I can honestly say that I needed them LESS when I had doctors, chemo, radiation and the like helping me beat the cancer. I needed them MORE when there was nobody to help me – and that was when my depression came back. I think this is how we ALL feel having sickness in our brains that cause depression, anxiety, panic, etc – we get the support when we need it the least and when we need it the most we feel alone in the fight. That’s where the danger of suicidal thoughts come in. Stigma is dangerous. When is the world going to realize this? How can you be a hero one day because you were diagnosed with cancer, and the next a loser because you were diagnosed with mental illness????????? This is one of the most difficult fights in my life having depression anxiety and panic, and all that comes with it – – and my army left me a prisoner of this war alone. WOW, Ive thought about this too much since I experienced it, but until I wrote it down I didn’t realize how very much I was affected by it. It’s no wonder I was suicidal, huh? Doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure it out, right? We all have these kind of issues. We are all in this together. We need each other to support one another. Everyone struggling with mental illness is my hero. It’s one of thee hardest battles one can go through in life. Not being able to control how you feel from day to day sucks. I would not wish it on my worst enemy let alone the happy shiny people who are bouncing around doing happy dances every day LOL LOL. I am in awe of those who can truly be happy without effort. I wish I knew how that felt. But I do know this – IT’S NOT ME – it’s my brain being sick – that causes these feelings. We are not at fault. We are not causing ourselves to feel this way. We have no control over it. We are also ninja warriors of the universe – just like cancer patients or anyone fighting any disease. We have to fight to hold our heads up high.

HUGS LOVE AND SUPPORT !

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Lenn

Looking back, I believe that I had been living with depression for years before being diagnosed and properly treated. At 14 I was not well informed on this subject, and when I decided to do my own research I did not want to believe my symptoms were associated with a mental illness, so I ignored it for many, many years. My depression became part of my identity.

Looking back, I believe that I had been living with depression for years before being diagnosed and properly treated. At 14 I was not well informed on this subject, and when I decided to do my own research I did not want to believe my symptoms were associated with a mental illness, so I ignored it for many, many years.  My depression became part of my identity.

I was popular in high school and college and had many enjoyable memories. However, the good times were often followed by many dark, scary times. My friends and family assumed that constantly being tired, sad and moody was part of my personality – part of who I was. In reality, I had never felt less like myself.

After graduating college I ended an emotionally, and sometimes physically abusive relationship. Although it was over, the hurt still lingered and the memories weighed heavy on my mind. This was around the time I began a non-paid internship (it was difficult finding a job during this time) where I was expected to sometimes work 16-18 hours a day. I felt that life would always be like this, that I would always be taken advantage of in both my career and relationships. I needed to end the pain.

I attempted suicide unsuccessfully. Afterwards, I was sent to a hospital that gave me the opportunity to escape my pain in another way – through therapy, medication and the support of those who love me. It took a long while, but now I have never felt more like myself. I am not ashamed of what I have gone through and the fact that I am living with depression – in fact, I am proud of how far I have come and who I am.   Looking forward, I see myself continuing to be the happy, strong, smart girl who was hiding in the dark for far too long.

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Jay

I'm 52 years old now and I first started to suspect that I may have had a depression or bipolar depression condition in my early twenties. Periodically I would exhibit some kind of odd behavior such as deliberately cutting my arm, smashing a glass picture frame with my fist, or other dangerous and scary actions.

I’m 52 years old now and I first started to suspect that I may have had a depression or bipolar depression condition in my early twenties. Periodically I would exhibit some kind of odd behavior such as deliberately cutting my arm, smashing a glass picture frame with my fist, or other dangerous and scary actions. Fortunately I never directed this manic rage towards anyone else. It was easy to live in denial and avoid confronting my situation, and I did so for decades, all the while quitting jobs in anger, spending money I didn’t have, and occasionally losing friends. Being a creative person and having creative interests I was afraid that taking medication would dull my creativity. For years that was my position even though I could never complete creative projects. Finally in 2011 I had the worst depression episode I ever experienced. I was totally incapacitated and was very near suicide so I finally agreed to try medication. I gradually began to “feel like myself” and 3 months after starting on Lamictal I started to paint, but with a focus and energy I never had before. My work got better and better. I started showing paintings in galleries and selling work. For decades I thought medication would dull my creativity when in fact the exact opposite occurred. I finally accepted that my condition was something I couldn’t avoid and would have to deal with all my life. I still go through difficult phases, but for the most part my mood swings are minor and manageable. In addition to my fears of losing my creative edge I was also well aware of the social stigma of mental illness and was afraid of confiding in anyone about my condition. Now I’m starting to feel comfortable speaking out about it and hoping that sharing my experiences can in a small way help the movement to end the cultural ignorance and stigma about mental illness, and I find myself eager to try to help younger people who are going through what I did and feeling alone and hopeless.

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Robert

I have lived and struggled with Depression and Anxiety my entire life. Medication has made a tremendous impact on my life but I still struggle with anxiety almost on a daily basis. The most important part is family support.

I have lived and struggled with Depression and Anxiety my entire life. Medication has made a tremendous impact on my life but I still struggle with anxiety almost on a daily basis. The most important part is family support. I have a loving understanding wife and 2 children who understand what dad goes through. My support group is tremendous and I am not afraid to say I struggle with Depression and if you do struggle with Depression you should not be afraid or embarrassed to say what you have!

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Megan

After 2 months of living in Santa Barbara I had learned something about myself that would affect me for the rest of my life: I was clinically depressed. A few incidents combined (fights with best friends, ending a relationship with someone I had feelings for, learning that I was failing my first college class, and the threat of getting not just myself, but my roommates evicted) led to what I call “the rabbit hole.”

I was 17 years old when I moved to Santa Barbara. I knew a handful of people there and had no idea what I was going to do once I got there. But it was the first place in two years that I didn’t feel scared. At 15, I witnessed a drive-by shooting outside my high school that left three students physically injured, and myself and many others mentally scarred. I spent a lot of time working up the courage to walk through a parking lot after that day and even more time learning that it was OK to be scared, but not to let the fear take over my life. Santa Barbara was the first place I didn’t look over shoulder every five minutes to make sure I wasn’t in danger. It was the first place I was able to walk alone without crying. It was where I learned to let go.

After 2 months of living in Santa Barbara I had learned something about myself that would affect me for the rest of my life: I was clinically depressed. A few incidents combined (fights with best friends, ending a relationship with someone I had feelings for, learning that I was failing my first college class, and the threat of getting not just myself, but my roommates evicted) led to what I call “the rabbit hole.” I use this term for the times when I get so deep into my depression that it feels like I have fallen into a hole thousands of feet below me and there is no possible way of getting out. After missing three days of classes because I couldn’t get out of bed without crying and a weekend recuperating at my mom’s house in Los Angeles, I managed to pull myself together. However, after a year I found myself back in the same place. More occurrences in my life had led me back into the rabbit hole, but this time, with the encouragement of my friends and family, I sought out help.

The Santa Barbara City College offered free counseling sessions to students. After finding the right psychologist and many sessions with her, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. While I’d expected as much for years, it was terrifying and liberating to know it was true. While I continued to struggle with my depression and the issues that it caused – anxiety when meeting new people, insecurities around the beautiful girls I felt I needed to compete with for the attention of boys, and the sense of abandonment by my friends back at home – I knew that I was getting better. My three years in Santa Barbara were a true test to my own strength. There were many times I wanted to just give up and go home, but I knew that in the end, it wouldn’t make me feel better. I continued to have issues with roommates, friends, boys, and my own self-esteem, but I had managed to learn the skills to help me move forward.

Just after graduating from SBCC I went to get a tattoo to remind me that despite all the struggles I went through why living in SB, I had made it out on top. I graduated with honors and was accepted into an excellent private school across the country, I had new friends who are still in my life to this day, and I was a better person because I took care of myself, no matter how hard it was. To this day I still have problems dealing with my depression, but every time I look down at my arm, I remember how it was a constant struggle to make it through the day, but that Santa Barbara had become a safe space for me to work on becoming the person I wanted to be – a person without fears.

The shooting at UCSB this past weekend has hit so close to home because of this. I have avoided certain social networks and TV for the past 24 hours because of the nightmares the shooting brought back. I am heartbroken that the safe space I look back on fondly has been battered by the hatred of one individual. But I know the strength of the community in IV, and I know that one day, this wound will scab over and leave a scar. I know that they will never forget, but that it will not tear it apart.

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Diane

DID is one of those disorders even some mental health professionals don’t believe exist. It’s taken me years to come to accept who I am and how I came to be. Gradually, I am sharing that with others. But the stigma attached to any sort of mental illness – depression, DID, schizophrenia – makes the effort to get better that much more difficult because you feel like you have to do everything in secret.

My name is Diane. I am the host to a system of beautiful, but hurting insiders who I have, in various ways, known about since I was very little. We were diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder in 1998, when the body was 37. I have a dual diagnosis – these days Major Depressive Disorder is far more incapacitating than the DID.

For a long time, I never told anyone about the “people in my head.” In my early years, I didn’t understand the voices, and was afraid everybody would think there was something was wrong with me. I was already supposed to be perfect, and that would ruin my chances at that. As I grew older, and recognized that other things were not quite right – I lost huge chunks of time, couldn’t remember simple things I was supposed to have done or people I had talked to – I got scared. Finally, when a therapist treating me for depression met one of my insiders, everything came together.  I was both relieved and in a panic.

Many, many people at least know about depression.  DID is one of those disorders even some mental health professionals don’t believe exist.  It’s taken me years to come to accept who I am and how I came to be.  Gradually, I am sharing that with others.  But the stigma attached to any sort of mental illness – depression, DID, schizophrenia – makes the effort to get better that much more difficult because you feel like you have to do everything in secret. When you can’t just be with who you are, wherever you are, you feel somehow like you’re not living with your whole being.

We decided not to integrate, except as it naturally occurs. We are close to being ready to tell our story – or rather, telling the story of what it’s like to live with DID and depression – and have written a book for others, so they may share in the sadnesses, but also in the hope and joy of being many.  We’ve also taken our experiences with severe depression and are writing a book for people who are dealing with similar feelings.  It’s been a long, painful journey.  The only way we’ve been able to survive is to try to turn our hopelessness around and reach out to others.

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Deena

I spent months with suicidal depression, standing with other moms at my son’s playground as the kids played together after school, listening to the ease with which they could talk about what was on their mind as I remained silent about my struggles.

I spent months with suicidal depression, standing with other moms at my son’s playground as the kids played together after school, listening to the ease with which they could talk about what was on their mind as I remained silent about my struggles. They could talk about a weird mole they had to get checked out, but I couldn’t mention that my meds were failing me. So I said nothing to them. And then after reaching out to other people in my life, with what little energy I had, I found the right treatment and I did get better.

Once I was better, I began sharing how much of a struggle not dying was for me. I blogged about it and even began sharing my struggles on Facebook. And you know who reached out to me? Those moms. They read my blog and learned what had been going on during all those times we stood there while our kids played and they said “I wish I would have known.” I wish I would have thought it was okay to tell them.

I missed out on the humanity and understanding these kind women had to offer because I was afraid they would judge, or not get it, or maybe just walk away. But I know now, they wouldn’t have. Sure, there is a chance one of them would have said something rude or condescending. The world has some condescending people who will say incredibly thoughtless things to a depressed/suicidal person. Judgmental, diminishing things. But this is the thing, the more we talk, the less these instances will happen, because condescending, thoughtless individuals can dismiss one or two people telling them things, but if all of us with mental illness stand up and say “This is real. Take the time to understand this disease. Offer help,” most of these close minded people will understand and change. Sure, some will remain close minded. Those ones?  Ignore them. How does the epidemic of suicide end? When we all start sharing (in whatever way is comfortable for us) that having depression is fact, not feeling. That an optimistic attitude, while a wonderful trait, isn’t a replacement for meds or therapy,(to people who don’t believe that, I provide this silly example: ”My blood sugar was low last night and then I filled myself with good thoughts and remembered all I am grateful for, and now I no longer have diabetes!”) We do our part to end suicide, the way we do our part to end any epidemic, by being proactive, educating ourselves and others, and not being afraid to speak up. By knowing even if we are not personally suffering, as a society, we all are.

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Jamie

Today I have decided it is time for me to be honest, to stop living a lie, stop hiding, stop being afraid, stop battling my own self in two different worlds. I have decided it is time for me to accept myself, to grow and continue learning as a person, to love myself completely. In order to do this I have decided that it is time for me to come out... Do I still have your attention?

Today I have decided it is time for me to be honest, to stop living a lie, stop hiding, stop being afraid, stop battling my own self in two different worlds. I have decided it is time for me to accept myself, to grow and continue learning as a person, to love myself completely. In order to do this I have decided that it is time for me to come out…

Do I still have your attention?      

Excellent, please keep reading…

I have made the decision to come out about my struggle with a mental disorder known as depression. I have been living with depression since 2005 and I am blessed and very thankful that in 2014 I am here to share this now. I am sick of being afraid to admit that I have a mental disorder. However, I am no longer afraid of the stigma or judgments surrounding mental health disorders. I am no longer afraid that no one will believe me, or what people might think of me if I tell them I suffer from depression. I am done living in fear. I didn’t ask for this. Depression isolates you from everything and everyone you ever loved, a big part of that isolation comes from fear, fear of rejection, of not being understood, fear of people thinking you are crazy. I have always loved the quote. “Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.” My voice shakes every time I speak about depression. Why? Because, with depression you build walls to survive, you seal off your emotional self, and become frozen, going through the motions of life, but never living, and when someone gets close to you and trys to penetrate that wall, fear is the only thing you feel, because if you aren’t careful everything you have built to survive will come crashing down, and every thought, feeling, emotion you have held frozen inside just to make it through one day, one hour, will hit you like a thundering tsunami.      

Everyday I learn something new about myself and about depression, I continue to struggle with opening up to people and asking for help. Depression traps you, like you are slowly drowning but can see everyone else around you still breathing.

For years I thought I could “fix” myself and make myself not “be depressed”. I was to afraid to tell anyone what was happening to me. When you are in a battle with yourself neither side ever wins, there is only loss. Support and understanding is what is needed, however, the cycle of depression makes it almost impossible to ask for the very things we need. I am not looking for attention, all I want is for someone else out there to know they are not alone, I want someone out there to not give up, I want someone to speak up even if their voice shakes. Someone believed me, someone cared enough to listen, which saved my life.

I am still here, and I am standing up against the stigma.

Save a life, speak up.

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Ashleigh

My personal story is this: When I was in elementary school I got called oreo, mulatto, mutt, coon, the list goes on because I am a mixed person. It was hard not to be hurt when people called me these names because I was the only one that was different in my school, everyone else was white. I got called these names each and every week and it really broke me down. Anyway fast forward to middle school I was still getting called these names but I was also getting called fat, ugly, thunder thighs, big girl, chubby monkey, you name it.

My personal story is this: When I was in elementary school I got called oreo, mulatto, mutt, coon, the list goes on because I am a mixed person. It was hard not to be hurt when people called me these names because I was the only one that was different in my school, everyone else was white. I got called these names each and every week and it really broke me down. Anyway fast forward to middle school I was still getting called these names but I was also getting called fat, ugly, thunder thighs, big girl, chubby monkey, you name it. Granted yes I am a little overweight but in middle school when people where calling me these names I stressed over what I ate and what went in and out of my body. In about seventh grade I saw this documentary “Thin” directed by Lauren Greenfield and I tried to do everything in my power to become someone with an eating disorder because I felt just like the girls in the documentary. I am so glad that my plan of becoming someone with an eating disorder didn’t work out. I am extremely proud of the people that overcame the battle of having an eating disorder and I pray for the people that are still fighting their eating disorder in the world today.

In high school I still was getting called mulatto and ugly and fat and all the rest but somehow I learned to deal with it and I started to tune them out. In my sophomore year I experienced my first friend dying and that was a weird feeling and right around the same time I started to drink. I only drank when the thought of the death or feelings to do with it were bad, no other time. I didn’t drink on the weekends with friends; even in college I still don’t drink on the weekend with friends. In my junior year I experienced one of my best friends dying and that feeling was unreal. I fell into a deep depression; I wanted to be the next one to die, so I started cutting myself. I cut whenever the thoughts of wanting to die happened. I knew I shouldn’t die because she would want me to still be living so I needed to feel pain and lots of it. I needed to hurt myself to make the thoughts stop. I covered up all of my cuts so no one would be able to find out. I didn’t want to go to counseling nor have my parents know about them so once I was done cutting I did everything I knew to cover them up so they would just go away but as anyone knows they don’t just go away. One day, fortunately, my best friend noticed the cuts and she asked me question after question and I answered them as long as she promised not to tell anyone including parents, teachers, counselors, or anyone. The only thing she wanted was for me to promise in return that I would stop and she gave me a rubber band to pull on when I wanted to cut. This worked for me here and there until one day it just worked completely. It took me about three and a half months to completely stop harming myself. To this day she still hasn’t told anyone.

Fast forward to college my freshman year I joined my school’s swim team. Being on the swim team I met someone and we started dating. We dated for a couple of months then one day, and this is hard to say, he wanted to have sex with me and I didn’t want to. He, unfortunately, raped me and that relationship ended right then and there. I get flashbacks of what happened but I’ve learned to move past it and just live my life. In my sophomore year I got involved around campus. I joined the clubs that I could and had fun but in the spring semester I somehow fell back into a depression and started self-harming again. I started cutting, but this time I didn’t do anything to cover my scars. I still have scars you can see today. This depression lasted about a month and a half with the only way getting through it was telling my best friend and watching Active Minds videos, actually, because I got to hear what the speakers bureau’s stories were. They made me see that life does get better and to just live your life day by day, like you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. From the depression I learned that being an ex-cutter is always going to be an everlasting battle in my mind. Some days I will be fine and others I will not be. It just becomes a battle that I’ll never be able to stop; a battle between who I was and who I want to be. This is my story and I’m proud of who I am. I am an aspiring mental health counselor who wants to live for a long time.

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LaCinda

At 15 I was even told that at 5'3 if I didn't weigh 100 lbs or less, I wasn't small enough. This led to an eating disorder, contributed to depression, and added to anxiety that I had since I was little. For many years I have hurt myself with words, thoughts, and allowed others to do the same to me.

I am 26 years old and live in a small town in Georgia. Life circumstances have proven to be somewhat of a bully. For many reasons, high school and middle school did not prove to be a positive memory. Family and personal issues became the routine for my life. At a young age, I learned what it was like to have very poor or no self-esteem. I hated myself even as a child. I was told by certain people who were supposed to love and support me that I was fat, wouldn’t find anyone, and had to stand on scales every day. At 15 I was even told that at 5’3 if I didn’t weigh 100 lbs or less, I wasn’t small enough. This led to an eating disorder, contributed to depression, and added to anxiety that I had since I was little. For many years I have hurt myself with words, thoughts, and allowed others to do the same to me. I have had a very difficult time feeling as though I am good at anything,  that I am acceptable on the inside and out, and that my best is good enough. However, I have chosen to fight, to not let this exhausting, frustrating, disheartening obstacle win. The singer Mandisa says it best to me…

“You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer.”

For me, my faith has kept me going. I have some physical attributes that contribute to things also, but in the end…I am keeping faith. I am in graduate school working to become a counselor. I eventually want to be able to speak and share my story. I know what mental illness can do to someone…what it does to you when medicine just won’t help, what crying yourself to sleep most nights really means, and the impact of what being lonely and afraid feels like. I hope to give back to people who are struggling in unseen ways, the ones who put on a mask every day, the ones who try to please everyone else and others words and actions impacting them even years later. 

