My Experience as a Mental Health Advocate
Mental health has played a part in my life for as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety at the age of 13, and since then, my journey has been filled with the greatest highs and some devastating lows, but I have grown and learned a lot from myself. After growing up with a single mom and a rotating custody schedule, I felt like the brokenness in my life was my own fault. My mom raised my sister and I to love ourselves and to love others unconditionally, but we saw how much she had to endure just for us to survive. It took a huge toll on my mental health at such a young age, and made it really difficult for me to not blame myself.
After my diagnosis at 13, things felt like they were constantly going downhill. I started with self harm and suicidal ideations, causing my parents to quite literally become unhinged. I started therapy shortly after my initial diagnosis, and medication 2 years later. Middle school feels like a blur, I just know that kids were mean, and nobody understood mental illness whatsoever. I was one of the only kids in my grade with a diagnosed mental illness.
High school was honestly so difficult for me. There were so many days I couldn’t physically get out of bed, and my teachers and classmates constantly pointed it out. My grades suffered. I was changing medications and dosages and doctors for what seemed like forever. I went through friends like wildfires because nobody understood how I felt, and I was liked and “well-known”, but no one really knew me. During my junior year is when things got really rough for me. I hit a very low point in my life, and attempted suicide. Shortly after, my older brother attempted suicide and it changed my entire life. He was in a coma for a month and had to go to a rehabilitation center in order for him to relearn basic functions after a brain injury. During this time, I let myself hit rock bottom. My relationship turned into abuse, I was assaulted and developed a severe eating disorder that still affects me to this day. I didn’t want to go on without my brother, and a part of him did die when he attempted. I think a part of us dies when we don’t want to live anymore. After I physically could not live that way any longer, I began to pick up the pieces of my reality and spent the rest of high school trying to make a recovery. After I had recovered almost fully, I realized that I was no longer the person I thought I was, and it took me a long time to be okay with that.
After high school, I attended a university where I lost a part of myself. I was sexually assaulted, and after spending my entire experience at school trying not to hate myself, I withdrew because I was so severely traumatized and had intense suicidal ideations. I have spent the last two years of my life trying to better myself and move on from these experiences, and trust me, I’ve made mistakes along the way.
During the course of my journey, I tried medications and therapy, and I actually have had the same therapist for almost 8 years. I’m still currently on medicine, but it took me a long time to find what worked for me. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I went cold turkey off my medication because a church shamed me into thinking only God could heal me. I thought people who went to therapy were crazy. I spent years of my life hiding my mental illness and feeling like I was less than anyone, when in reality, I have always been the strongest person in the room.
I’ve endured a lot of pain. But I’ve also had so much joy in my life. I have gained so much experience and I have grown a passion for sharing my story to help others. If there’s anything I want you to take away from my journey, it’s that no matter what you go through, you can still be the person you’re meant to be. I still struggle with mental illness, but I am a high functioning student with a full time job and a business. It’s possible for you to do it all and still have struggles. Your mental illness doesn’t make you any less you.
Abby is willing to support you on your mental health journey. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional support!