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Dez’s Story of Struggling to Continue

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Struggle is something that I have experienced throughout my life; in many aspects and domains of it. And, even now. Something I struggled with greatly, is to keep pushing in a healthy manner. There are many factors that play into this struggle of continuation, which include growing up in the foster care system feeling alone, unwanted, and scared from the age of four. From religious trauma, sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse and society’s expectations of me; to be okay with no reason to feel broken from a young age. Where it became too much is when I turned against myself. I listened to other’s opinions and expectations of me.

It began when my sexuality wasn’t accepted at home. I didn’t exactly come out. It was kept as a secret until my adoptive mother went through my phone. I hid it from her. From there, I was interrogated, sexually assaulted and beat by my adoptive mother at the age of 15 in front of my younger sibling. One of my adoptive mother’s fingers sprained. She stopped hitting upon the realization that my eyes were not filled with tears, but rather with rage of fighting every single urge and cell in my body from hitting her. But, that was not the reason I turned against myself.

Part of why I turned against myself was upon experiencing transphobia with severe/crippling gender dysphoria. I judged myself based on society’s expectations and fetish of wanting conformity. To be treated like a human and with love is what I craved. Hearing that I wasn’t deserving of affection as the “role” of a “man” by the person I was dating at the time is what really pushed me. It made me feel like I wasn’t deserving of anything. At these moments of thoughts, I craved to no longer exist in this world of people who did not provide me with the love I needed.

I sat on my bed for a very long time contemplating how I would succeed without feeling. I paced around the room. Then thought about how the person who found me would feel. Fighting the urge of wanting to go was my chore. I fought my thoughts for about 30 minutes until I grabbed Benadryl to stare at it. Suddenly all the voices simmered. There was this one loud voice that led me away from doing it.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

When I was 15, I had no one that was able to help me. When I talked about it, a crisis worker came to the school and my adoptive mother showed up. Her presence made things worse. I had extreme hope that the crisis worker came back.

For my gender dysphoria journey, I had a therapeutic team that helped me with my trauma and gender dysphoria. As a note, I’m someone whose emotions do not go detected. I was someone who wanted others feel loved, understood and to laugh; I rarely talked about the insides. All of which prevented me from getting the support I needed from physical individuals. The motive was, I didn’t want to put others in that burden of helping someone who didn’t want to live.

As a psychic medium, with the ability to see and hear spirits, the spirit realm became my biggest support. My spirit team made sure to make me feel like I am deserving of love, happiness, affection, etc. They worked with me on an extremely deep level that I am extremely grateful for. They talked me down from moving forward with my plan. The one voice that spoke louder than the others and my thoughts were theirs.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Things started to change for the better when I understood the work my spirit team and I have done; which was more than just shadow work. I needed to allow myself to speak my truth and feel heard by my self. There was a need to break down the identity I have created that protect me but also harmed my truest self. I had to change my overall mindset of life without diminishing the negatives and struggles people of this world face. There’s such an importance to it all!

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Life now appears to be steady through effective coping strategies of listening. There are lows at times. In those times, I have to remind myself to slow down and gently listen to myself. Through my experiences, I have learned to take my negative experiences as a gift of being able to understand the struggles of a broken society. With this, I was able to accomplish self control of what feels to be consuming. With my experiences, I hope to help individuals through mental health counseling, being part of organizations that help people with wellness, and being an advocate through my activism of fighting for what is right. In my future, I hope to publish the books I am currently working on: a poetry book, a book that decolonizes the DSM, and a theoretical book. If required, I hope to obtain my PhD in psychology.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

To the reader and/or individuals in a tough time: You are perfect the way you are. You are deserving of love, affection, care, happiness and a life of abundance. Life is all about growth. Throughout life, I have learned that struggle is necessary for growth no matter the depth of the struggle. Through our experiences, it is up to us to heal or to just continue without trying. Even when we fail during the processes of trying for the better; failure only leads to a bigger success and an impact on the world. Don’t forget that the greatest discoveries came by failure.

To conclude this off, I want to share what I wished I had known earlier. I always felt bad/guilty about sharing my story about my experiences because I felt as though I was insulting, speaking negatively of, and/or was ruining someone’s reputation. As Doctor Nahla once said “you are not insulting them, you’re describing them. You’re not speaking negatively of them, you’re just explaining what happened. And you’re not ruining their reputation, they did that with their actions”. Don’t ever feel guilty for talking about your experiences and/or story. Everyone has a choice and their choices speak and have spoken clearly. People need to hear you and you need to be heard.

Therell’s Story of Overcoming Anxiety and Depression Using Coping Skills

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a kid. I have also struggled to make and maintain friendships, and friendships are something I want more than anything.

I would say it became too much when I was in 6th grade. That is when I shared with the school nurse that I wanted to end my life and I was hospitalized as a result.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

Throughout my life, I’ve seen many therapists, and the majority of them were not the right fit. Therapy recently ended with someone who was the right fit, and over the course of four years, she taught me more coping strategies to use when I’m feeling down in the dumps.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

While the depression and anxiety are still there, I would say things started to get slightly better in my senior year of high school. In my senior year of high school, I took a photography class that I really enjoyed and now photography is a hobby of mine. I also took a creative writing class, and that class has had a huge impact on my life. In that class, we would write poems and such, and I developed a big love for writing.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

In my life now, I am still suffering from depression and anxiety, but I am actively receiving help from multiple support systems to combat them.

As mentioned above, I have developed a love for writing. This love for writing has helped me create a plethora of poems, stories, lyrics, etc. I have even used these lyrics to create actual songs with the help of a professional recording studio. I would say this is one of my biggest accomplishments. Many years ago, I never would have thought that I’d be at a point where I was creating professional songs. Writing and creating these songs has become a big part of my life now, and I’m hoping to make it big in the music industry one day.

Another huge accomplishment in my life is graduating high school. I was so ecstatic to finally leave and I would say my graduation day was one of the best days of my life. Now I am in college and it has been a much better school experience for me.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

The first thing I would say to people who are having a tough time is that you are not alone. We are all in this together. I would also say to find some hobbies of things that you are interested in and to participate in those hobbies.

What’s helped me a little bit is what I mentioned above, finding hobbies. Not only do I do photography and write, but I also exercise and I have a few YouTube channels that I create content on. These four hobbies of mine have helped me stay afloat during some of the most difficult times in my life.

Sasha’s Journey of Overcoming Her Struggles With Mental Health

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with a multitude of mental illnesses throughout the course of my life. I think that most of them fed off of one another and have both chemical and situational aspects, considering the fact that I have been dealing with this for as long as I can remember. One of the hardest things I have had to endure on my mental health journey has been the inability to communicate the feelings I later learned were stemming from mental illness. From the age of four I have been visiting therapists and counselors for my “strange behaviors” that were, in reality, cries for help and coping mechanisms. In my early years I went from pulling almost all my hair out, to refusing to talk, to having meltdowns and panic attacks with seemingly no cause. As I grew older and learned how to express my emotions, I quickly realized what my problems were.

The dominating issue for me is depression. It has presented itself in different ways and in varying severity over the years, but it always lurks in the background. I think that most people with depression can relate to the sheer exhaustion that it causes both mentally and physically. Sometimes I feel powerless in my own body, a slave to the numbness or overwhelming power of feelings that depression can both cause. Motivation and energy do not come naturally to me anymore; I am continually in a state of battle to keep myself afloat. My anxiety only adds to the battle. Having both depression and anxiety is like living in a perpetual argument, with contrasting yet equally powerful thoughts constantly at odds with one another; Your anxiety making you worried about every aspect of your life and your depression not allowing you to do anything about it, echoing that nothing really matters anyway.

Unsurprisingly, already struggling with depression and anxiety led to more mental health problems for me as I got older. Disordered eating is a fairly recent addition to the roster for me. In quarantine, I gained a lot of weight and for the first time in my life felt concern for how I looked. I was never athletic, a person who hated sports, and was a girl with a sweet tooth. Somehow it never impacted me before; I was always small and never concerned with my body. Suddenly I found myself skipping meals, working out almost every day and tracking every calorie I consumed. My obsession began to swallow me whole, taking up every waking thought and becoming my life. I began to binge, something I never thought I would have been capable of, and still something that ignites a fire of humiliation inside me when I think about it. I reached points lower than I have ever been before.

My depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and traumas have all had a major impact on myself and my life. Though it is certainly still a struggle, I can say with confidence that I am getting better and working toward a version of myself that is both happy and healthy, without expectation nor fear. My mental health is still a part of me, but it is something that has given me strength and wisdom that has shaped me into who I am today.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

As I previously mentioned, I have a long history of seeing therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists. For the majority of my life I did not have good experiences with therapy and thus viewed it negatively. Eventually I was put on medication which I can say has changed my life. More recently, I have found a therapist who I absolutely love and completely trust. I am so grateful to finally have support that I feel is benefiting me and is putting me on a track to be a better person. The support I received for the better part of my life was ineffective and at times more harmful, but now I have found the right kind of support for my needs.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I think that when I decided I needed help and actually began going to therapy again was a really big turning point for me. I was able to really take a look at myself and change my outlook on life. I think that it is really easy to stay in the depths of your mental illnesses; as bad as it sounds, there is comfort in the feeling of being not okay. I think that is why my decision to go to therapy and actually going was such a turning point for me; it was one of the first times where I truly wanted to get better, for good. This motivation to improve my mental health was the start of my recovery and journey to improving my mental health.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Though it is certainly still a daily struggle, my life has gotten a lot better and more happy. I have been able to keep up my grades, maintain and create friendships, and develop myself as a person. Right now my life feels like it is at the beginning of a new era for me; one that will hopefully be less traumatic and filled with happiness and achievement. I will be going to college soon, so right now I am working towards that and graduating whilst also living a life in which I feel enriched and content.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

My advice would be to remember that recovery is not linear. There are going to be moments of ups and downs, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less weak or any less worthy of happiness, and it doesn’t mean that you failed. Don’t give up because of what you perceive as mistakes or shortcomings. Mental health is a journey that never ends, and the bad times are just as if not more important than the good times because they show your strength and persistence. You have survived every bad moment in your life thus far; you are strong, and more capable than you know!

Dante’s Struggle With Gender Identity And Overcoming It

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

For my whole life, I have struggled with my Gender Identity. Even from a young age I never felt like I fit in. I liked to dress in overalls and shorts. I would sometimes wear skirts, but I never really enjoyed it. At school, I enjoyed playing on the slides and monkey bars. My teachers always told me to play with the girls, but I never found what they do to be interesting. No, it wasn’t ever easy having to grow up with people who told me what I was doing was wrong. But I have always been carefree. I barely ever listened to the people that told me I was in the wrong crowd.

I remember it becoming too much right around 7th or 8th grade. Every day I would wake up and feel gross in my body. Like I wasn’t in the right one. It held a very bad mental strain on me, to the point where I resorted to self-harm. At first, I promised myself it would only be a one-time thing, but I was very wrong. It started to become a habit to the point where my mother called the cops on me. That day, I was emitted into the mental ward of Yale New-Haven. I stayed there overnight until my dad picked me up.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first, the support I had was my sister, my brother, and my therapist. My sister absolutely did anything to help me. She corrected people, told them, always told me that she was proud of me and how far I had come. My brother, although he didn’t tell me much, he was always supportive. He also has told me that he was proud of me. I even made them both trans pride stickers that say ‘proud brother/sister’, and they display them proudly. Never do they judge me, they’re always kind. My therapist always helped me by teaching me how to reach out and how to deal with the mental strain. She also was so kind and told me she was proud of me.

Yes, this did help. It helped me a lot. It helped to distract from the other people because I knew that my loved ones were proud of me, so that’s all that really mattered to me. They helped me, always did their best to understand me. Even my mom did, she helped a lot as well.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The turning point I noticed is when I started to smile more. In the past, I rarely flashed a smile. I always thought that I didn’t have a reason to smile. There wasn’t anything that made me happy, because I didn’t feel true to myself. But, as I started to realize and get more comfortable with myself, I started to smile more. I started to display happiness more, and I started to hang out with people more. Before, I pushed everyone away and didn’t wanna talk to anyone. It also started to change for the better when people started to notice me more as a male. That made me the happiest I ever have been.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now, my life is filled with fewer negative thoughts. Now I hang out with people more and I go out more. I have made friends and it has honestly changed me for the better. Ever since I transitioned, my mind has been more clear. Since then, I have been able to complete more writing projects, and I have been able to complete more art projects as well.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

What I would tell people who are having a bad time is to never give up, because I promise it will get better. I used to think it didn’t but here I am, I haven’t self-harmed in months and I am living my best life. People may drag you down, but I believe that you have the power to fight back. And please remember that it isn’t weak to need to reach out to people. We aren’t made to deal with problems ourselves. You wouldn’t wanna overwork your body, it’s already doing its best. Needing to find any sort of help, isn’t something to be ashamed of.

Dominique’s Story About Learning To Reach Out For Help, Age 24

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with a lot at an early age. I felt like I had the weight of the world resting on my shoulders and I didn’t know how much longer I could carry it. Things were really hard after my parents split up. I barely heard from my dad for a while and my mom made me feel like it was my sibling’s and I’s fault that he left. Sometimes, I felt like maybe it was. My mom was barely around leaving me with my two younger siblings alone. I had to make sure they were okay and I often forgot to take care of myself. I barely ate or slept. I was in middle school. Can you imagine being in middle school and having to take on all of that responsibility on your own? It was a lot. And it took a huge toll on my mental health. I was constantly depressed. I blamed myself for my parent’s divorce and my mom not being around. Eventually, it got to the point where I was self-harming. I was miserable, I felt like I wanted to die. I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. I needed help but I didn’t know how or who to ask for it. I was drowning.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first, I was seeing the school counselor for a while. My mom found out I was self-harming and called the school about it and that’s what they decided to do. The counseling helped but I wasn’t getting any real support at home. Between work and dealing with her own feelings, my mom didn’t really have time to listen to me and my siblings were too young to understand what was going on. I knew my friends cared about me but I didn’t want them to worry so I never said anything. My close friends knew something was wrong even without me telling them so I knew I had their support regardless. Other than that, I didn’t really have anyone except the counselor.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

It wasn’t until I had gotten to high school that things started to get a little better. I was seeing my guidance counselor, Mr. Auriantal, twice a week. I was also finally starting to address how I really felt about my dad leaving. I was hurt. I felt abandoned. But I had people, my own relatives, telling me that I wasn’t allowed to feel that way. They were wrong. I get that breakups are hard but I lost someone who PROMISED that they were never going to leave me and then they did. I was heartbroken. I wasn’t able to express that fully to anyone at the time, so I used to write poetry about it instead. I felt free finally being able to express myself.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Life’s a little better now. I still struggle from time to time but who doesn’t? I have a great therapist and she’s been a huge help through it all. I’ve been seeing her for a pretty long time now and she’s helped and is continuing to help me work on so much. From past trauma to trust issues, relationship issues, and everything in between. Without her, I’m not sure what I’d do. She always makes me hold myself accountable for my actions and my feelings. She constantly reminds me that I have to take control. I can’t let my mental health dictate my life. I’m working on being a better, healthier version of myself. I know I’ll get there in time. I have a great job working with special needs students and they truly remind me how lucky I am to live this life. They make me feel like I’ve made a difference. I have a couple of wonderful friends, not many but quality over quantity, and the ones who stayed are irreplaceable, priceless even.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Don’t ever feel like you have to go through anything alone. I wish I had known that it was okay to reach out for help. Growing up I felt like I had to do everything on my own because I never felt like I could rely on anyone. Getting older I’ve learned that you don’t have to do it all on your own. It’s okay to ask for help. The right people will be there when you need them and the people who aren’t, they’re not worth your time. I wish I had someone to lean on going through everything I did, I should have reached out but I didn’t. I never want anyone to feel the way I did. You shouldn’t have to go through things alone.

Emily’s Story of Learning To Manage Bipolar Disorder, Age 29

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with bipolar disorder type II since I was a teenager. I started to have episodes of depression where I would not speak. I would  also have episodes of hypomania where I would have excessive energy, being hyper and productive. It all culminated where I was almost threatened to be removed from my transition program during what I now know was a depressive episode. 

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

My parents took me to a psychiatrist, and I got diagnosed and put on medication and it has been working. It has been eight years since this point and fairly manageable.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life has been quite eventful since getting my diagnosis nine years ago. I got diagnosed in January of 2012 and then began getting my associate’s degree as a Disability Specialist A.S. that fall. School took several years but since then I’ve had several jobs that revolve around youth and disability in one way or another.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

Not to sound cliché but I would say though times are tough, they will get better eventually. What has helped me is letting myself process my emotions in the moment and realize there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Kailey’s Dual-Diagnosis Recovery Story: Age 23

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with a lot. I feel like they’re all sort of interconnected. I used to blame myself, my thought being that I was just weak. I would tell myself other people have been through so much worse, how can I be so depressed and anxious? But now I realize that it’s not that I was weak. Everyone responds to their traumas differently. I’ve realized how strong I am because honestly, I have been through so much, but I still keep pushing forward everyday, even when I really don’t want to.

I’ve struggled with disordered eating. I felt like I had no control over anything in my life, but starving myself and skipping meals was something I could control. It was never so much about my weight because I have been small my entire life. It was really about grasping onto the control it made me feel like I had. As I got older, starving myself became a way to physically harm myself because I just really felt like I deserved to suffer. That was something I struggled with on and off from middle school through college. There are still days where I unintentionally don’t eat because my body’s regular hunger signals are all over the place from years of disordered eating.

Another thing I have really struggled with is depression. I’ve had thoughts of suicide since I was probably in middle school. I was in middle school writing suicide notes and stuffing them in between my mattress and boxspring. I would plot and plan, but I never did anything. It wasn’t always that I actually wanted to die and be completely done. I just wanted to escape the situation I was in and that seemed like the only way. There are days I don’t want to get out of bed. There are days I want to just sleep. There are days I can’t stop crying throughout the day. I would literally be at work or in class with tears silently streaming down my face. The depression doesn’t come around as much as it used to, but I do still struggle. Despite what people might tell you, recovery isn’t linear. It’s okay to have good and bad days, it happens. Life can’t be like the fairytales, bad things happen and it’s okay to react to them.

Another thing I have had issues with is my anxiety. I don’t think I had ever really had full blow anxiety until I was in college, but that also might just be when I really recognized it for what it was. When I was in college, there was one drunken night when I made one of the worst decisions of my life. Someone offered me a pill (Red Bull, it was MDMA) and they told me it would make me happy (I was really depressed because my best friend had just attempted suicide and she had almost completed). Drunk me decided it was a great idea.

I had a horrible trip. I was screaming and throwing myself up the walls in a bed. By the end of the night my hair was in a giant knot from throwing myself around. It was after that night that I started to have issues with anxiety. Drugs like MDMA are meant to significantly spike serotonin, a chemical in the brain that’s makes you feel good. The issue is, after taking it, it depletes it and causes psychological effects. When the anxiety got really bad, I finally had to tell my mom what I did and she took me to a special naturopathic doctor where I ran tests to see how chemically imbalanced my brain was so I could take things to try and balance it out.

A few months after the incident, I had my first panic attack. I had no idea what it was, so naturally, I thought I was dying. Increased heart rate, extreme feeling of impending doom…I felt like if I stopped moving, I was going to die. I was convinced I was having a heart attack or something and that I was going to drop dead. I was at work and I eventually called my friend to get me from work and I wanted her to take me to the hospital, but she knew it was a panic attack and she was able to calm me down.

One of the things nobody tells you about anxiety is that it’s more than just feeling nervous. For me, it’s the physical symptoms that really get me because they really can be associated with real medical issues that might be life threatening. For me, my heart races, I get shortness of breath, my hands become numb, I feel nauseous, I get GI issues, I clench my teeth, and I’m sure there’s things I’m forgetting. And of course, these physical symptoms cause my anxiety to heighten. I would be in class or at work experiencing these symptoms and for people who don’t understand, it’s hard to be like hey I’m not okay and I can’t be here right now. One time I literally forced my doctor to give me an x-ray of my lungs because of the physical symptom shortness of breath. The x-ray came back and showed nothing was wrong and she suggested I see a therapist.

For a short period of time, I turned to substances to try and block everything out. It was a way to make myself numb. I wasn’t drinking and smoking just for fun. Honestly, a lot of the time I was doing it alone. I liked to drink or get high to the point where I was just a vegetable. I just didn’t want to feel anything. It was easier than being sober where my thoughts were running wild. This period didn’t last that long, and I’m sure my body thanks me for that. I chose to be completely sober a couple of years ago because I just knew having issues with depression and anxiety, I would try and turn to substances to try and make myself numb and I would take it too far.

At one point I started smoking cigarettes and to be completely honest it was another way of me just trying to harm myself. It’s horrible, but I was like I hope I get cancer and die a slow painful death. My reasoning? I felt like I deserved it. News flash, I don’t deserve it. Thankfully the cigarette smoking didn’t last long either.

At some point in college, I was getting really bad and I went to a therapist. I was barely functioning and it was effecting my school and work. I remember she diagnosed me with PTSD. I checked almost all of the boxes. I didn’t want to face it, and I stopped going to see her shortly after. Digging deep was bringing up stuff I didn’t want to remember and it was making me even worse emotionally to the point where I was crying what felt like 24/7.

Looking back now, I’m going to assume what she actually meant I had is CPTSD, not that that’s any better than just regular ole PTSD. Mine wasn’t from just one traumatic event, but from repeated trauma over YEARS. There are a lot of things that trigger me that don’t make sense to those around me because my brain was literally wired by trauma. I had to do a lot of things to try and protect myself growing up. It’s something I definitely try to work on, but there are so many things I have just buried deep down that a lot of my reactions to things that shouldn’t be issues are subconscious.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

When I was a freshman in college, my friend pushed me to go to CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) for therapy. I went in the spring semester and it worked. I figured I would be good to go for life, but man was I wrong.

I ended up going back my sophomore year, but I got a new intern. I felt like she was judging me (I was kind of spiraling and making just all around really bad decisions). I would tell her something, and I could just see in her face that she was thinking what is wrong with this girl. Honestly, it made me feel worse. I finished therapy through the semester and then I stopped thinking I was cured. Wrong again.

When I pulled myself out of school before the start of my junior year, I went to CAPS again and demanded they give me someone who wasn’t just an intern because I felt like I had way too many issues for the interns to help with. It was there that we decided I wouldn’t go to school that semester and one of the therapists there referred me to Sound Community in New London, CT to do a Dual Diagnosis Program.

The Dual Diagnosis was for people with substance abuse issues and mental health issues. It was a group therapy type thing. I was 20 at the time and I was the youngest one there. The adults loved me though, and there was one woman who told me I reminded her of her daughter. Another would draw me things. We were taught coping skills and just overall educated. We had worksheets and we did projects. I really learned a lot while I was there. I graduated the program sometime in October and I went into individual therapy with one of the people who led the group.

I absolutely loved my therapist I had been assigned. It felt like she really understood me. I was comfortable sharing everything and anything with her. She really helped me so much. I stopped seeing her when they made some changes and the group social workers couldn’t have individual clients anymore. We both agreed that I was ready and I was a lot better than when I first entered the program. Having a therapist you really connect with is SO IMPORTANT. If you don’t feel like you click with your therapist, absolutely try and look for another one because it will make a huge difference.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I graduated from college in August of 2020, five years after starting college in Fall of 2015. I graduated with a degree in New Media Studies with a concentration in Integrated Communication Media.

When I was in college, I started a blog called https://combatinganxiety.com/ as my senior project, I feel that sharing my story is really important for people that are struggling. It’s nice to know that you’re not alone. I share my story to try and help end the stigma. Discussing mental health should not be a taboo.

I have been working for my mom’s blog since 2015 and I really like the work. This summer I took a food photography course and I now take photos for her recipe posts! It’s really cool getting to see my photos published on her site and her social media.

2020 was rough, but it gave me time to really do things I wanted to do (I had been working multiple jobs and going to school for years and the pandemic gave me a break from that life). I really got back into photography and it has been great for my mental health going out hiking with my camera. I’ve also become a bit of a crazy bird lady and I love sharing my bird photos with others who love them as much as I do!

My biggest accomplishment to date is becoming Turning Point CT’s newest team member. I am now their social media assistant! This is my first job I have taken since I have graduated and I am so happy to be a part of something and to help make a difference!

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Well for one, you are NOT alone!

Second, recovery is by no means linear. You can’t expect to just be happy all the time and not depressed or anxious or struggling. You absolutely cannot beat yourself up if you’re having a hard time in your recovery. It just isn’t helpful to beat yourself up. Acknowledge those feelings and try and figure out why you’re feeling those things. Acknowledging those feelings is much better than just shoving everything down.

Third, there are so many resources out there! The internet makes access to information so easy. Social media is a great way to connect with others that may be going through similar things.

Lastly – Hang in there!

Rose’s Experience of Bipolar

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with bipolar disorder for years. It became too much when I was a teenager going undiagnosed and untreated. I had no idea why I felt so much and reacted so much- it became my whole identity and I felt out of control.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first, I went to an APRN, therapist, and psychiatrist and none of them seemed equipped to understand me. They either gave out medication too easily and without much information or dismissed my concerns and refused to give compassion, it only made me feel more unbalanced and invalid.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

My first turning point was when I received my diagnosis. I thought that being told I was bipolar would scare me because of the stigma surrounding it, but it instead gave me so much comfort. I read about the disorder, listened to my brain and body, sought out a kind therapist, and learned that I am just as valid as anyone else. “Normal” people are just common people- it’s okay to be different. If I had the option to be mentally healthy and not bipolar, I truly would not take it. The ability to feel this much is one of my favorite things.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life now is filled with love and mindfulness. I feel like I understand myself more than I ever thought possible and have begun to see my immense amount of feelings as a gift. People who aren’t bipolar don’t feel the extreme emotions that we do, it’s absolutely wild and makes me feel like a superhero. Even though it feels like a curse when I’m sad, I wouldn’t change myself. I’ve begun to pride myself and embrace my mental illness as it’s helped me understand and appreciate myself more.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

You don’t have to heal all of your trauma and struggles before you can live a fulfilling life! You are a gift!

FC’s Story of Navigating a Toxic Home Environment

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with my fathers alcoholism as a young kid.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I had family but not much support came from them besides my mother and sister who I’m very close to.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Yes, my dad moved out and got better. But it still bugs me with flashbacks.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I mean, im only a teenager so…

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I learned that I can help my family members get better and keep a positive attitude towards life. Also, I talk more about my experiences which helps.