I want to be able to let others know that they are not weak, even when you are told it so many times, that you are worthy of feeling love, and that you can do this. You are not alone, even when you feel as if you are in a well and it’s so deep you barely see the tiny light above you, but help never comes. While I still struggle and have to try and manage it carefully, it has made me who I am and more empathetic to others. Hospital stays, racing thoughts, low self-esteem, crying nights… all have played a role in my life, but it does not define me. I am here to say you can do this!!!

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Stephanie

I deal with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, some days being more bearable than others. It can literally hit me from one day to the next. And what's truly amazing is how quick it comes on. It's almost like changing the filter lens on a camera. Sharp and clear become slightly blurred and hazy.

I deal with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, some days being more bearable than others. It can literally hit me from one day to the next. And what’s truly amazing is how quick it comes on. It’s almost like changing the filter lens on a camera. Sharp and clear become slightly blurred and hazy. Nothing is focused right; my head hurts from straining to get some type of focus back. My muscles become harder to move; slow is the new fast. A new sense of reality sets in and depression becomes so familiar, that it feels just as good as a warm embrace from the people whom I care and understand me the most. Depression becomes home and happiness is a visitor. It’s astounding how comfortable it becomes, almost like a bad habit (and you know what they say about bad habits right?)

And while it all appears so comfy, the scary part is that you can’t get out. Imagine being shoulder deep in quick sand that you didn’t know you stepped in it until just that point. You know you need to get out to stay alive but you don’t know how, because it’s slowly sinking you into oblivion. It seems as though no matter what you do, you’re still sinking. You panic not knowing what to do. The only way you can be saved is if someone reaches out their hand for you to grab or if you stand still and think logically. Then when you’re finally out you swear you will never think like that again, continue on the path of life, being careful and avoiding any signs of danger until….you step into quicksand again.

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Holly

Mental illness is real. It affects everyone. It’s not something to whisper about. Be compassionate. Extend a helping hand. Stop stigmatizing. Be a human being.

I spent the past few years wondering what was ‘wrong’ with me. Trying to understand why I couldn’t will myself back to health.

Was I feeling badly for myself?  No.
Was I ungrateful? No.
Was my attitude too negative? No.
Was I thankful for everything that I had?  Yes.
Was I a good friend, daughter, and sister?  Yes.
Could I get out of bed?  No.
Was there a way to stop crying?  No.
Could I see an end to the pain?  No.
Did I want to live?  No.

I eventually recognized that I was dealing with an illness after a very long internal battle.  I spent the majority of 2011 and 2012 away from my friends and family.

I checked myself into a hospital.

I worked on my depression.

I had support — a loving family, partner, and friends.

I missed all family holidays in 2012.

I started to venture back home in 2013 because I had made progress with my depressive illness.

I spent more time with my family. And, after warning signs I began to worry about my younger brother.

I tried to understand. I tried to help. We all tried to help. We didn’t succeed. He took his own life three weeks ago.

Mental illness is real. 
It affects everyone.
It’s not something to whisper about. 
Be compassionate.
Extend a helping hand.
Stop stigmatizing. 
Be a human being.

We are all human.
We are all family.

Be kind.

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Bethany

After seeing the courage of Glenn Close, it is my belief that once you've been touched by a mental illness of any kind- you have the obligation to share your story. My father's life story is more than just words.

My name is Bethany. I am a child of suicide. My father, who committed the act of suicide, may have survived if only the stigma of mental illness wasn’t as great as it was back in the late 1990’s. Though it is the 21st century now, I still to this day have a hard time sharing my father’s struggle with depression as well as my own. After seeing the courage of Glenn Close, it is my belief that once you’ve been touched by a mental illness of any kind- you have the obligation to share your story. My father’s life story is more than just words. He’s gone and it lives with me forever.

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Joshua

I have been living with chronic depression and anxiety disorder for the past 5 years. I remember before I ever dealt with this myself, I did not understand others dealing with these same things. I tended to stereotype people as just crazy, or not strong. I firmly believed that they were not strong enough to deal with problems in everyday life and that they just needed to suck it up and get over it.

I have been living with chronic depression and anxiety disorder for the past 5 years. I remember before I ever dealt with this myself, I did not understand others dealing with these same things. I tended to stereotype people as just crazy, or not strong. I firmly believed that they were not strong enough to deal with problems in everyday life and that they just needed to suck it up and get over it. Little did I know that this was much easier said than done. I never realized the impact these things have on people until I found myself walking in their shoes. I didn’t wanna get out of bed, I would have panic attacks at random moments when there seemed to be no trigger at all. I would just wanna run away and crawl in a dark hole. Then I moved into the phase that I like to call despair. I was completely convinced that no one loved or cared about me. I felt that I had spent my entire life trying to please others and take care of others but had left nothing for myself. I began to think that everyone owed me something, I couldn’t keep healthy relationships because the demands that I put on friends and family were so unrealistic. No one could live up to what I needed them to be, I was looking for all my happiness in other people, never realizing that I could make my own happiness and get control of my life.

My biggest problem was the fact that I refused to seek help. I had so many stereotypes and heard what others had to say about people on medications with mental illness. I also came from a religious background and felt that I just didn’t have enough faith to move past this. Finally a friend convinced me to go see my doctor and get some counseling. I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety with some bipolar tendencies. Also ADD. Through medication and counseling I have been able to live my life while dealing  with these things. It wasn’t instant, it takes trial and error with the medications, don’t get discouraged if the first thing doesn’t work. Just keep trying and you will find something that works and you will feel so much better. One thing I will say from experience is that medications without therapy or counseling will not be near as effective. I made the mistake of doing counseling until I felt better and then I quit, which was a bad mistake. It’s during the times I was feeling good that we were really able to work on things. I wasn’t getting any better for a  while because I was only going to counseling for damage control when I was in a really bad state. I would tell anyone dealing with this to go to counseling or therapy consistently for at least 6 months. It will help you more than you realize. I hope this helps someone know that  you can and will make it. You are not alone, we’re all in this together.
    

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Alia

Imagine you have a best friend who you trust completely. You know this person has your back in every situation and you ask for their advice in every situation imaginable. Over time, things begin to change. They seem a bit less friendly every day until finally, by the end, they're more or less yelling at you that you're a horrible person and you're screwing everything up.

Imagine you have a best friend who you trust completely. You know this person has your back in every situation and you ask for their advice in every situation imaginable. Over time, things begin to change. They seem a bit less friendly every day until finally, by the end, they’re more or less yelling at you that you’re a horrible person and you’re screwing everything up. Even if you realize they’re being unreasonable, it still hurts.

Now imagine that there is no way to shut this person out of your life. They are with you 24/7. A constant stream of negativity surges around you. That is depression: my mind appears to have betrayed me. I hate it and I cannot control it. I can learn coping techniques and receive treatment, but there is no eliminating it permanently.

We often know when we are being unreasonable and we feel guilty, but we cannot help it. A piece of each of our minds has fractured off and become so corrupt that it is nearly unrecognizable. Containing and quieting this corrupted piece often takes up so much energy that we cannot do much else. Showering, buying groceries, and doing laundry can become chores that take a full day simply because we have no energy left.

We know that people may find it frustrating to cope with a person who can only accomplish one task a day, but we guarantee it is much worse to be the person who can only accomplish one task a day. Frustration combines with guilt, anger, and sadness to create a mood indescribable. In this mood, anything that goes wrong is a disaster. Something insignificant like spilling a cup of water becomes a huge ordeal; instead of thinking “oops,” we will think, “I can’t even do one simple thing right.” It is easy to forget that these excessively negative thoughts are lies.

We cope as best we can, but there is only so much we can do. Sometimes, all we can do is survive.

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Grace

Bring Change2Mind came to our families attention 6 years too late for my husband, but has been a strength for my daughter. My husband was diagnosed with depression in the early 1980’s. During our 27 year marriage it progressively became worse as doctors kept trying new things and medications stopped being affective for him. The stigma that came with a man, husband, provider, and father of having depression was great.

Bring Change2Mind came to our families attention 6 years too late for my husband, but has been a strength for my daughter.

My husband was diagnosed with depression in the early 1980’s. During our 27 year marriage it progressively became worse as doctors kept trying new things and medications stopped being affective for him. The stigma that came with a man, husband, provider, and father of having depression was great. He wouldn’t tell anyone because it made him feel less of a man. Our marriage was hard but I stuck with it. In 2008, he couldn’t deal with the fact that he wasn’t getting better, that he couldn’t keep up with any work, and that our daughter was now diagnosed with depression, to him, it was his fault.

Due to an untrained doctor in the field of depression, things were not handled properly and after dealing with depression for 25 years he took his life. I had saved him before, but this time I couldn’t. Helping our family survive after a member makes a decision like that is hard, especially when another family member also suffers from depression.

As a family, we are now doing great. We are there for each other and work hard to help my daughter see her value. She tells her son that her brain is broken. She is just like everyone else but with a broken brain that needs medication. I wish my late husband could have realized that and been a part of this movement to bring change to the minds of others.

Mental illnesses affect the family, the community, the work place and the world. The way to overcome the stigmas is to learn to understand the diseases. I am glad someone is finally speaking up to change the minds of the unlearned and teach them that those who suffer are good valuable members of society.

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Jordan

I began my journey through depression at the age of 12. There was no traumatic event that brought it on- it was simply genetics. Depression has traveled through my mother’s side of the family for many generations, the only difference with me being that I was the first to ask for help.

I began my journey through depression at the age of 12. There was no traumatic event that brought it on- it was simply genetics. Depression has traveled through my mother’s side of the family for many generations, the only difference with me being that I was the first to ask for help. When I was 15, I was diagnosed with major depression, Cyclothymia and Borderline Personality Disorder. That was the only day I ever cried in psychiatry. Not because I was depressed, but because I was relieved. I could finally begin the healing process. Now before anyone jumps on me about how America is over-medicated, know that I tried the natural route first. An all organic diet, exercise, vitamin supplements, etc. It didn’t work. Whether some choose to scoff at it or not, some people actually do need the help of pharmaceuticals because their brain chemistry is simply unbalanced. I had to try a number of medications before I found the right ones that worked for me but when I did, I knew that not giving up was the best decision I ever made. I’m writing today because when I was suffering with depression, hearing the words of doctors and therapists isn’t what I wanted. I wanted to hear a success story. I wanted somebody who had gone through the same thing as me to let me know that one day all the pain would make sense and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.            

I am now 20 years old and I’m happy to tell you that everything I wanted to hear then is true. It took a little while but all the pain makes sense now. In some ways, I believe that depression was just as much a blessing to me as it was a curse. The entire process is not something I would wish on anyone, but I definitely wouldn’t erase it if I had the chance. It made me stronger, more compassionate, and it forced me to fully appreciate everything that is good in my life. I’m here to tell current sufferers that I overcame depression and that they can too. There is an end to the darkness and it’s beauty is blinding. The best decision I ever made was at the tender age of 15, and that was to keep going.

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Courtney

I knew something was wrong when I was in 4th grade. The only way I knew how to describe how I felt was "I don't feel good". Through high school I found out that I had an anxiety disorder, suffered from depression, and it took over my life. But I was determined to take my life back.

I knew something was wrong when I was in 4th grade. The only way I knew how to describe how I felt was “I don’t feel good”. Through high school I found out that I had an anxiety disorder, suffered from depression, and it took over my life. But I was determined to take my life back. The anxiety and depression took its toll on my eating habits, and I quickly became 90lbs at age 17 at 5’3. I told myself I would challenge myself and would prove anxiety and the stigma around it wrong. I moved 800 miles away to go to a great college, quickly became involved in the dance team, and although I still suffered greatly, I was determined to show others that life was possible. No one knew that behind my smile, and behind the TV appearances and Championship games I was involved in, was a scared and anxious person who dealt with anxiety and depression every minute of every day. I graduated, became a 4-year letterman athlete, and now work in the healthcare industry in a great city. I am living proof that young adults can fight anxiety and depression, and that there is hope. I still suffer, but consider myself a survivor and have decided to dedicate my life to helping others and bringing change to minds that negatively view mental illness. There is no normal, and there is no right or wrong. I am proud of who I am, and want to help others who were or are in my position. I thought I was alone, and I never want anyone to have to feel that way. We are survivors.

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Danielle

"Just call up a friend and go do something." "Go out, have fun for a change." "Speak up." If only it were that easy. I have dealt with social anxiety and depression for almost eight years. At first, I thought I was just shy. It wasn't until I got older how much I realized just how uncomfortable I was around other people.

“Just call up a friend and go do something.” “Go out, have fun for a change.” “Speak up.” If only it were that easy. I have dealt with social anxiety and depression for almost eight years. At first, I thought I was just shy. It wasn’t until I got older how much I realized just how uncomfortable I was around other people. Social anxiety is hard to explain. I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I should be able to go to the store and not feel like every eye is on me, judging me, criticizing me. I should be able to make a phone call without redialing the number several times, for fear that I entered it wrong, and then shaking until the person answers, then fumbling over my words because I’m so overwhelmed. I should be able to drive in my car and not feel like everyone is watching me. I should be able to walk my dog through my neighborhood without feeling like all my neighbors at that exact moment in time are watching me and judging me. I know I should not feel this uncomfortable around people I know. But I cannot help but feel this way. I dread being called on by professors, and, in the unfortunate case when I do get called on, my heart pounds and my hands shake and I get so frazzled I can barely speak. I cannot convince myself that it is ok for me to be out in public and go to class and go to the store and drive!

I firmly believe that unless you have this mental illness, you won’t fully understand what it is like. What it’s like to not feel comfortable in your own skin. Or just plain feel good enough, for anything. My depression is an unfortunate side effect of my anxiety. Some days are worse than others. There are days when I just don’t even want to be touched. would rather sit alone in my room and read or crochet than have human interaction. I feel guilty about a lot of things that come from my anxiety and depression. Not wanting to hug my own mother kills me inside. I tell her I’m sorry and she says it’s ok, that she understands but I tell her, “No! It’s not ok. I should want to hug you.” To which she replies, “You will.” I have been seeing a counselor and I do think it is helping, along with medication I recently started. I don’t know if I will ever be a carefree person that thrives on life and being social. I don’t know that I want to be that way. I just want to feel comfortable enough in my own skin and worry free enough to do simple social things. Even though there are times when I feel like the only person in the world with this illness, I know I’m not alone. Whether it is my family, my counselor, or other socially anxious and depressed people, I don’t have to do this alone.

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Robin

I’ve learned that for most of us, our perception is our reality. I’ve also learned that broken is relative to the person. My brokenness isn’t your brokenness. We are all broken in a way…some of us are cracked, some of us are shattered, and some of us are just plain broken. We are all broken, and could use a little duck tape.

“I’m sorry”, my mom says as she wiped tears from her eyes, “your Dad is sick and we just can’t go this time”. My brothers 6th birthday was a promised trip to Disneyland. We were beyond excited, what kid doesn’t love Disneyland?  We never did make it back to Disneyland.      

My name is Robin, at age 21 I was misdiagnosed with uni-polar depression. I was given 900mg of Lithium, and sent to a physiatrist who ended my first-ever session by telling me I should become a professional physiatrist because the evaluation I gave of myself was “astonishing”.      

The tremors came next, along with acne that reminded me of my high school days. That was enough for me to throw in the towel four weeks later. Who needs medication? I wasn’t completely broken anyways. A little cracked, but surely not broken. I knew what broken looked like. Broken was watching my Dad draw on walls with my little brothers crayons, talking about Jesus and Revelations, and blowing his home to Timbuktu with a homemade bomb (literally) because “they” were coming. That  was someone who was broken. I wasn’t broken. I thought I knew what broken looked like…I was wrong.      

Broken is lying in bed for 24 hours once or twice a month because you’re too depressed to move. Broken is waking up at 4:00 in the morning to bake Apple Pies for no good reason, but to bake them. Broken is fooling everyone around you into thinking you are ok. Broken is trying to jump out of a moving car because you’re angry. I’m scaring you right now; I get that, but please believe me when I say it scares me too. Broken is having an affair on your husband, six months after you get married, and when you are asked why you did it the only answer you can come up with is “because I felt bad for the other guy”. That, my friends, is broken—just a different flavor.     

I’ve learned that for most of us, our perception is our reality. I’ve also learned that broken is relative to the person. My brokenness isn’t your brokenness. We are all broken in a way…some of us are cracked, some of us are shattered, and some of us are just plain broken. We are all broken, and could use a little duck tape.

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Sophie

From the outside someone would see me as “having it all,” a great job, supportive family, amazing friends. On the inside I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety since I was 14, dealing with my emotions by cutting. Shame and embarrassment have been following me around for the past ten years.

Hi, my name is Sophie

From the outside someone would see me as “having it all,” a great job, supportive family, amazing friends. On the inside I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety since I was 14, dealing with my emotions by cutting. Shame and embarrassment have been following me around for the past ten years.

Growing up I dealt with a lot of peer pressure and always felt like an outcast. I never understood how to form friendships that were healthy and felt beaten down and cast aside by many. Cutting was a way to take my emotional pain and turn it physical, a pain that I could handle. When my cutting was discovered during my freshman year of high school my parents tried to be supportive and understand my depression but instead I just found ways to hide it and after a few years everyone thought I was OK.

Almost a year ago I entered a relationship with James, a guy that I was really excited about. It had been ten years since I started cutting and I had entered a phase of denial, thinking there was nothing wrong with me, even though I was continuing to cut in extreme emotional situations. So I entered this new relationship full force but my emotions got the best of me and my entire world was flipped upside down. I became emotionally vulnerable one night and told James about my cutting. Immediately I was rejected.

I was heartbroken, not just by him, but by myself. As people started to ask what happened between us I shared with them that I had told him about my cutting. My family and friends were shocked, they had no idea that the cutting was still going on at the age of 23.

Coming from a family where therapy has never been a part of our lives it was hard for me to tell myself that I needed help. I found my therapist, Melissa, nine months ago and my life has been forever changed. I started realizing that my denial was affecting my ability to build a healthy relationship with myself. Now, once a week I go and talk about my struggles. I’ve learned how to understand rejection, heartbreak and I am in the process of building a great relationship with myself.

There are two parts of my journey that I’ll always remember; the first is how important it is to be open and to share my experience with others. By telling my story I’ve come across many people in my life who have similar stories but have never had the courage to talk about it. The second is the understanding and acceptance that I will always have depression and anxiety. I’ll always have those moments in my life where I struggle but now I am fully aware and capable of managing it in healthy and productive ways.

I don’t regret my past; I know that I’m going to come out on the other side a better person for everything that I’ve gone through. My only wish is that the Sophie today had been there for 14 year old Sophie to let her know that things were going to be OK

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Barbara

‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.’ John Lennon wrote those words in his song Beautiful Boy. I sang that song to my son, Terry, when he was little and we danced to it at his wedding in 2004.

‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.’ John Lennon wrote those words in his song Beautiful Boy. I sang that song to my son, Terry, when he was little and we danced to it at his wedding in 2004.

We planned to meet Terry and his wife in Ireland in September, 2010. Then August 21, 2010 at about 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time life happened and my son, my beautiful boy, ended his life. In doing this he shattered our plans, my heart, my sense of security and my life changed forever. It was and still is unfathomable and I have struggled to come to terms with his irrevocable act.

The day after Terry died a friend told me about her suicide attempt. She had been very depressed and entered what she called a ‘suicidal coma.’ A place where the pain so consumed her, she believed the only way to stop the pain was to die. Fortunately she survived and realized she did not want to die, she wanted the pain to stop. She said I would have to come terms with the fact that I will never understand why, that she still does not understand why she did it. She said a ‘suicidal coma’ is an irrational state of mind that you can’t understand from a rational one. This conversation was very important and profound for me. It was my first step in beginning to come to terms with the loss of my son.

