Growing up I knew that my mind worked differently than other kids’. My mom was constantly working, trying to make ends meet so she could provide for her three children. My father was an alcoholic and his parents, who lived with us at the time, were both verbally and physically abusive. I knew that I had a lot more stress in my life than the average eight-year-old, but I had no clue what this would mean for me down the road. I had grown up in an environment where loud yelling and fighting were a constant. I lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety.
Once my parents separated, that feeling of anxiety stuck. I was on edge, had frequent mood swings and had an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. I never told my mom because she already had so much on her plate and I didn’t want to burden her further. I hid it from my friends because I was afraid that they would think I was weak or think I was doing this for attention.
In university things got a lot worse. I moved three hours away and none of my friends lived close by. I felt alone, school was hard, and I had no idea what to do. I started engaging in some risky behavior. I was binge drinking three or four nights a week, skipping classes and shutting people out. At one point, I found myself thinking about if my life was even worth living.
I was so scared of seeing a doctor because I knew what the outcome would be. I didn’t want to put a label on myself and have it define the rest of my life. Mental illness has so much stigma around it and it kept me from seeking the help I so desperately needed.
A year later, I saw people talk about their mental health more openly and this encouraged me to go seek out help for myself. I reached out to my friends and let them know what was going on. I went to see professionals that could help me with my situation. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and depression.
I didn’t get it right on the first time and it took more than a few doctors, psychologists and therapists, but I found a mix of treatments that worked for me and have been doing better ever since.
Now I spend a lot of my free time raising awareness about mental health in the hopes that no one else has to suffer in silence. If you broke your leg you would go to the hospital, right? So why should we have to question whether or not we should see a doctor if we are hurting mentally?
Stigma sucks, so let’s end it.
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