T.P.’s Story of Learning the Importance of Self Care (Age: 21)

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and various other forms of poor mental health for most of my life. My parents say I was anxious even as an infant, but the impact of my anxiety has certainly ebbed and flowed throughout my life. I usually describe my mental health struggles as having anxiety and depressive tendencies, because while I haven’t always technically fit a diagnosis of depression I feel that it’s been lurking underneath the surface for most of my life even when I wasn’t technically struggling from depression. I have always been easily distressed, and I have experienced symptoms of other specific mental illnesses in spurts along the way.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I made it through K-12 schooling and most of college without receiving treatment because I was seemingly functional–my grades have always been good good, and because I was successful and high achieving, I relied on sheer force of will to get through school even though I was falling apart on the inside and suffering greatly. That wasn’t sustainable, though, and I finally started seeing a therapist last fall.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The first turning point for me was when I left for college, leaving behind an unhealthy school environment and family dynamic. My new environment was so much better that I felt, at least for a little while, like my problems had gone away. However, eventually they crept back into my life. Another turning point where I felt like I was actually doing much better was during the first few months of the pandemic, when for the first time in my life I could make my priority taking care of my mental health and sleeping, exercising, and socializing without stress from schoolwork.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Right now, I’m struggling with the mental health effects of the pandemic. Though initially the pandemic was an excuse to focus on myself, now I’m having to try to maintain my mental health while also working while existing in a global crisis. While I have learned much about myself, such as the fact that I can actually feel healthy and hopeful when I have the opportunity to prioritize my well-being, I’m struggling to apply that knowledge to the world we live in right now.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I used to feel selfish for prioritizing my self and well-being, until I heard a favorite saying of mine that I’ve since learned to be true: You can’t pour from an empty cup. Meaning, the more that you take care of yourself, the more you can take care of others. In that sense, it’s not selfish to focus on taking care of yourself, because it’s much harder to provide love, empathy, and compassion to the ones you love when you are struggling.

Nina’s Story of Learning Self Love and Confidence

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I’ve struggled with anxiety for a long, long time. Sort of constantly, like it was all. the. TIME. It got to be way too much and I really started hating myself and thinking I was always the problem in every situation. I also struggled with hating the way I look, how my voice sounds, and a lot of other things that just make me who I am, which made me lose a lot of self confidence.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

First, I tried journaling and listening to music as a form of letting out all my stress, but sometimes, reading what I had written just made me more sad about how anxious I was and what I had become.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The biggest turning point for me was when I met my boyfriend. He has always been an incredible listener, and he always tells me how much I mean to him and makes me feel really valued and loved.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I feel like a MUCH happier person. I’ve done some things that would’ve been way out of my comfort zone like 8 months ago. I feel like I’m much more of a valid person, and I’ve been able to do some things I’ve always wanted to do (even as simple as wearing a certain Halloween costume) due to this newfound self confidence.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

What I’d like to tell people is that sometimes the right people haven’t found you yet, and it might make you feel like you could never have friends or never be loved and valued, but I assure you, the right person or the right people to make you feel the best you ever have are on their way, and when they find you or you find them you’ll know exactly where you belong.

Jenna’s Story of Self Acceptance and Overcoming Anxiety

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with anxiety my whole life and it became too much when I began taking harder classes in school as well as extra curricular activities.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first I just looked to my parents for support, but then I began going to a psychologist in order to express my feelings and get help from those who are there to help.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

One turning point was when I realized my worth and began to stop caring so much about what other people thought. When I began to focus on myself and my own improvement, I began to become less anxious.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is going pretty smoothly now. I graduated high school and moved on to a prestigious universities where I participate in many mental health and wellness clubs in order to share my story.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell people that it gets better. Even at your lowest point and when you do not want to hear these words because you do not believe them, you need to keep fighting. Fight for yourself.

Serena’s Journey to Self Love

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

In high school, I struggled with body-image issues and restrictive eating habits. I was a Varsity Track Athlete and ran 6-7 times a week. I struggled with my self-worth because I thought I had to obtain an extremely thin frame in order to be liked more. I reached my lowest point around the time I turned 15 and was a size 00. At the time, I celebrated this, but my health quickly started deteriorating. For the rest of high school, I was able to put back on some more weight, but always worked myself too hard and didn’t eat enough. I struggled with whether I would ever feel ‘good enough’ and was scared of getting heavier.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

When my family noticed I was starting to pass out more and more, they became very concerned. My mom encouraged me to see food as fuel, and to try to avoid counting calories or trying fad diets. I could tell she was worried, and at first I did try to take better care of myself. However, I struggled with making healthy decisions, because I felt like I got positive attention from my peers when I looked skinnier. It took me until I got to college to stop tracking everything I ate, and to see exercise as a fun stress reliever rather than a daily chore.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Freshman year of college, I tried so hard to stay in the same shape as I was in high school. I quickly learned that in order to do so, my life would have to revolve around meal prep and spending hours in the gym each day. By the end of that first year, I decided that enough was enough. Over time, I thought about how much happier I would be if I loved my body for how it is, and stopped punishing myself for not being thin enough. Things changed for the better once I made the decision to love myself and treat my body with more respect. What also helped were the more positive friendships I made while at school. Getting involved in different clubs and extra-curriculars, I began to see that I am liked for my character and personality…not for how much I weigh.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Today, there are still some moments where I find myself having negative thoughts about my body and worth. However, I know that self-love is something that can always be worked and improved upon, and I am so proud of how far I’ve come. I still love to eat healthy foods and go running/to the gym. The difference is that I now do this to feel good, rather than to try to constantly change my body. I no longer step on a scale or get discouraged when last year’s jeans won’t fit. I know that I matter, and what’s on the outside won’t change that. My goal is to lead a happy and fulfilling life, while getting the opportunity to make a positive impact on those around me.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

For those who may be struggling with a similar issue, know that it takes time. I didn’t wake up one day and automatically love myself. Over time, I realized my worth, and kept reminding myself of why my past habits were negatively affecting the way I get to enjoy my life. Challenge yourself every day to break harmful habits, even if you have to take baby steps. Seek support from family or friends you trust, and seek environments in which you feel comfortable and accepted.

CH’s Story of Persevering Despite Depression and Bullying, Age: 19

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Depression along with self image issues, It started when I turned 11 but it became very hard during 6th grade when I had turned 13yr old and had to deal with daily bullying.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I got guidance counseling that was available in school at first and only really had that for the longest time. Only having one pillar that I had to lean on that would constantly fail me lead to develop bad trust issues.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I got out of that toxic environment, When I finally got a proper therapist, and psychiatrist, and also got on medication that would all come together to make me feel better.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Although my life isn’t exactly how I’d picture it being during this time of my life, I’m in a much better place than I was seven years ago. I graduated High School and I’m starting college.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would’ve seeked help sooner, proper help. It took until I was already having regular breakdowns to see my first therapist and due to my parents concerns, five years before they’d even consider getting me medication. Don’t be afraid to help yourself.

Jessica’s Story of Becoming Stronger Than Her OCD and Anxiety, Age: 17

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with anxiety mostly but at times OCD as well. I realized it was too much when it stopped me multiple times a day. I wouldn’t be able to go outside if there was a cloud in the sky, or be near a friend if they coughed. An instance that I knew it had gotten too far and I needed to do something about it was when my fear of flying took over. My family was going to California and I told my family leading up to it that I was nervous because I hadn’t been on an airplane before and I did not want to go there because there can be earthquakes. My family thought it was regular nerves and kept pushing it off saying that I would be fine. On the drive to the airport I said out loud “I hope we get into a car crash so we can miss our flight”. Once we got to the airport I continued to say that I was not coming with them. They didn’t understand what I meant by that but for me I would do anything, and I did. We got on the plane and I sat down. I started screaming and crying saying that I wasn’t coming. Eventually the flight attendant came over and said it wasn’t fair for the other passengers for me to scream the whole flight and I had to leave.. So my dad got off the plane with me and I thought I was safe. Until he told me that we were going to try again. A couple hours later we got on another plane while the rest of my family was already there and the screaming, crying, and kicking off happened all over again. For years I missed more family vacations and opportunities because of this fear.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first I would speak with my school counselor and I was signed up for therapy, Although this was better than no help, I wasn’t paired with the right therapist for me. I felt like I was treated like a baby and she didn’t understand.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

A turning point for me was when I found my new therapist and got on the right medication. Although I still on a daily basis have to deal with my anxiety, I am now able to cope and manage it and it no longer stops me from doing things!

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Since I had learned how to deal with my anxiety I have been able to accomplish so much! Although I still don’t love flying, I have been able to fly to 5 states, and 7 countries, no longer missing out on family vacations or opportunities. I am able to go outside when it is cloudy out and be with a friend after they cough. I have been on a ropes course and top of a building despite my anxiety towards high up things. I have been to a sleep away camp, a teen tour, and two month trip to a different country without my family. Although these adventures were still difficult for me, I was able to do it!!

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would say to keep working on it. I know that it may not feel like you are making progress, but you are! Keep working because you are getting closer to a place that you want to be! I wish I had known that my friends would support me. I had been scared to share my story with them thinking that they wouldn’t understand and wouldn’t be supportive but I was surprised at how many understood and had even been going through things similar to me.

If you’d like to reply to Jessica’s Story, click here!

Mariah’s Journey of Becoming Independent, Age: 22

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggle with Schizoaffective disorder and it became too much when I was in high school. I was about 14 when I began experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. It became too much when I was a sophomore in high school. I couldn’t seem to get my assignments done and I was losing focus in class. It became so overwhelming I was outplaced in a therapeutic school. When I graduated things started to get worse. I spent some time in a hospital due to a suicide attempt and had to drop out of college. I started to deal with mania and psychosis soon after. Currently I am working on recovery and trying to reach certain goals to become functional in society.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I started with basic therapy but that didn’t help much so my therapist recommended I take DBT. At the time, my depression made me reluctant to view help as hope so I didn’t get much out of it. When I went to the hospital they also used DBT. This time however, I was more open to trying it out. Some tools I learned helped me get through my hospital stay. I still use some of those tools today. I was also tried on several medications that didn’t do much for me but luckily I have found a medication that works for most of my symptoms.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I received the correct diagnosis and changed therapists is when things started to get better. When my diagnosis was changed I was given different medications that made my life more manageable. During that time I was able to leave the house and do things that I didn’t have the motivation to do before.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Currently, my life has been like a whack-a-mole. When one issue is resolved another pops up. It is definitely a struggle but I haven’t given up hope. I’ve been able to develop tools that are very therapeutic for me such as baking. I am working towards overcoming my fear of the outside world and finding a future for myself.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

My best advice would be to reach out to someone even if you feel like there is no hope in getting help. As alone as you may feel in the moment, there are others who can relate. I wish I’d reached out earlier and expressed what was on my mind. No one can read your mind so you need to speak up. When someone is trying to help you it is important to be as open and honest as possible even if it hurts. It’s for the best because in the long run it will benefit you greatly.

If you’d like to reply to Mariah’s Story, click here!

Camille’s Story of Growing Through Her Mental Illness, Age: 22

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with depression, stress, and anxiety. It became too much when I had started becoming suicidal and my mom wanted to take me out of school so I can focus on getting myself together.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

My basketball coach seen that I was struggling and she set me up with a counselor instead of practicing and made sure that I set up appointments to talk to my counselor. It took some time to get used to talking to someone about my issues, but it was very successful.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

There were turning points where things started to become better. I realized that I needed to gain more confidence and be myself. I will eventually have to live for myself and do what is best for me. I became more outgoing and made lots of friends who actually care about me.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is completely different. I want to be able to help others who have been through or currently going through personal issues that are mentally draining. I have been able to accomplish the goal of getting over my fears, graduating from college, and breaking out of my quiet shell. I want to be able to help guide others down a positive path instead of a negative one.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell them to “grow through what you go through.” This is a quote that I live by. It helped me realize that it is alright to go through things, but it is not alright to let the negative things kill me. I had to learn to grow and not let things hold me back from wanting to become successful and accomplish my goals. Never let someone see you down, always walk tall, talk tall, and stand tall.

Ben’s Struggles with OCD, Age: 17

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I’d like to preface this by saying that my story’s far from the worst example of OCD. I’ve heard stories of far worse anxiety than mine, and far worse compulsions and effects on their lives.

When I was 16, I began struggling with religious OCD. In other words, this meant that my obsessive fears were over religious topics–namely, going to Hell. And, as is indicative of OCD, I began performing compulsions to alleviate these fears. These compulsions took the form of specific prayers for repentance for “sins” I believe I had committed.

The list of these sins was broad. At the time, I was following a strict interpretation of the Christian Bible, taking to heart quotes such as Luke 14:26– “If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” For me, this meant that any thoughts I had that were about myself were automatically sinful, meaning that I would be spending a lot of time believing myself to be headed for Hell. And even if I had repented compulsively for hours on end, there was still that sense of uncertainty that drives OCD: “what if it’s not enough?”

Of course, there was a honeymoon period in my religious experience, before my OCD started taking off. I remember tracking the date as December 18th, 2017. I had something of a conversion experience– I resolved to put my religious faith first over everything else. I’d had an internal fear of Hell for as long as I’d remembered; now, I would do something about it. I would become the kind of religious the Bible had talked about. I would do everything I could not to go to Hell.

My anxiety actually dropped as a result of this. For the first time in my life, I had no fear of Hell, and while I was praying more, I was still able to go about my life as I initially had. But then I started noticing a feeling in the back of my brain compelling me to behave certain ways– more religious ways. I called this feeling the Urge, and it was starting to ask the question, “are you really saved?” “I don’t know,” was the answer. And so, the compulsions started slowly.

There were very specific things I had to do not to go to Hell. For example, if I were walking down the street and I didn’t compulsively pick up every bit of trash I saw, I was going to Hell. If I didn’t evangelize to a certain group of kids I had deemed to be sinful, I was going to Hell. If I read, watched Netflix, or did anything that wasn’t inherently religious in nature, I was going to Hell. And the only way out of this was to pay a tax, one that I spent hours trying to pay, ending up crying many nights, as I would be down on the floor with my face covered, Bible next to me, telling God that I was sorry and to please save me.

Eventually, it reached a bit of a breaking point, which I’ll talk about in a later category.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

After a year of this happening, I reached out to my mom. I told her that I thought I had OCD. I wasn’t sure myself, but I knew that something was wrong, and it seemed to be the closest thing that fit. My mom initially thought that I didn’t have the symptoms, but after we talked for a while, she decided to sign me up for therapy. We made sure to find a therapist who was religious, and I had my first meeting with him in March 2019, a month after having talked to my mom. He turned out to be amazing, and we got really close. I was diagnosed with OCD in the coming months.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I do have one turning point, but it falls into the “you have to move backwards to move forwards” category.

Things got a lot worse in the Summer of 2019. In the last few weeks of school, I’d been watching a series of online sermons about how to know for certain if you were saved. They gave lists of ways to tell based on Bible verses, and after examining these signs, I started to realize that I didn’t meet these criteria.

This was when things started to change. For the first time, I had certainty, though it was the opposite certainty that I was looking to hear. The people in the sermons said that if you realize you weren’t saved, then you had to get on your knees and pray until God decided to save you. So, I became convinced that I had to keep repenting, that my OCD was right, and that anything my parents told me or my therapist told me was Satan trying to get me to stop. And so it began.

The problem was compounded by my lack of distraction. During school, I had something to do other than compulsions. But during Summer, I would spend almost entire days on the floor, begging God to save me and watching more sermons. I was hoping they would say something different, and occasionally they did. Sometimes, I would be able to trick myself into thinking that I met their signs. But in the end, I always came back to OCD’s compulsions.

My turning point came in the middle of August, when one day, just as suddenly as I had decided to become religious, I stopped believing in Christianity. I stopped believing in Hell, and so I didn’t fear it anymore. My obsession dried up, and so the compulsions stopped too.

My therapist told me that there will always be a part of me that reacts differently to certain things, but in those months following my turning point moment, we worked together to keep OCD from rising back up. It’s still with me, its hold over me gone, only flaring up occasionally until I can bring it back down.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I’m coming up on the one year anniversary of my last compulsion. It was a bit of a struggle to find new meaning after my religious beliefs changed, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. I’ve started writing, which has proved to be a major passion. I’ve been fixing the relationships that have been hurt by my OCD. I’ve started writing a novel, and I’m a fifth of the way through.

Life’s looking brighter now, all in all.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Spirituality isn’t bad, by any means. I’ve never stopped respecting religion, particularly those devout people with the courage to give their lives to it. And making sacrifices for a higher purpose is incredibly honorable. But you have to be doing it because it’s what you want, not because you’re forced to by an underlying condition. Seek out help; people care. And when you begin to recover from these issues, you’ll find that you’re free to follow your faith how you desire, and it will be clearer as a result. Only through recovery can you have the spiritual experience you want to have.

Vanessa’s Story of Learning to Peacefully Coexist with Anxiety, ADHD and Depression

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled my entire life with anxiety, and just recently with depression. I grew up in the Midwest, and I had never even heard about mental illness as a concept until I moved to Connecticut in 2015. We didn’t talk about it at home. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I didn’t know why I couldn’t make simple decisions without having trouble breathing, and crying (I found out later that is what happens when you have a panic attack) I didn’t know why it took me forever to fall asleep, I didn’t know why I couldn’t make friends as easily as other people, When I moved to Connecticut in January of 2015, I went into a new school in a higher grade than I had been in. All of the other kids were older than I was, and I didn’t have any friends that first year. My mental health was really bad at that time but I didn’t know anything about mental health, I didn’t even know that that was what I was struggling with, so I didn’t get help.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

In 2017 I went to the doctor for a checkup and they had me take a mental health screening test. They told me I tested higher than average for kids my age and that they were going to refer me to a therapist. I was surprised because of my very limited knowledge about mental health, and I didn’t even know I had anxiety until I started psychotherapy (talk therapy). For the first year I was in psychotherapy I didn’t really tell anyone about my anxiety, and I didn’t reach out for help besides from my therapist. This wasn’t working for me, because I only saw my therapist once a week and I needed support more often than that.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

About two years ago, I found out my mom had depression, and my aunt, cousins, and grandma also struggle with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I realized that it wasn’t just me in the world, it wasn’t just my therapist who I could reach out to. I started to talk with my family more about my mental health, and that conversation is really important and has helped me through some really tough times. I also found the mental health community on social media, and in my school with my friends, which helped me to realized that I am not alone. I have a support system, and I can and should reach out when I am struggling.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I struggle with depression and anxiety on a daily basis. My therapist has helped me realize that mental illness isn’t a one-and-done, do this and you’re cured type of health problem. It is always going to be a part of your life, and recovery isn’t about “curing” it (because a lot of times these things can’t be cured) but it’s about learning to peacefully coexist, take charge of your own life, and not letting it control who you are. My life is a lot better since I have realized this, I am able to interact with people with more confidence, I do public speaking for my school, which would have been impossible for me two years ago. I am still working towards asking for help. This past year was tough for me and I have a hard time admitting when I can’t handle something, but I am working towards being mindful of my mental health when making decisions, not letting it control me but keeping in mind what I need to do to stay mentally healthy. I had a period last winter where I was so stressed I didn’t have my period for two months. I was feeling so burnt out that my body wasn’t functioning normally, and part of therapy is noticing unhealthy behavior patterns. I was trying to do too much and it was negatively affecting my health. But I noticed it and was able to make changes to prevent that from happening again.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

You are never as alone as you feel. Tons of people struggle with mental illness, and there are resources all around you if you need them. There is the option of medication, and therapy, but even talking to your family members, to a counselor at school, and going online to websites like Turning Point, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness. There are so many resources for people like us, and hopefully that helps you if you are struggling.

Colby’s Story of Managing Anxiety

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Since elementary school I have struggled with anxiety and occasional stress. Every year my anxiety changes because of what’s going on in my life, with friends, school, etc. But I continue to learn how to accept it and learn new ways to help my anxiety and stress.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

When I was younger I would work myself up so much to the point of panic attacks and meltdowns. I started to go to therapy and it worked/helped a lot. Today I have learned how to accept my anxiety and cope with it. Every day my thoughts and emotions are different but I know how to control them.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I think in middle school I really started to learn what my anxiety meant and why I was feeling certain ways. I started to learn how to deal with it and accept the way I was feeling. I still struggled and had bad days, but I continued to push myself to a point where I could understand what was triggering the anxiety and then navigate how to help myself.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now that I am in High School there are new triggers for me, but there are also more resources available to help with anxiety and stress. I feel like I have grown and learned so much since I was younger about how to control my anxiety. For instance, with the current Covid 19 global pandemic, I found my anxiety was heightened and it started to affect me more than usual. I felt like my thoughts were all over the place and I didn’t feel like myself. Instead of letting my feelings run away, I started to journal, meditate, and do yoga/pilates. I swear by those three things. They have had a tremendous impact on my mental wellness and my anxiety. Journaling is an instant release and I recommend doing it before meditating to help clear your mind. Yoga and stretching after you wake up makes your mind and body feel amazing. Pilates is a great low intensity workout that really helps to tone and makes you feel an immediate release after. These things are examples of how I cope with my anxiety and stress. I think the biggest take away from this is that finding what makes you feel good is most important. Especially focusing on what makes you feel right and not what the internet or people in your life are telling you. Ever since I found ways to cope with my anxiety I have taken many risks and fought away my fear. I have taken on many new leadership positions in my town and a fundraiser event. I feel more comfortable standing up in front of crowd. I am still working on fighting my anxiety and fears as well as working towards being more comfortable with public speaking.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

To the people that are having a tough time I would say “You have the power to create change” and “You are right where you need to be.” Those are two really important quotes or affirmations that helped me. I think it is really important to find what works for you ; whether it’s yoga or meditation – something that can help you find a balance. No matter what it is make sure that you do it for yourself. I also think a really important thing to do is love yourself no matter what. It is something that can be really hard to do and something that you have to work for everyday. But it will make a major difference in your life if you work for it.

Alex’s Story of Finding Support For Depression, Anxiety and Body Dysmorphia, Age: 22

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder when I was around 17 and more recently, body dysmorphia. However, I have been struggling with my mental health well before any official explanations were given to me.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I have been in and out of therapy since my freshman year of high school. I didn’t feel like anything was helping until my senior year of high school when I found a therapist I liked and who I felt understood me. She eventually suggested a psychiatrist to help me manage my health with medication. After finding this combination of support, I realized the importance of finding therapists/professionals who you feel comfortable with. Sometimes it takes a few tries and patience to find a good fit and that is totally okay.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

After being in college for about a year and struggling to adjust, I had a turning point moment when I confronted what I really wanted and was feeling and decided to transfer to a new school. I felt supported by family, friends, and professionals and was finally getting used to being on medication for anxiety and depression after months of trying to find the right combination of medicine that worked for me.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Life has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs and that it normal and something I’ve come to accept. Everyday is different and some are better than others but I’m happy and have a great support system.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

To anybody having a difficult time: be patient with yourself. In my experience, things are never as bad as they seem and stay close to the things that make you happy and that you enjoy. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and if you can, talk to someone you’re comfortable with.

Luna’s Message of Hope After Attempting Suicide, Age: 16

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with depression, social anxiety, self harm, suicidal idealization, emotional physical abuse, bullying, teen dating violence, and anorexia. It became too much when I turned 15. I was self harming, practicing unhealthy eating habits and and my current girlfriend was emotionally abusing me.(yes I am lesbian)I decided to give up. I attempted suicide. I was brought to the local ER. I was able to go home that night. The next day me and my mom got into a fight and she was very angry and said “I will throw you out of this car” and I stupidly said “do it”. That night I got taken to the ER again but that time i was there for 3 days in the crisis unit and was placed in an inpatient mental hospital. In there I attempted to kill myself again. Luckily the staff stopped it before I lost a lot of blood. A year later I am still recovering. I am 1 1/2 months clean.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first it was an intensive outpatient. It didn’t work.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

About 2 months ago. I changed therapists, I moved to DBT therapy which is working.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is currently really well. I have made so much progress I still have anxiety attacks and my depressed days. But I am clean.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

What I would say to someone struggling is it gets better. It will always get better. Nothing anyone says or does to you defines you. It is not worth your life. Your life is worth way more than you will ever know, And hurting yourself will also hurt others. People do care about you.

Alex’s Story of Paving New Roads to Recovery, Age: 26

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I was diagnosed with a severe onset of Bipolar Disorder at the age of 10. Everything happened almost instantly. I was very paranoid, out of touch with reality, and depressed. I was extremely symptomatic, and that was just the scratch on the surface of a 16 year journey I would embark on.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

As far as support, no one really knew what to do, or how do address the actual problem was because of the severity of the illness and many different symptoms. I ended up being loaded up medications by different doctors over the years, repeatedly going in and out of different impatient hospitals and DCF placements. They all much pretty much had a negative impact at the time being.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

There were 4 huge turning points which would end up being the transition to an improbable recovery story. After a 4th uncompleted suicide attempt, I realized I was here for a reason, I wasn’t sure what that was, but I was going to find out. One thing that was always true to my nature is helping others and making a difference. The 2nd turning point was finding out the main diagnosis with everyone on the same page. An evaluation was done when I was 22, and they found out I had PTSD. There was validation, trust amongst everyone helping move forward. I ended up getting the right treatment and care which was extremely significant. Also 2 big components to this. Stability and consistency. When that is something you have lacked your entire life and has effects on various aspects its almost impossible to get better. The final and most significant turning point was being able to “Let go”. A lot of bad things happened growing up and actions I had done, and I always felt guilty after them, I was very hard on myself. I am my own worst critic and always will be. People have told me It wasn’t my fault because of how sick I was and that I had no control over things that had happened. And once I was able to forgive myself for those actions in the past, an immense amount of weight was lifted and burdens were gone. This was when I was 23 years old. Also finding “inner peace”. I realize that I may not have the materialistic things that people my age have, but I have gone through adversity at such a young age and overcome trials and tribulations that can’t even be fathomed. Once i was able to have that acceptance and became satisfied with myself, I became satisfied with life..

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Life is going very well right now, and there isn’t really much more I could ask for. I work 2 jobs currently. I am employed with Advocacy Unlimited and Join Rise Be. I also am an Assistant Director for a before and after school program that takes place at an elementary school with ages K-5. I live in my own apartment, am self sufficient and financially stable. I am heavily involved in the Young Adult Mental Health Advocacy Movement across Connecticut. I have testified at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford regarding services they were trying to close, met with a couple senators educating them on the beneficial parts of what they provide. Being apart of multiple conferences regarding mental health, Running a workshop on Self Expression and Advocacy, was a recipient of the 2019 individual advocacy award through Keep The Promise and other care proving agencies. I had extremely low standards that people set for me at 10 years old. That I should have been taken away from my family. I wouldn’t be a functioning member of society, and much more. I was able to prove those wrong and accomplish what has lead to an improbable recovery story. A goal I am working towards is finding out what career I will have involving work as an advocate. I am apart and helped others in many different ways and paths. What seems to be most helpful is sharing my recovery story with others, and actively engaging in these types of conversations. I can articulate them in ways where people who have similar struggles can relate, and people who have influence on power, policy, and procedure and understand from different perspectives. I am blessed to be able to do that.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

There are several things I would tell people who are having a hard time, and things I wish I knew earlier. Know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Its there, it might take awhile for some people, and longer for others, but that’s the beauty of walking your own path and having your own story to influence others. Also know you aren’t alone. There are times where it feels like you are, but you aren’t. Be open minded. There are some services/advice/strategies that may not help. But some will. Have that mindset and continue to work hard every day and stay dedicated. Finally, turning knowledge into wisdom.Knowledge is power. I am all about perspective, insight, self awareness, and .growing and learning as an individual every day. An example of this is if you are going through a similar struggle or scenario you had previously dealt with, reflect back on what worked and what didn’t and apply that to the best of your capabilities. Don’t get stuck on the past and fixate on it though, “Its good to look back at the past and see what path you had gone down, but also use it as way to pave a new road going forward”-
Alex Perfetto

Skyler’s Story of Getting Help for Depression and Anxiety, Age: 25

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with depression and anxiety, it became to much when i had no outlets and was giving up on everything and not able to go to school. it was my senior year and I was overwhelmed and scared to not graduate with my best friend. that was the first time I couldn’t handle it.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

at first I was being sent to a outpatient program after school, I was also seeing a psychiatrist for the first time. it was helpful because I was around other people my age dealing with these things that I have not been through and there was a common level of respect there. the psychiatrist worked with me and really understood me and knew that I knew what was best.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

when my guidance counselor advocated for me and really worked with me to help me reach my goal of graduating on time really helped me mentally because it made me feel like I wasn’t hopeless and have a chance

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

my life now is great, there were a lot of rough patches and moments where I though I was done. I kept on scratching and clawing my way up and beginning of 2019 I was in a place where I was ready to start working on the rest of my life. I have since obtained Recovery Support Specialist certification and a job to start supporting my self.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

one thing I want to say is no matter how bad it gets, there is always something to look forward to no matter how minuscule it is. the thing I’ve realized more recently is life is like a rubber band in that when your getting pulled back you are always being sent forward.