We learned that Terry had been profoundly depressed for some time.  He concealed it well and we had no idea, although in retrospect there were signals. His wife and closest friends knew and tried to get him to get help but he refused. Eventually in his own ‘suicidal coma’ he ended his life.

Terry left a note. One part was to a friend, a social worker. To her he wrote, ‘you could not help me because I would not let you, I am so sorry.’ I believe the stigma of mental illness kept him from accepting help. I believe he felt unworthy, hopeless and ashamed and that breaks my heart. 

The first months after Terry died are a blur of shock, disbelief, numbness and anguish. As the fog dissipated, reality began to dawn and the real grieving began. I have learned that overwhelming grief is exhausting, miserable, crushing, unnerving, discombobulating, and extremely hard work. It takes a long time. It will never be okay, I will never ‘get over it’, but I will be okay. Earl Grollman wrote, ‘grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love.’

Since Terry died I have spoken to so many people who have told me of their depression and suicidal thoughts.  Most had rarely told anyone else because of the stigma, the fear of being shunned. I was so moved by their stories that I have become a Suicide Awareness Advocate. I am telling Terry’s story, my story to help eliminate that stigma. I want to raise awareness about mental illness, that it can happen to anyone, and that it can be fatal and the fatality is by suicide. 

If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide please speak to them. I yearn to speak about Terry. He was a wonderful young man. I need to feel he is not forgotten. And I don’t want to just speak about how he died but how he lived. If you know someone who seems to be struggling with anxiety or depression, take time to listen to them. If someone you know mentions suicide, talk to them about it.Talking about suicide does not cause someone to become suicidal or increase the risk. Showing genuine concern by asking about suicide directly can be part of an immediate intervention.

My hope is that by talking about Terry’s life and his death, maybe other lives can be saved.

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Wendy

I have suffered from depression and anxiety all my life. I have memories of unspecific worry and fear from as early as 5 years old. I didn't know what it was then or even how to describe it. I felt completely alone, misunderstood and ostracized.

I have suffered from depression and anxiety all my life. I have memories of unspecific worry and fear from as early as 5 years old. I didn’t know what it was then or even how to describe it. I felt completely alone, misunderstood and ostracized. As an adult, I know what to call it and can talk about it more readily, but still feel misunderstood and apart from so much of the world. I cried when I found your website and immediately shared it on my and several family member’s FB pages. I cried again when my brother called the next day and demanded I take it off his page and mine and swear to never post anything like it again. He has such a stigma about people with mental illness he can’t even bear to have an organization hoping to change that stigma mentioned on his page. *sigh*

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Julia

I am proud to say that I am living with depression and this is because there is hope for me …and you or your loved ones. Treatment is helping me and this is not the end.

My name is Julia. I’m 20 years old and I suffer from Depression, Anxiety and PTSD. I  have been through the darkest places you could ever imagine. I always knew that there was something wrong with me from about the age of 12. I‘d hear commercial‘s for Depression and I think “That is what I feel too. I‘m not alone!”. I never felt normal. I was bullied in school. I was physically and mentally abused growing up. I wanted to run away. I wanted to die. I hated myself and was never good enough. I thought my life had no purpose. I turned into someone I didn’t want to be, jealous, insecure, controlling and angry. I had a failed relationship and was called a “psycho”. This demonstrates the ignorance the name caller had about my depression.

It’s just as serious as cancer. It is not laziness, it is an illness. Nobody seems to understand how you feel, why you feel that way and it makes you feel weird, damaged and alone. I never asked to be this way. When you are like me you feel that you’ve lost control over your emotions. You cry easily and nothing is fun anymore. You want to be alone and your self-esteem is gone. You feel like nobody will love you. It is a dark and horrendous state of mind that has both biological and environmental components. It’s hard when you have a disorder, and instead of people caring, they judge you and even worse blame you for something you cannot control.

I am proud to say that I am living with depression and this is because there is hope for me …and you or your loved ones. Treatment is helping me and this is not the end. I am a Psychology major and my life’s goal is to help others like me who have dealt with the stigma of mental illness, whether it be someone who doesn’t want to be your friend because you are different, bullying, name calling, abuse, getting dumped or neglected because nobody knows how to handle or understand the deep pain mental illness causes. Stay strong. Think of all the good it would do if everyone had knowledge about mental illness instead of ignorance and started to see us as the human beings we are. I hope my story can inspire at least one person to reach out……

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Catherine

I am a mother of three, a grand-mother, an inventor, an author, an artist, and bipolar. I was not diagnosed until the age of 48 after having left a path of destruction and suffered the loss of much of what I believed to be true about myself.

I am a mother of three, a grand-mother, an inventor, an author, an artist, and bipolar. I was not diagnosed until the age of 48 after having left a path of destruction and suffered the loss of much of what I believed to be true about myself. Depression is an unrelenting adversary.  Joy comes in glimpses.  Gratitude for those who have been there, profound.

I write to thank you for stepping into the light and bringing the rest of us with you. 

Blessings, Catherine

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Katharine

I am a writer, an artist and a nurse, and have struggled with my mind for most of my life. Sometimes psychotic, sometimes suicidal, often depressed, days have passed into decades of trying to find a way through to peace.

I am a writer, an artist and a nurse, and have struggled with my mind for most of my life. Sometimes psychotic, sometimes suicidal, often depressed, days have passed into decades of trying to find a way through to peace.

Diagnosis? Over many years I was variously diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder, which was renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder, Manic Depressive Disorder, Psychotic Depression, and Depression. Now? Depression is a base note, and, if I am not careful, can cascade into Psychotic Depression.

Being careful, taking care of myself, means: sleep well, eat well, manage stress, paint, live in the country with many animals, write books. I am still alive, employed and productive. Increasingly, I am healthy, on every level. Therapy helped, medications helped, even self-medicating sometimes helped. Family and especially friends provided critical support time and time again. Writing and painting have offered the surest keys to my truth.

Writing this little bit of truth, and submitting it to a public forum, is scary. My sister encouraged me to ignore my feelings of shame and open this door, and here I am.  Here we are. Thank you to this foundation, for providing a way for us to go forward together.

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Gabriella

After school, I took a deep breath and walked up the stairs to my room. I never used to cry, but now I cry all of the time once I am alone. I could never fall asleep, and once I did, I would never wake up. I worked at a horse ranch, and sometime I laid down and looked at the pocketknife on my bedside table. I dared myself to take it and cut myself. I dared myself to end my life.

It’s been hard for my life to come together. Although I was severely shy as a little kid, and still sometimes suffer from the fear of people (anthropophobia and agoraphobia), I mostly learned to force myself out of my shell. I found my niche in a group of friends in my high school and at my church, but all of the girls in my class strived to be the most outgoing and the most popular, so I did too.

I was never really an emotional person, and I never shared my feelings with anybody. I had become a talkative, funny girl, at least with close friends, and I didn’t think anyone would believe what I was going through. I planned what I would say, but I just could never force the topic to become serious enough for me to share my real thoughts.

After school, I took a deep breath and walked up the stairs to my room. I never used to cry, but now I cry all of the time once I am alone. I could never fall asleep, and once I did, I would never wake up. I worked at a horse ranch, and sometime I laid down and looked at the pocketknife on my bedside table. I dared myself to take it and cut myself. I dared myself to end my life.

I prayed and cried out to God, which made me feel a little better, but nothing lasted for a long time. I looked at Psalm 43:5 – “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.” I asked myself why I was so depressed, but I couldn’t think of any specific reasons. I thought I was just going through a sad time in my life, and it would go away if I was just patient for a little more time.

A while ago I had an emotional breakdown. After five months of specifically struggling with depression, and many more of general sadness, loneliness and anxiety, I forced myself to tell my mother what was going on. I found out that my family has had a history of the chemical imbalance in the brain that contributes to depression, and it wasn’t just something strange going on in my head. I felt assured even in my sadness. Now I know I’m not crazy. I’m just sick.

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Jackson McQ

I want anybody who's struggling to know that I'm okay now even though i never thought i would be.

I am a transgender male. I have been in and out of mental hospitals 6 times since august of 2016, for depression, anxiety, bulimia, self harm, and suicide attempts.

My reason for doing this is to say, I’m stable now. I’m not perfect, I’m not happy. But it went from self harm every other day, to being a month clean.

Death isn’t the only thing on my mind anymore. I want anybody who’s struggling to know that I’m okay now even though i never thought i would be.

So i want anybody reading this to know that it does get better, even now i still think about cutting every time i see a knife. I do think about throwing up every time i eat. It’s not easy. It’s not fun.

But i’m to the point where it’s livable. Which is a lot more than i was. And eventually, anybody struggling with similar things will be too.

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Samantha B.

I am finally learning to live life on life's terms, and to appreciate the fact that I am still alive. Recovery is not always easy but it is beautiful. The poem below reads more like spoken word poetry, I am not into the frilly stuff. Every word is true and every word is real. I hope I can connect to a few readers. We are not alone in this journey.

My name is Samantha and I am 25 years old. I started writing poetry around the age of 9 or 10. I have suffered from addiction since the age of 13 and I have struggled with mental illness for even longer than that. I have been clean since August 25, 2016 and this is the first poem I have written in sobriety.

My diagnoses are BPD, PTSD, dysthymia, GAD, anorexia, and body dysmorphia. I am finally learning to live life on life’s terms, and to appreciate the fact that I am still alive. Recovery is not always easy but it is beautiful.

The poem below reads more like spoken word poetry, I am not into the frilly stuff. Every word is true and every word is real. I hope I can connect to a few readers. We are not alone in this journey.

 

I am trapped in a body of darkness surrounded by light. The me that you see isn’t the me that I see. I am a soul eater. A criminal in the court of love. I demand nothing and I want it all. There’s nothing that can stop me. But you can.

I write in riddles and I speak in tongues. I feel alive and I miss feeling dead. The chaos used to consume me until I choked on sad, sick, rotten air. I picked my face better than I could pick the good from the bad. I hated everything about me. I still hate most things about me.

I can’t even sit here and let the words flow. I want to impress the devil. Make him lust for me like I lust for a hole in my vein. An escape from the world that has never been good to me and never been better to me. I feel like I am owed something. Pay me for my misery. Reward me for not giving up. Fall under the spell of ugly seduction.

I judge everything. I want for everything. I need nothing. My man told me he loved me today. Why do I want him to hate me? Love is beautiful and I cried after I said it back. I waited for him to say it for so long. Why do I want him to hate me?

I got caught lying to my parents. They are sad. I am sad. I feel guilty and I also feel entitled. I want to do whatever I want. Can I continue to live in my false world of no consequences? My stomach drops when I think of their faces. The ‘why do you keep hurting us?’ face. The ‘you are a piece of shit’ face. Does it drop because I am sorry, or does it drop because I now found my excuse to suffer?

I haven’t gotten high but I want to get high. I can feel the meth in my throat. In my chest. In my arms. My track marks are fading and I am grieving. That’s a sick way to feel. I am so ashamed of everything. I’m not wearing makeup today and I keep thinking that everyone thinks I’m tweaking because of my face.

I still think the Feds follow me, but here I am wishing there was still meth scattered in my car. I don’t miss the insanity of thinking there was a demon following me around. I still remember his face. I used to ask him questions but he would just smile at me. Sitting outside of my house or floating above me in the hospital. He was so real. He was so scary. I welcomed him though. I thought he was there because I was going to die soon. I thought he would hold my hand and deliver me to hell. I cried all day because he scared me, yet seeing him was comforting since I knew his presence meant I was high. Too high.

Sometimes I still hear the radio when it isn’t on. Sometimes I hear people screaming when there’s no one there. Sometimes I look for the demon, but he doesn’t come around anymore. It’s telling that when I feel afraid, my first thought is to look up to find that mother fucker hanging out on the wall. I look for the evil before I look for the good.

I put myself in painful situations to validate the belief that I can’t do this. That I don’t deserve this. I am surrounded by love and I can’t stand it. How can I love love and at the same time I want to cast it away? There is so much beauty on this planet. The reaction I get from my dog when I come home. The hugs I get from people like me. The warmth I feel in my family home. The calm I feel when my guy looks into my eyes.

I am so important to other people, yet I am so expendable to myself. I would rather end this entry on a poetic note than get the madness out. I can appreciate a warm breeze today. I can look up at the night sky and find joy in counting the stars. Why do I want to destroy it? I’ll save everyone else before I save myself. I argue with myself until the next best thing is to shut myself up.

I am queen of the jokes and I analyze everything too much. I feel like a whale at 105 pounds or 89 pounds. Will I ever feel at peace or will it always be synthetic? Will I ever learn to trust or will I die alone wondering if people really only loved me out of guilt?

I am running out of time and energy to write. My veins are on fire; my brain wants what I do not. This is the most sincere I’ve been in a long time, yet it isn’t edgy enough for me. Creative enough for me. Good enough for me.

I wonder if I’ll ever see that demon again. If I do, I’ll ask him for forgiveness.

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Laura C

One day, things will be easier. One day, life won’t seem so painful and distressing. Nonetheless, until then, I will take each day as it comes and the challenges brought with them. I will fight my hardest and accept the help I am privileged to have. And, most importantly, I will accept that even though things aren’t okay at this moment – this moment won’t last forever. ‘Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.’

My current, ongoing battle with Anorexia

It’s a constant voice in your head. A never-ending battle with yourself and your mind yelling and yelling you’re not good enough, nor are you thin enough, beautiful enough or clever enough. You are not enough, or at least, this is what it feels like. The Anorexic voice starts off quietly, whispering and slowly creeping her way into your daily life and thoughts ready to drag you to the pits of hell and the depths of despair and unhappiness. Though how can you possibly ignore her, when she’s all you supposedly have? She becomes louder, more manipulative and unfriendly. The torment and rules constantly drilled into your head, until listening no longer becomes a choice. Instead, it becomes a chore. But, right before your eyes, before anybody can stop it, before you get a glimpse of what’s going on (or has been for a long period) she’s got you, you’ve unwillingly become another one of her victims. Not just this, but you’ve also become a shadow of your former self. The self with at least a slight ounce of confidence and ambition. The former you that enjoyed indulging in birthday cakes and dancing for enjoyment, not to burn calories. The former you who was loved and cherished, ever so much, but then became blinded by this ugly monster.

I have had Anorexia for numerous years now and I am yet to say `it gets easier’. Each day is a torment, a battle between life and death and a journey I wouldn’t want anybody to face – yet I am hopeful and with each day that comes, I am closer to regaining my health, happiness and strength. I am closer to fighting the demon that has become all I’ve known for many years. Some days, I wish to remain in bed, isolating myself from the World and the look of my own reflection in the mirror disgusts me to the point of breakdowns and engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms. Other days are easier, more manageable, but not filled with freedom. With each day that comes, I am one of many sufferers faced with agonizing thoughts and harrowing feelings of guilt, alongside complete and utter hopelessness and despair. I have wanted to give up, I am writing this nearing the end of another difficult day, where I am trying my hardest to remain in a positive mindset. I have shed enough tears to facilitate the Pacific Ocean and I’ve not been myself for such a long time; I am still here and I am finding the strength and courage to make it through each day and the tough times I face.

‘Beyond fear lies freedom’. One day, whether that may be in five years or a decade, I am going to be on the right pathway to finding myself, embracing life and saving animals. One day, things will be easier. One day, life won’t seem so painful and distressing. Nonetheless, until then, I will take each day as it comes and the challenges brought with them. I will fight my hardest and accept the help I am privileged to have. And, most importantly, I will accept that even though things aren’t okay at this moment – this moment won’t last forever.
‘Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.’

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Breina E

I have won my eating disorder but I had to fight like hell. I had no option but to be strong. We had a great relationship until I realized it was fooling me and I was really hurting. To you ED you are the reason my life was so difficult, but you are not the reason I am stronger today. That is because of me. After all you put me through I chose not to let my entire life be consumed by your foolish and tricky ways. I keep choosing recovery every day 7 times a week without you.

 

That which scares us most in life is the unknown – things which we know the least about.

That was me five years ago when I first met ED. Today with much pride I say goodbye to him. We had a very long and tiring relationship. I’m glad I’m here alive to tell you about the eating disorder I won. I’m stronger than him and I won’t ever stop fighting!

Hi, my name is Breina. I am 24 years old and was raised in a Jewish Religious home. I come from very loving and nurturing family. I have 7 sisters and one brother. I struggled with Bulimia and Anorexia for over 6 years. I was lucky enough to spend a few months away at Renfrew’s residential treatment center. I am very thankful for the resources I was given during my battle with ED. I very passionately want to give that back in return.

It is not easy growing up as the “Rabbi’s daughter” always needing to be on my best behavior and setting a good example. All the rules around modesty kosher and holiday definitely impacted my eating disorder. Imagine what its like to have 7 sisters. There was always competition and attentions seeking. As a child, I was an OCD freak – cleaning 24/7. This was all good until my eating disorder developed. You know it did not come about because of who I was, but rather because of how I perceived myself. Today I don’t look back on my life and have shame or guilt and neither do I blame my religion. Now with much pride, I stand even taller than before. I got stripped to the core. I was a pure hurting soul.

As I look back on my life I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected for something good I was actually being redirected to something even better. GD often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling.

We all have our battles and thankfully I’ve learned mine was with ED (eating disorder).

I have won my eating disorder but I had to fight like hell. I had no option but to be strong. We had a great relationship until I realized it was fooling me and I was really hurting. To you ED you are the reason my life was so difficult, but you are not the reason I am stronger today. That is because of me. After all you put me through I chose not to let my entire life be consumed by your foolish and tricky ways. I keep choosing recovery every day 7 times a week without you.

Life in recovery is far from easy, but each day I have more strength and courage to keep fighting. It’s been a year of intense growth for me. I learned more than my years alive could have taught. To be honest, pain changed me. Pain doesn’t show up for no reason. I learned to listen to them as they are messengers. We must translate pain into action and tears into growth.

We’re all granted free will the ability to choose between selflessness and selfishness, good and evil, to follow GDs instructions or not. GD wants us to only do good. GD decided to take the risk of free choice because the risk is inherent to growth. For a child to learn how to walk he must be allowed to fall.

I will always have some sort of struggle and I know there will be setbacks. The greater the challenge, the more strength it draws out from us. I’m sure as hell determined to create a life full of purpose and meaning in the ways of GD.

To anyone struggling or know of someone please know you are not alone and I advise you to seek professional medical help right away.

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Katie H

Generalized anxiety started to rule my life around age 13, as did the symptoms of anorexia: restriction, over exercising, calorie counting, and obsessive weighing. By age 14, I was on a cold, dark path toward death.

I was first diagnosed with depression at age 13, but my world was dark long before my first diagnosis. I was never suicidal, but everything was almost painfully numb. My life felt empty. Two years later, I was diagnosed with social and generalized anxiety and anorexia. My eating disorder took its root in my thoughts as early as age six, with body dysmorphia and a perception of food that led me to glamorize extreme weight loss. I’m not sure when these anorexic thoughts were triggered, but I think it had a lot to do with my extreme sensitivity to societal messages, low self esteem that stemmed from bullying, and a mother who struggled with disordered eating.

Around this time, social anxiety ran rampantly in my brain and left me so terrified of the world around me. Generalized anxiety started to rule my life around age 13, as did the symptoms of anorexia: restriction, over exercising, calorie counting, and obsessive weighing. By age 14, I was on a cold, dark path toward death.

