Overcoming My Labels of “Drama Queen” and “Disabled” | NAMI

Overcoming My Labels of “Drama Queen” and “Disabled”

By Kaya Wimmer

My mental health struggle began when I was diagnosed with epilepsy at age nine. Epilepsy is (perhaps understandably) considered to be a disability, but the effects being labeled “disabled” at such an early age changed my life. I was immediately treated differently. Growing up as a Latina on the Navajo reservation already separated me from everyone else — and adding a disability that few people had heard of only expanded the gap. Because of this isolation, I was miserable.

I began seeing a therapist in the third grade who diagnosed with me everything from autism to depression. Although I was receiving help, none of these diagnoses ever felt like they explained my story. My emotions were always out of control; The tiniest obstacle would send me into a violent rage. My parents would often call me a drama queen. This isolated me even further. I felt like a weird, overly emotional, disabled kid who didn’t belong anywhere. The message was clear: there’s something so wrong with you that no one can fix it and it’s your fault. And I believed it.

When I reached middle school, I began experiencing suicidal thoughts. By the time I was 13, I had attempted suicide four times and frequently self-harmed. After my fourth suicide attempt, my parents sent me to an inpatient treatment facility. The facility was understaffed, and it felt impersonal. I was given a medication that can lower one’s threshold for seizures, so I was having them nightly. There, I was diagnosed as bipolar and given antipsychotics.

After my inpatient stay, my family moved to Flagstaff, where I attended high school and community college. I was happier, but I still didn’t belong. It seemed as if I was “too Mexican” for my white peers and “not Mexican enough” for my Mexican peers. Even in a new environment, I was still labeled as too emotional and disabled. Then, I started having panic attacks. These new struggles were then compounded by the unexpected death of my therapist.

Things began to turn around when I started meeting with a new therapist. I began talking about the things that I had avoided for so many years before. I talked about my panic attacks, my inability to practice vulnerability, the effects of my parents’ dismissal, the isolation I felt throughout my childhood and how separated from everybody I always felt. I was making progress as she provided compassionate, nonjudgmental guidance.

All progress has setbacks, however. When I was 19, after the pandemic began, I was working a job I liked with people I liked, and I was closer with my family than ever before. So, I stopped going to therapy. That’s when I started drinking. It started out small but got to a point where I was missing work. I sought help from a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder — a label that finally gave me clarity. This diagnosis made complete sense. I was devasted but unbelievably relieved. I broke down realizing I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t “crazy.”

This discovery saved my life because I was no longer just a drama queen or overemotional outcast. There was reasoning and science behind my feelings and actions. I still experience setbacks, but I now have the tools I need to remind myself that I am worthy of love and belonging. I plan on providing the same help I was lucky enough to receive to others by becoming a licensed therapist. I want to tell those who are struggling the same thing that saved me: you are not alone, and you are not “crazy.” You are worthy of unconditional love and belonging.

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