If you’d like to reply to Skyler’s Story, click here!

TurningPointCT’s Project Coordinator, Ella Shares Her Struggle with Depression and Anxiety, Age: 21

Hi friends, my name is Ella and I am the new Project Coordinator at TurningPointCT. I am a young adult myself and I thought that it would be good to tear down the curtain so you could see that the person behind it may not be so different to you.

With this being the case I thought I would introduce myself and my experiences with mental illness and unhealthy coping mechanisms. My name is Ella and I identify as a cis female using the pronouns she, hers. I am 21 years old (a taurus), I spent the first 10 years of my life in England, but South West Connecticut has been my home for the past 11 years. I went through the Darien Public School System and went to the Rhode Island School of Design for 2 years to pursue illustration (the image at the header of this is a piece I completed about depression in 2015). I am now an online student at Lesley University studying Psychology. My story has been far from the straight forward, as few stories of mental health are.

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and unhealthy coping mechanisms since about the age of 16. I was never given a full diagnosis other than clinical depression and generalized anxiety, but I believe that a lot of my experiences and symptoms align with Borderline Personality Disorder. I had always been an introverted and anxious child growing up, but my first real experience with mental illness came when I was around 16. My depression and anxiety was triggered by my first relationship which ended up being pretty codependent and toxic, along with other social problems and the building pressure to academically excel. At the age of 18 everything became too much and I came very close to self harm and suicide.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

When I began experiencing depression and anxiety to the point that it was interfering with my life I decided to talk to my parents about what I was going through. Luckily they were incredibly supportive and they helped me to start seeing a therapist and psychiatrist and I was treated through a combination of talk therapy, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and medication. This treatment regime kept me afloat through my senior year, getting accepted into college, and graduation, but shortly after everything fell apart.

I was absolutely exhausted from years of unresolved and unhealthy beliefs that I had about myself. I felt like I was totally unworthy of love and I felt that the world was a better place without me in it. I had constant thoughts of self harm and suicide, which were frankly terrifying to face on a daily basis. My parents and I decided it would be best for me to be placed in an inpatient program at Silver Hill Hospital where I would be safe from myself and would be set on track for a healthy recovery.

I spent about 8 days inpatient going through individualized therapy and medication evaluation along with group therapy activities and sessions such as DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and art therapy. I came out of my time inpatient raw, but in a much healthier place. I continued my treatment that summer in an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) that focused on learning DBT skills. This was a group therapy setting with other adolescents my age and younger. I learned so many valuable skills in controlling my emotions, communication and mindfulness.

About a month after this group ended, I packed up my things and headed off to Rhode Island for my first year of college. Arguably, starting my college career so soon after a really turbulent mental period in my life and after a semester away at school things started to fall apart again. I was anxious about my classes and my course load so an unhealthy coping mechanism I developed was to just stop going to my classes. This of course snowballed and I had a much bigger problem on my hands. I felt like such a failure and that I was wasting my time and my parents money and support. I reached out to the administration and decided that taking a medical leave of absence and returning the following spring was the best course of action. I spent that year seeing a therapist and working really hard to recover my mental health and to develop healthier coping mechanisms. When I returned the following spring I barely managed to keep my head above water again.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

At this point I felt hopeless and decided that I needed to take an indefinite break from my education and I returned home to live with my parents again. I got a job at a local coffee shop and slowly started building up my self worth and the belief that I was capable again. Rebuilding my self confidence was truly a battle and I still struggle with this today, but I took small steps like getting a part time job, and then taking a few classes at a local college as a visiting student.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Slowly but surely, I started to believe in myself again and I got to the point where I felt ready and excited to restart my education and search for a more fulfilling job. I began my online degree in Psychology so I could remain at home and save money and shortly after I was offered the job here at TurningPointCT.org as the Project Coordinator. A year ago I could not have believed that I would be where I am today. I am starting to understand that the only thing in my way of living the life that I want is myself. I do still struggle with my mental health, and some days truly are better than others, but I am continuing my efforts to be happier and healthier to see more good days than bad. I am working towards getting to the point where I feel able to help others still struggling with their mental health through my job here at TurningPointCT.org or as a peer.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I heard this a lot as a teen while in recovery and I had a hard time believing it, but things do get better and it does get easier. I know that the problems that you are facing today feel BIG, and they may be, but with time things get smaller and less important and one day it will be a distant memory. Whatever you believe will manifest itself in your actions and behaviors, so why not give yourself a chance? You may surprise yourself.

Joanna’s Story About Dealing with Bipolar Disorder and Gender Dysphoria, Age: 26

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with bipolar disorder and Gender Dysphoria

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first I got little support from family for Bipolar disorder and no support for transitioning from male to female.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

One huge turning point is finding InterCommunity. They got me out of that oppressive place and into my own apartment. I met friends there. I found acceptance there. I realized I was Joanna and that I needed to act on that realization.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I live alone in my apartment. I wish to really embrace my femininity more and be more confident

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

What I would say to people having a tough time is tough times don’t last but tough people do and you are one tough character, cuz it takes toughness to ask for help, it takes toughness to cry, But don’t cry and give up. Remember you are more than just your issues. You Are Beautiful. You Are Courageous.. And trust me YOU GOT THIS!

I wish I had known all that earlier.

Accepting ME !

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with depression and acceptance issues.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I didn’t really have anyone to help me when I was struggling. I usually dealt with it by myself.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I think I started to change for the better when I started to realize that I can be sad but I need to start accepting things that I change and start trying to keep pushing and try to overcome current things. after this, I just started to accept myself and try to be more carefree.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

my life now is more calming then earlier in life but now I’m working on all my problems and starting to overcome everything.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

honestly, I would tell someone whos having a hard time is try to take your problem head-on and just work through it, and just deal with the issue instead of avoiding the issue.

Nahjeera’s Journey with Depression, Anxiety and Self-Harm

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with depression, anxiety, and self harm growing up. I can honestly say that I am so much better and I am in a better place than where I was before. I’m still struggling with anxiety but not as much as I was.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first I didn’t really get any support or help with dealing with all of it. My friends didn’t know or notice something was wrong and I wasn’t doing well, my family didn’t really notice. I just felt really alone and didn’t know whats to do.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The turning points of my life were being a part of the musical at my school and being a part of the SMART Recovery group. These turning points really helped me because when I joined the play, I met a lot of new friends and one of my friends noticed that I was struggling and she was always there for me to open up to her and other people more and she was always there for me to talk to during and even after school. The SMART Recovery group gave me a place to come to learn how to deal with everything and and gave me a really good support and I learned how to cope with everything. I’m so glad that i heard about this in school and met one of the facilitators.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life now is so much better. I am so comfortable to talk to more and more people, I can make friends easily now, and I haven’t thought about self harming in so long. Now I’m helping other people at my school who are struggling and just checking in on them.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would say if you are struggling, find that one person that you can talk to and tell anything to and open up to them and have a deep conversation about what you are dealing with. It feels like a weight is lifted off of your shoulders once you have shared and talked about your feelings as cheesy as that may sound lol.

A Furret: Living With Social Anxiety

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with social anxiety, depression, and self harm (for a short time). Most of my struggles starts in school. I’m an average person in people’s eyes, but I struggle to make myself believe I am. I have very low self-esteem which makes concentration hard and even harder to answer the simple “Are you Alright?” or “Are you okay?” questions. It’s like 2 different sides, one is me on the outside saying “I’m fine”, the other is crying and dying on the inside trying to find a way to escape

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I have support from my *very* small group of friends. But it isn’t easy to get support when no one really has the time to actually talk. My only other person I can talk to for support is my boyfriend, but it’s kinda hard when he is around 700 miles away.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I really had enough I went to get help from my friends. I also went to SMART Recovery groups to be with people who have similar issues and it finally feels like I’m not the only one

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Get the help you really need! There is someone who will listen and always someone who will care.

Luna’s story of getting help with Self Harm

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with child hood abuse, social anxiety, depression, and self harm

 

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first I went to my friends that I trusted. They helped me to stop self harm for the first time but did not help when I relapsed.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I was 13 my mom found my blade under my bed and got me the help I needed by getting a therapist.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Today I am still struggling with my social anxiety and self harm but my depression is not as bad and I got adopted by my 2 wonderful moms.I’m so much better that 3 years ago.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Just fight and stay strong. You will get through it

 

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Marco’s Story of Mental Illness, Therapy, Support, and Acceptance

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Many hardships have plagued my life when I think about my existence. Some souls just seem to be predisposed for misfortune. Despite having a happy and loving childhood, this is also the time where my struggles started. I could talk easily speak upon the terrible things that derailed my life at such a young age, but I’d much rather begin with where these things truly began effecting me. I became aware of my possible depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder in high school. A slight identity crisis came over me and it ripped me away from the person I was or wanted to be. I questioned my worth and felt misunderstood in a world that I knew deep in my heart, had the potential to be beautiful. Due to my lack of understanding, acceptance, and most importantly self-love, I allowed my emotions to skew this potential vision. It became too much when I finally tried to take my life at the age of 15. It saddens me to think that I contemplated death before I genuinely realized I needed help, but that’s the truth.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

Throughout the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have received a multitude of outlets for support. It all began with talk therapy. For the first few months worth of sessions, I stayed silent. I had yet to make the realization that if I were to feel any better, I had to be willing to accept the help I was being offered. Once I allowed myself to be vulnerable with the universe, and more specifically my therapist, I noticed gradual changes in my psyche. I was also introduced to a psychiatrist and placed on a few different anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. After doing my own research on mental illness, I came to the conclusion that I knew what was best for me and medication was out of the question. I knew that If were to truly be better, I had to master my emotions and learn to cope with them. Of course there’s more to my support system but that’s how it all began! Looking back, I can truly say that I am grateful for everyone and everything that supported me when I wasn’t very lovable.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Most definitely! Talk therapy did that for me. I was not used to someone sitting down with me and just talking about everything I had experienced and felt the week prior. Besides simply speaking upon my emotions, she gave me tons of techniques to implement and practice in my waking life to be a better, stronger, and more kind human being. It took quite a bit of time and energy to create comfortable state of mind for myself but I can honestly say I feel like a master piece and a work in progress at the same time.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Life feels peaceful. I realize now that all of the pain, struggles, mistakes, abandonment, disappointments, losses, failures and so on that I have experienced has meaning. These things helped me to learn an extremely vital key to my existence: There’s beauty to be found in everything! Some days it’s harder to see than other but I promise you, the world is round for a reason. If you continue to radiate positive energy, kindness, appreciation, gratitude, and love, it will reciprocate in your life. It’s just the way the universe works!

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Healing starts within! No one in this world can force you to change. You must first have the desire to be better then be willing to seek out whatever it is that will benefit you and your journey. If you do not have an unconditional love, a whole-hearted acceptance, and a true understanding for your own mind body and soul, how can you expect to love, accept, and trust anyone else? Please take the time to prioritize your life to make your energy, your passions, your dreams, your happiness, and especially your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health come first. When you are loving, kind, and gentle with yourself, you are able to perceive the world around you in similar manner. Everything that you could ever want in life is waiting for you. So be accepting of change, embrace the unknown! Fear should have no place in your life. The journey is the destination. Just please believe in the power of peace, love, and positivity. Don’t wait for a better tomorrow, create it!

Monique’s Poetic Battle With Anxiety

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I’ve always struggled with anxiety/nerves since childhood and always just brushed it off and thought of it as a weakness. Coming from a Caribbean background, things like this are easily brushed off, considered a weakness, or even something they think you will “grow out of”. My sophomore year of college, i started my self love journey and my anxiety was at its lowest and controllable. But once my senior year crept around the corner, thoughts about my career path, life after college, intense courses, family issues and financial stability became too overbearing. My anxiety was at its all time high, and depression randomly smacked me in the face all at once and the feeling was new to me. Both the anxiety and depression began to control me and my emotions. I found my self having mental breakdowns at home, at school, in class so i would have to rush to the bathroom. It really got out of control and took a tole on me because I would have these mental breakdowns in the bathroom and go back to class/work as if nothing happened. I would mask those emotions with a smile and laughter (basically delirious behavior) because a happy person can’t be depressed, right? No one knew, or even had a clue.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

i started going to counseling and it did make me feel better to have someone to speak to. I went to therapy once a week and started writing poetry a lot more.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

i began writing poems in the midst of a mental breakdown and started having journals with me EVERYWHERE I went. I would read the poem maybe the day after and my own words began to touch my soul.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I graduate in May so that’s exciting! I still struggle with my anxiety and have really low days, but I just write it out and remind myself that nothing bad last forever. These experiences inspired me to be more open towards mental health and possibly leaning more about the subject to help others struggling with the same problem.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

” remain positive, strong and persevere” was a mantra I created going into my senior year and repeating that in tough times really helped me get through long nights. I would also ALWAYS recommend writing or doing something to release the inner turmoil. In most cases we try to ignore these unfamiliar feelings but we must EXPRESS our self’s! Keep loving you!

Tricia’s Story of Surviving Trauma

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Trauma has been a part of my story, for as long as I can remember. Not too long after came PTSD, codependency, chronic pain and then came addiction. My addiction brought me to my knees. Oblivion was my reprieve. I was spiraling out of control with no end in sight. Opiates had me by the throat and I failed to realize just how far down the scale I had fallen.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

Prescription in hand, I felt completely justified. After all, I did have a prescription from a doctor. I failed to mention that I was not taking the medication, as prescribed, ever. Oh and I always finished the prescription long before it was time for a refill. I found myself facing serious legal consequences and I finally surrendered. I left for detox and then a dual-diagnosis treatment center, and it changed my life. Underneath all of the drugs and alcohol was a scared little 5 year old girl that never cleared the wreckage from her past. I was forced to dance with my fears and I never looked back. Accepting treatment was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I will never forget that day in my caseload group… the dreadful day that I was forced to be vulnerable in front of a group of my peers. I am rebellious by nature, but when anything emotional came up, I was an emotional vault. I had been wearing my traumas like a warm blanket for over 20 years and yet I was still refusing to face them. The group facilitator continued to ‘poke the bear’ until I lost my composure. I absolutely word vomited every painful experience with rage and deep rooted pain, in front of a group of 15 other people. The release was instantaneous and the response was so full of love and support. That day was truly the turning point for me. You see, drugs and alcohol were never my problem. The truth is, my fundamental inability to deal with anything emotional was my problem. I felt like I was standing completely naked in a room with spectators and I’ve never experienced more freedom.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I have been sober almost three years now. Today, I gravitate towards things that make me uncomfortable. I know that through discomfort comes adversity, but ultimately comes growth. I continue to seek ongoing PTSD therapy and I am actively involved in my local AA community. I stay connected to the women I’ve met in sobriety. Some days, they carry me when I cannot carry myself. Sharing my experiences with other women struggling with co-occurring disorders gives me hope. I work for Recovery Local and I get the opportunity to spread hope to other struggling addicts daily. I am a successful and present mother to two beautiful children and they give me so much purpose. I have the opportunity to show up for the people that mean the most. Pursuing the things that set my soul on fire has been my saving grace. I have finally found my purpose and this has been the driving force for me to continue the good fight.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

If you are struggling with addiction, be mindful that there is no cookie cutter way to deal with the overwhelming feelings that follow. Allow yourself to feel every emotion as it ebbs and flows, without judgement. Avoid isolation and reach out for support from people you trust. Grief is all encompassing but there is hope found in the most unexpected places. Support groups and tapping into family and friends, saved my life. I found hope when I called detoxlocal.com. The resources on their site grabbed my attention. However, the representative I spoke with held my hand every step of the way. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel judgement but rather unconditional love and support. Detox Local has a nationwide directory of accredited detox centers as well as an overwhelming amount of resources.

Johnathan’s Story of Living w/ Suicidal Ideation

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with suicidal ideation. At 14 I made my first attempt on my life. I was hospitalized soon after. After a three month stay in a psychiatric inpatient in New York I returned home in Connecticut for two weeks. I made another attempt which had a significant impact on my physical help. I was prescribed an antidepressant soon after. I was admitted to the same New York hospital for the duration of the medication trial, for three more months. Over the next seven years and several medications ranging from antipsychotics, to antidepressants (SSRIs), and mood stabilizers, I had amassed for years and nine months in intensive inpatients and psychiatric residentials around Connecticut. All due to repeated suicide attempts and self harm related incidents.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I was initially repeatedly admitted to inpatients. My family did not believe that I was legitimately experiencing a distorted existential crisis. Our culture does not recognize any mental challenges. I was not receptive to the western therapies provided nor were they modified to fit my background.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Things began to change upon my admission to the state hospital in Connecticut. There, I refused any psychotrophic medication. I was convinced that in order to think differently, I need to seek out information that related to other individuals afflicted with suicidal ideation. This is where my interest in neuropsychology began. After learning about how the brain is left with significant impressions after traumatic events and the means to rewire certain neurotransmitters in people with a fair amount of brain plasticity, I was convinced that I could recondition myself and lessen the impact of my suicidal thoughts. Since then, I have dedicated countless hours of research into the subject and remain motivated to share that medication is not the only option when addressing individuals with varying mental challenges.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am now a Training Coordinator an warmline operator for Join Rise Be (Advocacy Unlimited) in Connecticut. I am also an executive officer for the NAACP. I intend on continuing down the path of activism and advocacy from those whom are disadvantaged or underrepresented and oppressed by our society’s infrastructure.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would suggest that they seek out as much information as possible on their affliction. The more information that you have on your “flaws”, the more empowered you are. You should never seek to change but rather, better yourself. And do not lose hope for better circumstances nor an improved perspective on your life. No one will save you from yourself, you must be prepared to fight your own perceived deficits.

If I could give myself some advice then, I would tell myself to learn more about the medication before being convinced that they alone could possibly ease my suffering.

Luca’s Story of Fighting Against Addiction and Mental Illness

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

From the age of 13 I began to combat developing feelings of Depression and Generalized Anxiety. I grew up in an Upper-Middle class family, in a nice area, I had loving parents that got along and followed the rules. However, regardless of my fortunate atmosphere I started to feel things I’d never felt before. Following were self-mutilation, sleep deprivation, and good ol’ Psychiatric Hospitalization. It was a progressive disease developing in my head in which I had perceived was slowly rotting my brain. A hopeless case of defeat in which there would never be a cure for the sickness in my brain. I was introduced to Marijuana around the age of 14, and boy did that help me out. If I was bored, I could smoke, if I was mad or sad, I could smoke, if I was happy, then let’s smoke!!! Like any other teen I had my justifications, “It’s a plant, they use it for cancer, it evokes creativity, it’s going to be legal soon”, I didn’t understand that without it, I was defenseless against my thinking disease, and in the process unleashed a new one, the disease of addiction. I told myself the boundaries were limited to pot, my addiction told me that it was okay to drink, use tobacco, do whip-its, and then gradually intensified from there. If I didn’t have a way to get high I needed to find a way to, I started rummaging through family member’s pill cabinets, swallowing painkillers and muscle relaxers, stealing money from family to feed my addiction. Of course, at the time I was under no impression at all that I may have any sort of “substance abuse” problem. People told me I did but i didn’t see what the big deal was, I was just doing it for fun, I was just doing it because I like the way it felt, why can’t everyone just get off my back?! Well little did I know, the absence of drugs would push holes into my brain and heart, and when i would get high again it was to temporarily fill those holes for the time being. My diseases progressed with time, morphing into one evil that was separate from myself, a being that took over me, that was very clearly who I had been or was on the inside. My imagination took a sharp turn into sadistic thoughts powered by nihilism. I began to imagine different scenarios of me killing myself, every, single, day. This escalated until I found any excuse to get high, because it’s the only state I felt comfortable in.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Unfortunately for most teenagers and young adults, we are all very ignorant in our ways still, and it usually takes a significant event to change our minds about something. For me, it was the way my actions through using drugs (and alcohol) affected the people around me. It took a while, and those people got hurt so many times, but eventually I began to experience the feelings of selflessness. The pain that I caused around me opened up my eyes and allowed me to finally realize that I wasn’t the only one who was affected by my using. From there, I knew it was time to address my addiction.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life, is amazing now, I would have never imagined making the process I have so far in the short amount of time that I’ve put work into “recovery”. My mood is much more stable, I struggle with depression and anxiety MUCH less and at VERY little amounts of intensity. I can be trusted by my family and friends again. I don’t have to worry about leaving my phone out unattended. I’m so proud of myself for making a turn around in my life, especially being only 17.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Empowerment, you need to feel powerful. You need to gain a sense of control over your life, you need to feel confident in the words “I can do this”. Sometimes you need to hype yourself up, sometimes you have to listen to some energizing music, or drink caffeine, or sometimes….you just need someone to give a pep talk for you. I still do it all the time, “Hey Rob, I know this is gonna sound weird, but can you give me a little pep talk? I need somethin to get me goin”.

Rachel’s Journey with OCD

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with pretty bad OCD. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is a disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeats over and over. Compulsion’s included counting, checking, ordering etc.… I started exhibiting symptoms of OCD when I was around 9. I’d spend my time checking/ordering my school bag, making sure everything I needed was in there preventing a future panic attack for when I realize I am missing something I need at school. Years ago, on my nightstand table, there was chap stick, glasses, water, and my earrings. I spent hours staring and counting each item on my night dresser until it finally ‘felt right’. I struggled maintaining friends because my OCD rituals would constantly interfere with what we were doing. I began to feel sad, as I was frustrated and confused. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. Once my OCD starting to truly interfere with my everyday life, my parents brought me to see a psychologist

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

The first support I got was from my parents. They listened to me through everything. They brought me to see several therapists to figure out what was wrong. Sooner or later I was diagnosed with OCD. Soon after, I went on medication and went to exposure therapy. Eventually, things got a lot better and I was able to continue on with my life.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I have seen so many therapists in my lifetime. It took months to find the right therapists for me. But once I found her, the search became worth it. This was a huge turning point, as I was finally able to confide in someone and learn techniques on how to subside the OCD.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now I am mentally healthy. Although I am still on medication for my OCD, I am happy and haven’t experienced any OCD symptoms in a long time. I am now on the track to establish a career in psychology. I took AP Psychology as a senior and got an internship job for TurningPointCT to work with teens and adults with mental illnesses or substance abuse.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

To the people who are having a tough time – reach out. Ask for help. There is nothing wrong with needing help. You are not alone.

Beth’s Story of Life After Losing Her Mom

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

My mom died when I was 17. My parents became preoccupied with her illness for the year prior to her death. I had to become very independent and mature at a very young age. My sister, who was my best friend, was away at school leaving me alone in the chaos. I have struggled with anxiety for a while and balancing work and school constantly triggered breakdowns. I felt like I had to be strong at school, pretending that I was happy and my life was fine. After my mom died and I could no longer conceal my family’s problems I did not know how to handle my emotions or the people that wanted to help. My family has issues with discussing their emotions and problems and this can be difficult to handle at times.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I have a very strong relationship with my therapist. She is probably one of the only people that I can fully talk about my emotions to. She knows all of my secrets and understands my insecurities. She has helped me come to terms with my feelings and be able to discuss them. She often helps me through my problems and can aid me in staying on track with my life even when it is very hard to deal with.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

This year I made really amazing friends. They have been incredibly supportive of everything that I have gone through. They constantly listen to me when I just need to talk and relieve stress. They are understanding and compassionate and often talk me through my moments and family issues. They have definitely been a high moment in my life and I am so grateful for meeting them.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My sister is my best friend and is always there for me. We go through everything together. I often use my family as my support system. I am heading to college in the fall and am very excited to begin my life. I have 3 jobs at the moment and love to keeping busy. I am a nanny for 2 adorable little boys, I work in my church nursery on Sundays and I work at a retail store in Westport. I know my mom would be proud of everything that I have accomplished and how hard I work on a daily basis.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

It will get better. No matter how hard life is at the moment it will get better. Always make sure that you are doing everything you can to make yourself happy and find things in life that you are passionate about. It is the things in life that you cannot control that make you stronger. Learn from your experiences and always try to be the best person you can be.

Fallyn – Getting Back On Track

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have always had issues with my mother and her way of coping. She was never the nicest woman. But it always seemed to reflect onto me; in the way she tore me down, the way she smacked me around the house no matter how hard I tried to please her. Then suddenly, she was gone. And I was free. But grief, depression, and psychotic episodes broke me down even further than I’d intended. I feared that I would BE her in the long run; that someone who was dead… Was someone who would never leave me alone.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

For a long while I didn’t feel the need to turn to support. It was the feeling of, ‘they won’t understand’, ‘who are they to me?’, ‘they’ll treat me like her’, etc. And they had. They did what I feared and sent me away to a facility to be treated. I was furious, I was hurt, I was… Lost. And it felt as though I was continuing to lose the battle I’d never begun to understand. When I got out for the second time, the psychiatrists enrolled me in intensive out=patient therapy. Even then, I was still confused and bitter.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Ironically, it was during my treatment in IOP that things began to change gears. One person -the man who ran the group- sat across the way and told me how I wore masks, accused me of not wanting to get better the worse. Everyone in the group agreed with him. And it was then that I understood something HAD to change.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I enrolled in a Mental Health CT workshop for young writers, I got back into writing not for the sake of anyone else but for myself, I began to draw again… I look forward to the day I get back on stage like I used to and feel the thrill of taking on a character’s role. Most recently, I got accepted into college to pursue a career in Psychology. I got up and got a job despite the state calling me ‘disabled’. I pushed myself to pursue my interests even if I feel like they’re making me angrier rather than happier. I made the effort to get back on track, and it feels good.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

To those who are having a tough go, or are going through a bad moment… I would express that perhaps it’s not about where they came from at the time, but where they’ll end up. Their scars from their experiences, whether they be shallow or deep, cannot define who we are in the long run even if they follow us for a lifetime. So don’t waste that long licking them, or you’ll lose sight of who you really should be in the end.

