Mental illness is a topic unspoken of. There is lack of discussion regarding mental health between family members, peers, and even between professionals and their patients. This lack of communication can be due to numerous circumstances such as: fear of judgement and loss of relationships. In my personal experience, I feared that opening up to my close friends/family would lead to admission into a facility (because I thought people wouldn’t want to deal with me or think that I had gone mad). I was terrified that people would begin blaming all my decisions and actions on my mental illness. I thought that people would start defining me by my illness and forget that I’m still Becca and am so much beyond my mental health. And to be completely honest, when I first opened up about what I had been struggling with, I was treated differently. Some people created new impressions about me based solely on my mental illness and nothing more. HOWEVER, the majority of people I told were beyond supportive and did everything in their power to offer me nothing but love and support just as they would to any other friend going through a difficult time. And through this love and support, I am here today exhilarated to share my story to you and offer as much advice as possible based on my experience.
My high school years were definitely not, to say the least, the best years of my life. During my time in high school, I started feeling anxious (little did I know what I felt was anxiety). I thought I was abnormal and going through some form of puberty. I had the impression that the students behind me in hallways and classes were laughing at me and I also had extreme fear of speaking among peers or in front of classes (which was odd for me because public speaking was something I enjoyed when I was younger). Of course, I was forced to speak during class presentations even though I would cry and my heart would feel as if it was going to beat out of my chest. (I could go on about how unfair this is for hours.) Even more, I had started obsessing over my weight, for example, if I saw a scale, I was on it checking my weight praying that the number decreased. Through all this, I didn’t tell anyone because I, myself, didn’t even know what was wrong. There was absolutely no education on mental health within my high school/junior high. Therefore, I had no idea that I was living with a GAD along with an eating disorder. The weight was just falling off me and lack of nourishment left me delirious which fed into my anxiety. Luckily, I removed myself from an unhealthy relationship, graduated, and moved away for university.
During my first year of university, everything was great to be honest. I had my bad days of course, but I had put on 20 pounds and my anxiety was on a manageable level. But the waves of happiness didn’t last long. Coming into my second year, I experienced the worst months of my life. I wish I had education on mental health when I was younger, so that I could have seen a professional before things got to be as extreme as they were. I began feeling excessively paranoid, attacked, and alone and it would come on out of nowhere without signs. It was like nothing I had experienced in my younger years and I was beginning to think I was showing signs for early onset of schizophrenia or that I possessed a brain tumor (this is 700% the truth). I considered medication and called the counselling services offered at my university. From this, I was told from friends and family that medication would make me “numb” and that I would become utterly dependant on them for life (evidently, I became terrified and turned off from the idea of medication). Even more, when calling the counselling services (as soon as they opened), I was told that everything was booked for the day and to call back another day. This led me to think that people clearly have it much worse than myself and I should give up. I gave it a few more weeks and this is when I began having suicidal thoughts. I honestly didn’t want to be on the earth anymore if I was going to have to live with what I was feeling: lack of trust to ANYONE, that everyone was out to get me, feelings that everyone was lying to me, lack of belief in love, numbness towards everything, and panic attacks. My supportive and amazing significant other tried his very best to understand and help me with my struggles and helped me make the decision to call my doctor and the counselling services again. I was given a prescription for anti-depressants and placed on a waiting list to see a psychologist. I waited 4 months (which is unfortunately considered a quick waiting time compared to individuals who wait a year) and by that time I was feeling much more stable with the help of medication.
Writing this today, I am feeling proud of myself for what I have overcome. I still have bad days, weeks, and even months, but compared to how things used to be, I feel blessed. I have no regret when looking back to when I decided to open up about the state of my mental health. From this journey, I have changed people’s perspective on mental health and I have created extraordinary bonds with people of which I never expected. From my story, I want people to see that medication has not made me numb and has brought a skip back into my step. I want people to hear that I am not cured. I still have days where I feel guilty over my food consumption, I won’t eat, I have absolutely no trust for others, and days where I don’t want to be here. However, I want people to hear how very grateful I am for the love and support that has led me to be a much happier, healthier and determined girl.
Frankly, I would discuss mental health for hours but I’ll leave you with this message: the people who matter will understand and do everything in their power to love and support you through anything, so please don’t hesitate to share with someone how you feel.