At age 15, I was admitted against my will to inpatient treatment for anorexia for five months. I have been out of the hospital for about a year, and am still struggling quite a bit but have come further than I ever imagined. I am fighting PTSD in addition to anxiety, depression, and anorexia. I have battled self harm off and on, as well as suicidality. The eating disorder thoughts are terrible, but they don’t dictate my life most days.

I am living proof that there is hope.

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Jenny S

This past April, two and a half years after arriving in Minneapolis, with the help of an amazing support team, and the same hard work and perseverance that helped me find success in running and athletics, I was able to declare myself recovered from anorexia. It was certainly a long journey and an uphill battle, as it is for anyone diagnosed with an eating disorder, but it is a battle I won. I can say without a doubt that my life is better than it has ever been. I am grateful to have regained a healthy relationship with running. I run because it’s fun and because each day I have the opportunity to get out and run. It brings a smile to my face.

My collegiate sports career started out in basketball. It was and always will be my first love. However, the transition from high school to college basketball hit me hard. It mimicked the difficulty of the transition from living at home to moving away to college. I soon found myself getting far too comfortable on the bench, and began running as a way to let out the stress of my first semester of college not going the way I had hoped it would. After basketball ended, I decided to ask the track coach if he’d let me join the track team. I soon became the sole female long distance runner on our small team. About a month later, I medaled in our conference’s indoor track championship. It was then I realized I had found where I belonged: in the world of running.

That first season of track, I trained alone a lot, and occasionally with the men. I was so naïve to running and to training at a high level. I didn’t know what an “easy” day was, but the runner’s high and the improvement I continued to see kept me hooked, ready for whatever workouts and training plans my coach brought my way, even if I didn’t understand the “why” behind what I was doing.

Four seasons of track, three seasons of cross country, and eight All-American awards later, I was granted the ability to come back for a fifth year of cross country, since I did not participate my freshman year. I desperately wanted to fulfill my dream of becoming a national champion, and unfortunately, a slight obsession with running and perfectionist tendencies turned in to a full-blown battle with anorexia.

I still saw myself as a bulky basketball player. My perfectionist mindset, combined with my own distorted body image, convinced me that was why I hadn’t been able to reach the top of the podium. Obsessive thoughts came around more often. No days off. Train three times a day. Weigh myself twice a day. Eat less. Eat only certain types of “healthy” foods. Run more. And I just kept getting faster.

I showed up to camp the lightest weight I had ever been. My coach was concerned, but I assured him it was just because we increased my mileage. I went on to have a tremendous senior season, setting PRs like crazy. I was singularly focused on winning it all. But I took third at the national meet, falling short of my ultimate goal.

Again, that perfectionist side took the best of me. Instead of being happy for all I had accomplished, I couldn’t stop beating myself up. I took one day off after my season and then began obsessively training again.

A few weeks later, thanks to my collegiate successes, I signed a professional contract. Even more miles. And faster. Even less food. Surely that would get me to the Olympic Trials, the eating disorder voice told me. I won my first professional race, the Disney World Marathon, two months after my cross country season ended. A month later, I ran the New Orleans Half Marathon. This time, another new PR, and just a few seconds away from the Olympic Trials standard. “Okay! I’m on the right path,” I thought.

One week, and 110 miles of running later, after the fastest race of my life, my body gave out on me. I had a stress fracture in my calcaneus (heel bone). I could not even walk a single step without a shooting pain all the way up my leg. Pool running and cross training—that would keep me in shape and not allow me to put any weight back on, said the eating disorder voice that was rearing its ugly head yet again. A week or two after my injury, however, a teammate of mine finally approached me about my behavior, and that day helped me begin to take my life back. She had been living with me and couldn’t help but notice how little I ate for how much I had been running and training. At that time, it certainly was not what I wanted to hear. But her words—they stuck with me. Suddenly, I began to realize how much I had isolated myself from so many people, how consumed I was by how much I needed to exercise in a day, and how completely obsessed I was with the number staring back at me as I stepped on the scale. I was sick and needed to find help.

Thanks to connections in the area I was living, I soon found a psychotherapist and a nutritionist and was diagnosed with anorexia, an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body perception. I began the difficult process of taking an in-depth look at the underlying causes of my eating disorder, and then, how to talk back to those distorted thought patterns surrounding food, exercise, body image, relationships, and more, that had become pervasive in my life.

Related: Why Every Body Can Be A Runner

I tried to keep running professionally, but the prolonged period of undernourishment did not allow my body to cooperate, even after I had started eating more. Injuries mounted up, and a year and a half after I had signed my professional contract, it was terminated. I was at a better place mentally and physically than when I arrived, but bone density scans still showed I was on a path to osteoporosis. My body was far from healed. I knew I had plenty more work to do to find a place of peace within myself.

Within two months of leaving my first professional running group, I moved to Minneapolis. Originally I thought I would try to keep running professionally, but more injuries kept popping up. Frustrated and feeling hopeless, in stepped the Emily Program, and sports dietician Rasa Troup to help lead me on the path to recovery. I took time away from running and racing. In that time I finally learned to think of food as fuel, to recognize that runners come in all shapes and sizes and to know I was defined by so much more than the splits on my watch or the number on the scale. I learned much more about balance and moderation in exercise and in life.

This past April, two and a half years after arriving in Minneapolis, with the help of an amazing support team, and the same hard work and perseverance that helped me find success in running and athletics, I was able to declare myself recovered from anorexia. It was certainly a long journey and an uphill battle, as it is for anyone diagnosed with an eating disorder, but it is a battle I won. I can say without a doubt that my life is better than it has ever been. I am grateful to have regained a healthy relationship with running. I run because it’s fun and because each day I have the opportunity to get out and run. It brings a smile to my face. I’m thankful to be in tune with my body, knowing when it’s time for a complete rest day, and being okay with it. I am so appreciative of all that my strong body continues to do for me!

I hope my story can help remind runners to be thankful for the running and physical activity their body allows them to be able to do, and to be proud of the body they live in! Every BODY is different, so why wouldn’t you embrace your uniqueness? I also hope that my story can encourage anyone out there who may be struggling with his or her relationship with food and exercise to seek out help. Recovery from an eating disorder is possible, and with it, a brighter outlook on life!

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. If you think you may have an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, please visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org, take a confidential online eating disorder screening and find more information on seeking help.

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Taylor J

Actions I took leading me to the path of recovery were never right, nor wrong, but simply another step forward. I did not have to do it alone. The heaviness that sunk in my chest started to become lighter, allowing me to breathe a little better and speak a little louder. When my illness first developed, I thought strength came from the ability to hide emotions and handle them completely on one’s own. However, when I showed vulnerability, allowing my feelings to pour into words, I seized a strength that many people run away from. The way we view and talk about those who have a mental illness needs to be addressed. There is no “getting over it” or “calming down;” it is an illness of the brain with life altering repercussions. Living with mental illness did not make me a stronger person, but it let me wonder, learn, and fight for a cause needing further recognition.

As children, we are told to eat our vegetables, brush our teeth, bathe, sleep regularly and, if we fall or get injured, to ask for help. But, when we fall or get hurt by feelings such as loneliness or hopelessness, we hesitate asking for the same care as we would for a physical injury.

The illnesses I have been diagnosed with are not curable, and have major potential of relapse. However, they are treatable and can be well-managed. The most exhausting days within my recovery were spent in bed; breathing to stay alive when my mind convinced me to stop. My illness thrived on isolation which challenged my ability to communicate.

Stigma is resulted by basing judgment off little information and acceptance. When stigma is involved, it creates a barrier for people to ask questions or come forward with honest concern due to the fear of discrimination, rejection, and ridicule from others. Unfortunately, stigma of mental illness continues to be active in politics, families, schools, organizations, work, and much more.

While learning about my diagnoses, I noticed I placed significant value and practice toward physical health and hygiene, but less effort and value toward mental wellbeing. It is no surprise that the topic of mental illness has been poorly addressed, since we are not taught to take care of our brain the same way we take care of the rest of our body. Likewise, when television broadcasts mass terrorist attacks stating the root cause as mental illness, it is easy to believe the myth that those who have mental illness are doomed to be dangerous and unpredictable.

With the brain being the most complex yet crucial organ of the body, a diagnosis of mental illness can present debilitating symptoms both mentally and physically. Despite proof of physical evidence, overall health is diminished along with quality of life. We would not let a broken leg fix itself, or hope that heart disease magically heals on its own. If the severity of mental illness is discredited, the value of a person’s wellbeing becomes limited. Signs and symptoms are often ignored or poorly communicated, increasing the risk of suicide and other catastrophic events of those affected by untreated or unknown mental illness.

As a child, I myself trusted the myths surrounding mental illness. I believed those who committed suicide were selfish, that depression meant a person was lazy, and anxiety was an attention-seeking tactic. But as I grew older, I became victim to the world of mental illness. During my most severe symptoms, I often became frustrated with feelings of failure. Tasks that seemed to flow so smoothly for others were my most challenging achievements. Lifting my body out of bed had been a daily struggle that lead me to question my purpose of living. I battled endless thoughts of unworthiness, blame, guilt, and shame starting at the young age of 8.

Growing up, I lived in a wealthy and religious community where my feelings were held in silence. I did not understand why I felt the way I did, which lead me to conclude that I was ungrateful and selfish. Since I appeared healthy, it was hard to vocalize and gain support for something I could not show. As I tried to use my voice to express what felt wrong, it became paralyzed by the overwhelming stigma attached to mental illness. Many of my friends, family, and other individuals would press for answers, looking for an explanation, only to blame my character as being flawed. Instead of my illness, I was frequently viewed as an inconvenience and burden to others. This lead to a dangerous cycle of self-abuse which was used to soothe intense emotions I was unable to speak about.

Over time, my mind became crippled by crushing loneliness. I controlled my tiring thoughts by numbing the feelings I was ashamed of having. Through punishment such as starvation, purging, or puncturing my skin, I found temporary relief that reflected the way I felt inside. In order to repress my emotions, my mind flooded with obsessive thoughts, behaviors, and rituals that devoted my life to a world of numbers.

I was driven by the bathroom floor scale which determined my worth. Calories, weight, inches, clothing sizes, and the number of protruding bones I could count on my body were all methods to escape the misery of my mind. I thought that if I was able to feel pain physically, then it would be valid and real and people would be able to see the suffering I was in. However, I never got to that point and continued to appear healthy, despite my body weakening within. This influenced my behavior to escalate; drowning my head with toxic beliefs.
Unhealthy brain signals convinced me that I deserved punishment; virtually dying from a slow and painful suicide. After years of damage to my body, I began to lose power in my ability to function. At 19 years old, I attempted to take my own life. I did not believe I would ever get better or that the pain would end. I was desperate for a way to disconnect from excruciating torture I put myself through. I was living a life of pure blame and failure that sunk heavy in my chest. Until I was hospitalized, I was unaware of any other option.
I was later diagnosed with major depression, panic disorder, and bulimia nervosa. An absence of understanding and compassion was considerably high from those who were in my life. I was often told by family to try harder, as they were frustrated with my episodes of relapse. I was told I was not doing enough, desperately seeking attention and did not appreciate life which is why I was not getting better. Over and over again, I was told other people have “real” problems, but that did not make my illness go away.

I began to notice the lack of knowledge and education people had about mental illness, including myself. Once I started to learn about the illnesses I was diagnosed with, I quickly discovered that I was not alone in the battle I was fighting. Through various treatments of medication and therapy I learned that my mental illness did not identify me as a person; my symptoms were simply symptoms – not an expression of my character. I also learned that having a support system was vital to recovery, though that was not as easy to find as I thought.

Though I lost support from my family, I was able to find the help and care I deserved. In the most unexpected ways, I gained hope through school, work, and volunteering. From long friendships to new ones, I was provided unconditional love and promise of my worthiness to live. My number one supporter had to be me; vowing to take care of my wellbeing from the inside out. This meant doctor and therapy appointments, meal plans, medications, and the courage to be unapologetically myself.

What I know for certain about life is that it changes constantly.

The success I have built through recovery has been discovered as a journey rather than a destination. At first, I was clueless on how to take care of myself. Lab results and hospitalization confirmed that I was at risk of losing my life. I had to change my behaviors, thoughts, and the way I felt about myself.

Recovery meant letting go of the life I was living to begin the life that was waiting for me. To begin my journey, I first had to believe I was worthy of the trip. I had to persist through all the crummy parts that manipulated my opportunities to succeed. With nutrition I was provided in the course of treatment, my body began to heal years of damage. I started to break free from an abusive long-term relationship with my illness and understand what happiness meant to me.

Actions I took leading me to the path of recovery were never right, nor wrong, but simply another step forward. I did not have to do it alone. The heaviness that sunk in my chest started to become lighter, allowing me to breathe a little better and speak a little louder. When my illness first developed, I thought strength came from the ability to hide emotions and handle them completely on one’s own. However, when I showed vulnerability, allowing my feelings to pour into words, I seized a strength that many people run away from.
The way we view and talk about those who have a mental illness needs to be addressed. There is no “getting over it” or “calming down;” it is an illness of the brain with life altering repercussions. Living with mental illness did not make me a stronger person, but it let me wonder, learn, and fight for a cause needing further recognition.

Not enough credit is given to those fighting, supporting, and conquering mental illness. In a country so advanced with social media and communication, it is sad that mental illness is still kept in the dark. With more awareness, education, curiosity, and acceptance; we have the power to illuminate the message of speaking up over giving up.

I learned that happiness is not located on a magical land or end of a race track; it is a continuing feeling I get with experiences I dare to explore. Without my illness holding me back, I am able to internalize the joy and acceptance I have wondered about since I was a child.

To connect with those around us I believe we must value the human mind with the same care and diligence that we do our physical health. I share my story to fight the stigma against mental illness and let others take comfort in knowing they are not alone. I no longer let debilitating thoughts deplete my power to thrive, but vocalize them to shed light on a grim and dark reality. In turn, I have found that mental illness (such as depression) is a common secret shared by many.

Recovery is possible, proven, and promising. The battle may be difficult, but it is one worth fighting. For so long, I wondered what was wrong with me only to realize there is something wrong with the way we treat others. We all have the ability to change what we least desire with a foundation of self-love. Though I have shared my story thus far, it is nowhere close to over, as I continue to keep myself safe and healthy.

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Maddi H

I finally got to a point in my life where I was sick and tired of basically being sick and tired. I tried my hardest to use my coping skills. I started meditation, yoga. It helps so much to slow down my thoughts and ground me. I'm learning how to love myself again and that's the hardest thing I think a person can do. It takes strength EVERY day to get through the day but just taking it hour by hour is sometimes how you need to get through it. I now am surrounded by supportive people, and I am recovering.

About 2 years ago I started noticing changes in how I felt. I wasn’t as excited over things that in the past I would be excited for. I woke up in the morning just to go back to sleep, life literally seemed like a black and white world. I had nothing to add color to my days. I started crying at night because that’s when I got the most sad, because everything was still and quiet and everyone was asleep and I felt most alone then. One day my mom heard me crying in the back seat of the car, she asked me what was wrong. “Do you ever feel like you aren’t suppose to be here?” I said to her, as I was crying. She then cried and said she would like to take me in to see a psychiatrist. Days passed and I went into the office, told the doctor all my symptoms and she prescribed me an antidepressant.

Weeks went by and I had my first suicide attempt, not bad but had to be in the hospital for a day. Then I got sent to a psych ward. I was there for a week and they caught on to my eating disorder as I had been losing weight fast and barely eating. I got medically unstable from that and had to be transferred to an Eating disorder unit. I was there for a couple of weeks and got released – but I was nowhere near wanting to recover.  A couple of weeks later I tried to kill myself again, and was life flighted to an ICU 2 hours away. I was there for awhile until I got better then was sent to a psych ward again. Again, they couldn’t handle my eating disorder so I was sent to that eating disorder unit again.

I was again released a couple weeks later and sent back to the Psych hospital for suicidal tendencies, sent home, sent back to the psych hospital, sent home, tried to kill myself, went into the ICU again, went to psych ward, went home. I had lost a lot of weight by then and we knew something had to be done about my eating disorder. I was then sent to a residential place for depression that had just a little bit of knowledge on eating disorders. I was there for a week and then kicked out and sent straight to a medical hospital because they could not handle the eating disorder.

Everything was still so black and white for me and no medication would help, this was something I had to defeat on my own. In the hospital I was on an eating disorder floor and had a feeding tube put it. I then was sent to a different residential for my eating disorder, had the feeding tube thru out that and was sent back to the hospital because they were unable to keep me safe. I learned so much through all that.

I finally got to a point in my life where I was sick and tired of basically being sick and tired. I tried my hardest to use my coping skills. I started meditation, yoga. It helps so much to slow down my thoughts and ground me. I’m learning how to love myself again and that’s the hardest thing I think a person can do. It takes strength EVERY day to get through the day but just taking it hour by hour is sometimes how you need to get through it. I now am surrounded by supportive people, and I am recovering. I never once thought I would get better but I am slowly getting there.

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Miriam N

When I was 13 I started to have depression. I've never understood how it started. My first year with this mental disorder I was alone, I cried every day in school, in the house, in the bath. My family had never been worried for me. Then I lost my friends. In addition, when I started high school teenagers didn't want be my friends because I'm Asian.

My name is Miriam, I’m from Spain and I’m 17 years old. When I was 13 I started to have depression. I’ve never understood how it started. My first year with this mental disorder I was alone, I cried every day in school, in the house, in the bath.  My family had never been worried for me. Then I lost my friends. In addition, when I started high school teenagers didn’t want be my friends because I’m Asian. The time was passing and I was not improving but I was deteriorating increasingly. Nobody wanted to know about me. When I was 16 my sister confessed to me that she had depression since 13 but she never told me. At this moment my heart was broken because she’s like my mom. Since then I always wonder why she has never been worried for me.

This year I met a boy on Twitter who has depression too. I felt loved for the first time, but when I was to meet him face to face … he didn’t exist, he just was a lie. Thanks to the event I thought that what happened was meant to be this way.  I didn’t have answers just questions. Then I thought I needed to visit a psychologist. I was very dark, I could only think of suicide (and I tried), heard sad music, come up to such a point of seeing series of suicides and murders, etc. I wasted time with the psychologist but they couldn’t understand me and didn’t help me like I wanted. Nowadays I continue with this, doctors have diagnosed me with eating disorders, OCD, and obviously depression. Everything in my world has changed, I really feel alone and I’m trying to control my mental disorder but sometimes I can’t..

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Miracle H

But what I have decided is that I am going to get through this. I will survive because I have survived. I will soar on wings like eagles, I will run and not grow weary, and I will walk and not faint, because God has made me new.

I have so many things I could say, that I could write; I don’t really know where to start. This is my story.

I come from what most people call a broken family, broken home. This has been my life. I was abused by my dad, and then by my mom. I never went into the system… partly by the grace of God, and partly because I was too scared what would happen if I told. As I have grown, even with all of the heartache it caused, I still feel like it was the best decision. I have a relationship with my family that I don’t think would be so connected, or together if we had ever been separated. Now, because of my experiences, I have struggled with depression, anxiety, EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It has become a fact of life. For the longest time it felt like it had always been there. Then my therapist and I worked out the timelines. I struggled with anxiety my entire life. I started struggling with depression when I was about 8. The PTSD has always been there. It has roared its ugly head so many times. It is sometimes just shown by nightmares, sometimes just by flashbacks. I say that… JUST flashbacks. Through therapy I have learned how to ground, and to keep myself in the present. I do what I must so that I can stay sane.