HBK- Taking steps forward

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have lived what most would recognize as a charmed life. I am an only child, I have two loving and supportive parents who are still married. I went to good schools, I was involved in gifted programs throughout school and I have always seemed to thrive academically. But no one has ever really known my inner feelings of depression, loneliness, crippling anxiety and my excessive stress overload that I bring upon myself. I am now, 24 years old. Throughout my childhood years, I didn’t think life could possibly be better. I had friends, a great family, school. But inching into my young adult and now early 20’s a lot has happened to me and it has affected how I view myself, others and the world as a whole. I had never been one for dating in school. Boys didn’t interest me and my goals were too lofty to waste time on meaningless relationships. That was until I met my first boyfriend. Joe. We met when I was 19. He was it for me. I thought we would spend the rest of our lives together. Have kids. Live somewhere fabulous. But that dream came to a startling halt. He started showing signs of aggression and abuse. Being that I was always someone who wanted to help others, I stayed, despite the mental and sometimes physical abuse. It progressively got worse. I kept telling myself he would change. It would stop because he loved me so much, he would never seriously hurt me. Well, he did. The ending of our relationship was a physical altercation that ended in his arrest and me going to the hospital. If this wasn’t traumatic enough, I was also pregnant at the time. I would later miscarry that baby and that would start my downward spiral into depression. After this, I played it safe with dating. I dated a few guys here and there but nothing of any serious nature. Then, my current husband and I started dating. He has a very colorful past and little did I know it would come into play in our marriage. It has recently come out that he has cheated on me while he was away for work. We are trying to work through this indiscretion but I am finding that it is almost impossible to do. Aside from that, we are in the middle of a custody battle from hell. His mother, (biological), has had guardianship of his daughter since her birth mother passed away when she was just a baby. His mother was supposed to give his daughter back after he was fully rehabilitated from his addictions and bad behavior after the mother of his child passed away. Well, this did not happen. She withheld his child from him, and he has had to take her to court to get her guardianship terminated. This has proven to be the worst possible idea ever. She has repeatedly tried to get us to end our relationship, she has tried on numerous occasions to get my husband arrested by making false police claims. She is an awful woman. The last 5 years of my life have been horrible. Full of anger, hate, sadness, and guilt. I feel like I am falling down a rabbit hole that I just can’t get out of.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I had thought that counseling wasn’t for me. I had put it off for years. Due to the recent chaos between my husband and I and his family, we decided to try counseling together. I felt that it benefited us for the better, but after a while, we started making excuses and ended our sessions.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I haven’t experienced any turning points yet. I am waiting for karma and God to take the wheel from me and allow me to do what I have been doing and trust that things will get better eventually.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I recently got hired at my dream job, so that has been a plus. My husband was granted majority custody of his daughter for now and we have a final court date this next month to hopefully get our daughter back 100% of the time.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Everything happens for a reason. If it is taking longer for you to reach a goal, that is because it isn’t the right time for you to have it, or you haven’t put in the correct amount of work to acquire it yet. Just be patient. Your life has a plan and whether you believe in a higher power or not, just trust that your life will work out. Be open to happiness, stay true to yourself, don’t ever change for anyone, and love yourself first. Above everything and everyone else.

Dania- How Sharing my Secret Helped me Move Forward

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I was raped by my uncle and aunt when I was just a little girl. I struggled with it all my life. Couple years ago I decided it was time to tell my story. I knew if I wanted to get better it was time to tell my therapist what happened to me when I was a child.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I never told no one about it because my adopted mother did not believe me. So I figured if she did not believe me no one else would. It take years before I was able to tell my life story.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Yes because when I told my story yo my therapist I was in a group home and if I wanted to feel better and move on with my life. I had to do it. And how I live on my own. I do have staff that checks in on me.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is better then before. I been living on my own for 2 years and it feels good. And now I want to conquer the world and own my own cleaning business and down the road I might write my life story.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I do not know what to say. Because I do still struggle with issues in my life. Where sometimes I will go in and out the hospital for trying to commit suicide. I just told you half of my story there’s so much more to my life. One thing I have to say is if you went your past to stop haunting you you need to definitely trust somebody that you know that will help you and support you and your decisions that you make in your life. I just have to find the right person that I was going to feel comfortable with and talk about my story I promise you it is going to be very difficult it was extremely difficult just imagine this happened to you when you was a child and you’ve been holding it in for years after years I would say I’m 29 now and I told my story when I was about 25 so that’s how long I had held my stories in.

Jason’s Story of Strength

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with being bullied, not just being called names, but being hit for no reason off of the football field.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I didn’t have any support, I pretty much became a coward freshman year.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I started to lift, and took the stress and anger on the weights. I continue to lift as a passion since that day, a year and a half difference made people want to talk to me.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is pretty simple. Occasional sparks will fly, but because of what I was put through, and what I did, whether creating a me nobody wants to be around when someone hurts others or when I like to strike a smile on someone’s face, my life has become a whole lot better.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

The people who are being bullied, listen. If they’re calling you names, let them. They’re only doing it because they see something in you they fear. Trust me. If I had known that, I wouldn’t be as challenging as I am today. I think I cause more fights just because of how my physical ability is now. The bullies can’t take you on if you’re smarter, stronger, or faster than them.
Oh, and make sure you have a friend there. If things get bad, they’ll back you up.

D.S.’s story of surviving abuse

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with being abused. The abuse was physical, mental and emotional. It became too much when I realized some people would never change.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I received support from my family and friends, it helped somewhat but it wasn’t enough to keep me away.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Things became better when I left my abuser.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is better I can say. No more stress, drama, and or any form of abuse. I’m a single mother working as a delivery driver and going to college for medical assisting and after I graduate I plan to do videography.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I’d probably say it takes one step at a time. You have to know when enough is enough for you and be strong enough to stick by it. I wish I would’ve known that a person such as him was out there and could reach someone like me. I wish I would’ve known ahead of time the signs to look for that meant ‘run for your life’

Jozlin’s Story of Creating her Life Worth Living

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I don’t struggle, I battle with depression, agoraphobia, and PTSD. It became too much 1 year ago.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I got none. No one wanted to help me and that just leaves me to help myself.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I moved away from those who abused me, made me feel like I wasn’t even worth to be called dirt. But they still try to pry their way back in.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I have a son. He makes me laugh like I haven’t laughed in years. He’s my accomplishment. My husband and i got an apartment. We don’t have a couch. Just two camping chairs. We literally don’t have much but we’re safe.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

No matter how many times they say sorry, if they’re still doing horrible things to you after that you need to push them away. Get away from them. They make it worse.

Andre J. D. – Building my Social Skills

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

– Social skills
– Friendships

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I attend FCA in Norwalk I went to social skills groups in Trumbull and Westport. I went to Grace Farms. I attend social work. I attend therapy

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I joined a group at grace farms that meets on Fridays. It has taught me a lot about the social skills. I have to be thankful for the support I have. A lot of people don’t get the support that we get there

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is now a better life. Since I have attended these groups it has helped me. I enjoy the friends that I have. I could not be more thankful for the support I have.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

If you guys are having a hard time talk it out. Join a club or a activity. It is not hard to find a club, People will accept you for who you are.

Lauren’s Story: Breaking Free From my Abusive Dad

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggle with my relationship with my father but it took a turning point when he started being abusive. He hit me in the back of my head and one time saw me naked in the shower, despite me telling him don’t come in, and stared at my body and specifically one part of my body. He also has a temper and is unpredictable. He often made statements saying I can make your life hard or as he said it,” a living hell”. He once pinning my little sister to the wall choking her and when I intervened by  jumping on his back he threw me into an exercising machine. Afterwards he told us we should be lucky our stepmother stopped him or he would have hurt us and if I tried to basically defend myself from him I would regret it. Whenever he calls I start shaking uncontrollably and loose my appetite. I’m scared for me and my sisters well being and wish I could stay with my mom.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

The only support I had was my sisters. We weren’t with my mom, the courts didn’t even bother talking to us, our own attorney had an attitude with us and the night we were taken from my mom she had my sister in a choke hold, my sister’s face turning red, over a phone that my sister put in her shirt that the attorney dug in my sister’s shirt to take, and my therapists eventually stopped talking to me, saying she couldn’t help me.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The only turning point is when he kicked me and my sister out and now me and my little sister live with my mom we he said our mom could have us back and now my mom is going to the courts so we can be with her. There is a paper where my mom and him make an agreement were we can visit both of them my mom is willing to sign it but he refuses despite us telling him it would be better.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life now is bitter sweet in a way. I live with my mom now and since I left my father, my depression has decreased greatly but, still when I get calls or text from my father I start to shake uncontrollably and loose my appetite and even sometimes use the bathroom more. Having to wonder what will happen being back to that house and when it would happen and what will I do and how I can protect my little sister from our abusive dad.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

For anybody that has a situation similar to me, my advice would be is to focus on your future and imagine a life where your only stress is minor bills and what to eat for dinner or what to wear. Where all your fears have vanished, and know soon once you hit 18 you’ll be free.

Ana – Bulimia: The Never Ending Cycle

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

The Never Ending Cycle

October 24, 2009
Dr. E suggested I keep a writing journal along with the food journal, so here it is. She said to write about my progress (or lack thereof) plus anything else I want, and that it will be for my eyes only. I used to write in journals when I was younger, but opted out once I realized how much they brought my thoughts to life. Silly thoughts, dark thoughts, sometimes thoughts I never knew I had were all hastily materialized per blue ink scribbles. I soon learned that past me preferred to keep such thoughts from future me, and with that, the journaling ceased.
Today, the journaling commences.

October 26, 2009
I threw up today. I woke up knowing I would; not a single hint of doubt crossed my mind. I’m supposed to keep track of all the times I throw up and pursue possible motives, although I don’t know that there are any. My life really isn’t that hard, and I feel like naming “triggers” is just delegating blame. Have a bad day? Eat the problems away. Don’t like looking in that mirror? Try the toilet. Dropped a pencil on the floor? Go ahead and purge about it. And I do purge about it. I purge about this and that, every day.

October 30, 2009
Dr. E told me she doesn’t expect my habits to change overnight, and to not be discouraged on days like today, or like yesterday. She says once the new prescription kicks in (Prozac) that things should get easier. I’m finding it very hard to keep the food journal for reasons similar to why I couldn’t keep my childhood journals. Quantifying my binges makes me feel almost as sick as the binges themselves. I am aware that humans are not meant to bring so much food into their bodies. Before and during a binge my stomach has learned to disregard the concepts of “hungry” and “full,” and I’m not sure why.

November 5, 2009
Today’s therapy session brought up something I hadn’t thought about in years: when this all started. The first time I threw up was in the seventh grade. Recalling the details feels more like recalling a dream than an actual event that took place in a conscious state. It was in the bathroom sink, and I used a toothbrush instead of my fingers. The purge was both easy and painless, and I remember getting into bed that night thinking I had a new secret I would have to keep from the world. I lied down with a guileful grin, then drifted off into an effortless sleep. At the time, it was a solution to eliminating the perpetual discontent I had with my body. I thought I’d finally found the key to feeling more comfortable in my own skin. I felt I had discovered a covert loophole to the laws of physiology. Of course, it didn’t take long to realize that this wouldn’t be the incredible weight loss solution I had imagined (if anything I have gained weight since the cycle began), but here I am four years later.
That impassioned and temperamental middle schooler is worlds away from the young adult who stares back at me in the mirror now. Today I don’t ride the same emotional roller coaster. I don’t ride a tilt-a-whirl, or even carousel. I am stagnant in manner, aloof in presence. The anxiety and extreme self awareness we all encounter in our awkward pubescent stages had long been lifted, but nothing took their place. There is something quite magical about going through days uninfluenced by emotion. My ‘emotion log’ I was asked to fill out for Dr. E has the word “indifferent” written on Sunday, with an arrow leading it through the rest of the week. My boyfriend doesn’t get to hear the words “I love you” or experience any sort of sincere passion from my end. My friends are granted loyalty, honesty, confidence, but never genuine sympathy. My eyes don’t experience the swelling brought on by heart shattering tears, or by euphoric tears. I embrace the nothing. Nothing greets me every morning, then helps me sleep well at night. And through the years, my purges watched as the nothing slowly began to emerge.
Purges came long before the binging did. The latter was an inevitable aftermath. Once the two met, they linked hands, then chose my brain as their permanent place of residence. They haven’t parted with me since; they’re noisy and ornery and it’s impossible to forget them.

Nov 21, 2009
It’s been about two weeks since my last entry, and to be honest I’ve been avoiding writing in here. I told Dr. E I’m not fond of the journaling, but she says it might help me in the long run. I haven’t yet been given a reason not to trust her, so here is round two.
I threw up six times since Monday, and Dr. E said this is an improvement. I don’t exactly agree. The urges are just as bad, if not worse, and without them subsiding I don’t feel improved at all. For me, the urges are the worst part. Once one is triggered, it doesn’t go away. The urge to eat everything in plain sight takes over my thoughts until it is satisfied. This leads to the next urge, one just as strong, to relieve my body of every last bite.
I’m not proud to admit, even if it is just to future me, that I’ve relieved the urge in places outside of my own home. If the first hint of compulsion cannot be overcome, the cycle must reach completion. I’ve thrown up in friends’ bathrooms, I’ve thrown up in school bathrooms. One time I threw up in a bush in the backyard in the pouring rain, just to make sure I relieved the urge without my family hearing.
I really don’t like writing in journals.

Nov 24, 2009
I didn’t ever plan on going to therapy. I knew I had a problem, but I was convinced that I could stop the purging whenever I felt like it. I was convinced I was in control. I didn’t make a connection between the eating issues and my degrading emotion for a long time.
In the ninth grade my mother heard me throwing up. She called me into her bedroom after the fact and sat me down. I remember being caught off guard by her reaction; she wasn’t upset or worried, but rather angry and disappointed. In her eyes I was a young tenacious warrior, resilient to the petty pressures of adolescence. “This has to stop now,” she told me, “you need to be stronger.” I nodded and went to bed.
I didn’t receive any follow up questions or check-ins after the incident. The issue was brushed under the rug, and I couldn’t have been more relieved about it. The only thing I hated more than having the problem was talking about it.
Then one day, two years later, I finally recognized that hiding the problem wasn’t helping make it disappear, and that talking was my only other option. This time I called my mother into the room and sat her down. I admitted to my continuous struggles with the binging and purging between hysterical sobs. She cradled my shaking body, holding my head close to her heart. My mother may not have been able to identify with the problem, but this time it seemed as if she sincerely understood and accepted her daughter’s indecent flaw. Those were the first tears to escape my eyes in over a year, a prolonged imprisonment of emotions begging to be let out. I let them all out. A week later I found myself in Dr. E’s office.
I was nervous for my first day of therapy, as I had never talked to anyone about purging, let alone a perfect stranger. My mother offered to accompany me to the primary session for support. I accepted this offer.
I am at a loss for words to appropriately describe the feeling of having my mother in therapy that day. She had to hear her perfect little angel confess to the purges, describe them in their utmost detail. She had to listen to me define what a typical binge consisted of down to the last calorie. She took this all in silently with a blank face, and I have no idea what went through her mind. My voice trembled as it filled the cumbersome office air. It was the first time I’d verbalized any of this.
I was relieved when I first met Dr. E. My first impression was that she was very amicable, a good seven inches shorter than me with ivory white hair and a truly sympathetic demeanor. When I attend our weekly visits she listens thoughtfully and intently for the entire sixty minutes. She often wears a smile, which helps me feel relaxed. Her face is aged from a lifetime of grinning and laughter. In one of our earlier sessions we discussed the option of me going to a month long rehab clinic for other ‘bulimic’ adolescents where they’re given communal meals and daily therapy. I declined this offer, but it is still on the table if I decide I need the extra help. Judging by my food diary for this past week, it is still a viable option.

Nov 29, 2009
Today I was in math class when something happened. The back of my head began to swelter and pulsate, my vision blurred, and I lost feeling in my hands. I felt my brain liquify and begin to drip, drip, slowly down the inner lining of my skull. I became both unaware and hyper aware. Time stood still. I watched myself from a place within my own head, but also from a place thousands of miles away. For those few moments I was certain I was going to die. Once my legs were able to bear my weight, I stood up and walked out of the classroom. I paid no mind to the rest of my peers or the teacher. I had no mind to pay. I sat in the school bathroom until I was physically able to conjure thoughts and words, and to call my mother. Even though the hysteria was descending, she offered to pick me up if I didn’t feel comfortable staying at school. They say the crazy don’t know they’re crazy, but anyone who’s experienced this delusional reality can say that for those brief minutes, which feel like days, they are crazy. I left early with my mother that day. And for the first time in a long time, I was scared.

Dec 4, 2009
Dr. E isn’t surprised about the panic attacks. She says they’re probably a consequence to letting a lot of demons surface by talking about my struggles for the first time. Her words don’t help me because it doesn’t make them go away. She says only I can make them go away, but it’s difficult to believe her.
They have been coming out of nowhere, an abrupt assault of my most guarded possession: my mind. It is such a dreadful realization that I am no longer in full conscious control of my mind. At any moment, something beyond my scope of awareness can prompt its kidnap, and I am left to deal with the consequences. I don’t know where I’ll be when they come, and I am still not convinced that they’re harmless or temporary, so getting out of bed has become a real drag.

Dec 24, 2009
It’s been awhile since my last entry, and things are actually a bit better. The Prozac has finally come into full effect and has helped me more or less regain control of my psyche. I can now feel when the panic attacks are coming on and sometimes I can even make them go away before they fully surface. With the panic becoming my main priority, the binging and purging have taken a backseat in my mind.

Dec 27, 2009
Today I met with a nutritionist. Dr. E suggested it be the next step, since the frequency of purging has gone down, along with the urge. My older sister Maya asked to accompany me. My parents have always viewed her as the fragile, over-emotional daughter, while I was thought to be more stable and calloused. Maya, too, had problems with throwing up at my age, but never sought help. I admire her for being able to get through it on her own, something I could not do. Despite the dichotomous character roles assigned by our parents, I believe she is much stronger than I am, although she says she wishes she would have spoken up and gotten help like me.
The nutritionist gave me a couple of tips on how to eat healthy and to avoid food deficits because they trigger binges, which are followed by purges. She had a bunch of plastic food to help visually represent meal portion sizes. I’m pretty sure they were from those kid kitchen sets, so I couldn’t really take her seriously.

Jan 2, 2010
Since the cycle was broken, it really hasn’t been as hard to keep it that way. I’ve heard the first three days of being cut off from an addiction are the hardest, and then it slowly gets easier. As horrible as panic attacks are, they may have been just enough of a distraction to get over that initial three day roadblock, a blessing in disguise. I haven’t thrown up once since my last two entries, which may be the longest I’ve gone since the cycle began in seventh grade.

Jan 6, 2010
I have just finished my final scheduled therapy session. Dr. E agrees that I’m strong enough to no longer need sessions on a regular basis. Now that I’m not throwing up anymore or frightened with panic, we’ve honestly ran out of things to talk about. I never thought there would be such an abrupt end to such a perpetuated problem. The Prozac has helped with more than just controlling the cycle and panic attacks; I also feel less like a robot and more like a human being. I feel it has almost been too easy.
So, I guess this means bye bye journal. You’ll be going into the box in the garage along with the rest of them. You may have served your purpose these past couple of months, but now that my journey is ending I prefer to keep you with the rest, where I don’t have to see or think about these things anymore.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

TODAY:

Flipping through that journal so many years later fills me with mixed emotions. It brings me back to a time I hate to remember, but a time that is still relevant to me today. I wish I could say that hiding the journal meant closing the door to these problems, but over the years I’ve learned that it doesn’t. All my former struggles with the cycle creep up from off those pages, slither under doorways and around corners, then silently make their way up my unsuspecting body and into my head. I can go weeks, or even months feeling carefree, and then an urge will hit me, the same urge that has always hit me.
I would be lying if I said I could always suppress the urge to throw up again. I have had occasional relapses within the past years, though never as serious or prolonged as the original problem. I do still feel like an addict. As the years progress, I become more confident in my belief that bulimia is a real addiction.
When the urge surfaces, just as in the past, a switch is flipped in my mind that is much more difficult to turn off than to leave on. If left on, I stop thinking clearly. I get anxious and aggravated with the people around me. All I want to do is follow the same cycle I’ve grown accustomed to, and then the urge, with all the negative passion it brings, will go away. First, I eat. A lot. Then, with two fingers, I unearth the lowermost point of my emotions, as I reach the pit of my stomach. There, I find shame wearing relief’s disguise.
Thankfully, I usually do manage to switch off the urge when it first surfaces. Although, this isn’t quite as satisfying as it may sound. It leaves me with somewhat of an empty feeling that must slowly be forgotten throughout the course of the day. This feeling, however, pales in comparison to the awful feeling that overcomes me after a purge.
For every urge I’m not able to overcome, I tell myself that it will be the last time. I come to this false conclusion where I am certain I’ll remember how horrible that awful post-purge feeling is, and that I’ll never want to endure the same guilt again. The guilt of being too weak and hurting my body. The guilt of making a mess and wasting food. There is enough uncontrollable guilt in the world, and by relieving my urge, I add to the pool.
I used to not understand what perpetuated the cycle. The yearning to be thin would never be satisfied by this habit, which was something I learned soon after it began. There was instead something else, a different driving force only wearing the mask of addiction, which strongly persisted to be met. Addiction starts as a means to catch a high, but over time becomes the only feasible method of coping with life. The neurosis that built around the habit acted as a distraction from dealing with thoughts and emotions I felt powerless to. Addiction stands in for control, but it is nothing more than an illusion.
Throughout the years, the panic attacks have mostly retreated, along with my dependence on the little white serotonin boosting capsules of Prozac. It’s been a slow process, but I’ve been able to better accept emotions of all kinds as they initially arise. With a passion for love comes the pain of disappointment, and the thrill of risks brings the anxiety of failure, but in the end, living life makes much more sense to me in the context of emotion rather than the indifference I had once chosen.
Even with all the positive changes, I know I still have a lot of growing to do. I’m confident that, while I don’t think the urges will ever fully dissipate, they will continue to fade away and become easier to recognize and deal with as I become older and wiser. I am confident that one day I will be able to embrace my emotions fully instead of feeling the need to control them, or hide them behind a mask of binging and purging. I am confident that one day, opening the old journals won’t be such a dreaded experience. But, until that day, they will remain in that box.

Estrella C.- How animals helped me heal

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Don’t let people shun you if you ever been sexually assaulted, raped, etc. and if they do, they don’t know your story. They are not in your shoes and know what you been through.
It was a nice summer evening, the sun was still out but on its way down. I just moved into the Continuum of Care elp 1 facility. Continuum of care is a Supportive living program. Anyways. about exactly one week later I was sexually assaulted by a man who does not live there. I was sitting on my back steps just admiring everything when this man walk up, acted friendly. At first I didn’t think much of it because I thought he was a resident wanting to welcome me into the program, as many of the residents there did. Not long after, I began to feel uncomfortable when he pulled out a big bottle of booze and started touching me. People I told were like why didn’t you get up and leave, why did continue to let him hurt you? I kept trying to explain that I had froze. I couldn’t get up, I was too afraid. Maybe about a half hour later, he led me to the basement, holding my arm. I tried to pull away but he gripped harder. In the basement was the wort part of the assault. he stripped me and began to do things to me. I was so afraid, but I still couldn’t move, and I couldn’t scream. That was almost four years ago. he never was arrested. The cops made it seem like I was wanting it because I let him. and his girlfriend would taunt me and have him on the phone on speaker phone saying things because he did get banned from coming to the program. After, my experience, I went through so many different emotions. The one emotion that was concerning to myself and to the staff there was anger. Over the years previous to the assault I was also angry. But this time was different. I would throw glass, plates, you name it. I threw a chair once across the room and even flipped a heavy table. I was so angry because I was building up so much emotions from the assault. Eventually that anger led me to the observation unit at Yale New Haven Hospital many times.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

Over the course of the year after the assault, I went to IOP at Yale. I went to DBT to learn how to cope with my anger. I dropped both as I felt they weren’t helping. I just can’t sit for four hours at a time learning how to cope. There has to be another way. Ding Ding Ding. I began Volunteering at the local animal shelter. I was so surprised they accepted me because they said it could take months for a volunteer to get a call after the orientation. I got a call within a week. working with the dogs was making me feel better. I was still receiving treatment at the young adult program. But in addition, I was helping myself and these dogs. There was one day when I broke down crying while walking one of the dogs, a pit bull to be exact. Pit bulls have a very bad rap. Anyways, while I sat down and cried while holding the dog leash, the beautiful dog came up to me and kissed me. It wasn’t until then that maybe animals were the true therapy that I may have needed. Unfortunately I couldn’t have pets at the place I lived at so I continued to volunteer.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

After thanksgiving, two years ago, I moved into a different apartment complex, still part of continuum but a this time ELP2. I broke the no pets rule shortly after my best friend died, which was several months after I had moved into that place. I adopted two female guinea pigs. I was able to keep them due to my high anxiety, my ptsd that I developed after I was assaulted and the depression. I eventually got a doctors note from my psychiatrist stating that they were my emotional support animals. That was the best thing. I feel these girls saved my life as I was ready to give up on everything.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now I have my very own apartment, not part of continuum. I still have my girls whom I spoil every day. I’m like, they help me in so many different ways, why not spoil them? I have a job and My anxiety level isn’t as high as it was before I got them. I am able to manage my anger a lot better. I still deal with anxiety, I’m not sure If I will have it the rest of my life. But I learned better, healthier coping skills.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

If you are struggling, it’s OK to fall down, everyone does. Just pick yourself back up and keep trying. Teach yourself new ways to cope, don’t give up because eventually you will find the right one. I wish that someone would tell me that everything will be OK. I wish I had more support in my life. But having these animals are the real support that I needed.

Admitting the Truth; Cheniece’s Story

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. I have also struggled while dealing with being sexually abused. I have also struggled with depression and self-sabotaging myself and also putting myself into isolation lastly I had a big problem with denial. It became too much for me when I was a mother of two children I found it was hard for me to even take care of my children at times because all I wanted to do was lay in bed. It became too much for me when I couldn’t allow my children to be around anyone, family included because I was sure that everyone was going to hurt them in the way that I had been hurt. I had not accepted my experience so in my mind I was just reliving it day to day. It was hard for me to even leave them alone with their father because I could not trust.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I had plenty of supports such as my aunt who was taking care of me, I had a therapist, I was involved in sexual abuse group with peers, I also had friends. I had social workers from the department of children’s and families from Casey family services.
Although I had great support systems I did not realize that everyone around was actually trying to help me so the supports did not work for me at first. I lied to them, I missed treated them, I isolated myself from them even when they reached out to me. In my head I was telling myself that I was alone, I did not work with them or accept any of their help. I had convinced myself that I was alone and I could do it on my own.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

There was a turning point for me after about seven years of doing badly in every way possible. One person that I trusted very much reached out to me and I told her that I just wasn’t doing well and I was lost, I remember telling her how much I love my daughters and even though I knew how hard it was for me to lose my mother at the tender age of 7 and I would never want to have my girls experience that but I had just had enough and I didn’t know if I could go on anymore, the desire for me to live was gone. Then she told me to do a meditation course. At first, I thought what would meditation do for my life, how in the world could this help me, and then I thought well nothing is going well in my life right now anyway and if she believes that this can help me maybe it’s time to try it. I went to this meditation course given by the Art Of Living and I realized that I could be happy again. All the knowledge that they had given to me in that course on how to be happy was knowledge I had already known it was just buried deep under my trauma from the past. I went to another course shortly after called the Art of Silence and for the first time I was able to reflect on my past the trauma, the pain, all the while being in a safe space. Now for me, a safe space is a space where I don’t have to explain why am crying, I don’t have to hold in my tears so that my children don’t see them or anyone else, I can just be without having to talk, I can be within myself, that is a safe space. I was away on a college campus at Northeastern in Boston there were plenty of other people but we were all in silence and we were all healing. This was the first time that I had actually confronted and accepted my past. After that silence course, I decided to move on. When I came home I ceased all contact with people that were not helping me but further hurting me even though a lot of them were my family members, I knew that this was the right decision. I surrounded myself with those people that were helping me, that loved me, that were supporting me and I finally got back in therapy. Instead of denying my problem and denying my post-Traumatic stress disorder I was honest with my therapist and told him everything that I wanted to work on. I started admitting the truth and I continued healing.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is the best it has ever been since I was born I believe. I have two beautiful children that I’m able to love and take care of. I have a wonderful job working at Join Rise Be through Advocacy Unlimited. I am helping young adults to overcome their experiences, which is where my passion is. Since I started in recovery I was able to get my license and to buy my first car. I still have struggles but the difference now is that I know how to work through my struggles. Instead of hiding from them and being in denial acting as if the troubles don’t exist I am able to work through them. I often work with the people who support me the team at my job, my therapist, and my peers to get through it. I am working towards helping all the young adults that I can come encounter with to achieve recovery.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell them to trust the process of recovery, it is for everyone. I would tell them that they are not alone and to realize that there are people that want to help them. If I had paid attention to the people that offered their help and support I would not have made as many mistakes or learned so many of my lessons the hard way. In life, you will realize there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. But the most important are the ones who bring out the best in you, respect you and accept you for who you are. Those are the ones worth keeping around and listening to. Lastly to everyone reading this I leave you with this quote “Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome. You Can Do It”!!! Also if you would like to get involved in Join Rise Be, go to website joinrisebe.org, follow us on twitter, facebook and tumblr.

