It’s Never Too Late | NAMI

It’s Never Too Late

By Kaleigh Peery

What does recovery mean? Well the dictionary says it’s a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength and/or the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

When it comes to mental illness, “recovery” to me means to be able to not run from the chaos of your own mind but to embrace and accept it. There are some who of us who are not just addicts to drugs and alcohol but addicted to the worse thing of all: their own minds. Nothing compares to a battle with your own mind. For as long as I can remember, I did everything I could to hide the inner battle stirring around inside me. Yet, through all years of madness I could never justify labeling myself as an addict even though I did spend years self-medicating and trying to numb the chaos in my mind.

December of 2015, I finally broke down and realized I needed some serious help.  Every part of me was shattering into a million pieces like broken glass and I was feeling as if any one who could help me pick up the pieces would be afraid to get cut on shards of glass that were chaotically placed around me. I sunk deeper into my addiction to my mind. The anxiety I had was unbearable. I was fearful of any emotional connections. I honestly was at the point where all I wanted to do was completely just give up. The burden of illness felt too much to bear. I thought I was never going to be able to function appropriately in society. My self-loathing got worse and worse and of course then follows the guilt and isolation. No one could understand how I could be this way. To good family, good friends, from the outside looking in, I should be happy as can be, right? Everyone loves me, just be happy.

Well, I wasn’t. I was overly exhausted from faking it my whole life.  I had coped with my invisible illness alone for so long I created a world of puking out the pain or grinding my teeth until my jaw would lock up. I was sick and tired of trying to find pills, just so I could go outside and spend time with family and friends and not dread every moment of it or fear that I would have a panic attack, sick and tired of looking for ADD meds so I could just function to clean and maybe not lose everything I touch (which was ongoing problem that messed with my life way more than it should). The hustle of it all only contributed to even more to triggering my PTSD or my generalized anxiety disorder. For me the saddest part is no one even knew what was going on with me because I took pride in my resilience and always just kept keeping on, convincing myself that this darkness will fade if just can focus on the light. It is what I had always done after all. I had always made it out of the chaos in my head alone so this time shouldn’t be any different. Hiding my illness for so long, I became the master at faking a smile and crying in the shower.

This time though, I was spiraling down deep into the abyss of the darkest part of my illness and with a little help from a narcissistic man who enjoyed playing with my already fragile mind, I lost it. I let him manipulate me into thinking that I would feel better if I just let him put a needle full of drugs into my body, knowing I am terrified of needles. He insisted and the darkness in me submitted regretfully. After that night of drug use, I realized I had hit rock bottom. It was time to put my ego aside and tell me my family I was not doing well.

After the shock of telling my family, I checked myself into a crisis unit. For the first time in my life, I did what was needed to be done for my own mental health and left everyone else’s opinions at the door. I needed help. I needed control over the increasing amount of panic attacks a day, along with the self-medication because if I didn’t I would most likely end up dead. I was losing the ability to even care about life because I wasn’t living a life worth living.

After spending 18 days with some amazing staff and doctors, I could feel happiness and hope again.

I wrote this about four months after I left crisis unit. At that point I was just happy to be able to go the grocery store, socialize and enjoy the little things again. I was not only functioning though. I thought I was excelling. I felt and—still feel—extremely blessed. For the first time in forever I began to write, paint and had even got myself a role and once again could be under the bright lights of the theatre stage. While the rest of my time than was spent volunteering with NAMI and trying to openly talk about my illness in the hopes of helping someone else.  

Now, eight months later, talk about full circle. I teach “living successfully with a mental illness” on the crisis unit where I once was resident along with the honor of becoming an In Our Own Voice presenter for NAMI. Also, I am interning to get my crisis recovery specialist certification at the unit. While there, I was blessed with the job opportunity to become a residential specialist before my internship was up.

I can help spread the word and breathe hope back into others who are in the same shoes I was once. It's a magical feeling to say the least.  

It was little less than a year ago when I thought my life was over and pointless. Now I’m nothing but excited about the future and what it has in store for me. The possibilities are endless when you finally have hope and confidence in yourself.

I learned to own the chaos inside me and because of that, I am now tapping into the great potential and edge my mental health condition has gifted upon me.

My goal in life is to remove the stigma and to use my voice so that no one ever feels as alone as I once did.

 


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NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).