There were several times that the depression came up. I was 15 the first time I tried to kill myself. I am so thankful that I had no clue what I was doing. In the next 35 days, 28 were spent in the psych ward. It wasn’t consecutive, but the majority of my time was in the unit. It sucked. The last time I got out I determined to keep myself safe, that I would be OK, and that I would continue to talk to my mom. I did great. For 3 years I held on. Sometimes only barely, but I was making it. I was a “good girl.” Throughout this time I faked a smile so much. Except for my eating, there looked to be nothing wrong from the outside. But inside I was tearing up.

I am currently 5′ 7″, and weigh 155lbs. I am proud of this. Back then I was about 5′ 6″, and weighed about 122. That is about 4lbs above the underweight mark, and had I ever hit 115, I would have been labeled with anorexia nervosa. But again, by the grace of God, I didn’t. I sure tried but I never succeeded. I would eat less than 100 calories some days, and maybe 900 on my max days. When I thought I had eaten too much, I would make myself throw it up. It was an endless cycle of never getting to where I wanted to be, always feeling like a failure, feeling worse about myself, and then making myself eat even less. I got over that with help from family, friends, and God. I was shown a verse: Colossians 2:10 and you are complete in Him who is the head of all principal and power. I was told that God is Perfect, in Him I am perfect, because He made me PERFECT. While we were driving home I started questioning why I worried so much about my outward appearance if God already thought of me as perfect. It was a huge changing point. I still struggle though and it tried to rear its ugly head in December 2014. Through the support of friends and family I made it through.

I said that for 3 years I held on. That’s not exactly true… I started cutting in November of 2012. I was depressed, but not suicidal. I was angry and hurting, but we were all trying to keep it together. None of us felt as though hospitalization was the best option. Things got worse in the fall of my senior year, November of 2013. The weeks leading up to that I was becoming increasingly moody, angry, and severely depressed again. I made it until the day after homecoming. That next night I told my mom I was going to kill myself, and we had to do something about it. We ended up calling the police, and I was at the hospital for nine days. I found a sharp object, and tried to slit my wrists, but I couldn’t go deep enough. I got out. I was very angry, and became verbally, mentally, and sometimes physically abusive. The police were called several times. It was really bad. I was leading up to my nineteenth birthday, and I was looking to get kicked out because of my actions. I ended up in the hospital one more time. It was a different one this time, and we found it more helpful than any of the others combined. I came home actually stable, and determined to never go back. I stopped cutting, started controlling my anger even when I didn’t feel like it. And then: GOD. I have given so much credit to Him, and I will continue to give Him credit. He has done so much in my life, and is continuing to heal and strengthen me even today. I was writing a short sermon for my local Fine Arts Festival, which is through the Assemblies of God churches throughout the nation. The theme this year was Limitless. I was struggling honestly… I was ignoring God, and kept trying to do it alone. One day I decided to let Him in again. He inspired me to write about Limitless Forgiveness. It changed me FOREVER. I forgave my dad for all the crap. I forgave my mom for anything I hadn’t already let go. I became less angry almost instantly. I stopped screaming and cussing, I was never over the top again. I even far about 3 months was not overly depressed, or anxious, and most of the PTSD symptoms were under control. I was floating on air.

I could leave it at that… I could tell you that’s my story… I could tell you that I haven’t struggled since… but that wouldn’t be true. There are ups and downs, TRUST ME. My dad called in June 2014. That night was the worst PTSD night I have ever experienced. I got that under control, and then I started college that fall. I started cutting, I became suicidal to the point of researching my plan to make sure it would work. I started having panic attacks, and the flashbacks came back. I was hospitalized in November and then again in April and May. We are looking at a possible new diagnosis of Bi-polar. I am about to start an inpatient 90 day treatment for mental health. It is a struggle constantly right now.

But what I have decided is that I am going to get through this. I will survive because I have survived. I will soar on wings like eagles, I will run and not grow weary, and I will walk and not faint, because God has made me new. He is in control, and I give it all up to him. I will not let my past determine what I do today. I know that in some ways, my past does define me. My mistakes don’t, but the mistakes of others do. The way those mistakes and choices effected my life up until now, that has made me who I am today. BUT, the choices I make right now will determine who I become. Now, I will stand tall, and I will move on.

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Kristina C

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 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.

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Andrea

My passion, the one that keeps my sane is writing. I love creating something where there once was nothing. I derive great pleasure out of choosing exactly the right word, crafting a sentence, then a paragraph and finally a finished essay. Writing primarily about mental health and recovery, about my own experiences with my illness, I find that translating my thoughts to the page helps me process what I’ve been through.

I typically identify myself in three ways. Not in any particular order, I am a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), a writer and a person with a severe and persistent mental illness.

When I was around thirty (I’ll be 54 in two months), over the course of three years, I was diagnosed with anorexia, major depressive disorder (the qualifier of psychotic features was added later) and borderline personality disorder (BPD). Those were the days when people didn’t know as much about BPD as we do now; the diagnosis carried many negative connotations and a great deal of stigma. I’ve had over twenty inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations, numerous admissions to day programs and partial hospitalization programs and I lived for three-and-a-half years in a 24/7 supervised residence. I’ve been in therapy for thirty years; the first four were an exercise in futility, the next fifteen were spent in dialectal behavior therapy which was effective in grounding me in the here and now, and putting a halt to the bulk of my self-destructive behaviors. The remaining years have been spent in Transference Focused Psychotherapy (a more psychodynamic treatment for BPD) and it has been extraordinarily helpful.

I’ve been working as an LCSW since 2000. I’ve had to take a bunch of short leaves-of-absence from the two jobs where I was employed for a number of hospitalizations. At my first job, where I worked for almost six years, I returned from a hospitalization and management had curtailed my clinical responsibilities. Humiliated I resigned. I was depressed and it was three years before I could return to even a part-time job. I’ve been working at the outpatient mental health clinic where I am currently employed for six-and-a-half years. My responsibilities include primarily administrative responsibilities and not so much clinical. I prefer the detail-oriented and almost obsessive-like qualities that are needed for this more global approach to my work. It satisfies my thirst for clinical knowledge while feeding my need to be almost, but not quite perfect. Imperfectly perfect. Like the anorexic I once was.

My passion, the one that keeps me sane, is writing. I love creating something where there once was nothing. I derive great pleasure out of choosing exactly the right word, crafting a sentence, then a paragraph and finally a finished essay. Writing primarily about mental health and recovery, about my own experiences with my illness, I find that translating my thoughts to the page helps me process what I’ve been through. Often, I’ll bring a piece of writing into my therapy session and we’ll both be surprised by the insights that emerge. I’ve published my work primarily in literary journals and anthologies. I post a blog almost every weekend on the website of a national magazine and I enjoy reading and responding to the comments.

I’ve come a long way, but I have a ways to go. I’ll continue in therapy and at my job, and with my writing. I’m working on a book, a memoir of how my illness affected me and the insights I’ve gained along the way. I’m proud of what I have accomplished and I also have regrets. A sweet sadness is tinged because there are some deeds that can’t be undone.

It’s been a long haul. And now I can finally say that I like myself.

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Kristine S

Over the years, I have lost so many friends due to my eating disorder, and this is one of the main reasons why I have joined this community, to get myself back into the world, develop relationships again, and be a part of something positive; also, fulfilling my future dream of becoming a therapist so that I can help others in beating this deadly disorder. What I want is to live a balanced life, and what this means for me is living my life to my fullest by learning, experiencing, and just living in the moment. Life is a journey, and I am ready to take mine.

My name is Kristine, and I was hospitalized for Anorexia at age 16, but my symptoms really started to emerge when I was 13 after I had been in a traumatic car accident while driving with my dad. That horrific moment changed me forever. I began to isolate myself, falling into the trap of an eating disorder in order to cope with the intense feelings that I kept bottled up inside.

Right now I am 20 years old, and over the last 7 years I have been constantly battling my eating disorder. I have been in and out of treatment, but this time is different; now that I am an adult, I have made my own choice to check myself into outpatient recovery on my own, which I have always been forced to do in the past, but now it is my choice. I have finally decided that I have had enough of my eating disorder; now, I am truly passionate about recovery and I am more than ready to take back my life.

Lately, I have been doing very well; my treatment team loves my enthusiasm and all of the effort that I am putting into recovery. As I have gained back my health, I have been able to see things so much clearer; I now realize that there is so much more to life than this eating disorder. I am starting to find myself beyond my eating disorder, and that is definitely worth all of the hard work that I have had to do to get to this point in my recovery.

Over the years, I have lost so many friends due to my eating disorder, and this is one of the main reasons why I have joined this community, to get myself back into the world, develop relationships again, and be a part of something positive; also, fulfilling my future dream of becoming a therapist so that I can help others in beating this deadly disorder.

What I want is to live a balanced life, and what this means for me is living my life to my fullest by learning, experiencing, and just living in the moment. Life is a journey, and I am ready to take mine.

Now, I would not say that I am completely recovered; I still struggle with my eating disorder, which is why I am here, for support from people who truly understand. But, by continuing to choose recovery, I am much freer, happier, and healthier than I have ever been, and it feels great. This whole eating disorder is NOT worth it! No one should have to go through all of the pain, suffering, depression, anxiety, and turmoil that this deadly, manipulative disorder forces upon them. We have a choice to let this disorder go and live our lives to our fullest.

I was in a serious car accident when I was thirteen years old and I feel like this traumatic experience was what set off my eating disorder because, ever since, I have been isolating, holding my feelings inside, feeling lost, and disconnecting from everyone that loved me. I used the eating disorder to cope with all of the stress, but this unhealthy behavior lead me down a miserable, dangerous, and lonely road, and I am not going down that road again.

This time around, after five years of being in and out of both inpatient and outpatient treatment, I am truly dedicated to getting my life back. I am passionate about helping others through their journey’s, but I always seem to slip when I focus on recovery myself. I have been getting lazy with my recovery, giving into ED behaviors and thinking that everything is going to be okay, that nothing will happen. I was so naive. I am still young, thinking that I am invincible, when I am not. I learned this today when my whole world came to a stop.

I was rushing through my life, on a binge of nonstop work before my holiday break came, which is typically an eating disorder pattern that I fall into, but this time, I was determined to break it. I had promised my treatment team that I was not going to give into my eating disorder before the holiday, and I was committed. But, one moment, just one moment I had slipped and gave into my eating disorder because I felt like I had to. In these moments, I am like a drug addict, doing whatever I can to get that next high. I knew that I would pay for this, but I didn’t think it would be in such a horrific way. On my way to group therapy, I got in a car accident. Fortunately, I was not hurt, but, just a second later and I would have been killed. My whole front bumper was destroyed as the other car T-boned me, it all happened so fast, and I was shaken up and scared to death, but this was the perfect reminder that this disorder is serious.

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. The fact that I had survived the car accident when I was thirteen, and the accident that I was in today, means that I am meant to do great things for others, to tell my story so that people can take this disorder seriously. I gave into my eating disorder, and the universe snapped me out of it. A car accident is one of the major factors that caused me to slip into this disorder, and ironically, another car accident is going to be what snaps me out of it. I do not know why things like this happen, but it is all for a reason, and I believe that my reason is to help others. I will do whatever it takes, I will dedicate my life to ending this disorder, and I hope that you all take this very seriously. The universe has given me many signs, and now, I am truly letting this disorder go. Even if this karma stuff is not true, still believing in it will only help me recover. I’m angry at my eating disorder, I’m angry at myself for giving into its irrational lies. I am ending this now. Finally coming out of the fog and letting go of this eating disorder. This is my story, and I hope you all use it as inspiration to overcome this eating disorder. Recovery is possible, and I know that we can all do it. We are all very strong people and, if we put our minds to it, we can overcome this eating disorder.

An eating disorder is a death sentence, and we have a chance at recovery, so we should take it. Just let it go, and wake up. Look for the signs that the universe gives you and always follow your heart and everything will work out. Trust me. We are very insightful people and meant for great things, so just believe in yourself. Please, never give up and stay strong.

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Beth

I really wanted to call this submission, “I’m the perfect mother. So why are my kids so screwed up?”, but I don’t want to offend my kids. They are perfect. Too perfect. Both of my kids suffer the mental, and physical, effects of OCD.

I really wanted to call this submission, “I’m the perfect mother. So why are my kids so screwed up?”, but I don’t want to offend my kids. They are perfect. Too perfect. Both of my kids suffer the mental, and physical, effects of OCD.

Last year, my son entered his freshman year at a prestigious college on a full four-year scholarship. He’s incredibly talented and smart. He’s perfect. Too perfect. He struggled with what he thought was depression and adjustment issues, but was ultimately diagnosed with OCD. Surprisingly, this diagnosis was a relief – he finally had a name for why he was feeling so depressed, so anxious and so out of control. Perfectionism has a price. Despite him being in another city, in another state, I spent countless days trying to find the right resources to heal him. I did not stop until I found the perfect treatment team. We certainly went through our share of counselors who dismissed his anxieties as “first year adjustment”. Had I not been diligent, the consequences could have been dire. He was truly struggling – emotionally, mentally, socially, academically – and as a parent, this was the hardest thing to watch. But he used his academic acuity to learn everything he could about OCD, its affects, its treatment, and the countless others who deal with it. On his own, he learned meditation and yoga, aggressively researched and implemented a healthy eating plan, and began working out. He took control and I like to think he healed himself, and learned some very important life lessons along the way.

My teenage daughter has perfectionist issues too. I swear I was not one of those parents who pushes their kids to be perfect. I was not a tiger mom. Or a helicopter parent. I set early expectations that my kids would be successful and diligent about their schoolwork, but they became very self-disciplined and independently-driven early on.

My daughter was recently diagnosed with an eating disorder. I had suspected it, but it’s hard to see when it’s your own child. I saw that she had been losing weight, looking withdrawn, but it was when a doctor who had known her for years said, “I’m shocked. She looks sick.” I was almost embarrassed to take her to her pediatrician. Somehow, I feel like he would judge me…like I’m a failure as a mother.

While my son’s OCD is driven by obsession to be perfect, her OCD is driven by a compulsion over food. She fiercely studies ingredients, measures every strawberry, every bite of sweet potato. She will only eat food she prepares herself. She eats her vegetables and salads dry. She used to love going out to dinner, but will no longer go. As with my son, I spent countless hours taking her to doctors and seeking out the perfect treatment team. It took so much of our time, but we found it – the perfect treatment team – a nutritionist and counselors she connects with, and more importantly, trusts. She too ahs accepted responsibility and is working hard to heal herself.

What scares me most about my experience, is that I really had to fight and search to find the right treatment for my kids. Many parents don’t have the time or resources to go this extra mile to find treatment that feels comfortable, is meaningful and makes progress.

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Elicia

I was bullied in school for as long as I can remember, got kicked, pinched, called fat and ugly, which only got worse as the years passed by. I spent all my time at home on the computer as an escape from real life. Since I was hearing that I was fat so often, I started believing it. I thought that maybe if I just lost 5 pounds I wouldn't be picked on so much, and maybe actually be popular, cute and small.

I was bullied in school for as long as I can remember, got kicked, pinched, called fat and ugly, which only got worse as the years passed by. I spent all my time at home on the computer as an escape from real life. Since I was hearing that I was fat so often, I started believing it. I thought that maybe if I just lost 5 pounds I wouldn’t be picked on so much, and maybe actually be popular, cute and small. So I did. I lost 5 pounds, but that wasn’t enough. I kept thinking just 5 more pounds but it was a never ending cycle. I started skipping breakfast which then led to lunch and then dinner. I went stretches of days without eating and at the time felt good about it. I was always cold, my hair was brittle and my skin was falling off. I always got blackouts that would last for at least 2 minutes, and once in which it led to me fainting. My first hospital stay was on July 30th – August 13th of 2012. I had a tube down my nose and needles in my arms and was on bed rest. After that, not knowing it, I had 3 treatment centers and lots of work ahead of me. I didn’t care if I died at the time. I dropped weight rapidly and hunched over like I was 90 years old. I could barely walk. Today, I am still in recovery, but I have come so far and there is no way I am going to let Anorexia rule me again. Recovery is SO worth it. I am now healthy, energetic, and happy. I love my life again and don’t get me wrong, sometimes the voices in my head still try to creep in, but I push them away.

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LaCinda

At 15 I was even told that at 5'3 if I didn't weigh 100 lbs or less, I wasn't small enough. This led to an eating disorder, contributed to depression, and added to anxiety that I had since I was little. For many years I have hurt myself with words, thoughts, and allowed others to do the same to me.

I am 26 years old and live in a small town in Georgia. Life circumstances have proven to be somewhat of a bully. For many reasons, high school and middle school did not prove to be a positive memory. Family and personal issues became the routine for my life. At a young age, I learned what it was like to have very poor or no self-esteem. I hated myself even as a child. I was told by certain people who were supposed to love and support me that I was fat, wouldn’t find anyone, and had to stand on scales every day. At 15 I was even told that at 5’3 if I didn’t weigh 100 lbs or less, I wasn’t small enough. This led to an eating disorder, contributed to depression, and added to anxiety that I had since I was little. For many years I have hurt myself with words, thoughts, and allowed others to do the same to me. I have had a very difficult time feeling as though I am good at anything,  that I am acceptable on the inside and out, and that my best is good enough. However, I have chosen to fight, to not let this exhausting, frustrating, disheartening obstacle win. The singer Mandisa says it best to me…

“You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer.”

For me, my faith has kept me going. I have some physical attributes that contribute to things also, but in the end…I am keeping faith. I am in graduate school working to become a counselor. I eventually want to be able to speak and share my story. I know what mental illness can do to someone…what it does to you when medicine just won’t help, what crying yourself to sleep most nights really means, and the impact of what being lonely and afraid feels like. I hope to give back to people who are struggling in unseen ways, the ones who put on a mask every day, the ones who try to please everyone else and others words and actions impacting them even years later. 

I want to be able to let others know that they are not weak, even when you are told it so many times, that you are worthy of feeling love, and that you can do this. You are not alone, even when you feel as if you are in a well and it’s so deep you barely see the tiny light above you, but help never comes. While I still struggle and have to try and manage it carefully, it has made me who I am and more empathetic to others. Hospital stays, racing thoughts, low self-esteem, crying nights… all have played a role in my life, but it does not define me. I am here to say you can do this!!!

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Jackson McQ

I want anybody who's struggling to know that I'm okay now even though i never thought i would be.

I am a transgender male. I have been in and out of mental hospitals 6 times since august of 2016, for depression, anxiety, bulimia, self harm, and suicide attempts.

My reason for doing this is to say, I’m stable now. I’m not perfect, I’m not happy. But it went from self harm every other day, to being a month clean.

Death isn’t the only thing on my mind anymore. I want anybody who’s struggling to know that I’m okay now even though i never thought i would be.

So i want anybody reading this to know that it does get better, even now i still think about cutting every time i see a knife. I do think about throwing up every time i eat. It’s not easy. It’s not fun.

But i’m to the point where it’s livable. Which is a lot more than i was. And eventually, anybody struggling with similar things will be too.

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Tori Z.

It is normal to be sad, we are human. A little sadness is what keeps us balanced. The thing is I was sad most of the time. I was sad starting at such a young age. You’re not supposed to feel that way from your earliest memories. I stopped speaking up about it because I was constantly told it was the way I was supposed to feel.

Since I was young I can’t remember a time where I didn’t feel self-conscious about my body. Even when I was in first grade, six years old, I would change my outfits because I would tell myself I looked too fat in them. I was never happy with the way I looked. Being a minority, growing up I thought I wasn’t beautiful because the pretty girls were always depicted as this blonde hair, blue eyed girls. The way I saw myself only got worse once I got into middle school. With so much changing in my body, I couldn’t stand that I was gaining weight and changing in ways I wasn’t educated on.

