This past September, in an effort to raise awareness and support for the annual NAMI Walks, I posted the story of my journey with mental illness on Facebook. I was over-whelmed by the outpouring of support and the far reaching positive effects this had. I am very humbled that NAMI GC has asked me to share part of that story here with you.
At 18 years old, following a suicide attempt, I dropped out of college to seek help. I had spiraled out of control, experiencing highs and lows unlike anything I had ever felt before. I had lost control of my life and the ability to control my emotions. I didn’t recognize myself. I behaved toward those I loved in ways that I look back on with great sadness. I acted out of anger, sadness, and fear that I would never feel “normal” again. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I felt helpless over my own life and the fact that I had to place my well-being into the hands of medical professionals. I wanted my life back. They diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. In the following months, I did whatever I could to understand these diagnoses, and set out on a journey to understand them.
I eventually DID start to feel better, and finally had hope that I still had a shot at a “normal” life. I stumbled at times, stopping my medications when I felt better (typical behavior of someone in my position), and at one point decided that alcohol was a better medication. I still experienced extreme ups and downs. Fortunately, maturity or perhaps finally exhausting myself of living a life of chaos, kicked in and I GOT IT. I did what I had to do to take care of myself, and I have every single day for the past six years. I got the help I needed to understand that actual medication is better than alcohol, remained faithful to my medications and therapy, and sought support through a NAMI GC Peer to Peer support group. To say that the support of NAMI GC was invaluable is an understatement.
I don’t tell my story because I want people to think I’m unique for living with a mental illness or because I seek pity. I am telling my story because it is BEYOND time that people stop treating mental health issues as taboo. We don’t do that to people with heart disease or diabetes and need to stop doing it to people struggling with their mental health. Mental health does not get the attention it deserves, and it’s time that it does.
I tell my story because it is my deepest hope that by the time I have a child, we will live in a world where people don’t judge people like me; where people don’t think it is a “weakness” to have to take medication or to seek help, and where people are accepting of diseases of the brain the way they are of issues with any other part of the body. Most of all, I am PROUD to share my story because that’s just it. People need to know it’s time to share rather than whisper their own stories. That it’s okay to talk about, there’s nothing to be ashamed of, and that they’re not alone. People need to know it is okay to reach out, that there IS hope, help, and people DO care.
It’s with great sincerity that I thank all of you who have supported NAMI GC over the years. Your contributions help to make a genuine difference in so very many lives. I realize there are a number of organizations to which you can choose to donate, and so it is with great humility that I ask you to make NAMI GC that organization this year. Give them the chance to continue to provide support, to empower, to battle the stigma, and to give hope to others like me. There is great truth to the saying that there is strength in numbers and that’s what we need: strength to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness. It’s just plain time.
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