Teen Pregnancy; Sierra’s Story

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Teen Pregnancy. It got hard when i gave birth.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I had support from my family and the father until he left me and my baby. It did work but only when i needed it.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When my little girl turned 1 in October. We were able to find my own place and a job so i could take care of my child.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My little girl is now 13 months and she is the eye of my world. Me and my girlfriend are glad to have a daughter like her.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

If you get pregnant at a young age like i did, be sure to have a plan for when you tell your parents; like have a place you can stay, a job, and medical insurance.

My Struggles and Acomplishments

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with my life. It actually became too much at the age of 16. I have family members to talk to, it didn’t help at all.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

No, not even a little bit. My life is at ease a little bit. I accomplished at school. At my studies

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

These people should not give up. Life is full of beautiful things. They should dream. And let their dreams come true

Realizing There’s a Problem; David’s Story

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

My father and sister are both diagnosed with Bi-polar and on a daily basis of my childhood they would have outbursts at unreasonable times. This would cause my family to argue or turn against each other on the flip of a dime, it became a very tense situation. There wasn’t a way in which we could all live in harmony without someone getting upset over a past event.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

My father would take his medications on some days and ignore it on others, when he did take them he would be very approachable, but also lazy. It kind of subdued most of his highs so hes not as loud or aggressive and he seemed to enjoy simpler things. As for my sister she had some counseling on how to manage her mood swings. From what I can tell, both methods helped for some things and not for others. In both cases though, their aggressive ticks were severely decreased and would much rather talk about how or what caused them to become angry and how we could resolve the issue.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

This is kind of answered a bit above, also my dad actually started to take his medication on a consistent basis.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My parents are divorced currently because of the negative side effects of PTSD, Bi-polar, depression and other illnesses and as time goes on and wounds are healed, they are considering getting back together and we think this time its for better and not for worse.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I think the first thing that should be done is talking about the situation and to make sure not to escalate it. Make sure to seek out medical attentions for anyone with anger management issues, whether it is related to bi-polar disease or not. If someone is expecting huge uncontrollable mood swings and cant explain why they acted the way they did, also try to get medical attention. The first ways to mend things are to realize there is a problem and then find a way to solve the problem so that everyone can live in harmony. Your family cares about you, your friends care about you, make sure you care enough about them to realize when you have a problem. You’ll help yourself and everyone around you. No one loses.

Carl’s Story of Asking for Help

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Ever since I was a five years old I always struggled with communicating with people and performing basic tasks. whether it was in school or out in the community I always had trouble fitting in. My peers did not want to be around me and a majority of them bullied me to the point where I would not want to go to school or even leave the house.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I never had any support growing up. I struggled for years without asking for any help. I was convinced to believe that everything happening to me was my fault. When I was thirteen I was always thinking about harming myself and could never sleep at night. I was always feeling sick to my stomach which I believe had to do with how I was feeling emotionally. Eventually when I turned nineteen I was able to find support in my area. The place was called BHcare. They had therapists and case managers who assist people struggling with mental illness. I never opened up to anyone throughout my childhood and teen hood. because I never trusted anybody. But as I started opening up to my therapist I started feeling better I felt like I found someone who won’t judge me or bully me.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

After about a year I found a job that I loved, I built good healthy relationships and started going to college. I felt as though I can be myself and not worry about what everyone else thinks of me.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now four years later I graduated Recovery University and have a job at Advocacy Unlimited Inc and live on my own.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

My message to everyone is don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling. There is help everywhere you just need to look for it.

Eliza – Finding Wellness as a Young Mom

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with mental illness since I was a child. When I was around six years old, I began to experience anxiety and school avoidance. As I got older, I began to have overwhelmingly strong emotions that I struggled to cope with. Later, when I was 8 I began struggling with my body image and started going on small diets. When I was 10, it became apparent that I was beginning to struggle from an eating disorder. Throughout my adolescence I continued to struggle with eating disorders by restricting and binge-eating and purging. When I was 12, I was hospitalized for the first time after going to a boarding school. Overwhelmed by anxiety and depression, I began to self harm and think of suicide. This began a journey through mental illness that has followed me since. I struggled with self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, BPD, and PTSD throughout my entire adolescence and have survived multiple suicide attempts.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

When I was 8 years old, I began to see a therapist. Before then, my family and I went to family therapy because of an abusive relationship my mom was in. At this point, neither things seemed to give me any relief from my anxiety or overwhelming emotions. I was in psychiatric hospitals multiple times over a span of 8 years. Some of these hospitalizations helped to stabilize me, particularly after suicide attempts or long spans of self-harm. However, I still was not able to make enough progress to begin feeling ‘better’ during any of these periods.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

With drinking and drug use, I had a big turning point after voluntarily going to an inpatient rehab. Being diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder at 18, beginning DBT, and learning about my diagnoses was a big help as well. However, this was only the beginning of a long, ongoing journey. I think the biggest turning point in my life was becoming pregnant. When I realized I would soon be a mom, I was forced to look at the way I was raised; thinking of how it felt growing up with an unstable and mentally ill mom, and how my mental illness had affected those I loved. This was the point in my life when I was forced to take my mental wellness and safety more seriously than ever. I was able to stop cutting and begin the work that was necessary to get a stronger handle over my BPD and anxiety particularly.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Being a single mom is hard, and my anxiety is constant. However, I mostly worry about things I can control; being the kind of mom my daughter needs, and taking care of her. I try to use this anxiety to help motivate me to move forward, rather than getting stuck in the worry. Of course, at times, I worry over many things I have little control over. However, I find my mind is so busy taking care of an infant that I have little time to ruminate. Willow helps me to move forward and work towards mental wellness and stability. Although I still struggle with symptoms, I am constantly evaluating myself and trying to work towards my goals in therapy and my personal life. I know who I want to be, and I’m learning how to get there more and more every day.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

My favorite quote is:
“I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.” (Joyce Meyer)
This is something I remember throughout the day. We forget our strength and resilience while we are struggling. But, there is never a time in our lives when things are beyond repair- no matter how strongly we may believe so. I remember the darkness I have come from and know that although I received help, I am the one who pulled myself out of it. For that I am unbelievably strong and brave. Hearing that ‘things get better’ can feel uncertain and vague (although its true). Instead, know that it is impossible for things to stay the same. What goes up must come down, and that is a constant flow we live with. As hopeless as things may seem in a moment, they can not possibly stay that way forever. Give yourself credit for the strength and resilience you posses. You have made it this far; you are a survivor and you have amazing strength.

If you would like to follow my journey of mental illness recovery, motherhood, and life click the read my blog, Well For Willow.

Olivia’s Journey and Truth

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

My mental health has been an issue I have struggled with for 18+ years. I was very young when my parents realized I had so many irrational fears. I commend them now for getting me the help that I needed even as a young girl. At five years old, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Chronic Depression.

I have struggled on many occasions to go about my daily activities while simultaneously suffering from my mental illness. It took many years for me to make progress in my steps toward my mental health.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

The first time I realized I was not alone, I was a freshman in college. I was 18. It was the first time I had been away from home. My best friend had just left for the military. I was going through a horrible and traumatic roommate experience, and I was at the lowest of my lows. Something had to change for me. I went on a trip to the local mall with a few of the people who lived on my floor. One of them being the person I would eventually continue to live with for my remaining college years. She made a comment about something that made her nervous and she so bluntly said, “But I’m this way because I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.”

Before that, I had never shared my experiences or my struggles with anyone. We discussed some of her struggles and I was in complete disbelief that someone shared her struggle so effortlessly and without being scared of judgement.

She inspired me. I became much more vocal about my struggles. I asked for help when I needed it. I demanded to be taken seriously regardless of my mental illness. I continue to speak with my friends and family members daily about the struggles I have, and the struggles that they have. My day goes on as I continue to make progress in my mental health and wellness.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

For the last 20 years of my life, I have been a proud member of Renee’s School of Dance. As I went through high school, college, and now grad school- the members of my dance class have been nothing but supportive, loving, and uplifting. They have been a part of my life for almost my whole life, and they are among the best support system I could have ever asked for.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

As a 23-year-old-grad-student-Harry-Potter-Loving-Cat-Mom, I am in a place in my life where I am comfortable being who I am. It has taken so long to get here and I am finally proud of who I have become.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

As human beings, we are constantly a work in progress. We have bad days, and good days, and then a lot more bad days. Take it one day at a time. Find something that makes you happy. Buy 20 of it. Use the bricks that people throw at you to build a castle.
And once you’ve built that castle, use your strength to help other people build their own.

Takyia’s Story of Surviving Childhood Abuse

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Depression, self esteem, abuse and bullying. Being in 6th grade was the first time that I thought about hurting myself. When I was in the 6th grade I was bullied on my clothes, how tall I was, how I dressed and anything else u could think about. Although I was getting bullied in the 6th grade I was also getting bullied in the 5,6, and 7th grade, but in the 5th grade I got hit by this one girl because she didn’t like me.

When I was thinking about committing suicide it was not only because I was getting bullied, but I was also being abused by my father. He would give my sister a black eye, slap me into the wall and beat us until we had marks on our skin. When I had the thought of attempting suicide I didn’t act on my thoughts.

Here comes 7th grade, still getting bullied, I got tired of it and tried to fit in with people. I tried to fit in with them and what they were doing by stealing from my family. When I was in the 7th grade I had very low self-esteem and one day somebody was making me feel so good and made it seem like he wanted me. I did everything he asked me to do so that I could please him so that he could continue to make me feel good. However, he only wanted one thing and he took that thing away from me, then left me. I was 13 and he was 18. He took my innocence away from me which led me into a depression. I started to act different. I started to come in the house late, lie and tell them I’m going somewhere else. One day when I came in late, my mom was so upset that she had beat on me and made me try to attempt suicide again and that time I acted on it by cutting my arm. Had to go to the hospital and have them keep an eye on me to see if I was danger to myself or anyone else until they let me go home. At that time I was living with one of my aunts that was also abusing me, but she did not physically abuse me. The things she said to us, the way she treated us, acting like we were her slaves because we were homeless.  After that experience happened I had moved with my other aunt and I had done things that made her not want to raise kids anymore because all of hers were grown, so I went to live back with my dad. When I was with my dad I started to have flashbacks of how he treated me and one day I tried again to attempt suicide.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

When I was in 6th grade I was said enough is enough. I finally came out to my school counselor that I wanted to kill myself and it was then that I received help. I received treatment at Kempsville Center for Behavioral Health and yes, it worked.  I took some pills that were for depression and same thing happened again so after that they sent me to Kempsville for behavior health and I had to stay at Kemsville. The first 2 stays were only a week which didn’t help, but the last time I attempted suicide on December 12, I had overdosed to the point where I passed out. I was going in and out of consciousness, then rushed to the emergency room where had to get my stomach pumped because I took so many pills. My plan was to die, so why didn’t I? I didn’t die because I had one chance to give it to the Lord and I got one more chance to get the help that I needed. So I went back to Kempsville and stayed 10 months. That was the optimal 10 months of my life because I stared to know that my life mattered. If I would have died, I would left behind loved ones, friends, and also I wouldn’t be able to tell my story.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time?

My vision was to overcome depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts.  Yes, there are going to be days that are harder than the other. You are going to feel like giving up, but I’m writing this to tell you that I didn’t give up. I’m still fighting depression and low self-esteem, but I know that I am going to be someone in life that people look up to and say, “I want to be like her.” That’s why I didn’t give up. I had so much ahead of me and when I get there I’m going to look back and say I made it and I overcame a lot in my young life. I just had to tell you guys my vision because my vision came true and yours can too, just believe in it and never give up…….

Warm regards,
TAKYIA

Kelsie’s Journey to Truly Accepting Herself and Fighting Anxiety

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with my weight when I was 15 years old. I was diagnosed with anorexia. I still battle with anxiety. And weight will always be an issue for me. But I went through something that helped me overcome it.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I was sent to Egleston Hospital in Atlanta. The nutritionist tried to help me get over my calorie intake. I wasn’t consuming the right amount of nutrients that my body needed. It did not help until I was sent off somewhere that scared the life out of me. It is a long story.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The turning point for me was when I was laying in the hosptial bed, and seeing everyone from my school post stuff on my facebook page. My family crying over me and praying over me. God really spoke to me. He has a purpose for my life, and I was killing myself.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life right now seems a little messy. I have so many gifts and talents, and a story that I’ve wanted to share for a while. But I let fear control my life. I struggle with anxiety. I have attacks sometimes. I am trying to overcome my anxiety, but sometimes it gets overwhelming. I am working toward helping girls. Or people in general, who struggle with the same thing as I do. God allowed me to go through what I went through at the age 15 for a reason.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would say, no one’s opinion of you should matter. I know people can be mean, and I know that words can hurt. I know things seem hard, I know sometimes you may want to hide and run away. I know there are so many things to stress about. God created everyone, differently. Do not compare yourself to ANYONE. Everyone’s body types were made differently. Everyone is unique and beautiful in their OWN way. Know that you are SO loved. God loves you so much and has a purpose for your life. TRUST in Him, ALWAYS.

Rachel

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with depression and anxiety and self harm. I have had to deal with multiple residential treatment facilities due to these ailments and family relational problems

 

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I went to the psych ward and was forced to go to an IOP that contributed no help to me

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

the last treatment facility really turned my though process around for the better

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

my life keeps getting better day by day. i am trying to focus on my photography and begin to find the beauty in everything that i couldn’t see before

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

stay positive and remember to smile even if you feel like there is no reason to it will make you feel better

Kailey

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Depression, anxiety. When I was 16. When I was 20. And when I was 25. It’s been an on-going battle. My later 20s were hard too and 28 kicked off a big bout of severe anxiety and depression again. It’s lingered around to be honest.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

No. It was counselling and he said I hope things get better for you. It wasn’t until I was 28 that I received psychotherapy. Before that I was going to counselling places that were short term and helped me short term. So I would get ahead then take two steps back most of the time.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

My grandpa dying actually helped me come to terms with a lot of things and cleaned up my drinking problem.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is ups and downs. There’s lots of goals I have like going back to school and working with animals. I have a rescued dog. I want to change the world.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

It’s going to be a tough road. There will be ups and downs, if you’re fortunate enough to get a psychotherapist work hard on your goals! Don’t give up! That’s the only advice I can give.

Liv: The Stress of Junior Year, Age: 17

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I am a junior in high school.

From the day I stepped into high school, I was told of the horrors that is junior year: AP classes, standardized testing, and college pressure. However, in freshman and sophomore year I vowed to myself that I would try to ignore all the crazy expectations of high school like getting straight A’s, taking hard classes, and trying to do every sport and club I could handle. It was unrealistic!

I put my my mental state first so that I was happy. My philosophy was that I would try any class that I was interested in, even if it was hard or obscure. I probably wouldn’t get a perfect grade in it, but at least I was interested in the topic! This idea made for wonderful two years of stress-free learning and having fun with friends.
Things changed once I entered junior year.

Everything seemed to come crashing down. It felt like college was right around the corner and all of a sudden grades really did matter. Not only that, but every college seemed to expect only the highest standardized test scores along with it. I felt like I had failed myself the past few years. I was more stressed than ever because my grades and extracurricular weren’t enough to get into a good college. My anxiety increased and I felt as if I only had this last year to bring my grades. I was freaking out!

 

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I think once I settled down and got a college counselor, who could guide me through the college process, everything came in to focus again. My college counselor helped me put everything that I had to do down on paper. We formulated a guide to juggling school, weekly ACT tests, and sports.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

My turning point these last anxious 6 months was when I finally came to terms with the fact that whatever school I get into will be right for me. There is no point worrying about getting into a school that has a workload I can’t handle. It would just cause four more years of stress and anxiety! A perfect college for me is one where I can study my interests, see myself fitting in, and, most importantly, a place where I can be happy.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life now is not exactly stress-free, but definitely getting better! Seeing the seniors the year above me getting into the schools of their dreams has given me me hope for myself! Instead of fearing the process, I have began to feel excited for the process. The idea of figuring out which college will be the right match for me seems intriguing now.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I think any student entering their junior year in high school should keep their mental state in mind. It is important to make sure you aren’t too stressed. Always remember that whatever happens, it is for the best (and even if you don’t like the college you initially get into, there is always the option to transfer!).

There are sooo many colleges available that are right for each person. No college is perfect. As long as you do your best, try to learn as much as you can, and maintain a healthy mental state, you will succeed. High school isn’t just a place to learn and compete for A’s every year- it is a place to find yourself and grow as a person. Even if you don’t figure out exactly “who” you are or who you want to be when you are older, it is a place to find what is important in life: happiness, peace, and confidence in yourself.

Finding Strength on My Own- SdL Age:18

What have you struggled with?

I’ve struggled with finding strength to deal with my on and off depression and anxiety throughout my life. Learning to cope has been a long journey. There is no doubt that, at times, I have lost control of my depression and let it rule my life. At my lowest point, I started to self-harm and thought about suicide.

Did you try to find support?

Part of my problem was that I’m not a very open person. I’ve always idealized about being able to do everything on my own. So, when I needed help the most, I was reluctant to reach out for it.

Also, for a while I did not want help. The numbness of depression was comforting and I hated myself enough that I thought I deserved it.

Only in the last two years have I begun to talk to people seriously about my depression. Reaching out has helped me more than I could guess. It has led me to a community of people that I can rely on and talk to when I feel myself slipping back into depression or feel overwhelmed by my anxiety. I also know now that there is nothing wrong with asking for professional help.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I had been depressed for about a year and I saw nothing different ahead of me. Almost every night, I had gotten into fights with my family over stupid things. I hated myself for being selfish and tearing my family apart and, somehow, I fell into self-harming.

One day, after I had self-harmed, the thought crept into my head, “wouldn’t it be easier if I just disappeared?”

The thought of suicide remained in my peripheral vision for days after but left me conflicted. When I was young, my 17-year old neighbor, with whom I was close to, committed suicide. She was someone I had looked up to, and her death still haunted me. The day she died was traumatic for me, especially seeing the effect of it on those that I cared about.

When I thought about suicide, I could not erase the memory of the grief that I felt when I heard about her death. I know that I was probably the last person she thought of when she committed suicide- I was just the girl she baby sat. However, I had seen the devastation of suicide and I never wanted to be the cause of it. I may not have cared for my life and felt that the people around me didn’t care as well, but I knew I had to be wrong. Someone would feel the effects of my death, I did not have the heart to put someone through that.

If I couldn’t continue living for myself, I had to continue on for them and at least try to make something out of it. Suicide was not an option, and the road to recovery did not end there but it saved me from doing something I could not come back from.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish?

I am about to graduate high school this June and will be going off to college in the fall! I’m very excited about although I definitely have my moments where the anxiety of starting over gets to me. However, for the most part I’m happy with where I am.

In addition, I have an amazing group of friends who I can talk to and support me.

Finally, this year when I turned 18, I got a tattoo. It was something that I told myself in 8th grade I would do if I could get past the worst of my depression. Its something that will last even if my scars fade and it’s a reminder that I can get through anything no matter what.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time?

I know its cliche but don’t underestimate your mental power.

As a person who never reached out to anyone until recently, the hardest part of getting past my depression was finding strength on my own. What really brought me back from the edge was my own mental power.  Every time I wanted to say something negative to myself, I stopped myself, distracted myself, or told myself it was something normal.

This is an on-going process. You may feel perfectly fine one day and the next start to slip again. I’ve definitely gone through waves with my mental health but I try not to let myself spiral to far.

Depression is something that may always loom just behind you but you can definitely learn to live with it.

Depression, Anxiety, and Learning to Accept Help-18, LM

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Over the past six years, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety. Initially, I was unwilling to get help. Even when I decided to do so, it was a while before I took recovery seriously. I tried to cope with my feelings in unhealthy ways, like purging or cutting. These techniques made me feel better temporarily, but in the long term every harmful action only deepened my mental issues.

 

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

It took me a while to open up about what was happening to my parents. My family is incredibly supportive and stood alongside me every step of the way- but I wasn’t willing to accept their help at first. I wasn’t open with my doctors and therapists. My depression, anxiety, and unhealthy coping skills had become part of my identity and I didn’t know how to function without them.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

My biggest turning point happened when I was driving in car with my mother. At this point, I was barely in school and enough of a risk that my mom constantly needed to be attending to me. She essentially had to monitor me 24/7, making it difficult to manage a social life, a marriage, and being a mom to two other kids. I didn’t appreciate how much she sacrificed for me and how patient and tolerant she was. While we were in the car, I started complaining about something, and in a moment of anger she turned to me and said “You are ruining my life.”
I resented this comment because while I was depressed and dealing with anxiety, I put my needs before the needs of other people. I didn’t realize how difficult this was for everyone else in my life. For a while her words haunted me and I decided to internalize my feelings further and manage my depression in more harmful ways. I felt like I was a burden on my family and that I could fix my problems on my own.
It took me a long time, but eventually I was able to reflect on what my mother said and see that I was truly affecting the life of my family when I acted out, made unhealthy choices, and expected them to cater to me. Even though her words hurt at the time, I was able to see them as an outburst in a moment of frustration from being overloaded with responsibilities. I realized that if I wanted to get better and stop affecting my family members’ lives so much, I needed to stop coping through pain and expecting other people to deal with the consequences. It made me take recovery seriously and become honest and open with my support network.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now, I occasionally struggle to deal with anxiety and short-term periods of depression when I’m stressed and overwhelmed. However, I couldn’t be happier with where I am now in life. I’m going to a university that I love next fall. My relationship with my family is strong, I have great friends, and my mental health is much better. I no longer need to take medication and I’m much better at self care.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Be honest with your support system! It makes a big difference. Know that you are not alone and that there are many different resources you can use to begin your journey to recovery.

Helping My Husband to Cope With PTSD

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with my husband’s PTSD and the journey this disorder encompasses. Struggles include the symptoms, verbal, mental, and emotional abuse, substance abuse, and keeping our family together.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

He found a qualified therapist and medical providers who has helped him tremendously over the last two years. But I had lost myself along the way. Best described as me going on auto-pilot as his caregiver and being chained down to the roller coaster ride. Eventually, I found my own trauma focused therapist who helped me work through a lot of issues. She also taught me tools that I could use to care for myself, and better care for my husband. Because of her, my marriage is stronger than ever and we are both enjoying symptom remission and recovery for both he and I.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The turning point that was truly pivotal was me gaining the strength through therapy to give my husband the choice to take accountability for his substance abuse and self-destructive behavior or I would have no choice but to leave. I cannot control what others do or how they behave but I realized that I did have control over what I would allow in my, and my children’s lives. It was not an easy thing to do but I made the choice and meant it.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is completely different now. I am not living in fear anymore or feel like I am walking on eggshells. I used to experience severe panic attacks every time I would drive home from work and get closer to our home in fear of what may in store for me when I walked through the front door. Now I have peace in my heart and my family is happy, stable, and enriched with a love filled home.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Life can be very tough no matter what challenges you are facing. Keep positive and don’t give up. There are so many resources available. I would advise you to research everything you can about your situation and create a support system for yourself. This could be finding a new friend or leaning on family as support. Don’t do what I did for over a year and keep it all inside, only to suffer in silence. Doing so creates toxicity deep down and can cause your problems to get worse. Find a therapist that specializes in what your needs are. It’s never too late to begin therapy. Read other blogs revolving around your concerns. www.ptsdwifey.com is my blog that discusses PTSD and what the family goes through. It also gives help, hope, and enlightenment.

Alexis R. Defines His Struggle and His Will To Persist

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Everyone has struggles. They’re just evidence reminding us of our humanity. My sexual orientation wasn’t the “struggle” but rather the methodology for expressing my identity was my issue.

 

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I received help from my best friend. She made me realize that there is so much in the world and that how I chose to identify is not worth being stressed over as the major issues of the world.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The moment I began to see the beauty of who I was the more comfortable it became to express myself to the world

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is more focused on building a career and establishing meaningful connections. I am proud to be gay but I do not allow it to be the only thing to define my experiences and outlook of life.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

The saying goes,”It gets better” and it is so true. When you’ve hit rock bottom you can only go up.

Bretany, 20 Surviving Sexual Abuse

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I was sexually abused by a family member for ten years, I fought through suicidal tendencies and I still fight through depression and anxiety. My turning point happened only a few month ago with I was 19.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

Support was no where to be found. I felt like no one cared. But then I realized, in order for other people to care, I had to care also.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Yes, as soon as I stuck my head up and decided to make differences for myself.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I’m in my second semester of Journalism at SAIT in Calgary, AB. I go out more and I’m working toward losing my depression weight.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

You’re not alone. It doesn’t get better, you just get stronger. You learn to cope, you start to understand things a little more. Your hearts starts to grow, leaving room for forgiveness to those who do you wrong.

Katerina: Her Story on Coping with Emotional Distress

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Looking back now, I see that I was a whole lot worse than I thought. Essentially, I was nonfunctional though I don’t think anyone would have ever believed it from what they saw of me on the outside. The magnitude of severe suffering was masked by my perfectionist practices and behaviors. This mask provided the capacity for me to be a slow and steady ticking time bomb all through my highschool years.

Though down and out freshman year I was overachieving, barely sleeping, and plummeting down a hell hole of an eating disorder. Still deeply down and out by senior year, I was washed out and exhausted, no longer sticking to the perfectionism, but barely passing my classes, skipping days here and there, and having the pity-party audacity to leave school early because ‘I just needed to go sleep.’

To say the least, I was deeply depressed, and so nervous that my self worth had to be contingent on objective conditions. I don’t believe I have a chemical imbalance, rendering me to be bipolar, but to have gotten in to a behavioral cycle between depression & exhaustion and overachieving & perfection. It became too much when I would simply not go to classes, self medicate, and isolate.

 

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

The very first kind of support I received was in highschool when I reached out to my cousin, about 27 at that time. Her support was priceless, yet not enough for me to get remotely close to a brighter side of life. At 17, I began one on one psychotherapy, and continued to do so all through my college years through their counseling center. Though it did help, I was still short of reaching an ultimate low. After taking a medical leave of absence from school, I then got the pleasure to be blindly trusting of the mental health system to cure me. It was during these years of relying on the system to give the best, most intensive treatment that became most hopeless and sick. Their traditional model did offer a helping hand, yet a hand that held me down.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I have definitely perfected how to take 1 step forward, and 2 steps back. Many steps forward were turning points just as some steps back were as well…in the way of learning lessons the hard way. Among all turning points, exposure to Advocacy Unlimited and awareness of a recovery realm out there was the most concrete, sustainable turning point.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Today, I am shooting to work more in the behavioral health field, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle. I am hypersensitive to being self aware. I help others while still seeking help for myself. I have emotional and tangible debri from the past that remains around my self to clean up. Picking up the pieces slow and steady is a process, and doing so bit by bit is a little accomplishment every time.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

These key concepts help me now…concepts I would have considered a load of sh*t back in the day:

-VERY few things in life are permanent. Shoe size, yea…sadness, hell no.