When I would speak up about the way I was feeling, the sad thoughts, the self-conscious feeling, the isolated feeling, I always got the same response, ‘That’s normal.’. It’s not their fault, though. That’s what we’re taught. It’s normal to feel that way. It’s normal because we don’t talk about it. We need to talk about it. Educate parents to look for the signs.

I have a diary entry from when I was eight. I wrote in my Lisa Frank diary, that I just wanted to die. I wrote in vivid detail for an eight-year-old, how I just wanted to die. At eight you’re not supposed to want to die or be self-conscious about the way you look. Is it still normal?

It is normal to be sad, we are human. A little sadness is what keeps us balanced. The thing is I was sad most of the time. I was sad starting at such a young age. You’re not supposed to feel that way from your earliest memories. I stopped speaking up about it because I was constantly told it was the way I was supposed to feel. I was raised with people making fun of me for crying at movies, but why is it bad to have empathy?

I was scared to show who I was so I bottled up how I was feeling and isolated myself. I wanted to be in control in all of this pain that I couldn’t control. I started to self-harm at twelve years old. I was the one making me hurt, so I could finally be in control. I began feeling more and more isolated from my peers. I didn’t want people to know. I would hide it. All I wanted was to die. I never wanted to be at school. All of the tendencies just got worse over the years.

I thought everyone felt the way I did until my freshman year of high school. I was fourteen and one of my classmates said, ‘I don’t get why people are depressed, just be happy.’. That’s when it really hit me that most people are just uneducated on the subject. At this point, I started to educate myself on what was going on in my head.

Soon after I opened up to my parents about how I was feeling. I still didn’t feel like any of my emotions were validated. Up until I explicitly asked for help from a professional, I didn’t receive any. It’s not their fault, though, they were never taught about this disease. They were raised on the idea that someone with a mental disorder is supposed to be in a straitjacket locked up somewhere.

Once I finally started receiving the professional help I started to see a turnaround. I finally had someone to tell me I’m not crazy. Have someone explain to me that I’m not to blame for being depressed, having anxiety, or self-harming. It all has to do with chemicals in our brains. I finally started to get better. Now it was a long process. I still self-harmed up until over a year later, but it’s been over three years since I last did. Up until the summer, I turned seventeen I really didn’t feel okay.

That summer I sailed the BVI’s and saw life in a different light. Likewise, I had so much time to reflect by myself. I would spend hours by myself thinking about how I want to be able to do this year from now. I thought about how I wanted to bring my future family here and show them what I saw. I knew I couldn’t do that if I didn’t make the choice to be okay.

Now I am beyond happy with where my life is. If you would have asked me three years ago where I see myself in four years I would have answered, ‘dead.’. I never expected to be as happy as I am now. I am the optimist I envied. I used to have a hard time getting out of bed to go to school, but now I love going out and making new friends. Granted there are still hard times, but that’s life. There are hard times, but not hard times like before.

It’s possible to get better, you just have to surround yourself with people that understand you. Every time I speak out now I only receive an outpouring of love. I’ve had some people tell me they went through the same thing but never told anyone. They were too afraid to speak up. It was so difficult for me to speak up, but once I did, things only got better.

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Sarah S

Even though I live with depression and anxiety I am not dangerous, unstable, or needy. I am able to give love and support to others, to be a wife and mother, and to live free from the self-destructive behaviors that once consumed my life.

As a girl with scars, stigma is an experience from which I have no respite. Every day I wake up to a world that knows that at some point I sliced into my arm—over and over. I notice people noticing and it is hard to look them in the eye. I have my reasons for assuming that they will judge me. When I was a teenager I lost a job, was asked to leave multiple schools, and was told by my friend’s mother, “do not call here anymore” — all for no other reason than I kept hurting myself.

So now even though I have 11 years of sobriety from eating disorders and self-harm I am still afraid. Afraid that I won’t get a job. Afraid that people still don’t want to be associated with a girl with scars. Afraid that people will judge the outside as broken. And afraid of admitting to the anxiety I still feel.

But the truth is that the depression and anxiety I live with are neuro-chemical disorders. I didn’t choose this anymore than a person living with any other medical condition chose that condition. Even though I live with depression and anxiety I am not dangerous, unstable, or needy. I am able to give love and support to others, to be a wife and mother, and to live free from the self-destructive behaviors that once consumed my life.

The truth is that 1 in 4 adults will have a diagnosable mental illness in the course of this year, BUT 2/3 of those people will not seek help because they are afraid of stigma destroying their lives.

I am standing up to stigma. I refuse to allow it to shape the way I relate to the world anymore.

I am going to shamelessly ask for all the help I need.

I am going to relentlessly keep telling the truth about mental illness.

And I am going to fearlessly share hope every time I get the chance.

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Sianna S

I worried so much about being liked by others, that I forgot to love myself, and make myself happy.

I do know, I struggle with anxiety and depression. I have tried, three times to take my life, to kill myself. I do self harm, but I’m struggling to stay clean.

I’ve been bullied about my weight since I ever started school. But, I started self harm in 6th grade. Constant bullying, and all the fights at home, it destroyed me. 8th grade, my grandma found out I self harmed. She told me she understood, and wanted me to get help.

Sadly, it cannot happen. My mother, she thinks it’s a huge trend. That it’s for attention. I can’t get her to understand. It’s hard when your mother doesn’t understand. But, I know I’m not the only one. Recovery can happen. It will happen. My mother may not support me, but I have my friends, my grandmother, my brother, and my amazing boyfriend.

Just keep being yourself. I worried so much about being liked by others, that I forgot to love myself, and make myself happy. Be happy with who you are, and don’t change for anyone, because everyone is beautiful the way they are. I’m gonna get through this, and at least I know, and I hope everyone else does –  they’re not alone. For everyone. Someone cares about you, even if it’s only me.

We can do this.

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Kaylee

The next day I was at school and for some reason I just lost it. I found myself in the guidance counselors office bawling my eyes out. I told her everything. Before this, no one knew about my depression. I never told because I didn't think I had a reason to be depressed. I had food in my stomach, clothes on my back and a roof over my head.

I’ve always had lingering symptoms of depression and anxiety growing up. My parents fought constantly. My home was a warzone. I was scared to go home from school everyday. I grew up believing that’s what love was. So I hit middle school and of course that’s when you start getting interested in relationships and boys and stuff. I was scared to love. I didn’t know how to love. I didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship. So I treated people pretty bad. Even my friends.

For some odd reason I did have plenty of friends. I was also great at sports and was a straight A student. What more could you ask for right? In 6th grade there was this boy that was a year older than me. I don’t know what I did to make him mad. He would bully me and get his friends to help. They would call me sir and they decided to call me “Kyle” instead of my actual name Kaylee. I pretended it didn’t bother me, but it really damaged my self esteem. This is when I started struggling more with my anxiety.

After 8th grade, I moved to a Christian High School. I loved it. The kids were nicer and so were the staff. This was such a good change for me, but this is when depression hit me like a hurricane. I mentioned it was a Christian school I moved to. Well, I wasn’t very religious. I believed in God, but no one would have ever guess I was a Christian because I sure did not act like it. It was hard to relate to people at this new school. Everyone seemed so happy. They were so involved with God and Church and I wasn’t. I thought that made me a bad person. Also, I was no longer a top athlete or a top student. I started seeing myself as even more worthless than before.

My sophomore year, my grandma got very sick. She had open heart surgery 5 days before my 16th birthday. She was expected to  make a full recovery. She was in and out of the hospital for about 2 months and during those 2 months of watching my best friend suffer, I started cutting. It started off as something I could control, but then it took over and controlled me. I would cut 3-4 times a week maybe more. I was just so numb and I just needed to feel something. I felt guilty that my grandma had to suffer. She was a great person who didn’t deserve that pain. I thought I did. So I punished myself by cutting.

Things slowly got worse. July 15th, 2015, I get a call at 3 in the morning. My grandpa was trying to contact my parents. My grandmas heart rate had slowed down. She was going to be leaving soon. My parents rushed to the hospital. I called my dad to come and get me because I couldn’t go to sleep knowing I would wake up and my grandma wouldn’t. I walked into her hospital room and I grabbed her hand. I watched my best friend take her last breath. That night, part of me died with her. I completely shut down. I didn’t grieve. I built a wall and moved on. I made it through the funeral, but couldn’t even go to the burial. Inside, I was a mess. But I pretended nothing happened and just kept going.

The cutting got worse and eventually I wanted to kill myself. There were nights where I was going to do it. One night was especially bad and I was talking to a friend with the pills in one hand and the phone in the other. Somehow she talked me out of it. That’s when I hit rock bottom. The next day I was at school and for some reason I just lost it. I found myself in the guidance counselors office bawling my eyes out. I told her everything. Before this, no one knew about my depression. I never told because I didn’t think I had a reason to be depressed. I had food in my stomach, clothes on my back and a roof over my head. I thought that since I was a Christian now, I couldn’t be sad. I thought I was over reacting. All those nights I cried and cut. All those panic attacks at social events. I thought it was my fault. I thought I wasn’t trying hard enough to be happy or to be a good Christian.

The guidance counselor helped me tell my parents and I got set up with a counselor. I’ve been seeing a counselor and taking antidepressants for about 9 months now. I’m not where I want to be, but recovery is a day by day process and I’m moving forward.

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Kyle H

4 months ago, my school guidance counselor died. And we were super close. We talked all the time.

Five years ago, my dad left me. I didn’t take to it that well. In fact, he wasn’t my actual dad. I learned shortly before he left from a letter from my biological dad’s ex-wife. So it made it harder. The feeling that my real dad and my ‘dad’ didn’t want me.

I drank, did drugs, and self-harmed. I even attempted suicide. I eventually lost my best friend / girlfriend, moved and started over. More recently, 4 months ago, my school guidance counselor died. And we were super close. We talked all the time. And then my girlfriend broke up with me right before we spread her ashes.

Then shortly after that, my mom and little brother moved away and I had to move in with my friend. From the moment I knew everything was happening, to when they left, was in total two days. Then I tore up my ankle, which means I can’t play football my senior season. The season that is critical to getting a scholarship.

I am on medication for more recent events. I’ve harmed myself. And I’ve had thoughts of suicide again. In going through all this, I’ve been left with serious issues. I have abandonment issues, trust issues, anxiety, depression, stress, I can’t sleep, I don’t want to eat. I am mentally unstable. And I am trying to pull through this. And I hope to share this story to show people that they are not alone in their situations. And someone is always there.

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Amanda W

I have a serious problem and I will keep telling my story to every one. No one deserves to suffer like I do. I know that I don't deserve to feel this way. My hope with making this public is for someone to realize it's okay to have mental illness. You are not seeking attention you have a medical issue.

Hello fellow humans my name is Amanda and I have depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I first started experiencing depression when I was 14. I was raped on my high school campus and no matter what I did I was still forced to see him and interact with my rapist. He harassed me through out high school and it made me feel absolutely worthless. So I started cutting. To this day I still cut. I don’t do it with suicidal intentions. I just can’t afford medical care to properly treat my illness.

After high school I started working and going to work really helped my depression. I made friends who did not attend my high school who understood and supported me but in return working nonstop has given me anxiety. I was a server at a restaurant for about a year and I met some of the most amazing people. I even met a guy who understood and helped me deal with my past and move from it. But I was fired from this job and the guy left me. I couldn’t understand why I was fired so I took it out on the amazing people.

Since then I have struggled. Work helps my depression but fuels my anxiety and panic attacks. Some days it also triggers my self harm episodes. Whether it is cutting or hitting myself I have no control over the problem. I have tried to seek help but living in a small close minded town. I often get told I am just looking for attention.

I have a serious problem and I will keep telling my story to every one. No one deserves to suffer like I do. I know that I don’t deserve to feel this way. My hope with making this public is for someone to realize it’s okay to have mental illness. You are not seeking attention you have a medical issue. And that maybe you can stand up and help yourself in ways I have not.

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Angelina

Please if you suffer from mental illness or just some symptoms, go and as for help! I know it's hard, probably one of the hardest things you have to do: but it's worth the panic attack when you're on your way to the doctor, it's worth all the tears you cry just thinking about you appointment, it's worth not being able to eat because you're anxious about the appointment.

I’ve had symptoms like insomnia, carelessness and being in my own world since I was a kid. Back then no one did anything because they didn’t know what to do and it was left on its own for a few years. I always struggled with being extremely aggressive, what made it really hard to find friends. When I was 14 I started self-harming and excessive drinking, but I was good at school so no one really took that seriously. At 17 one of my sisters forced my mum to get me help, because I had cut way too deep. One year later I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Major Depression. Even diagnosed it was really hard for me to ask for help or to even talk about it. I was ashamed of my illnesses.

But I’m glad that after two years and a visit in a psychiatric hospital I can say that I’m better. I asked for help, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m not healed and I’ll never be, no one will, but I know now how my illnesses work and what I can do to prevent a relapse!

Please if you suffer from mental illness or just some symptoms, go and as for help! I know it’s hard, probably one of the hardest things you have to do: but it’s worth the panic attack when you’re on your way to the doctor, it’s worth all the tears you cry just thinking about you appointment, it’s worth not being able to eat because you’re anxious about the appointment.

But you have to go and you’ll get help and it will get better.

I’m 20 now and I can deal with my mental illnesses, and that made my life a lot better and easier.

It gets better, I promise.

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Anna K

For mental health week at my school, there was an anonymous drop box where students could write their stories with mental illnesses. I submitted my story, thinking it would be a good outlet to let out my emotions. My story was read in front of the entire school in an assembly, and I told one girl who I thought was my friend that it was my story. She proceeded to tell the entire grade, and of course, the entire grade proceeded to bully me more.

When I was in grade 3, my mom couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be around anybody, and didn’t have many friends. She took me to the doctor, and then to a mental illness hospital, where I was diagnosed with social anxiety. I didn’t really understand what it meant, I thought I was just a bit shy, because that’s what my teacher would tell me. That same year, my teacher noticed I wouldn’t pay attention in class. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get through the lesson without getting distracted by something. I went back to the mental illness hospital, and was diagnosed with ADHD.

Since mental illnesses were something completely new to me, I didn’t understand why I was scared of people or why I couldn’t pay attention and listen to anything. Fast forward a few months, my best friend was switching schools, so I did too. We were at different schools, and he was my only friend, so I was terrified of a new school. First day of 4th grade, I cried the entire day. Nobody wanted to be near me, and nobody tried to talk to me. I isolated myself from everyone else, I was the weird kid. The asshole kids thought it would be funny to make fun of me, and I was emotionally bullied that entire year.

In 5th grade, there were two new people who didn’t get along with the other kids too. I made friends with them, and stuff wasn’t too bad. That’s when the physical bullying started. The mean kids would pile on top of me, and hold me down. They would call me names, throw things like chairs and basketballs at me, they hated me. I started to believe what they were saying was true, and that I really did deserve death.

I figured out what I had was depression after hearing the story of Amanda Todd in grade 6. So I was a 12 year old girl with social anxiety, ADHD, and depression. I finally left the school after grade 6, I thought I was finally free. I decided to go to an all girls private school, what could go wrong? In October of grade 7, one of my friends from my last school was diagnosed with lung cancer. He went through waves of severe depression, and when he was told he had gone terminal, he jumped off his balcony on the 20th floor. I was stricken with the worst depression and anxiety I had ever had, and I didn’t think I could go on. I also have a balcony, on the second floor. I stood on the edge, millimetres away from my wanted death. I thought about my other friend from my last school, and how hard it would be to lose your two best friends. I fell back onto the balcony, and went inside as if nothing had happened.

During grade 7, the emotional bullying started up again. There was one girl in particular who made up countless rumours about me, like that I only self-harmed for the attention and that I was born a boy and was transgender, and that’s why I was so ugly. It was around this time that I got more into music, bands like twenty øne piløts and Panic! At The Disco. By the time I was in grade 8, I was starting to make a recovery from my friends suicide. The bullying continued, I tried to ignore it. Much like what happened in my last school, I started believing what they were saying about me. In May of grade 8, my other friend from my old school took his life too. It was like getting hit by a bus, standing up, then getting hit by ten more immediately. My depression and anxiety multiplied, I wanted to die more than ever. I jumped off my balcony, but survived with merely a broken arm.

For mental health week at my school, there was an anonymous drop box where students could write their stories with mental illnesses. I submitted my story, thinking it would be a good outlet to let out my emotions. My story was read in front of the entire school in an assembly, and I told one girl who I thought was my friend that it was my story. She proceeded to tell the entire grade, and of course, the entire grade proceeded to bully me more. They would ask to sign my cast, then write “kill yourself for real this time” and “attention seeking whore”.

The only things that kept me going were music and my best friend. I changed schools after grade 8, and just recently graduated grade 9 at my new school. My new school is much more welcoming, I haven’t been bullied at all yet. In the 15 years of my life, I’ve dealt with multiple forms of anxiety, adhd, depression, 2 suicides, and endless bullying. Music and my best friends are what have kept and still keep me going.

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Sireen M

But now, when I'm around people, I pretend to be someone else, someone less invisible. My whole persona changes when I'm around a different sets of people. I'm like a Chameleon, changing shapes to blend into the people around me. I don't feel like a real person, just a paper doll twisted into different poses.

All my life I’ve felt different from the other kids. They always seemed so happy and sure of themselves. I was never the kid that people liked talking to because I wasn’t like them. Even on the rare occasion when people seemed nice I always had to question their motives. I’m not sure how to describe what I feel other than I feel disassociated from other people. For a long time I was depressed, that was until high school when I found people who seemed just as obscure as I felt.

But now, when I’m around people, I pretend to be someone else, someone less invisible. My whole persona changes when I’m around different sets of people. I’m like a Chameleon, changing shapes to blend into the people around me. I don’t feel like a real person, just a paper doll twisted into different poses. I get these thoughts, and I know they’re bad, but I can’t help it. I get angry and want to hurt people, and sometimes I can see it so vividly.

I used to self harm, not because I hated myself, but because I hated other people and would take it out on my own body. I know it’s wrong, but it feels like this dark part of me is the only part of myself I know is truly mine; not something I learned or copied from someone else just to fit in. It’s been getting worse, lately I just feel restless and insatiable. I feel wrong, so wrong in fact, that I’ve tried to determine ,myself, what’s wrong with me.

I can’t count how many online tests I’ve taken, trying to determine the flaw in my programming. I’ve never gone to a therapist, only because I know what people would think and say of me, what my parents would think and say of me. I want help, but I can’t get any without my parents knowing. I feel like if they did they’d hate me or try to get me exorcised. I don’t know what to do. I feel hopeless.

I’m happy to see sites like this, maybe, sometime in the future, I won’t have to be so afraid and unwilling to ask for help and treatment.

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Taylor J

Actions I took leading me to the path of recovery were never right, nor wrong, but simply another step forward. I did not have to do it alone. The heaviness that sunk in my chest started to become lighter, allowing me to breathe a little better and speak a little louder. When my illness first developed, I thought strength came from the ability to hide emotions and handle them completely on one’s own. However, when I showed vulnerability, allowing my feelings to pour into words, I seized a strength that many people run away from. The way we view and talk about those who have a mental illness needs to be addressed. There is no “getting over it” or “calming down;” it is an illness of the brain with life altering repercussions. Living with mental illness did not make me a stronger person, but it let me wonder, learn, and fight for a cause needing further recognition.