-To make changes with yourself and your life, a change in attitude must happen FIRST.

-The world runs off of energy in all sorts of forms; heat, electricity, winds, momentum, emotions, synergy, etc. When feeling lack of or low energy on the inside, there is always some source of positive energy externally available to absorb. It is one’s own responsibility to seek out that energy and open themselves to it.

-TALKING things out is the easiest way to prevent further escalation of emotional distress.

Kat on OCD and Depression

What have you struggled with?

Happiness & Crappiness.

This is me ‘getting loud’, ‘being bold’, and ‘taking action’.

 

Part I: Stomach Pains and Patterned Pant Suits

For those of you who don’t know, when I was 9 years old I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease; an unfortunate condition that restricts me from eating all that is delicious and full of gluten. With this in mind, I spent much of my childhood afflicted with horrible stomach problems, cycling through doctors and specialists until they finally came to a conclusive diagnosis. Besides being extremely discontent with the fact that I could no longer eat my regular Vanilla Dip donut from Tim Horton’s or indulge in PB&J sandwiches like the average 9 year old kid, I was pretty healthy for a while after that.

When I was 13 years old, the stomach issues returned (and no… I was not sneaking donuts I promise!). I began having constant stomach aches, refused to eat, lost a significant amount of weight from my already lanky frame, and missed school regularly for about a month and a half. So…back to the doctors I went to figure out what was going on.

After numerous appointments and tests, they found nothing.

This resulted in my first trip to a child psychologist. They told me this was an approach to dealing with chronic pain (since nothing else was working); although, in hindsight, I’m pretty sure they were lying, because let’s be real…there is no way in hell a stubborn 13 year old like me was going to go to a psychologist for any other reason. Regardless, there I was sitting in the office of ‘Psychologist #1’ talking about my entire life history (unsure of how that had anything to do with painful stomach aches).

Much to the surprise of my 13 year old self, turns out that psychological distress can actually manifest as physical symptoms; stomach aches included. Who would have guessed?! Long story short, after a number of conversations with Psychologist #1, and a trip to the ‘Russian Psychiatrist Who Wore Unfortunately Patterned Pant Suits,’ I was formally diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

 

Part II: “I’m so OCD”

Most of you are probably familiar with the OCD stereotypes; neat freak, clean freak, an inevitable discomfort felt in the presence of a crooked picture or a messy room. While these characteristics resonate with many individuals who are diagnosed with OCD (and most definitely for myself), I can tell you that the disorder is much more complex and debilitating than what the stereotypes surrounding it insinuate.

According to Mayo Clinic (because this was obviously the most reliable source I could find on the internet) Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) features a pattern of unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress. According to Anxiety BC (probably more legit), obsessions are often related to contamination, accidental harm to self or others, symmetry and exactness, and forbidden thoughts. Compulsions include washing and cleaning, checking, counting and tapping, and ordering/arranging.

Over the years I have experienced every single item on this list. I can also tell you that someone with OCD is entirely aware that these obsessions and compulsions are absolutely ridiculous and illogical; but this realization certainly doesn’t stop the obsessing and ‘compulsioning’ anyway. I mean, realistically I’d rather not spend my day checking numerous times to confirm the oven, hair straightener, and lights are off (because if I don’t I might be responsible for burning down my entire apartment building); that yes, the door is most definitely locked, and it was the first 5 times I looked (but if it isn’t, then someone might break in… and that could be catastrophic); I’d rather not wash my hands excessively to the point that they are raw and cracked (but if I don’t then I might contract a deadly disease); I’d rather not feel the need to keep everything constantly clean/organized to perfection (but if I don’t, I know I’ll feel anxious until I do); and I’d definitely rather not waste time counting to 12 for no particular reason other than when I’m done I somehow feel better.

As someone with an extensive amount of education, I can rationally conclude that these associations are entirely irrational; I know the stove is off, I know the door is locked, I know I’m not going to contract a deadly disease if I don’t constantly wash my hands, and I know that counting to 12 accomplishes absolutely nothing. With OCD this is irrelevant, because the anxiety is real, and all that matters in the moment is finding a way to reduce it… even if that means feeling like a fool – a less anxious fool, at least.

When I was younger, the obsessions and compulsions were a very prominent part of my life, but with the combination of many visits to “Psychologist’s # 1, 2, 3, 4, 5”, a group exposure therapy class for kids with OCD (where they provoked our anxiety by having us stick our fingers in toilet water and refrain from washing our hands for as long as possible – although I’m pretty sure any person with some standard of personal hygiene would find this quite stressful…), and medication, things became much more manageable.

That’s not to say I don’t still have my ongoing challenges.

 

Part III: Literally and Figuratively Living Under a Cloud

Despite past experiences, I can confidently say that the last three years have been both the best and the shittiest of my 25 (almost 26) years. I have laughed, I have cried, I have succeeded, and I have failed. I have loved and I have lost. I have experienced the beauty of this country and I’ve found a passion for the mountains. I’ve made amazing friends, I’ve completed a Master’s degree, and l have reclaimed my independence. I’ll spare you the details of the ‘shitty stuff,’ but despite it all, and most importantly, I have learned more about myself than I ever thought possible.

In the fall of 2013, I moved across the country to Vancouver to attend graduate school at Simon Fraser University on top of a mountain in the clouds. It sounds majestic, and on clear days you got a pretty incredible view of the surrounding mountain ranges; but let me tell you, it could be depressing as hell. If it wasn’t raining or foggy at the bottom of the mountain, then it probably was at the top. I mean, our mascot wasn’t named McFogg the Dog for no reason (and yes, I am totally serious).

The first term of grad school was one of significant transition, to say the least. I had recently gone through a break up with my long term boyfriend, moved out of my parent’s house for the first time, moved across the country on my own, and started a Master’s degree in the top Criminology program in the country. Needless to say it was a lot to handle all at once. Despite the constant academic guilt and numerous emotional breakdowns in the department lab, I steamrolled through and successfully made it to the Christmas break, during which I went to visit my parents who were living in Iqaluit, Nunavut at the time (I’ll save my experiences in Nunavut for another blog).

The Christmas of 2013 was my first real confrontation with major clinical depression. Let me tell you, if you think having OCD sucks, being depressed sucks even more.

“A major depressive disorder is different than the blues. Someone experiencing depression is grappling with feelings of severe despair over an extended period of time. Almost every aspect of their life can be affected, including their emotions, physical health, relationships, and work. For people with depression, it does not feel like there is a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ – there is just a long, dark tunnel.” -CMHA

…And a long dark tunnel it was. That Christmas consisted of lying in bed binge watching TV box sets and constantly on the verge of tears. It didn’t matter that it was the holiday season, that I had successfully completed my first term of grad school, or that I was reunited with my supportive family for the first time in months. I had so much to be grateful for, but the depression clung to me like a heavy fog.

 

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

If we don’t talk about mental illness, if we don’t educate people, and if we don’t say that sometimes ‘it’s ok not to be ok’, then how can we possibly expect people to seek the help they need?

We can’t.

We need to GET LOUD. We need to BE BOLD. And we need to TAKE ACTION.

Over the past three years I have encountered a handful of these depressive ‘episodes.’ Sometimes they are short-lived, and sometimes they feel endless. This past spring was by far the most difficult. It was a time of significant transition in my life and I felt like I had lost my sense of direction. I stopped eating, I stopped exercising, I couldn’t sleep and yet sleeping was all I wanted to do. I started a new job and yet had no motivation to work. I was stuck in a deep hole and I could not dig myself out.

If I’m being honest, I can’t pinpoint the moment when things changed. I cannot identify the day I woke up and didn’t feel like complete garbage. But it happened. Slowly but surely, things got better. I started to eat. I regained my energy. I forced myself to socialize. I made fitness my therapy. I pushed myself and I faked it until eventually I felt better.
Let me emphasize – someone with depression does not choose to be depressed; and someone with depression cannot just decide to be happy. I did not dig myself out of the hole alone and for that I am grateful. I had bills to pay and a new job to keep, I had friends who showed up in the morning to drag me out of bed or push me to leave the house (special thanks to KW), I had phone calls from my family, I went to counselling, took medication, joined sports teams, and started fresh in a new apartment of my own.

There are still days that I can feel myself spiraling backwards; mornings I’d rather stay in bed and shut out the world. Fortunately, however, I’ve come to recognize these signs and find ways to scramble my way out before I slip back into the hole: I have my fitness, I have the mountains, and I have many shoulders to lean on.

I may be a person with mental illness, but I am not alone.

There is help, there are people who understand what you’re going through, and it does get better, I promise.

Read more of my story by following my blog at theobsessivekat.wordpress.com

Frankie On Coming to Terms with His Sexual Identity

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I’ve struggled with finding the balance between being proud of my sexuality and not letting it define who I am. I’ve met people who’ve told me I was too much or not enough. I started meeting people who didn’t accept everything about my personality. They tolerated me as opposed to embracing me as a friend.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I started going to group meetings that were specifically for people of the LGBT community and started understanding I’m not the only one going through problems and there are people that are going through the same problems as I am. I also started channeling my depression/anxiety into my photography.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I started finding people who loved me unconditionally. I started to become my own best friend. Going out alone, meeting different people and focusing on my photography. I had to teach myself that i have every right to exist just as much as anyone else.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I’m a part time student, working towards a degree in digital arts technology. Practicing my photography and finishing a visual story that will be available to view on my instagram: ViewsByThe13thFloor

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would say think of yourself as a piece of art. Art is subjective, someone may think you are only worth 1 look or not worth much but there are people that can find the beauty in everything about you. Flaws and all. Its all about choices and who we choose to surround ourselves with. Positive, supportive and loving friends can really help you get you where you need to be.

Claire’s Recovery Story

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

The day I chose recovery was the day I chose life. It certainly wasn’t the easy way out, but the one choice worth fighting for. Each day I wake up with hope for the new day, knowing that I have so much to live for each day. Knowing that gives me the strength to survive another meal, another awkward conversation, or another glance in the mirror. Everyone has their struggles, but it’s how we handle them that builds our character and our future. Because the more we fight, the more positive vibes we send out, the better our lives will be. And soon it will shape into something new and amazing out of your wildest dreams.

 

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

You have to be willing to receive support as much as you wanting it. Because there are all different variations and you need to know how to take some with a grain of salt and some whole heartedly. It’s hard when you’re first reaching out to decide which advice to take. That’s why, if I got the chance to start all over, I would’ve listened to my mother more and my doctor’s less. That’s also why I went through so many treatment centers and therapists and such. Finding the right mixture of therapy, advice, and medication for someone with my certain specifications was not an easy task.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I have had about 7 turning points since I was diagnosed, and about 11 hospitalizations. Those go hand in hand for sure. It wasn’t until my recent stint that I reached an all time achievement of success. That doesn’t look the same for everyone because everyone has different family dynamics, different goals, and different treatment plans. That also doesn’t mean being happy all of the time. It just means that you are meeting your needs in the best way that you can, using the skills you were taught.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is pretty amazing. Of course being the downer that I am, I will never see how far I have come. I didn’t get kicked out of my parent’s house which is a pretty big one for me. Sometimes I have two jobs but right now I am working one full time job. I have so many good comrades, whether they be co-workers, friends, strangers, or family. There is much less red in my ledger. I still have a long way to go, but I am optimistic about my future and I think that’s all anyone can ask for.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

You don’t need to disclose to anyone about any mental or psychical setbacks you may have. The beauty of it is that on best days, people have little screw ups just like us and even though most of our mind is wired differently from others, there is a little that is wired the same. And that little same is what you have to remember and hone in on and once you see the commonalities and imperfections are what make us human and are what bring people to together instead of apart, the easier it will be to see the diamond in the rough.

Micanel Joachim On Staying Positive

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I remember when I was in high school and I was bullied because of my height, my body size and the color of my skin. It destroyed my social life. Before my ex-girlfriend broke up with me she would boss me around like a freaking dog and try to avoid me; make no eye contact and made rude comments behind my back. Then she got Jealous because a girl hugged me.  I was thinking in my head, “is she avoiding me because l’m Light skin, maybe she doesn’t like people who are light skin but FYI I don’t need any negativity in my life, only positivism.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

If people make rude comments about you behind your back don’t let it get to you. There are more positive than negative people. Always remember positive beats Negative.

Hayley M. on Overcoming Anxiety, Fear and Panic

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Anxiety (Panic Attacks)

Throughout my entire life, I have always been associated with being an extremely outgoing, fun-loving, sarcastic, and energetic person. As a 4-year division 1 varsity athlete, captain, and scholar, I was fearless. In 2014, I developed and battled a severe anxiety disorder that disabled me from experiencing and enjoying many wonderful things that life has to offer, and being who I have always been. The girl who constantly enjoyed making people laugh; the energetic, fun-loving, carefree girl that everyone loved was gone. Going to parties, concerts, shopping, and even sitting outside with friends was an unbelievable struggle. All of the things I used to love doing became something that made me feel so fearful and afraid. I was essentially afraid to live.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

Psychologist, friends, doctors, and family. Yes, it did work.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now, about 2 years later, I am completely 100% anxiety free and back to living a fearless and meaningful life. Without the use of any medication, I
pulled myself through one of the deepest and darkest times of my life because I believed in myself and believed that better days lied ahead. The strong,
confident, and smart girl that everyone knows and loves is back, and she’s better than ever.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

You can either let what’s happened to you in the past make you bitter or better. I chose to become better.

This reflection is small but so, so powerful. You can either choose to feel ashamed, scared, hurt, upset,
confused, and worthless…OR you can become empowered, motivated, secure, and more confident in yourself. You have to have the strength to believe in and fight for yourself because if you don’t, no one will. YOU have to perceive
yourself as something better, something bigger, and something great, regardless of what anyone else thinks or says.

Eventually there is going to be a tomorrow that is better than today. It won’t happen in a day, a month, or even a year. But just know that one day it WILL happen. Don’t give up. You WILL wake up and be proud of you who are. Anxiety and mental health in general has a huge stigma associated with it, which causes people who are unfamiliar with it to be fearful, judgmental, and essentially closed off. Sometimes its apart of who you are and you have to accept that; but don’t be discouraged from pushing through the hard times and eliminating the anxiety from your life. Anxiety for me has never been apart of who I am, up until 2 years ago. Certain circumstances in my life led me to developing it; but that doesn’t mean it had to stay with me. And it sure didn’t. I have accepted that part in my life, and am only using it as motivation to becoming a better “me.” Don’t let these negative experiences and feelings haunt you forever. Take it for what it is, learn from it, and grow into a stronger, and better person. You will thank yourself one day.

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Although I got myself out ofthis deep hole, there is no way I would be where I am today had it not been
for my friends, family, doctors, and other people who have impacted my life in such a tremendous way. Don’t feel ashamed about reaching out and sharing your story; you never know how much good can come out of it. Had I not opened up with my family, friends, and even myself, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now.

I guess what I’m getting at is you WILL overcome the battles you once thought were impossible, and you will do it with dignity, pride, and confidence. You WILL learn to love yourself, despite the opinions and influences of others. You WILL learn to accept yourself; the good, the bad, and the ugly. You will realize that not a single person on this earth is perfect; that’s what makes us all unique and beautiful. And with that, you will learn to accept your flaws, and understand that they are apart of who you are. BUT you will strive to improve yourself, your flaws, and your
mindset, every day. And most importantly, you WILL become a better you. You just have to believe in yourself, know your worth, and truly understand what your role is on this earth. You were put here for a reason; you were born to DO something great, otherwise you would not be here. Have faith, courage, and confidence in yourself that you will achieve ANYTHING you want to; you just have to believe.

Wishing a lifetime of peace, happiness, and blessings to you all. You will get through this.

Samantha

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Bullying, self harm, depression.
Early in childhood, I had low self esteem. I remember being a shy awkward kid, always been smart. People teased me. My parents always put in my head that I was the prettiest & I could do anything I put my mind to, but others would treat me unfairly. I got picked on by the ‘popular’ people, most of them were not the best looking & people would still try to get with them all the time. When I got older, I moved out of state to a new home with my family & I made new friends & started misbehaving. I hung out with the wrong crowd & I got beat up in front of a group of girls, I was skipping school. My parents put me on medication and I started gaining weight, I felt more bad about myself. I got hospitalized in a center about 8 times. The first time I cut myself was when I was about 12, I think. I was also hearing voices at one point too. I was out of control, I have had about 3 or 4 therapists. I got made fun of by so many people even my own family members were putting me down. Sometimes my own parents would say stuff. Things changed for me when one day I turned to God & started praying. I started taking care of myself, having the courage to know, I deserve better than what ‘society’ puts me out to be. I am beautiful & I deserve the best.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I have had therapy for years but none of it ever worked. Things started to change when I helped myself. Prayer, affirmations, worked. My therapist now is helpful but after all it is all about the mindset at the end of the day. You have to help yourself & make sure your needs are met. Your responsible for your own happiness & life.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Realizing that I deserve better than the treatment I get from the people around me. I should not tolerate being mistreated. I deserve the best & I am blessed. Never lower my self worth & have high standards. Put God first.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am currently in college working towards my degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. I am maintaining a more healthier lifestyle so I could be in shape/fit. I want to try out for Playboy in the future or maybe Suicidegirls (adult lifestyle brand). It has always been one of my dreams to be one of those girls. They all are beautiful.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Never give up because life is beautiful & so are you! Dreams do come true & you could accomplish anything you want, trust me. Have faith & believe in yourself.

Sexual Abuse – T.P.

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

When I was 12, I was diagnosed with manic depression and anxiety. 2012 was the year that would change me forever. It started out with becoming more and more isolated, not going to school, and not ever wanting to leave my house. I was 12 years old when the sexual abuse from my step-father started. This man was the same one that had raised me since I was 2. He was the only man I ever thought of as a father since my real dad was long gone by the time I was born.

It started out with touches, a little too close to my private parts, then it started with kisses and sneaking into my bedroom at night when my mom was asleep. I was terrified.He threatened my family against me, my brother and my sister and I figured, it was better that he did it to me, and not my younger siblings. It went on for 3 years after that. I started smoking cigarettes when I was 13, smoking pot at 14, 2 suicide attempts at 14, 3 when i was 15. I overdosed multiple times, dying only twice, only to be brought back.

I kept silent about my father, i wanted to protect my family and I felt embarrassed of myself, i didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I thought killing myself would end everything, so i tried, only to end up in a mental hospital for a couple weeks, then released back to my personal hell that no one knew about.

October 27, 2015 was another date that I tried to kill myself. I was unsuccessful. On the 30th while i was in the hospital, i let the secret slip about my dad. I wrote it down on paper and i told my doctors and things finally started to look up. I was so wrong. The same day i confessed to the sexual abuse i was put through, was the day that my dad killed himself in my family home. My mother was the one who told me. It was 2 days later when she found him, 2 days later when she told me at the hospital. I remember screaming the word no over and over again, crying until my face was purple.

I remember the nurses trying to comfort me but they couldn’t, they didn’t know how. I remember being so confused and hurt and angry. He got away with everything he did to me, and I had to suffer alone. I got out a couple weeks after that, and my family had lost our home due to the expenses of the funeral. We got onto welfare and had to move into an apartment, and it wasn’t too bad. Slowly, my mom started to turn cold and violent towards me, degrading me whenever she was angry, and leaving me to watch my younger two siblings.

It is now July, I have moved in with my grandma, who has always loved me no matter what, and who has always listened and believed me. I am 16, an age i thought i would never reach. Ive been diagnosed with PTSD, SAD and Bulimia on top of my manic depression and anxiety, but I’m taking medication and getting support from counselors. Nothing is easy, ever, but I am learning how to survive.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first the support i got was something that I would push away all I could. I hated the idea that I needed help, and I would refuse it at any point i could. Slowly, i stopped being so stubborn and i let them help me, and i feel much more stable now than what i did.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Recently I have started to eat better, do more meditation and exercise and I have started to talk to people more and get out of the house. Moving in with my grandma was also a huge turning point. I feel like I am in a safer environment now than what I was with my Mother.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Well, I am now producing an album coming out august of 2017, and I am just, so excited that I have the ability to do this. I am so proud of myself for pushing myself towards this future.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I wish I knew that the only thing holding me back, was myself. I was the one stopping myself from truly living, and I wish I had never limited myself to staying home and sulking in my sadness and wondering why my life was like this. Go out there, and make friends, do stupid things and be a little reckless. Just live.

Jaydee on Empowerment

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

My empowering story may be much different than others you may hear. It’s the kind that seems painful, raw, jaded, but disastrously radically beautiful and that is exactly what it is, beautiful. I think at times what makes me extraordinary is that I consider myself a lioness and am currently combining my warrior traits with the beauty of love and vulnerability and my truth. Quite the combo, if I must say, but a beautiful one at that.
I carry warrior qualities, I’m a fighter for what I’m passionate about, I chase after my dreams to succeed and better my family’s lives but I also am a work of art, a rare find, and a source of beauty through a jaded and difficult journey. This isn’t to boast it’s to state that even those with hard times, difficult pasts, who have failed numerous times and had to repeatedly be humbled and get back up…that those people are beautiful also and capable of dreaming, doing, and succeeding. YES!!!
I also like to say that once I found my voice in the midst of being silenced and the midst of finding my true and authentic self that I now have the power and capability to ROAR my truth and to set myself free from the “bondage” that I have been entangled in.

When I was young I began to explore the world and found myself on my different paths. At a young age I began to explore the world of sex, drugs, and alcohol. I was not aware how this could deeply affect my life, my view of self, my view of others, my safety, as well as my success as a woman in this world.

In high school I became very enraged and angered by my inability to be able to explore the world as I chose. I was uninterested in school and began falling behind. At one point I had a .66 in high school and didn’t even think graduating with my high school degree would be possible, nor did I desire it.

I was uneducated, wasn’t aware of what I was getting myself into, and didn’t have the resources that were crucially important for me to succeed or protect myself.

I, like many, did not have any experience in relationships, drug or alcohol abuse, and sexual encounters. Ultimately, this lack of educational resources prohibited me from making knowledgeable and educated decisions or be fully aware of what decisions I was making and how it was ultimately killing me.

The year of my enlightening journey was not easy; I found myself in a residential care facility for troubled teens for 7 and half months of my life with the intent to form respect, self-direction, counseling, and ultimately; support.

This time I was pulled from my current high school suddenly and found myself living in a home of 13 teen girls and went from being able to speak to anyone the way I chose, to having to ask for permission to even speak, eat, go up or down the stairs, in or out of rooms and in and out of the house.

I found support among women who were older than me. They heard my cry and desire to explore this world and ultimately understood who I was. I found support among the women who I lived with and shared difficult moments with, who were living in the same world of chaos, frustration, and pain as I was. I began to see that I was not the only one struggling tremendously through my teen years.

Upon completing the program, I moved home and chose to shake these restrictions and feel free again. This turned into drug and alcohol abuse, consistent unhealthy relationships, and ultimately choosing sleeping on friend’s beds and couches due to running away from home. I found myself waking up numb and in random homes, several pregnancy scares, and continual drug use.

Still, within my soul I knew there was more. I knew I was worth more. I knew my life meant more and that one day I would be able to find it.

I began to research how to enroll myself into school and had a friend drop me off at a University for yet another chapter of my life. Unfortunately, at this school, my drug and alcohol use continued because it was much easier to obtain. I began to lose sight of the course of life I truly knew I needed to be on.

After one semester I was already back on academic probation, struggling to find financial assistance to stay in school, and was once again losing hope. I was living a life of numbness. I worked hard but was so caught up on seeking social acceptance that I did not realize where my life was heading.

I stayed numb.

At this university, I sought out the party scene and began to experiment sexually and dive into pill usage on a whole new level.
In a sense I was walking around with my eyes closed just trying to get by and manage life, thinking at times I had everything I had ever wanted, but so incredibly lost at the same time.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I would have not made it this far without the support of my incredible mother, who is our biggest fan, The Family Scholar House program, my peers and those in my cohort, teachers who supported and empowered me, case workers, advocates on our behalf, my sisters and even bystanders, who without knowing, empowered my weak spirit.

I have been empowered by women within the community who have challenged me to speak out and share my story. They have helped me see my real beauty and my inner-warrior and to use my voice. They have also blessed me with the opportunity to speak my truth to others as an outlet and support to those who may be going through or who are healing from the same things.

Most important, I would not be here without my son, who has given me my passion, my drive and has instilled in me the real meaning of love within my heart. He is my heart outside my body and the reason I found the drive to strive to be the woman I am today. In addition, my real friends came to my side and I was close to completing my bachelor’s Degree.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

One evening, I found myself on my bathroom floor with a positive pregnancy test in my hand.
I remember leaving the University hospital, alone, on a very rainy day and getting in my care, after being told once again that I was pregnant and close to 6 weeks along.

Thinking….“Wait, I am only 20, not even close to being done with school, I am lost, completely unhappy and I am now growing a human being in my belly, when I can barely care for myself.”

For one second within the confines of my car I felt instant peace.

This was my day of awakening.

A child was growing in my belly and I had to radically change my life….

On this day I chose to better my life, not for me but for this soul that was begging me to be succeed, to be healthy, to be a powerful woman, an example, a mother, and for this,

I owe my son…my life.

At this point my mind, heart, and soul were focused on bettering our lives. My life became about becoming self-sufficient, growing together, and pressing forward to achieve my goals and dreams so that my son could have an example and a beautiful life.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Elliot

I can tell you right now, it is NEVER too late to become more, to become better, to be who you were intended to be.

We made our way back home, to be closer to family. We had been and were in very toxic environment but I was able to find support and guidance and began to dive into studies. After a strenuous and difficult journey, I came to a realization; I had been silenced.

I had been an independent woman, strong willed, and felt no shame in declaring who I was or what I thought, and slowly I found myself silenced, unheard and ultimately speechless.

One evening, I was on my knees weeping by my bedside begging for the lord to give me a sign and give me the power and voice to step away, for good, because I honestly couldn’t do it on my own.

That night I had a very raw and real dream about my own life, but it was not happy, nor did it end well.

The next morning, I awoke from my own nightmare. I walked away from abuse and never went back. I had tremendous support in my mother, who had seen me weep in pain for years. We both began weeping, in relief.

I found my voice and knew that I wanted to be a survivor, not another statistic and that I wanted to help others overcome & find their voice as well

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am a mother, daughter, sister, soul searcher, warrior and lover, and friend. I am a seeker of the beauty in life and in enjoying time with those I love, which in most cases involves coffee, which is also a love of mine. I advocate for domestic and intimate partner survivors within my own community and afar- through speaking engagements, blogs, and social media. I am fueled by the fire of my passions, which is to use my journey as a form of light to shine on others times of darkness- that there is hope and healing and freedom from the bondage of your journey and that all this needs to come by having grace with yourself and by choosing to intentionally love yourself, your journey, and the soul you are today.