As children, we are told to eat our vegetables, brush our teeth, bathe, sleep regularly and, if we fall or get injured, to ask for help. But, when we fall or get hurt by feelings such as loneliness or hopelessness, we hesitate asking for the same care as we would for a physical injury.

The illnesses I have been diagnosed with are not curable, and have major potential of relapse. However, they are treatable and can be well-managed. The most exhausting days within my recovery were spent in bed; breathing to stay alive when my mind convinced me to stop. My illness thrived on isolation which challenged my ability to communicate.

Stigma is resulted by basing judgment off little information and acceptance. When stigma is involved, it creates a barrier for people to ask questions or come forward with honest concern due to the fear of discrimination, rejection, and ridicule from others. Unfortunately, stigma of mental illness continues to be active in politics, families, schools, organizations, work, and much more.

While learning about my diagnoses, I noticed I placed significant value and practice toward physical health and hygiene, but less effort and value toward mental wellbeing. It is no surprise that the topic of mental illness has been poorly addressed, since we are not taught to take care of our brain the same way we take care of the rest of our body. Likewise, when television broadcasts mass terrorist attacks stating the root cause as mental illness, it is easy to believe the myth that those who have mental illness are doomed to be dangerous and unpredictable.

With the brain being the most complex yet crucial organ of the body, a diagnosis of mental illness can present debilitating symptoms both mentally and physically. Despite proof of physical evidence, overall health is diminished along with quality of life. We would not let a broken leg fix itself, or hope that heart disease magically heals on its own. If the severity of mental illness is discredited, the value of a person’s wellbeing becomes limited. Signs and symptoms are often ignored or poorly communicated, increasing the risk of suicide and other catastrophic events of those affected by untreated or unknown mental illness.

As a child, I myself trusted the myths surrounding mental illness. I believed those who committed suicide were selfish, that depression meant a person was lazy, and anxiety was an attention-seeking tactic. But as I grew older, I became victim to the world of mental illness. During my most severe symptoms, I often became frustrated with feelings of failure. Tasks that seemed to flow so smoothly for others were my most challenging achievements. Lifting my body out of bed had been a daily struggle that lead me to question my purpose of living. I battled endless thoughts of unworthiness, blame, guilt, and shame starting at the young age of 8.

Growing up, I lived in a wealthy and religious community where my feelings were held in silence. I did not understand why I felt the way I did, which lead me to conclude that I was ungrateful and selfish. Since I appeared healthy, it was hard to vocalize and gain support for something I could not show. As I tried to use my voice to express what felt wrong, it became paralyzed by the overwhelming stigma attached to mental illness. Many of my friends, family, and other individuals would press for answers, looking for an explanation, only to blame my character as being flawed. Instead of my illness, I was frequently viewed as an inconvenience and burden to others. This lead to a dangerous cycle of self-abuse which was used to soothe intense emotions I was unable to speak about.

Over time, my mind became crippled by crushing loneliness. I controlled my tiring thoughts by numbing the feelings I was ashamed of having. Through punishment such as starvation, purging, or puncturing my skin, I found temporary relief that reflected the way I felt inside. In order to repress my emotions, my mind flooded with obsessive thoughts, behaviors, and rituals that devoted my life to a world of numbers.

I was driven by the bathroom floor scale which determined my worth. Calories, weight, inches, clothing sizes, and the number of protruding bones I could count on my body were all methods to escape the misery of my mind. I thought that if I was able to feel pain physically, then it would be valid and real and people would be able to see the suffering I was in. However, I never got to that point and continued to appear healthy, despite my body weakening within. This influenced my behavior to escalate; drowning my head with toxic beliefs.
Unhealthy brain signals convinced me that I deserved punishment; virtually dying from a slow and painful suicide. After years of damage to my body, I began to lose power in my ability to function. At 19 years old, I attempted to take my own life. I did not believe I would ever get better or that the pain would end. I was desperate for a way to disconnect from excruciating torture I put myself through. I was living a life of pure blame and failure that sunk heavy in my chest. Until I was hospitalized, I was unaware of any other option.
I was later diagnosed with major depression, panic disorder, and bulimia nervosa. An absence of understanding and compassion was considerably high from those who were in my life. I was often told by family to try harder, as they were frustrated with my episodes of relapse. I was told I was not doing enough, desperately seeking attention and did not appreciate life which is why I was not getting better. Over and over again, I was told other people have “real” problems, but that did not make my illness go away.

I began to notice the lack of knowledge and education people had about mental illness, including myself. Once I started to learn about the illnesses I was diagnosed with, I quickly discovered that I was not alone in the battle I was fighting. Through various treatments of medication and therapy I learned that my mental illness did not identify me as a person; my symptoms were simply symptoms – not an expression of my character. I also learned that having a support system was vital to recovery, though that was not as easy to find as I thought.

Though I lost support from my family, I was able to find the help and care I deserved. In the most unexpected ways, I gained hope through school, work, and volunteering. From long friendships to new ones, I was provided unconditional love and promise of my worthiness to live. My number one supporter had to be me; vowing to take care of my wellbeing from the inside out. This meant doctor and therapy appointments, meal plans, medications, and the courage to be unapologetically myself.

What I know for certain about life is that it changes constantly.

The success I have built through recovery has been discovered as a journey rather than a destination. At first, I was clueless on how to take care of myself. Lab results and hospitalization confirmed that I was at risk of losing my life. I had to change my behaviors, thoughts, and the way I felt about myself.

Recovery meant letting go of the life I was living to begin the life that was waiting for me. To begin my journey, I first had to believe I was worthy of the trip. I had to persist through all the crummy parts that manipulated my opportunities to succeed. With nutrition I was provided in the course of treatment, my body began to heal years of damage. I started to break free from an abusive long-term relationship with my illness and understand what happiness meant to me.

Actions I took leading me to the path of recovery were never right, nor wrong, but simply another step forward. I did not have to do it alone. The heaviness that sunk in my chest started to become lighter, allowing me to breathe a little better and speak a little louder. When my illness first developed, I thought strength came from the ability to hide emotions and handle them completely on one’s own. However, when I showed vulnerability, allowing my feelings to pour into words, I seized a strength that many people run away from.
The way we view and talk about those who have a mental illness needs to be addressed. There is no “getting over it” or “calming down;” it is an illness of the brain with life altering repercussions. Living with mental illness did not make me a stronger person, but it let me wonder, learn, and fight for a cause needing further recognition.

Not enough credit is given to those fighting, supporting, and conquering mental illness. In a country so advanced with social media and communication, it is sad that mental illness is still kept in the dark. With more awareness, education, curiosity, and acceptance; we have the power to illuminate the message of speaking up over giving up.

I learned that happiness is not located on a magical land or end of a race track; it is a continuing feeling I get with experiences I dare to explore. Without my illness holding me back, I am able to internalize the joy and acceptance I have wondered about since I was a child.

To connect with those around us I believe we must value the human mind with the same care and diligence that we do our physical health. I share my story to fight the stigma against mental illness and let others take comfort in knowing they are not alone. I no longer let debilitating thoughts deplete my power to thrive, but vocalize them to shed light on a grim and dark reality. In turn, I have found that mental illness (such as depression) is a common secret shared by many.

Recovery is possible, proven, and promising. The battle may be difficult, but it is one worth fighting. For so long, I wondered what was wrong with me only to realize there is something wrong with the way we treat others. We all have the ability to change what we least desire with a foundation of self-love. Though I have shared my story thus far, it is nowhere close to over, as I continue to keep myself safe and healthy.

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Richard B

I never take for granted the fact that I am able to do what I want. Like my favorite rapper Drake says, “You can still do what you want to do, you gotta trust that sh*t.” Even though anxiety kicks my ass on a daily basis, I still go to work. I still write. I volunteer. I love. I smile. I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I fight for my happiness. Every day is a battle and I will never give up.

I have been fighting depression, anxiety, and self-harm off and on for the past 13 years. I moved to Los Angeles to follow my dreams of becoming a published writer four years ago. I am now 28 years old and I am still living in Los Angeles. I was happy to be living my dream when I moved here but unfortunately for me, my happiness was only temporary.

Like most people who struggle with mental health, I fell into substance abuse issues. I turned to drugs and alcohol to the numb the pain I was feeling. I would also cut my wrists when things got really bad. I seemed so happy and alive on the outside but that was far from the truth. The darkness I was feeling on the inside consumed me. I was a tortured soul living in disguise.

I slowly felt myself losing touch with reality. My physical and mental health deteriorated to the point where I was underweight, experiencing hallucinations, emotional distress, and dealing with insomnia. Moving back home to live with my parents allowed me to sleep better at night but my anxiety got so bad that I would get panic attacks.

I spent the following year getting my life and mental health in order. I saw a doctor and a therapist. I went on medication to help with my anxiety, I got a job at Chipotle, and with the support of my family, friends, and my faith, I was able to stay sober. I accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior sometime in August after recommendations from my mom and her friend Maria. I repented for my sins and I felt a shift inside of me. I felt like a changed man. I was a changed man.

I am proud to say I officially reached one year of sobriety on September 23rd. It’s also been one year and five months since I last hurt myself. When the side effects from my medication were too much, my doctor told me I could stop taking them. He told me, “You should be proud of yourself. Not a lot of people can be in the position that you’re in. You should give yourself a pat on the back.”

I never take for granted the fact that I am able to do what I want. Like my favorite rapper Drake says, “You can still do what you want to do, you gotta trust that sh*t.” Even though anxiety kicks my ass on a daily basis, I still go to work. I still write. I volunteer. I love. I smile. I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I fight for my happiness. Every day is a battle and I will never give up.

Although God and Jesus Christ have been the sole reason I am sober and clean, I also attribute me being sober to my nephew Adrian. A lot of things from my past bum me out. None more so than when he would ask me to hang out and I would say, “Not right now. We’ll hang out in a little bit. I’m going to sleep.” He would be disappointed and say, “Aw man. Come on. Why do you sleep so much? You sleep too much.”

It breaks my heart knowing I would have rather gotten high than play with my own nephew but I am proud to say I am no longer that person. I apologized to my nephew before he went back to Florida where he lives with his mother. I’m not proud of my past but I had to hit rock bottom to see I was blinded by addiction.

I’d be lying if I said the past five months I have been living in Los Angeles have been a second chance at living my dream because Lord knows He has given me more than two chances. This is like my millionth chance at living my dream and I am more determined than ever to not let it go to waste. The last two months before I had one year of sobriety were the hardest. I struggled with temptation and going through a break up made things even harder.

I ended up moving on with the support of my best friend and co-workers but that doesn’t mean I don’t crave love and affection from another female. I struggle with my faith and at times I feel like God isn’t enough. I have everything I want (health, sobriety, money saved, love from my family, and I’m living in Los Angeles) yet at times it doesn’t feel enough. I reached a low point a couple of weeks ago when I was three days away from being sober.

I was upset over things not working out with a female co-worker and I fell into the vicious cycle of wanting more. I talked to my best friend and he asked me, “Richard, what do you want?” I replied, “I want my own place. I want a car. I want a book deal. I want a better job. I want it to be November so I can visit my family. I wish you lived here.” He then told me something that blew me away. “Richard, you’re asking for the same things you asked for when you were living in Massachusetts.” I didn’t realize it when I was saying those things but he was right. It showed me that everything is mental and it’s all inside of my head.

He told me, “It’s okay to want materialistic things because we are human. But what you need to do is seek something that’s ever-lasting because when you have those things, you won’t be happy anymore. That happiness will only be temporary.” I then told him, “I want peace and patience. I want the peace that God promises all of us. All those things I asked for I know I will get. I just have to be patient.” I felt a bit calm after talking to him but I had one thing on my mind and that was to hurt myself.

I laid in bed for 30 minutes but I couldn’t fall asleep. I went into my kitchen and I grabbed a knife. I placed it in front of me as I sat in my kitchen listening to music and doing everything in my power to not hurt myself. I then did what my best friend recommended I do in my moments of darkness, weakness, and vulnerability. I prayed. God, please don’t let me hurt myself tonight. Let me see you in this moment. Show Yourself. I pray that You protect me. A few minutes passed by and I was ready to put the knife away but a part of me still wanted to hurt myself. I couldn’t put the knife away.

I put the blade on my left wrist. As much as I wanted to hurt myself (and trust me, I did), I couldn’t do it. When I had the knife on my left wrist I kept thinking about my family, my mom, my nieces and nephew, God, Jesus Christ, and myself. I told myself that I want to keep moving forward. I don’t want to go backwards. I then put the knife away. I realized God answered my prayer. Jesus Christ protected me. God revealed Himself to me in that moment. I’m not proud of myself for letting things get to that point but I’m even prouder that I didn’t hurt myself. God never fails me.

Doctors, counselors, friends, and family members always say, “Things will get better.” I would say, “That’s easy for you to say.” But you know what? They were right. Things do get better.

I may have fallen but I have also risen. I am here to share my story of hope, recovery, and the pursuit of happiness. I used to cry every night before going to bed. I used to pray for the peace and happiness I currently have. I know things won’t always be easy but I have faith in God. I will continue to rest on Him. Please don’t give up. Things really do get better.

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Shaina S

But there has been no judgement or stigma from anyone who knows about my conditions. Everyone in my life has been so supportive and no one has changed their views about me, and I want to share this story because IT DOES GET BETTER.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for over a year but I always dealt with it myself. I didn’t want to be labeled as “crazy” or define the issue. After my 16th birthday, everything spiraled out of control and the issues exploded. I had multiple panic attacks a day and was diagnosed with panic disorder and depression. Getting out of bed was struggle enough, going to high school?

My brain told me it was going to end in catastrophe. I went to maybe one class a day and spent the rest of the day in the psychologist’s office. I had a pretty bad streak of self-injury as well; it doesn’t help.

But the stigma surrounding these issues needs to be ended. I haven’t told many people except those closest to me because when people hear things like “panic disorder” or “depression”, they either think about how screwed up you are or how you want attention. But there has been no judgement or stigma from anyone who knows about my conditions. Everyone in my life has been so supportive and no one has changed their views about me, and I want to share this story because IT DOES GET BETTER. I didn’t think it would, but I’ve been on medication for about 2 months and in therapy twice a week and I have seen so much improvement.

I’m not going to lie to you, some days are still bad days. Some days I still hate myself for something I cannot control, and that is okay (even though it is undeserved). Mental illness is a reality, but not something to ever be ashamed of. I’ve learned that now.

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Sahar K

There are still some days that I wake up and things are dark, but I see the faces of my little siblings and I remember why I am alive. Things are changing and looking brighter for me. I still have problems taking my medications, but I know with time I will accept who I am and what I have gone through.

I am 19 years old and I have bipolar disorder. Its been a long road, let me tell you that. It all started when I went off to college. After going to a small, all girl school to a huge university, I felt lost. My long term boyfriend and I broke up, and that’s what really triggered everything. I started partying constantly, drinking, drugs, basically any way I could get out of my head. One night of drinking lead me to the emergency room, but that wasn’t even a big enough wake up call for me.

But the worst part of this illness, is that with every high comes a deep deep low. After I was manic, I fell into a deep depression. I started cutting myself. There was one night that I cut myself too much and I fainted from the sight of how much blood was gushing out. I woke up on the ground of the dorm bathroom, alone and totally drained emotionally. I hid behind my mask of smiles and laughs, but inside I was suffering. That summer of 2014, I went into an Intensive Outpatient Program, just to come out self medicating again. I smoked pot just to get through the day. When I went back to school, I once again had a manic episode which lead me into the darkest hole of my life.

I remember waking up crying simply because I was alive and I had to face the day ahead of me. I hated myself. I hated who I had become and I was disgusted just by the sight of myself. I was ready to end my life. I had a plan and it was going to happen. I replayed how I would do it over and over in my head, but when I fell short, I hated myself even more.

For whatever reason, I had a slither of logic come through my mind and decided that I needed to come home. I left my university, went back into the Outpatient program and really focused on my recovery.

There are still some days that I wake up and things are dark, but I see the faces of my little siblings and I remember why I am alive. Things are changing and looking brighter for me. I still have problems taking my medications, but I know with time I will accept who I am and what I have gone through.
I will get better, everything always does.

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Windows 7 Product Key | Windows 7 Product Key Free For You Kallie C

I was in denial of what was happening. I was only 24 years old and my life was in complete chaos. This was not how my life was supposed to turn out. I found that after 3 years of fighting the truth, I was EXHAUSTED.

MY STORY
“Why be mediocre, when you can be extraordinary?” This is a statement that will both encourage me and haunt me throughout the rest of my life. This was the statement said to me on my first day as a division 1 volleyball player by my coach. This statement can be said to thousands and to them it is just another quote of inspiration. This is not the case with me. This statement was a challenge that I had to conquer. I was OBSESSED.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with living by this statement. If anything, it is a great statement to live your life by! You will never make excuses and ultimately you will find success. To any outsider I did have success during my collegiate career; Virginia Freshman and Player of the Year, Conference Player of the year, multiple All- Tournament teams, Tournament MVP’s, conference Player of the Year, #3 in the nation in triple doubles, Honorable Mention All- American and 2000-2009 Conference All- Decade Honoree. These honors were nice, but they were not enough. I did not celebrate these achievements. Each honor added more of a burden to do better the next time around. I would not allow myself to be satisfied with anything. I believed that if I was satisfied, then I would become relaxed in my training and never be great. I saw this way of life as that of someone training to be extraordinary. I was in CONTROL.

Here are the facts of my senior year Fall 2009 season; I entered preseason on a high dose of anti- depressants which caused me to be restless, I kept my roommates in the dark on my mental health, I removed myself from the relationships I had formed on the team and decided that my Coach’s words were more important than the Word of God. Without going into too much detail, for it is a long story, I ended up leaving school after the semester was over. I finished my schooling online. God showed me that He could strip me of everything that I believed to be important with an injury less than 3mm long. I had failed my team, my coach and my family. I had become just another statistic of athletes whom had a career ending injury. I was washed up and forgotten by my community. I was a FAILURE.

I was angry. I didn’t care anymore. I loved God, but I let the world decide what was best for me. I immersed myself with the wrong people and allowed myself to do things that I knew were wrong. Drinking, partying and bitterness replaced prayer, devotion and peace. But I didn’t care; I was mediocre now, so nothing mattered. I was LOST.

As fast as my life had changed in college, it changed just as fast again. I moved back home and re- entered the life that had been recently foreign to me. I realized that I had been a prodigal child and yet, nobody knew it. I only saw mediocrity when I looked in the mirror and so, it became an obsession to be perfect. I relied on my abusive friendship with compulsive rituals to help solve this quest for perfection. These habits caused me to spiral back into anxiety and depression. I substituted my faith for works. The mirror that originally reflected only mediocrity now reflected shame. I had knowingly sinned against my Creator. I had disappointed God. I had failed my God. I was a DISAPPOINTMENT.

I believed that I had to humble myself to God through self-hate and self- harm. I believed that I had to earn God’s trust and love. I believed that I had to hold onto my shame, for if I let go of it, it would be like accepting that my sinful actions were acceptable. I was CONFUSED.

I don’t know why God would want someone so confused and damaged, but He did. In His perfect timing, God introduced just the right people into my life. When these people met me I could not accept love, so they pursued me. I could not read scripture nor pray out loud, so they taught me confidence. I would try and run, but they showed me persistence. I would deny their words, but they showed me patience. I refused peace, so they would hold me until I was calm. I could not face my shame, so they denounced its authority for me. I could not see the truth, so they immersed me in it. They showed me that I was a High Priestess, Fearfully and Wonderfully made, a Champion for Christ and Forgiven. The only problem was I didn’t want to fully accept it. I was STUBBORN.