On Mother’s Day, with my son in the stands, I graduated with honors, Magnu Cum Laude and walked straight into my graduate degree, a one-year advanced program for obtaining my Masters in Science of Social Work.

I have walked with my classmates again, after a long year in the Master’s program and obtained my MSSW the summer of 2016.

I never imagined the life I have today…with not one, but two diplomas.

Life has radically changed and I have been incredibly blessed.

We have been so incredibly blessed with such love and support in our journey.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I am now asking you to listen, to empower and to advocate for those who are uneducated in regards to violence and their harmful current situations whether it be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual or mental abuse, as well as those who you are witness to violence in an extent that has drastically changed their lives. Many people have been silenced and are living in silence, so please offer them the opportunity to be heard and to find their voice once again. Choose to be that one person who makes a personal impact on another’s life that empowers them to be the person they were intended to be….so at this time please stand and face forward if you are able to commit to this…you are making a commitment to assist in diminishing the cycle of violence within this community, empowering those who have difficulty seeing any strengths within them, who have spent many nights and days weeping, bruised, naked, alone and emotional drained, who have spent days or even years in silence, who have difficult carrying for their children due to the abuse they are undergoing amongst the bills they are unable to pay, you are giving them an opportunity to be heard, to hear themselves, and to help them find safety and hope, you are allowing them to see support and to feel the presence of someone who sees them as more than just a statistic but yet giving them an opportunity to grow, flourish and be the beautiful soul that they have been trying so hard to be…. and recognize that you are not alone and others will be at the same time choosing to say no to violence and taking a stand in allowing survivors voices to be heard.

You are WORTHY. Your journey is worthy. Your freedom is Worthy. Your Voice is Worthy.

My passion is to empower others by using my journey and my voice and so I began The Soul Grind, which is a place of self-exploration, radical self-love, soul searching, and some powerful empowerment! A community where your voice is heard and your soul can grow and flourish in the company of some beautiful other humans on the same journey. The Soul Grind pours love on wounds and allows you to be heard and also it emphasizes the importance of combining all of that with a big cup of coffee.

The one thing I would love to tell, especially women, is that “You are worthy”.

In times society wants to make us seem mediocre, small, microscopic and that our views, stories, our voices don’t matter. Well, I’m telling you that you can achieve your dreams, you can accomplish your goals, you most certainly have a voice and I encourage you to “roar” as a lioness and be the women that you are intended to be whether the world sees it as capable or not.

· Fight for your life, your dreams, and your soul, the love for yourself, your families safety and your voice.

· Love yourself

· Take each day at a time

· Don’t judge your journey amongst others

– Dont rush your healing

· Offer yourself abundant amounts of grace when you do fall

· Find those who will support you back up

· Keep going!

 

Join us! Let’s hear your ROAR.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thesoulgrind/
Blog: http://www.thesoulgrind.com
Email: thesoulgrind@gmail.com
Instagram: thesoulgrind

Recovery Blogger Ally’s Story

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I am in recovery from drug addiction. I first tried an opiate when I was 17 years old. I hung out with my classmates that were partying, drinking, and doing drugs. I thought at the time that it was completely normal for teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol. I was dating a guy that started to use narcotics. I observed his behavior while he would use them and I didn’t see any negative behaviors or actions from him. We were already considered a toxic relationship because I was being physically and mentally abused by him. He convinced me to try a prescription opioid medication, with no prescription. After my first try, I was “in love” with the feeling of being high from an opiate. I didn’t know the consequences that come with abusing narcotics. I was instantly mentally addicted to the drug and within weeks of using I was physically addicted. After becoming physically addicted to prescription opioid medication, at age 19, I experimented with heroin; an opiate that was cheaper, more accessible, and stronger.

I actively used heroin until I was 22. At that age, my use stopped because I was incarcerated. I stayed sober for about 1 year and 3 months, then I experienced a relapse. My relapse lasted 4 months and I gained the courage to get help for myself by admitting myself into treatment. I began my recovery on December 2, 2015.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I received a lot of support which was very unexpected. I was so ashamed at first about all of the pain I caused my loved ones while using, which led me to believe that no one would care about me. I was wrong. My family was very supportive of my recovery and still are to this day. I also received support from my church members, other people in recovery, and professionals. My most influential support was from my Higher Power, who I call Jesus.

My support worked in the beginning because when I was feeling any self destructive and negative thoughts, every piece of my support system helped me. This support is still there for me today.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Yes, many! I remember one time I was awake late at night with an overwhelming craving to use. I had an immense amount of thoughts in my mind that justified and pushed the cravings to lead to using. I tucked my legs underneath my arms and squeezed them tightly as I rocked back and forth, tears streaming down my face using every bit of me to not give in to this craving. I crawled off of my bed onto the floor. I got on my knees and put my forehead to the carpet. I cried out to God to stop these thoughts and end this craving. I thanked Him for listening to me at this moment and for how far He had already brought me. I begged God help me and He did just that. The craving and thoughts were immediately gone. I started using God to help me through future cravings and they always diminished when I did.
Another turning point for me was when I gained trust from my family. It meant a lot to me that they trusted me because I had lost it for so long. Having their trust was something I didn’t believe would come back, but recovery gave me it.

 

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is amazing right now. I’m involved in jobs that are in the field of recovery, volunteering for recovery related events and commitments, and I’ve developed a new way of healthy living. Even though life isn’t always perfect, with the help of God, my support system, and positive coping skills, I have been able to bear any obstacle that comes my way and remain sober.

My goal is to stay sober and continue to help others in their recovery. You can follow my blog about my life in recovery.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would say to someone that life gets better. If you are struggling there is help and people that will dedicate their hearts to support, love, and encourage you. There was a lot of advice and positivity that people had given me, but I struggled with believing that it could become a reality for me. I want people to know that with a mustard seed amount of faith, you can do anything your heart desires.

vector silhouette of a girl with raised hands and broken chains

Being asexual by AW

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Since I was 17 years old I’ve struggled with being an asexual. I never knew what that was. Before I knew what it was I thought that there might be something wrong with my body that was going to prevent me from being able to have kids one day. Once I realized what asexuality was and that it is rare, I more or less accepted it. I mostly like it because I like to see the look on other peoples faces when I say that.

But anyway, I spent my whole life up until now thinking that I wanted to have kids and a boyfriend or a husband. It’s still hard for me to say but I must admit, I don’t want a boyfriend or kids. I’m starting to think that I don’t even want to get married. I don’t know if I wanted to get married to be normal or have normal hopes or expectations on life. Some people will say “how can you not want to have a boyfriend?” “how can you not want to get married?” “how can you not want kids?!” I’m not even going to use the excuse of society or the economy to back up my reasons for not wanting those things. Honestly, my response to all of that stuff is how could you want those things? A husband maybe and that’s only because my mom kept on ranting about that stuff. I don’t think that I’ve ever wanted to be anything other than to myself. when I see a man and a woman together I either smile for their happiness or I ignore them.

When I see a man who’s attractive due to societal standards I ignore him. I’ve never wanted to kiss anyone, hug them, make love to them, or even hold hands with them. I can’t judge heterosexuals or homosexuals for being the way that they are because then that would mean that there’s nothing wrong with them judging me. I’ve just never seen anything attractive about a man. I’ve had a hard time coming out and dealing with this but I understand now that I’m about to be 23 years old that there’s nothing wrong with me ‘having a problem’ or being the way that I am. I can’t be judged for small things so why should I think that it matters? I don’t think that anyone should judge me for being the way that I am and I find it highly disrespectful for people to think that I’m gay because I have no attraction for members of the opposite sex because I’m too afraid to admit that I’m gay. Honestly, I think that when people do that that’s their way of saying that they’re uncomfortable with the way that they are.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

Thank you for reading my post and just know that I’m not the only one that feels like this. Asexuality is rare and the cause of it is unknown. but it’s not a disease, we’re not confused, and we’re not gay (no offense to those that are). We just have no urge to have sex, have children, or be in a relationship. we are all very capable of doing these things and some of us do. however it’s not due to an urge of any sort.

Shyness – VAD’s Story

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

As a child, I was extremely shy; always hiding behind my mother. As I grew older, the shyness never fully went away. It always haunts me in some form or another. I would get embarrassed when it was time to say “here” during attendance; always filling with anxiety when I heard a teacher say my name. I never raised my hand or spoke a single word in class. Having to present in front of my fellow peers was overwhelming. My anxiety made me shy and my shyness gave me anxiety. During high school, I always wanted to lay in bed and sleep. Everyone thought it was my anxiety. As I got older, everyone just assumed that I was lazy. It all came down to the fact that it was pure laziness. Nobody ever believed me that I was always tired. It was and still is in some way hindering me in my daily life. My “laziness” makes me feel as though I am incompetent and inadequate to do anything. It has taken a toll on both my mental and physical health. It became too much when I finally became mature enough to realize that something inside of me was always holding me back. That something is what we call anxiety. My exhaustion also became too much for me when I started skipping classes and bailing on commitments. I couldn’t escape the exhaustion no matter how much I tried. It was more than ever weighing me down… Mentally and physically.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I never really got professional support for my anxiety because I never really admitted to myself until now that I have it. My friends and family never really saw it as anxiety; to them I was both lazy and shy. If I bailed on friends, I was lazy. If I bailed on an interview, I was shy. But in reality, it’s more anxiety than it is shy. It is more exhaustion than it is lazy. Now that I am aware of my anxiety, I try not to let that stop me. I have been trying to get out of my comfort zone and I feel like that has helped me a lot. As for my exhaustion, I finally convinced my parents that I should do a sleep study; I have a sleep disorder. A disorder that makes it impossible for me to get quality sleep when I am interrupted more than 5 times per hour a night. It is not my anxiety. It is not my laziness. I am simply exhausted and I am currently working on fixing it.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

At some point throughout college, I became more confident in myself and more outgoing with friends and family. I was still that shy little girl in class but I didn’t care because I improved so much in my personal life.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is pretty great right now. I have an amazing job that I am proud of myself for not letting my anxiety ruin. However, my anxiety still hinders me to an extent but I’ve been ignoring the fact that is exists; I do not want it to affect me any longer. I have also just returned from living out west for a month, which was definitely out of my comfort zone but I am so happy that I did it. It has helped me to realize that I can conquer my anxiety on my own and that I should not let it hold me back.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

For people who are having a tough time and for everyone in general: help is out there. Most importantly, there are people out there who want to help. Do not hesitate to want to make a change. Make a change for the better. Don’t ever give up. Find an outlet to channel your frustrations, anger, sadness, or other feelings. Write in a journal, play your favorite sport, listen to your favorite music. Outlets can be anything; utilize them.

MW’s Story on her struggle with suicidal thoughts

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts since I was 12 years old

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I tried talking to friends and adults about my depression and anxiety, but I was always told that I was being pessimistic or that I was just complaining rather than fixing what I needed to.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

After four years of losing family member and friends and young relationships I had enough. It only took one night where I felt alone and no one was there to set me off. I attempted suicide right before I finished the 11th grade. After my attempt I was admitted to a mental hospital under a 201. I spent 11 days there talking through my issues and meeting new people.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I still struggle with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts even after almost a month since my discharge, but I see life differently. I will never be able to run from my mental illness. I may not always want to be here and I may shut down sometimes from sadness, but in the hospital I truly saw my blessings. Every few days I get a letter from a girl I met in the hospital that was 13 and I talk to her about her problems since I can’t talk to her over the phone. Being told that my letters make a person happy and that my presence made their stay a little more comfortable is the reason I live. Those compliments are the reason I keep going when I feel like my life is going backwards.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Always talk about your issues. If people do not want to hear them find someone that does. It could be a therapist, teacher, parent, sibling, friend. Someone will always care even when we think that no one does. Also, never get attached to people. People will come and go from your life and you have absolutely no control over it. Sometimes you have nothing to do with it. Never let people or things cause you to question your worth.

Being Sexually Abused – LMB

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I was sexually abused by my step father for 9 years. Starting from when I was 11 years old and continued until I was 20 years old. My biggest struggle was that because he took me in, I had to do what he said. Nothing is free in this world, and you have to pay a price to eat, buy clothes, go out and have fun. So I started working at age 14, but even then he would find a way to make me do what he wanted. He was two different people. In the day he was a father, to my brothers and sisters and me. But at night he was this person that would tell me, he is a man and I am a woman and that’s what adults do . I started paying rent and buying my own things just so it could stop and it did for a few months but then one night he got drunk and came into my room, I was 20 years old. That night I left his house. He was my father and my own father hurt me…. There was no turning back, I was to afraid to tell my brothers and sisters. And when I was leaving he said he would kill himself if I told them…. I never said a word to my family.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I didn’t have support I turned my back on all my family. Shortly after that I found a church that helped me to cope with my anger and sadness without asking so many questions. It helped me to forgive him and move on. I went back to my family, and my step dad asked me to forgive him.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

After I reconnected with my family, I felt less lost and I felt a sense of peace. I knew I was stronger and I felt stronger. I found a person that accepted me and worked with me through my issues . At that point I felt like things were looking up.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am happily married and I am pregnant. I couldn’t be happier to start my new family with a man that loves me and I him. I graduated Cal State Fullerton with my BA in Criminology. I work with at risks students and I love it. I am working towards being a great mother to my kid and raise him with what I never had.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell them to never give up. You choose your future, And no one deserves to take away your happiness. What helped me was to forgive. I wish I knew that what was happening to me and what I was doing with my Step dad was wrong and that I didn’t have to do it or stay quiet. I wish I told someone, Even if they wouldn’t have believed me. As a child you don’t owe anything to anyone and no one has the right to take your child hood that way. Speak out!

EW on Seeing Her Family Break Apart

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

My parents got divorced when I was 6 and although I don’t remember many details of the divorce itself, my parents do not have a good relationship now which causes much strain on me and my mom especially. From when I was 6 until my freshman year of high school, I split my time between living with my mom and dad, seeing my mom usually 4 of the 7 days of the week. However, my dad struggles with OCD, does not easily understand social cues, and is incredibly stubborn; this led to constant fighting between us, so much so to the point where I would become incredibly miserable when I would have to stay over at his apartment. At the height of our fighting when I was in 8th grade, I saw a psychiatrist to see if I had depression, given I thought that I showed many of the common signs and felt constantly weighed down by my situation. I never actually ended up taking medication, but my turbulent relationship with my dad was really hard for me to cope with.
In the very beginning of my freshman year of high school, I finally made the choice to stop living with my dad and moved in with my mom full time. I became so much happier at home, even though I felt guilty and confused about what to do with the relationship with my dad. I was in a really manipulative friend group for this year of high school, one that experimented with drugs and alcohol (which I personally chose to not try) and made me play babysitter when they needed someone to take care of them during and after. Lowering my self-esteem and confidence, I lost my desire for good grades, leaving my grades to plummet drastically for the majority of freshman year. Needless to say, freshman year was a mess for a lot of different reasons.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

Freshman year, I turned to my best friends from sleep away camp to vent to and turn to for help throughout these issues, helping me but still not fixing the problems that were plaguing my life.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

However, I applied to and got accepted to study abroad in Israel for the spring semester of my sophomore year, which turned my entire life around. I instantly fell in love with Israel itself, which led me to create my desire to serve in the Israel Defense Forces after college. I discovered myself, figured out what I like and who I want to be, made the absolute best friends of my life, and fell in love. Israel saved me, and since then, my work ethic and personal life have been incredibly fulfilled and meaningful.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

The situation with my dad has been very complicated recently because he is refusing to help pay for me to go to college, and thus my mom is currently taking him to court in a messy and drawn-out case. On one hand, I am incredibly happy living with my mom and stepdad and sister (my mom and I are very close) but also, I feel guilty not having a real relationship with my dad. Yet, him being financially negligent in my upbringing and causing incredible stress for my mom leaves me confused and undecided as to how I feel about him and what I want for the future of our relationship. However, senior year has been absolutely incredible, and I’ve solidified friendships with really amazing people from home that I plan on keeping into next year when I attend Bard College in New York (hopefully Brandeis University if I’m lucky enough to get off the wait-list). Life’s good!

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Definitely make sure that you have a strong support system like true, genuine friends that care about your well-being. I turn to my friends for everything. Even if you don’t have particularly strong friendships with anything, even knowing that you have the option to turn to others for help is really important to remember.

MA shares about sexual abuse

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I was a victim of sexual abuse for 7 years, beginning at the age of 6. My abuser would often threaten my life and tell me he could get away with murder if he had to, to keep me quiet. After he left my family behind, I found out he had molested another girl, 6 years old – the same as myself when he first got his hands on me. I knew I had to come forward and tell me story, despite fearing for my life.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I saw a therapist through a childrens’ advocate agency. I hated going, and I hated talking about what happened to me, because for my entire life, I lived like that portion of my childhood didn’t exist.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I began to do a type of therapy called EMDR roughly 8 months after starting therapy. It helps the mind to process traumatic memories from the short term memory to the long term, and to help you process them and move past the trauma. At first I thought it was ridiculous and I was still so reluctant to recall anything willingly, but looking back, I think it really helped me to gain strength and move on with my life. I no longer live in fear day to day.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I’m a very successful nurse in a loving relationship. I’ve never been happier, I’m no longer afraid, and I’ve moved past being a victim to just being me. My past no longer defines me.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

It’s never going to be easy. Getting help is not easy, and talking about what happened is never easy – but you have to do it, no matter how long it takes. That’s the only way to gain control of your life.

ADHD and Good Grades – SP

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

My brother was born with Tourette’s syndrome. Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder causing repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations, also called tics. This causes my brother, Max, to have uncontrollable outbursts and act impulsively. In addition to the Tourette’s, Max struggled with anger which was never treated or taken seriously. This led to the event that changed my life. One day Max came storming into the living room yelling at me for eating a piece of his candy. I’ll admit it now, I had taken a single ‘fun sized’ piece of candy from his stash. How he noticed? I would never know, but now it was time to deny, deny, deny. It started with yelling and hitting; next thing you know he tackled me to the floor. I hit my head hard. Nothing felt normal, but it was a school night so my parents that I was playing sick and trying to get out of tomorrow’s math test.
The next day at school was horrible: the loud noise, the bright lights, reading, taking notes, all of it. After school, I went to the doctors and found out that I had mild concussion. The word “mild” is typically used in salsa, there is Mild, Medium, and Hot. When it comes to the brain any damage is bad, there is no mild, medium, it’s all just bad. The damage hurts the brain cells on the side that was hit and it all depends on the person, the area that was hit, and many other factors, determine length of recovery. I had hit the back right side but when you hit one side, it bounces back to the side opposite. In addition to hitting the back right, I also hit the front left side of my brain. So when my mother and I heard the word ‘”mild” we thought there was very little damage and I would recover in no time. Unfortunately, we were mistaken and this has changed everything.
I went to a neurologist and he ran tests to examine what part of my brain was impacted. Memorization, puzzles, reflexes; test after test. After three weeks of testing, I finally found out what happened to my brain. I suffered from post concussive syndrome and new learning disabilities as well: a reading comprehension disorder, ADHD, and dyslexia with extreme anxiety and depression. I was in shock that a small head injury could impact my life so drastically.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I eventually received medicine to aid my focus in school and I have learned to try to talk about my concerns to further lessen worries. Lastly, I have my amazing family and friends to support me along the way. As much help as I got, however, I still struggled with my grades. It was heartbreaking because no matter how hard I tried, I never seemed to understand as easily as before.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

By the end of my junior year everything started to look up. I started to get my friends back, I started to eat healthier, I exercised more, and my grades began to go up. I can only hope that it’ll stay this way and that I will have a bright future ahead of me.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am currently 2 weeks away from graduating high school and my senior year was better than I could have ever expected. I was on the varsity swim team and beat all of my times, I earned straight A’s, and applied to college. I am happy to report that I’ll be attending the University of Delaware, a school that I never thought I would get into. I am extremely proud of all of my accomplishments throughout the year and look forward to more in the near future. Despite my setbacks and needing to learn how to learn again, I now know that it’s fundamental to later success.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you feel as though something is wrong, then act on it because it’s not going to get better with time. I know this is cliche, but it is something that people take for granted. Family and friends will always be there to support you and help you through hard times.

Navigating different cultures and Fitting In by JK

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

#JK Story – I have struggled with fitting in with people around me, due to my parents cultural mindset. That has left me feeling different and confused about what to do, and what I was allowed to do.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

There wasn’t really much support I could get on this, I had learned to compromise and more so just go with what was happening.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am almost done with high school, and planning to go abroad for College this fall.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

It’s hard being in between two different cultures and fitting in, one from where your parents have grown up in and have the mindset of. And the other where you, grow up and are surrounded in. It feels as if at times you have to have multiple different personalities for people to be happy and for you to maintain relationships.

Challenging the Status Quo- SG

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with trying to live up to many societal norms/pressures while still staying sane. For example, I had always felt pressure to take the hardest classes in school to impress other people. I was never really happy with my grades even when they were good. Also, I sometimes found myself not wanting to speak my mind because I was afraid of what others may think of me.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I was getting ready to enter my junior year of high school, I told myself I was only going to worry about myself. Fortunately, that is exactly what I did. Knowing this was going to be an especially important academic year for me, I took classes I know I could do well in, while still challenging myself. I found myself to be a lot happier as I relieved myself of many of the unnecessary stresses weighing me down. I also started to really be myself around others, in other words, I was no longer afraid to express myself and true thoughts.

 

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

For those having a tough time, I’d say just stay true to yourself. I have realized that staying true to yourself is one of the most important things in life. You should always do what you feel is right and never be afraid to be yourself. Nobody else is living your life so why should they chose how you live it? I wish someone had told me those exact words when I was younger. Everyone is self-conscious to an extent but no-one should ever not feel comfortable with themselves because of who they are.

Cleo’s Story on Being Bullied

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I wasn’t a very loud person; I was shy until you got to know me. Back in middle school, about 6th grade, I was bullied . It was bad. Nobody wanted to sit by me, or talk to me, I wanted friends. Plus, with all the things I had going on outside of school I wanted to know people and be social. I was the new kid and I had no idea why they hated me so much. I’d get called names everyday, I had things thrown at me, there was even a time where these three girls tried to fight me in the bathroom. I used to use school as a getaway place, it made me feel sane being at school because I didn’t like home. When the bullying started happening I wasn’t sane anymore, I was scared to go to school. There were days when I wouldn’t even go to school. I would just hang out at the city park or something until school got out so my mom would think I went to school.

Things slowly turned as my middle school years went by. I ended up making friends. We hung out all the time but I noticed after a little while that they only hung out with me because I had money, they would bribe me into buying alcohol every weekend. I knew after a while that I was hanging with the wrong crowd because those decisions I made got me into trouble. One night I was drunk and I was with that group of friends. We were at a party and I was barely walking at this point because they kept telling me to take drinks; it was peer pressure. I fell asleep in one of the rooms and they took pictures of me and sent it to everybody. They were calling me harsh names, took my money and my phone and left me at that house. I was abandoned. I stopped hanging out with them. After that night I knew nobody would want to be my friend so I stopped trying to talk to everybody.

My 8th grade year I finally made some real friends; friends that I am actually really close with today. They were and still are supportive of me. My high school years were pretty much the same. I drank to numb myself from pain and I smoked a lot of weed to the point to where I didn’t even get as high as I used to. I had even more problems at home, I lived with drunks and I’m still living with them. They fight every night and I see negative things I don’t want to see. I get into fights with my legal guardian. I really dislike it at that house, it doesn’t even feel like a home. I get accused of a lot of things.

I was diagnosed with depression my sophomore year. I had to take-anti depressants which I didn’t really like taking because they made me feel ugly. But I knew I had to for my own well being. They didn’t help at all and I was still the same person I was before I had gotten the prescription. I was still distracted from school work from my thoughts that wouldn’t stop bothering me. My junior year I met a girl. She made me happy for the time being. I guess it was the comfort I really needed and she gave me a lot of that. I was staying with her for a long time, her family made me feel wanted; I really liked it there. Everybody was supportive of us two for being “gay” (I got bullied for that too my 8th and freshman year). When we broke up six months ago I took it pretty hard. I was back to doing the same things I used to.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I didn’t really reach out to anybody for a long time. I had gotten over the break up, and that is one thing I enjoyed. It wasn’t really healthy for me to be feeling sad for something I can always find elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy with life. I always kept things to myself that is why I felt so lonely. I had that feeling that if I tried then I’d be bothering people with my depressing problems I have going on in my life. People were willing to help but I still felt that way. I hid my emotions so much; I always put on an act everyday like I was the jolliest person in the world. .

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Yes, a little bit. Three months ago I was on this website and I met this lady friend. We talked and we clicked right away. We talked all day and all night. Everyday. She was going through the same things I did. I looked forward to going home for a change because I only wanted to talk to her. She is the one person who brought me out of my sad shell. I was able to tell her what I was feeling and not worry about bothering her. She just makes me feel sane even though she lives 24 hours away from me. I can tell her anything, we share our stories. I think that made the sadness go away a bit, I know I shouldn’t be counting on other people to try make me happy, I’m trying on my own too, but she promised me she would help me get through this. It does lift a little bit of weight off of my shoulders (:

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is still the same, I get panic attacks a lot more, but at the same time it has gotten better with the help I have. There are things that have worsened it. I am trying to get there; it may take a while but I do believe in myself. I’m working on myself as best as I can. Focusing on the positive.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell them, keep trying. Your not alone in this, there’s always going to be people who be willing to help. Be brave, speak up it will really help you in the long run; as bad as it seems now it will all be OK. It will take some time but I believe anyone can get through this. This is going to be you getting through this as best as you know how, nobody gets to tell you what your tough looks like.

Aubry B – Growing Up Without Parental Support

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Aubry B. It almost feels like I was destined to struggle, like someone just gave me this life on purpose to watch me fail. I wasn’t brought up in a very loving or supportive environment and ever since I was younger I have bounced around from school to school, family member to family member, foster home to foster home, and finally I was brought to an young adult inpatient treatment facility. Almost any thing you could think of I have dealt with, suicidal thoughts, sexual and physical abuse, grief, emotional and verbal abuse, abandonment , being bullied, self-injurious behaviors, being mistreated in hospitals and I was diagnosed with Borderline, PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Finally at the beginning of my young adult life I decided I was no longer a victim but a survivor , a warrior, and a voice to those who needed help., I got sick and tired of leaving scars on my body and I got sick of being “sick” and finally I decided to do something about how I felt. Of course life threw more curve balls, but I threw them back twice as hard and knocked down all of the mountains in my way, or I guess you could say I learned to walk around them.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

People telling me No was the biggest challenge I faced, but in the end it taught me how to go after something if I really wanted it, there are going to be people to support me but they can not the people who put in the work, this is my life and easel to paint on, they’ve given me the brush now it’s up to me to paint a beautiful creation. Telling me no saved my life, no I can’t help you Aubry was the most amazing advice I could take. Also the young adult treatment center lead me to a very unique individual who has been guiding me for 7 years! She is my human journal and my mentor she has acted as a mother, friend, sister, guardian, e.t.c It is always a blessing to have someone to help you and say hey I am proud of you even if it’s just one person, but you have to let them in and you have to accept advice

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I now work as an advocate in Hartford, CT, I am currently training with AU to pursue my advocating I also volunteer at many non profit and mental health and addiction agencies. I am going to be training to teach a class for super advocates! I have done many speeches and one was actually at my old youth treatment center!!! In 2o13 unfortunately my father committed suicide and for the very first time I am speaking publicly about my experience and I am ever so thankful for the support I have through all of these organizations !! Life gets better even when it feels like a rug was pulled from under your feet you can still crawl to your dreams and in life there is a lesson in every aspect of pain, it is the eyes of the beholder !!