I grew up listening to gut wrenching testimonies from people who said they didn’t realize how bad it was until they hit rock bottom. I was no different. Even though I had an army fighting my battles, I still allowed my stubbornness to ultimately propel me into a mental health hospital. I was in denial of what was happening. I was only 24 years old and my life was in complete chaos. This was not how my life was supposed to turn out. I found that after 3 years of fighting the truth, I was EXHAUSTED.

I will never forget the night before I was released from the hospital. Earlier that morning my parents decided that they wanted me to move with them to Texas. They believed that it would be good for me to be around family and to have time to heal. I was torn on the decision, but agreed to move. That night I was sitting in the common area reading a devotional book. A woman, who had attempted suicide the day before, approached me and asked me what I was reading. Instead of becoming anxious, shameful or scared, I decided to read aloud to her. As it turns out others heard me reading. When I looked up from the book, 4 other patients had joined our circle. After 5 minutes, our little book club had grown to about 8 people. We shared testimonies. We talked about God. We talked about His grace. We talked about His sacrifice. It was starting to get late and our group was starting to disperse. I had planned on trying to remove myself from the group without anybody seeing me, but before I knew it, I asked the group if I could pray for them instead. This was the defining moment in my life. Days before this moment, I would have gone into an incapacitating anxiety attack, full of shaking, jerking, stuttering and the overwhelming need to run away at even the mention of me having to pray out loud in front of people. The difference at this moment was that the Holy Spirit calmed me and whispered, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” And He was with me. I was FREE.

I wish I could say that after that moment I was perfect and that I never dealt with the temptations of my intrusive rituals; however that is not the case. It took many more months and many more challenging moments to completely expel my prior way of thinking. It is only by God’s amazing grace that today, I am CHANGED.

So, “Why be mediocre, when you can be extraordinary?” I still live by this mantra; however I do not see myself as mediocre. If I was mediocre, I would still be obsessed with perfection. If I was mediocre, I would still believe that I am in control of everything in my life. If I was mediocre, I would still see myself as a failure. If I was mediocre, I would still be lost in my destructive thoughts. If I was mediocre, then I would still be a disappointing mess. If I was mediocre, I would still be confused about the difference between truth and lies. If I was mediocre, I would still be stubbornly defending my abusive lifestyle. If I truly was mediocre, I would be exhausted with the fight and I would be dead. A mediocre person gives up, but I am not mediocre. I am alive and extraordinary because HE is the ultimate I AM!

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Sarah V

Finally, one day I just let go. I let go of all the pain, the worry of people not liking me for me, the anxiety attacks seemed to decrease, and the pain in my heart finally went away.

Seeing this picture now, it represents all the struggle and pain I masked over 6 years without telling anyone. The summer of 2005, I turned 13, but little did I know that all things over the course of the next 3 months would make me turn into an adult. That summer our whole family was shocked over the death of my grandpa. I remembering a few days after his funeral, I came home from school seeing my parents overwhelmed with grief and so much pain. I lived with my grandma (or to me: grandmama) until the summer ended and throughout the school year. I never experienced so much grief in my life until that moment. I asked myself, “What did I do so wrong?” or “How come I have to take care of her”. From that summer of 2005 until 2010 I reached a point in my life where my pain needed to be taken away. Wherever it hurt, I would cut the pain away. I isolated all of my anger, all the tears onto the people I loved. Being 13 and not understanding why your heart aches every time you hear your grandmother cry out loud. After awhile I masked my pain with music and laughter. Just by me telling someone a joke and seeing a person smile made me feel like my life wasn’t a lie. Until I met Jared, I explained my experience and he seemed so sweet, gentle, and loving. I knew right then and there I needed to stop. Although it was hard, I looked into Jared’s warm eyes and knew if he could believe in me I could too. Over the years, I shared my story and every time people would say, “You were so young, I couldn’t ever forgive my parents”, but I did. My parents fought, but they gave me their time and helped me push through it. Especially my mom, she made sure I had the resources I needed, every time a program wouldn’t work she found ways to get me into programs/treatments, she made sure every appointment was paid for, and she held my hand every time I was scared to let go. Finally, one day I just let go. I let go of all the pain, the worry of people not liking me for me, the anxiety attacks seemed to decrease, and the pain in my heart finally went away. Will I ever be completely cured? I’m not sure. I’m not sure if anyone can ever forget the things I’ve seen. I’m not sure if one day, I’ll be depressed or have anxiety attacks again. Although all that pain is gone, my tears have dried up, but I’m sure of this: I’m extremely grateful to my mom for always fighting for me and believing in me, for Jared always holding my hand, for my grandma never giving up.

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Anonymous

Protecting your child is always a mother's first instinct. Mothers will do anything to keep their child from abusive situations and shelter them from evils of the world. However, what if the demons your child faces live in their "brain" and the abuse is coming from their own hands? What does a mother do then?

Protecting your child is always a mother’s first instinct. Mothers will do anything to keep their child from abusive situations and shelter them from evils of the world. However, what if the demons your child faces live in their “brain” and the abuse is coming from their own hands? What does a mother do then? This is what I face every day with my 8 year old and have been facing since around the time he turned four. Violent outbursts, emotional roller coasters, and even attempted self harm.

My son was always such a happy baby/toddler, always the teachers favorite, and very out going and loving. However a little after his 4th birthday, a switch was clicked and he slowly became short tempered, defiant, and irrational. Of course this is most behavior issues faced with young children, so I treated it as such, and tried to redirect his behavior with rewards and loss of privileges. It only got worse. By the time he started kindergarten, he was out of control and I was out of ideas. Then one day he finally began talking about his “brain” and how no matter how hard he tried he couldnt make it listen. It made him angry when he didnt want to be, sad when he had nothing to be sad about, and wouldn’t let him calm down and listen to his teachers.  We sought help. Finally, right before his 7th birthday we found a psychologist that was able to earn his trust and break thru when the previous three had not. Six mos later his diagnosis was heartbreaking and surprising to say the least. Bipolar 1.

Floods of emotions rolled thru me, but it was apparent medications were now necessary and I began searching for a psychatrist. Two more months went by and I couldnt find one that accepted pediatric patients with medicaid and most did not accept pedis period. Then the day came he decided he wanted to stop feeling and the only way would be to die. Fortunately I was able to prevent this attempt and was given the number to Clarity. He was admitted and has made huge strides over the past two years. He has been in and out of their hospital during the past couple of years and sees his psychatrist out patient also. Our biggest fight currently has been the lack of resources and help he receives at our current school district. Until I had a child with mental illness I never knew the struggles faced with getting help needed to overcome disorders like his.

As a mother you want to protect, you want to shelter. But as a mother of a child suffering with mental illness, you can only stand by them, fight for them, and love them. You can’t bandage and kiss it away. Many times I can’t even hold and comfort him as he cannot be touched during many episodes. All I can do is continue to fight for his rights, ensure he is recieving the best treatments available, and reassure him that its not his fault and I love him and support him fully.

As a mother with a child who has been affected by mental illness at such a young age in a society that still fights about medicating children I have one job. To stand by my child and to continue to kick the wall that stands between him and his recovery until every brick crumbles. That wall has not fallen yet, but some of the brick has started to break. I will not stop till that wall is dust, but I and everyone else who suffers from mental health can’t do it alone. Our communities, government, and the country as a whole have to come together and ensire the wall is never rebuilt.

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Ashleigh

My personal story is this: When I was in elementary school I got called oreo, mulatto, mutt, coon, the list goes on because I am a mixed person. It was hard not to be hurt when people called me these names because I was the only one that was different in my school, everyone else was white. I got called these names each and every week and it really broke me down. Anyway fast forward to middle school I was still getting called these names but I was also getting called fat, ugly, thunder thighs, big girl, chubby monkey, you name it.

My personal story is this: When I was in elementary school I got called oreo, mulatto, mutt, coon, the list goes on because I am a mixed person. It was hard not to be hurt when people called me these names because I was the only one that was different in my school, everyone else was white. I got called these names each and every week and it really broke me down. Anyway fast forward to middle school I was still getting called these names but I was also getting called fat, ugly, thunder thighs, big girl, chubby monkey, you name it. Granted yes I am a little overweight but in middle school when people where calling me these names I stressed over what I ate and what went in and out of my body. In about seventh grade I saw this documentary “Thin” directed by Lauren Greenfield and I tried to do everything in my power to become someone with an eating disorder because I felt just like the girls in the documentary. I am so glad that my plan of becoming someone with an eating disorder didn’t work out. I am extremely proud of the people that overcame the battle of having an eating disorder and I pray for the people that are still fighting their eating disorder in the world today.

In high school I still was getting called mulatto and ugly and fat and all the rest but somehow I learned to deal with it and I started to tune them out. In my sophomore year I experienced my first friend dying and that was a weird feeling and right around the same time I started to drink. I only drank when the thought of the death or feelings to do with it were bad, no other time. I didn’t drink on the weekends with friends; even in college I still don’t drink on the weekend with friends. In my junior year I experienced one of my best friends dying and that feeling was unreal. I fell into a deep depression; I wanted to be the next one to die, so I started cutting myself. I cut whenever the thoughts of wanting to die happened. I knew I shouldn’t die because she would want me to still be living so I needed to feel pain and lots of it. I needed to hurt myself to make the thoughts stop. I covered up all of my cuts so no one would be able to find out. I didn’t want to go to counseling nor have my parents know about them so once I was done cutting I did everything I knew to cover them up so they would just go away but as anyone knows they don’t just go away. One day, fortunately, my best friend noticed the cuts and she asked me question after question and I answered them as long as she promised not to tell anyone including parents, teachers, counselors, or anyone. The only thing she wanted was for me to promise in return that I would stop and she gave me a rubber band to pull on when I wanted to cut. This worked for me here and there until one day it just worked completely. It took me about three and a half months to completely stop harming myself. To this day she still hasn’t told anyone.

Fast forward to college my freshman year I joined my school’s swim team. Being on the swim team I met someone and we started dating. We dated for a couple of months then one day, and this is hard to say, he wanted to have sex with me and I didn’t want to. He, unfortunately, raped me and that relationship ended right then and there. I get flashbacks of what happened but I’ve learned to move past it and just live my life. In my sophomore year I got involved around campus. I joined the clubs that I could and had fun but in the spring semester I somehow fell back into a depression and started self-harming again. I started cutting, but this time I didn’t do anything to cover my scars. I still have scars you can see today. This depression lasted about a month and a half with the only way getting through it was telling my best friend and watching Active Minds videos, actually, because I got to hear what the speakers bureau’s stories were. They made me see that life does get better and to just live your life day by day, like you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. From the depression I learned that being an ex-cutter is always going to be an everlasting battle in my mind. Some days I will be fine and others I will not be. It just becomes a battle that I’ll never be able to stop; a battle between who I was and who I want to be. This is my story and I’m proud of who I am. I am an aspiring mental health counselor who wants to live for a long time.

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Sophie

From the outside someone would see me as “having it all,” a great job, supportive family, amazing friends. On the inside I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety since I was 14, dealing with my emotions by cutting. Shame and embarrassment have been following me around for the past ten years.

Hi, my name is Sophie

From the outside someone would see me as “having it all,” a great job, supportive family, amazing friends. On the inside I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety since I was 14, dealing with my emotions by cutting. Shame and embarrassment have been following me around for the past ten years.

Growing up I dealt with a lot of peer pressure and always felt like an outcast. I never understood how to form friendships that were healthy and felt beaten down and cast aside by many. Cutting was a way to take my emotional pain and turn it physical, a pain that I could handle. When my cutting was discovered during my freshman year of high school my parents tried to be supportive and understand my depression but instead I just found ways to hide it and after a few years everyone thought I was OK.

Almost a year ago I entered a relationship with James, a guy that I was really excited about. It had been ten years since I started cutting and I had entered a phase of denial, thinking there was nothing wrong with me, even though I was continuing to cut in extreme emotional situations. So I entered this new relationship full force but my emotions got the best of me and my entire world was flipped upside down. I became emotionally vulnerable one night and told James about my cutting. Immediately I was rejected.

I was heartbroken, not just by him, but by myself. As people started to ask what happened between us I shared with them that I had told him about my cutting. My family and friends were shocked, they had no idea that the cutting was still going on at the age of 23.

Coming from a family where therapy has never been a part of our lives it was hard for me to tell myself that I needed help. I found my therapist, Melissa, nine months ago and my life has been forever changed. I started realizing that my denial was affecting my ability to build a healthy relationship with myself. Now, once a week I go and talk about my struggles. I’ve learned how to understand rejection, heartbreak and I am in the process of building a great relationship with myself.

There are two parts of my journey that I’ll always remember; the first is how important it is to be open and to share my experience with others. By telling my story I’ve come across many people in my life who have similar stories but have never had the courage to talk about it. The second is the understanding and acceptance that I will always have depression and anxiety. I’ll always have those moments in my life where I struggle but now I am fully aware and capable of managing it in healthy and productive ways.

I don’t regret my past; I know that I’m going to come out on the other side a better person for everything that I’ve gone through. My only wish is that the Sophie today had been there for 14 year old Sophie to let her know that things were going to be OK

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Catlin P

I can’t emphasize enough how important our perception and mindset is to our success in overcoming our symptoms of mental health. This same mindset and perception is what will give you an edge in life as well. If you'll notice, your attitude determines your altitude in everything you do. These two components are directly correlated with each other. We always can decide and dictate what type of attitude we have, which means it’s something that’s always in our control.

“OCD & Me”

I can describe and give an in-depth, detailed account of the intricate ways OCD affects my mind all too well. My mind and the mechanics have always fundamentally been the same. Never once do I remember my mind being any different than the way it already is, was, and always has been. However, I’ve discovered focusing on this path too much ultimately only causes more confusion…and more problems. I’ve experienced how it leads you “down the rabbit hole” into an endless cycle of a game you can’t win. And I know, because I’ve played. Endlessly. Sure, you might win some battles, but it’s never long lived. Eventually, after each loss, you’re left more damaged and confused than the last time.

Not long ago, I was so focused and obsessed on figuring out my mind that I refused to quit, to a fault. No matter how much distress or added suffering it caused me I pushed on. Even though I’ve lived with these conditions my entire life, I had never actually stumbled upon anything tangible until a handful of years ago. I had become obsessed with the intrusive and unwanted thoughts plaguing my mind everyday. Once I discovered these “impostors,” I couldn’t leave them alone. I needed so badly to comprehend the entirety of these conditions. It was like I needed to know almost more than I needed to breathe, quite literally.

Ultimately, I have found that to truly grasp the totality of these conditions on a constant basis is impossible. Even if I could, to always have an answer for every unanswered question is literally hopeless. It’s draining and defeating. However, once I learned that OCD is largely hereditary and biological, it provided me with a figurative sigh of relief. I think it really helped to know that no matter what, these conditions are here to stay regardless of my attempts to fully understand them or not. In other words, it is irrelevant if I am able to understand the ins and outs of OCD if I’m going to let it completely consume me.

As I sit here trying to think of what aspects of my story to elaborate on; I find myself concerned that I won’t hit on all of the insightful and significant aspects I’ve found most paramount to my recovery. I almost feel overwhelmed with the various ideas flooding my mind about the countless things I have learned from my experiences with mental illness. While I have been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I have also been diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety. I do not suffer from the classic OCD symptoms such as physically carrying out compulsions (washing hands, locking/unlocking doors, extreme organization/tidiness, etc.) even though that’s what the general public would assume when they think of OCD. I discovered that “Pure Obsessional” OCD or “Pure O” is the category I fit under most. Pure O describes individuals with OCD to purely have obsessions without physical compulsions, but only mental compulsions. I primarily deal with an onslaught of intrusive, unwanted thoughts, but use mental compulsions (avoidance, reassurance seeking, mental rituals, etc.) to seek relief. These thoughts initiate impulses or mental images of horrible, violent, immoral, or sacrilegious actions. Constantly. All day, every single day, of every single second, I am at the mercy to ALL of these frightening, torturous, and unwanted types of thoughts or images. Put me in any seemingly harmless situation or circumstance and my mind will quickly and quite literally figure out what the worst-case scenario would be. And then it will aggressively spend the rest of the time trying to convince me of this situation becoming a reality. This might include extreme embarrassment, death, ridicule, violence, or failure. Further, all of these same thoughts can and will happen in regards to people I deeply love and care about as well. It doesn’t matter. It could be any of the above. What ever happens to adversely affect me the most at that current point in time is what seems to gain the most strength and momentum over my psyche. Timing is key however. Most of these thoughts don’t bother me in most circumstances because I usually can rationally gauge how unrealistic they are. However, very certain and specific thoughts at just the precise moment, in just the right environment, will still somehow knife its way to my heart. No matter how many walls you build or battle-tested strategies you implement, these thoughts never stop eating at you.

One of the more ironic aspects to my story is that while I can remember being effected by OCD as far back as I can remember, I literally had no idea that this is what plagued me throughout my life until I was about 23 years old. Looking back on it all, it’s almost like I always knew something was different about me, but I wasn’t willing to acknowledge it. And if I wasn’t willing to acknowledge it, then I definitely wasn’t willing to let anybody else either. I seemingly did a good job of hiding my symptoms seeing as nobody ever noticed anything “different” about me. The symptoms of OCD did not quite “debilitate” me as I was able to grow, progress, and develop adequately during the early years of my life. This also might partially explain why nobody ever noticed anything. The most detrimental and debilitating effects did not hamper me until later in life. In fact, it was quite the opposite growing up. I happened to be pretty successful with almost anything I tried and would even go as far as to say I excelled in most areas. I always made honors student (college and high school), participated in competitive sports throughout my life, and always seemed to have plenty of friends. After graduating high school in 2005, I ultimately pursued a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and graduated in 2009. I then furthered my education and graduated with a master’s degree in Social Work by 2011.

I don’t say any of these things to boast or brag, not whatsoever, but mostly to emphasize how fortunate I was growing up. I truly believe that if it were not for my family’s love, support, and cultivation for success, I would be no where close to where I am today. They never let me settle and always pushed me to fulfill my potential. They taught me how to work hard and empowered myself to achieve anything in life. I am forever indebted to them for these lessons. Always having everything I needed growing up, I basically lived as “normal” as a life you could imagine. However, the inner workings of OCD were well at play this entire time. Somehow, someway I was able to live with and manage the symptoms of OCD without truly questioning my organically overactive, over-analytic, obsessive, and ruminative mind. The endless attempts to slow down or stop unwanted intrusive thoughts had just become second nature. Unfortunately, this natural instinct eventually faded away.

I was around the age of 23 when I finally began to realize something wasn’t quite right. Ironically, this is about the time I started experimenting with street drugs. I was later officially diagnosed with OCD, Anxiety, and Depression at age 26. By that time, things had gotten a lot worse. My drug addiction had grown out of control and my symptoms were running rampant controlling my life. Only 2 months after my 26th birthday did I get fired from my job as a social worker. At this point, I seemingly had lost interest in everything (work, friends, girls, family, exercise, etc.). It got to a point where I simply had zero desire to ever want to get out of bed. I’m still ashamed to admit the only thing I ever looked forward to was sleeping or doing drugs…both of which became primary escapes of mine. I had become addicted to the fast guaranteed relief from my symptoms that drugs provided. By coping with drugs on and off for 2 years, I got lost in the facade that drugs can create. I had devolved into what I call some sort of functioning “drug addict.” I was always drawn to the drugs that made me feel most like I was “enough” and no longer inadequate which generally tended to be “uppers.” The lure of this pseudo-freedom became my primary means to escape from all of the pain my symptoms initiate. The blaring noise in my head of constant negative mental chatter, harsh criticisms, absolute