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is great, it is perfectly imperfect and I am for the most part where I want to be!! Hope, passion, and helping others are key to making it through the tough times!! surround yourself with positive vibes, even people you can go to when your feeling down!! meditate, breathe, write, paint, draw, dance, exercise, sing, act, DREAM!!

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

There is help and even if you are emotionally overwhelmed it is up to you to grab hold of your resources and find a way!! Never give up you are always stronger than your pain!! you would not be human if it hurt so bad when someone has passed away, and you would not be human if you felt stressed, alone, angry, e.t.c Do not give up …ever and even when you feel like giving tell someone you trust!!! Find someone who will listen when you need an ear, find someone who will speak when you need advice, and find someone to relate too when you feel alone!!

Coping With Anxiety, Depression and OCD – Blogger Kelly R.

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have anxiety, depression and OCD. it hit me the most in high school and I am currently in college and getting help so it isn’t hurting me as much as it did.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

College counseling and it helped a great deal but I am also on medication.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I got to college my life changed. I could get the help I needed for free and I didn’t have to worry about the judgement of my family

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is great now I have 3.0 in college which I’m trying to get up to a 3.6. I feel like I can do whatever I put my mind to. I am a psychology major and I feel so smart and I am able to do that because of the help I have now.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I wish I would have believed them when they said it got better. Being alone dealing with mental illness is the hardest part. When parents and family members don’t get young children the help they need, it really effects the rest of their life. I wish I knew that I would be able to become this person I am now. I want to be able to be a voice for young people and stand up and say that they will be okay even though at this moment they feel like everything is falling apart. Mental illness is a huge part of my life and I want to do everything I can to break the stigma and help young people get what they need to get better and support them in that.

J.P’s Journey to Independence: Fighting Schizophrenia

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I struggled with schizophrenia. I deal with this almost every night. At night I feel something trying to disturbingly grab me. I let the hours go by then I try to go to sleep or my mother lays with me. I am a strong woman for waking up every morning and doing my everyday tasks.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I try to be strong and let the few hours go by then try to fall asleep. But I wake up in the morning and make my day like nothing weird happened. I will be alright. Someday all pain is going to stop, I strongly believe.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Yes, when I won a lawsuit against principal of my old high school because after I was in a different school, so I was doing anything to get my high school diploma, even tutoring after school. I definitely had to turn my life around like 0 to 100.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is the same, I still have my problem I have to deal with. I am just trying to stay busy now to keep distracted.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I want everybody going through any struggle to know that they are not alone. There is someone watching over you to make sure you are okay, so don’t be frightened.

D.J.S. Experience with Psychosis

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Depression with psychosis. It became too much when I was drinking everyday and using drugs before I attempted suicide.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first I was in the hospital then released to therapy, but this did not work at first because my diagnoses and medicine were not fully worked out.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Things changed for the better in 2015 when I went for a 6 month stay at CVH (CT Valley Hospital) and really learned about myself and who I was.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now I work for Toivo and have a great relationship with my case worker and therapist. Both of them are helping me to grow as a person and learn to live with my illness/addiction.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell people to communicate and be open about what is going on with them. At first I was very closed off and did not want to accept the fact that I had a problem. It wasn’t until I started being true with myself and others that I was able to get the help I desperately needed.

L.N.F. Story on Witnessing Violence at Home

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Growing up in my home environment was a difficult thing for me to do. My brother, who is six years older than I am, is mentally unstable and would become very violent very often. Many times he would attack my parents and I, leaving us bruised, me with broken bones, my mother crying, holding her head in her arms. This became a routine and as he became older the violence intensified. Weapons were brought into the home, leading to random police raids at odd hours. It was my duty as a young girl to notice the signs of my brothers aggression, run and grab the house phone, lock myself in my room, and call the police for help. No one knew though, that while all the violence was going on and I had to be the caretaker. I was dying on the inside because my brother had not only been beating me physically, but had been sexually abusing me for years as well. Upon his release, I saw the aftermath of him stabbing our aunt 8 times and leaving her unresponsive, He’s also gone after our father and I with a knife with the intent to end our lives. I’ve witnessed my mother try to take her own life on several occasions. Due to all of this, I have personally struggled with PTSD, depression and other problems and have tried to commit suicide many times in the past.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

The first step that I took to get help was when I was 14, and it was in the way of inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. It is my opinion that all of my treatments since then have helped shape me into who I have become as a whole today.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Things started to get better for me when I found a place that I felt safe enough to be myself wholeheartedly. I had no fears of being judged, hurt, abused- but rather supported.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

It is at this point in my life where I can honestly say that I feel most self sufficient. I am proud of myself for choosing life over everything else; for choosing wellness, success. I am currently working as an operator for a young adult Warmline in CT and I feel good that I am in a position to give back to the community.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I’d say that no matter how dark that tunnel may seem or how long the rain lasts, it will be sunny eventually. Also, when you are on a good stretch and have been doing good for quite some time and hit a bump in the road it does NOT mean you have to go all the way back to start. It just means that you hit a speed bump, So get up, shake the dirt off your clothes and keep moving forward.

A.M. On Getting Her Life Back from Sexual Assault

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

When I was around 8 years old, a family member began sexually assaulting me. Every night I was subjected to abuse. Eventually after almost 3 years I came forward. But instead of having the support of my family, I was ostracized and treated as a pariah.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I got no support. I had to help myself no matter how difficult . I went through deep depression and multiple suicide attempts, and eventually ended up in therapy. The therapy has been effective.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I met my boyfriend of a year and a half. Hes been nothing but supportive and loving.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am working on having a stable relationship with a partner and being happy and confident in myself.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

It always gets better. No matter who says different.

Blogger Kevin’s Story on Homelessness and Fighting Homophobia

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

For many years I struggled with fear, shame and internalized homophobia. When I approached 14 years old I began to realize that I was different from the people around me.

But I had this mentality that there was no way I could be gay, it had to be a phase and I had to get rid of it. High School in Jamaica, where I am from, was hard. All my friends were talking about girls and I didn’t want to.

In society, in high school and in my home there was no place for being gay.

My father strongly believed that it was a sin and that gay people should be killed. I felt trapped. I was virtually caged in. I had no conviction that who I was OK, and day after day I tried figuring a way out.
To some extent I felt as though I had to do things to please people, so I worked really hard in high school and strived for the very best grades; that way I could distract people from my sexuality.
But I never felt complete; as I grew older people started figuring things out and I had to lie. By lying, I created a wall around me, I became introvert and I lived with guilt. I felt wrong and disgusting and I didn’t want to go on living.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

When I reached 20 years old, I emigrated here and I made up my mind that I was not going back. Before I moved my father attacked me with stones and machete and I knew that my life was at risk.
While here in the United States, I stayed with some family but then they began to have assumptions about my sexuality so I reached out for help. I was struggling with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I was then admitted in hospital.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

In hospital I came out for the first time. For the first time I told a group of people that I was gay and they accepted me.

For seven days, while in the hospital, I saw my life changed.

For the worst part, I lost most of my family and almost everything I had. When I left the hospital I only had the clothes I walked in wearing.

Nevertheless, I gained what I didn’t have, ‘freedom’. I was moved to a shelter and I reached out to the Triangle Community Center that showed me the way to get around and find necessary support. It was a scary experience. At the time, I hardly knew anyone and I had no money to get around. But I constantly reminded myself that I was out and safe and I had support, which were the most important things.

I started going to counseling sessions and I was able to develop personal relationships and meet good people were able to give me the right advice.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Since being on my own for the last eight months, I have developed a passion for life and to be creative. I have been able to find supportive housing and I have applied to college with the hope of starting next fall.

I have also met many amazing and genuine people through these last months and I have managed to remain positive about life and continue dreaming about accomplishing and achieving great things.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

To anyone who may be going through similar struggles; remind yourself first and foremost, never to give up, no matter what… No matter what people think about you and no matter what society says.
Find that strength within you to believe in yourself. Create your identity, respect and embrace it. You were created to be you and the very best you that you can be.

It was bravery that got me where I am today. I believed in myself and that’s something I wish I could tell my younger self.

Detourist Blogger Amy on Breaking Down Barriers

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

PTSD after sexual assault and 27 surgeries. I grew up thinking an “illness” was either fever or croup. Illness was a stuffy nose — a sick-day, an excuse to miss a day of school. At 18 years old, “illness” took on an entirely different meaning. Illness meant waking up from a coma, learning that my stomach exploded, I had no digestive system and I was to be stabilized with IV nutrition until surgeons could figure out how to put me back together again. Illness meant a life forever out of my control and a body I didn’t recognize. My body never went back to normal. With no other alternative, I learned how to accommodate it and embrace it for the amazing things its extraordinary resilience.

I was shocked and saddened that I could never get my old, unwounded body back. But what really startled me was realizing what had happened to my mind.

PTSD. I had never heard those letters put together before. I knew what “trauma” was, but I didn’t know it could cause so much internal dis-ease and dis-order — illness that I couldn’t see.

But that was the biggest shock to me — waking up in a new body and a new mind, troubled by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

The PTSD term for finding healthy coping skills is “self-soothing.” To live a healthy thriving life, I’ve had to befriend my past, embrace my experience, and express what had happened to me. I needed to tell my story in order to heal. But first, I had to hear my story for myself, rather than avoid it.. Once I learned how to hear my own heart-shattering story, and feel the pain, the frustration, the anger, and ultimately, the gratitude, I was able to speak to it. I was able to gently teach myself how to live in the present moment rather than in the world of the trauma.

Healing didn’t come all at once. Every day I tried to face a memory a bit more. I called it “dipping my toes” in my trauma. Finally, I could put words to my grief. I was able to write, “I am hurting.”

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

As soon as I was able to write words like “sadness” and “pain”, I allowed myself to explore them. Soon, I couldn’t stop the words that flowed out of me. My memories started to empower me, and I wrote with feverish purpose.

I started to journal compulsively for hours as every memory appeared in my mind. Soon, the words couldn’t do justice to my traumatic experience – I needed a bigger container. I turned to art, drawing, scribbling. I filled pages with teardrops, lightening bolts and broken hearts. For me, creativity became a lifeline – a release. It was a way to express things that were too overwhelming for words. Expression was my way of self-soothing.

Once expression helped me face my own story, I was able to share it. And the day I first shared my story with someone else, I realized I wasn’t alone. There were others that had been through trauma and life-shattering events. And there were also people who had been through the twists and turns of every day life. Being able to share my story emboldened me with a newfound strength and the knowledge that terrible things happen, and if other people can bounce back, then so can I.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My perspective on illness has changed since my days of “croup”, and it’s also changed since my last surgical intervention. I’ve learned that illness isn’t always in the physical scars. I’ve learned that some wounds aren’t visible, and some wounds even we don’t know we have, until we choose to take care of them. But I’ve also learned that I’m resilient, strong, broken and put together again, differently, yet even more beautiful – like a mosaic. I wrote a one woman musical about my life, Gutless & Grateful, that Ive been touring across the country as a mental health and sexual assault awareness program for colleges. As a survivor and “thriver” of nearly 30 surgeries, a coma, and a decade of medical trauma, I have been challenged with moments of extreme difficulty. But as an artist, newlywed, actress, 28-year old college student and overall lover of life, I’ve learned so much from this beautiful detour.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

You don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re tested, so just trust that you are capable of anything and you’ll get through. It can get better.

Dealing With Grief, Robin A.

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with the loss of my father, he passed away on February 14, 2014; two days before my son was born. It became too much the day he passed.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

A phone call, and from all my family. Although, my siblings and my mother needed me just as much, so family was everything and still is.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Not a day went by that I thought things could get better, some days other than most, as I came to realize that things would have been much better had he still been here.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is just like my father’s. Everyday I try to keep my family on my mind and do what my father did for me. After two years of his passing, I will be having my second child, a little baby girl, the thing I have accomplished was becoming a father when I lost mine.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Don’t ever blame yourself for anything that you could not control. Nothing is your fault if you didn’t break it through your hands or if you try to help the person and there was still nothing that could prevent it. IT IS NEVER YOUR FAULT!!!

Finding Self-Esteem by A.E.P.

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I was a painfully shy child. I was afraid of everything. My grandparents, whom I saw every weekend, slowly got me out of my shell and encouraged me to try many new things. My grandma’s rule with new food was “two bites” and then you can decide if you never want to eat it again. I can remember being afraid that my grandpa was going to drive off the dam when we were taking a boat ride on the lake which they lived at.

Everything really got bad my freshman year. I couldn’t find friends. The most memorable thing that set me into a downwards spiral was when I asked to sit with some of my friends the first day at lunch. There were literally 4 chairs open and they said I could not sit with them. Apparently there was no room. Just like in Mean Girls, I was rejected from the lunch table. I started skipping lunch and going to the band room. Then food became uninteresting. I lost a lot of weight my freshman year. Too much. People started noticing and telling me I looked great, but I didn’t feel great. I felt exhausted. My parents were getting mad at me for hiding in my room and skipping dinner at times. I lied to them about eating. I realized I had a problem, so naturally, I tried to fix it. I started going to lunch. I was crying one day, sitting at a lunch table by myself, and one of the seniors noticed and told me I could sit at her table. They were all music geeks like me, I figured I could relate. That’s the worst things ever got for me, besides last year, my junior year when everything started piling up. The stress was eating me alive and people were noticing. I do a lot. My junior year consisted of: band, jazz band gigs, multiple honors bands, basketball, volleyball, National Honor Society, Straight A’s, and a loaded class schedule. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but you get the gist. I was freaking out and crying almost on a daily basis with everything. I started isolating myself.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

During my junior year was when people really started to reach out to me. One day I was crying and the school psychologist saw me. That was an “oh crap” moment. He proceeded to check in with me throughout the year. He told me one day that I work harder than any college student, and that I should be careful because he didn’t want me to burn out. Everything was just out of control a lot, and he kept “suggesting” or hinting that I could talk to him anytime I wanted, but I was afraid to. I don’t know why, I just couldn’t. Then this year, I finally decided to talk to him because I was having some troubles adjusting at the beginning of the year and wanted someone to listen, since my mom basically rejected listening to me. My dad lives far away and I found myself missing him a lot, since it’d been about 4 months since I had seen him. I talked to him and it wasn’t bad at all. It honestly helped so much. Sometimes you just need that one person to listen and tell you they care about how you feel and that, yes, it is hard, and yes, you can get through it.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I’m not so sure if there’s been any turning points yet because I still have my days and weeks where it seems a bit hopeless. But, despite those days and weeks, I still manage to get through it and do what I’m supposed to be doing.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now, I’m trying to keep the motivation to make it through my senior year. It’s hard, but I’m getting there. I want to be a music teacher, so I’m stressed out with preparing for scholarship auditions by taking private clarinet and piano lessons on top of regular band and practicing solos, basketball, grades, and choosing between colleges. I’ve accomplished a lot musically, just recently I received a scholarship to pay for my music lessons in full.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

To people who are struggling: Please remember that you are better than you think, more loved than you think, and are so incredibly important.

What’s helped me?: I wish I would have reached out to talk to someone earlier. It seriously would have been so much more manageable my freshman year had I talked to someone about my struggles.

Sufie’s Story on Acceptance

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with my family because of my sexuality. I was very suicidal. I couldn’t take it anymore when my last suicidal attempt failed yet had serious consequences to my overall health.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I got support from hospitals, residentials, group homes, and state hospitals but none of them work. Finally I got acquainted with DMHAS and they helped me out so much through the years. I am now voluntarily involved with them. That means I get services from them but I can walk away at any time.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I noticed that in life, hardship is the most effective way to strengthen the soul. It is the hardship that made me so much stronger. I started to notice that most people I came across couldn’t even begin to fathom what I have been through and how resilient I am because of my past. I soon understood that all the horrible things I have been through made me the powerful person I am today.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is a lot more manageable now. I have published a book and created my own website stemming from my writing career. I go to college to major in Psychology to become a therapist someday. I got a gym membership that I take full advantage of on a regular basis and I have lost a lot of weight because of it. I attend church and integrated into my church family and even got baptized recently! I weaned my way off psych medication entirely but I still have a therapist that I intend to utilize as long as I possibly can.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I started to have hope when I turned to God and Spirituality. There are three spiritual laws that I follow in my daily life that helps me come to terms with a connection with my higher being. The Law of Attraction: if I am positive then I will attract positivity and if I am negative then I will attract negativity. The Law of Allowance: I must allow myself to experience new experiences and think new thought patterns (keep an open mind and try new things) and not let fear nor anxiety render me from doing so. The Law of Acceptance: I have no control over anyone but myself. To each his own.

A.P’s Journey to Wellness – Her Story

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

A.P’s Journey to Wellness: I have depression, anxiety, PTSD and I am bipolar.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I got therapy and unwanted attention and that started my journey to wellness.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I turned 13 AKA my 8th grade year, I got my first boyfriend and we have been together since then.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am currently in my second year of college at Point Loma.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Never give up on your future and you may not believe it but yes it may seem hard now but things will get better. There is always rain before the beautiful rainbow.

Winx Y.

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

A brief background about myself, I am from Hong Kong, and now I am living alone in Canada. Everything began since April 2004, I was diagnosed with Depression and General Anxiety Disorder, those were the darkest days in my life. I still did not believe that I can deal with it until now. I was from a culture which is competitive. People judge and compare each other. Bully the worse and be the best. I was one of the person who got bulled since I was 10, because my marks were on 60-70s. People laughed at me and pushed me into the corner to hit me. I was so stressed and under pressure. After bad days in my school, when I came home I had to face another stress from my parents. I could not even cry a single tear because I would get kicked out of the house, my relatives judged me as a monster, trash of humility. I did not know how to relieve my stress and pressure. I felt so helpless. To be honest with you guys, I got raped when I was 14 but I did not tell anyone. I have seen myself as dirty, unclean and evil. I tried to jump off from the roof of the building  (it was around 32 floors high), and got hospitalized immediately. This was the beginning of my depression and GAD. I did not go to school for almost 2 years, but I missed out so many parts of my life and my childhood, I had been hospitalized for a long time, so I did not even know how to talk to others or even did any activities.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

At first, I had been assigned to see a psychologist and psychiatrist. It was quite helpless since my psychologist kept changing all the time and it was totally NOT FUN to speak about my problems all over and over again. And then, I started joining school counselor and family therapist. They were really helpful to me and gave me a great opportunity to speak up to my parents about how I feel. My school counselor encouraged me to go to school by giving me one poker card every time I went to school, it was  great parents for me and it also started giving my hope about life when I saw how beautiful those poker cards are, they were themes of UK London buildings and scenes. I have been playing music since I was 2 years old, but due to illness, I did not have a chance to pick it up again until I had been in a creative high school where I was focused on music and design major. Music gave me so much energy and I composed my first new song since I was 17, about myself that time. It was a huge accomplishment for me in my life until now.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I have had 7 times of attempted suicide before in my life. I was so negative and I always felt like I am in prison which no one even visited me, no one remembered my birthday, no one to be with me at Christmas. When I saw how people were being happy on the TV, my heart was painful as hell. I could not even know how could I still live in this world. After one of the big turning point that made me stop having suicidal thoughts, which my FIRST BEST friend in my life since I was 18 completed suicide. She had Schizophrenia. I was the last one in her contact number, so I was forced to have a mini interview with police and such. They gave me so much pressure, I felt so guilty about not helping her out and left her alone to deal with problems. I shouted and screamed, pulled many of my hairs out, and the hospital sent me towards a personal ward. All people said I was crazy, I would not be normal again. But YES, this trauma made me stop suicide because I knew how pain it was that person who left off in this world. I still working on this trauma until now, but I really hope I am get over it and just remembered positive things from my friend. The other turning point in my life is I diagnosed cancer on my leg, I was so depressed that time which I thought my life may end here. I did three operations on my leg and I could not run and would not jump anymore in my life. I moved to another ward which always gave me shots and screen which made me pain and dizzy, felt cold and hopeless all the time. I started understand how life precious and how should I treasure the rest of my life IF I have time. and luckily I have been cured of cancer and now I moved to another country to continue my studies.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My dream is to be a musician because it is what I love the most in my life. and after my experience, I am planning to be a music therapist in the future, if I have money to continue my study. I am still so surprised I was never been able to attend 50% of school until 20, and now I could managed to go to school everyday. Now I am studying last year double major in Psychology and Thanatology, (Thanatology is a study about death.) Both are heavy to me to be honest, and most of the topics that I studied triggered my emotions a lot. Many people in my life challenged me that I would not be able to finish my degree, because they are just too heavy for me, but lucky I am a STUBBORN person haha. I would not give up that easily and I wanted to show others that, even I have been through a lot, I can still achieved something in my life! I can complete so much stuff right now, being in a new country alone, I study and work at the same time, being a chef assistant and emotional support coordinator intern. I will try my best to apply for Canadian citizenship but I hope I can assist people who has mental illness and disabilities the rest of my life.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, today is a gift, that’s why it calls present.” I am sure many people heard about it and this means a lot to me. Worrying about the past and future is not working. Doing meditation may help you to focus on present, right now, on earth. Feel you feet stand on the ground heavily, you are still here. You are here and alive, you are the precious gift in this world. Mental illness does not mean you have dumb, useless, evil, trash in your life, It gives you a better story, a brighter future than other peoples do. I do not mind help others more with their problems, since my experience gave me so much empathy that I am easily stand on other people’s shoes and I wish everyone who is dealing with illness like ME be happy and I am in the same boat and with you all!

Yasmine M shares her Story on being Bullied

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

This is my story on bullying: When I was 13 I had to raise myself from 13-present day. I was bullied from 1st grade until 8th, then I became the “cool kid” or “the pretty fun girl.” But I was still lonely with mental health problems, and still had self esteem issues. I still have self esteem issues now. But I built my confidence to a point where words don’t faze me.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I got support from people who have been here in my shoes and have survived life.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I have 2 jobs, I’m going to college and I have my own apartment. I’m looking for success. I refuse to let anyone bring me down from the goals I have set!

Danielle’s Struggle With Mental Illness

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with my childhood trauma, depression phases and hiding all my emotions. It became too much to deal with in college. I was always putting everything and everyone before myself because I didn’t feel valuable enough and it made me feel better to help others. I stayed in my dorm and isolated myself from everyone. I had hit rock bottom and I ended up in the hospital for the first time.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I felt numb, and alone and felt like no one could understand what I was going through because I couldn’t relate to anyone. I couldn’t relate to anyone because everyone I knew didn’t have a diagnosis, didn’t struggle with mental illness, or was open to talk about mental illness. It wasn’t clear to me that I had the support and understanding of my close circle of friends who I call my family, and my therapist.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The turning point that had changed my life for the better was after my hospitalization, my two closest friends had taken me into their home. I felt that had changed my life in such a positive way I was able to start over and have a stable household setting. A stable house hold setting means a lot to me because it’s a safe place I can go home to at the end of the day. I started school, and got a stable full time job.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am currently in school for Respiratory Therapy, and I am a Warmline Operator. I am working towards graduating from Respiratory School, getting my own house, and starting a new chapter in my life. The life I have built is worth living to me and it’s worth it because I am helping others.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Don’t isolate yourself because you feel alone. You are not alone because there is always someone out there who can understand your situation or story. Try and reach out to someone. Always take time to do positive things for yourself to reward yourself for getting through hard times and maintaining goals. “Self- care is first care”.

Coping and Courage: Amily’s Story

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Around the age of 12 I started having a difficult time controlling my overwhelming emotions and racing thoughts. I started constantly being admitted to hospitals, I lived in an endless cycle of depression, mania, and the brief intervals of feeling okay.

In my second year of college, I experienced my most intense episode of psychosis, I missed out on the semester and my mental health was at its worst. Once I began to recover from this, I decided I no longer wanted to live this way, as a slave to my ever-changing and destructive moods and states of mind.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I’ve seen a therapist since the age of 12, but the constant hospital visits caused my treatment team to be inconsistent. The therapy helped a bit, but it didn’t make a true difference until I consciously decided to allow it to help me.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Once I decided I wanted to change, I let go of all the negative people in my life, which helped so much. I was able to get back in school, the medication they prescribed me was the first one I’ve tried that actually helped calm my racing thoughts, ease my anxiety and minimize my depression.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is great! I plan on getting my Associate’s Degree this year, then transferring to a four year college. I have a couple of self-published poetry books, my relationship with my family is a lot stronger and my relationship with myself is better than I could have ever imagined,

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

To anybody having a hard time. I would say, a difficult time isn’t the last destination, and you are never alone. Reach out and you’ll find there’s people who care and want you to be okay. It does get better, and don’t allow anyone or anything to dim your shine.

Violet T Talks About the Unfriendly World She Grew Up In

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Homelessness, mental illness, and, being LGBTQIA+ in an unfriendly world. It was all related, and all tied together, but it all began in December of 2013, when I came out as transgender. I told my parents I needed to go to the hospital because I could not deal with my depression, and in the ER I came out.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

The support I received initially was significant and I started in the right direction swiftly, but not without my own hangups. Coming out in my senior year of high school, I got a lot of support from my local GSA, and I attended PFLAG meetings regularly.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Things were very hard for a very long time, but things have really started to change for the better in the last few months. I have an apartment, a job I feel comfortable at, and I’m making a difference for other people like me by working to change the systems in place to help more and more people.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I’ve been awarded the NAMI Youth and Young Adult Voice Award for working with NAMI, TurningPointCT, Young Adult Warmline, and the Institute for Community Research. I share my experiences openly so as to help as many people as possible through the toughest parts of their lives.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

You need to hang in there. Things could change any day. Your visit to this site could be the start of it.

From Growing up in a Refugee Camp: How life changed for Salmon M.

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

Every one of us might have experienced some kind of hardships in life. Sometimes we can successfully overcome those hardships and sometimes we are still struggling and suffering, but don’t ever be despondent. No matter how hard it is, as long as you stay persistent and self-determined, you will be able to overcome those obstacles.

To know who I am you must first know where I began. I was born and raised small refugee camp called Hagadera, in Kenya, which lacked freedom and opportunities for all those suffering from poverty and under control of the government. I had one obstacle when I was in my country Kenya. I was born and raised with a single mother. Life was hard. We used to live in a refugee camp, where there is not enough security and food. There were no good schools in that camp. One day, when I was two years old, my mother decided to move to the city which was so hard to move there as refugees we were not allowed to go down the country and live the cities. But my mother tried to go there. There is no safe route to the cities.

My mother paid a lot of money to ride in a car with one man who was going to the city. But on the way something horrible happened. They met a group of gangsters who started firing on the car. The driver died immediately after he got shot on the forehead. My mother gets shot at in the back too. She became unconscious. She bleeds a lot but she did not die. There was nobody else there. We were not close to the city. After 8 hours a police car came and called emergency services. Finally, they took my mother to hospital and they removed the bullet.

After one month, they allowed us to live in the city. At first I was excited to go to school, but soon school was not very exciting for me. Knowing only a little English was very hard. Kids were making fun of my English. They said a lot of mean things. I was hurt like a deep wound cut inside. I wished that somebody was there who would tell those kids to stop. School was hard. Teachers were not very helpful for me. Some of my teachers were tired and they didn’t have patience with me because learning was hard. I know it was hard for them, too, to repeat things again and again. I was mad at myself, too.

Every time I did my homework, my tears were just dripping out from my eyes. All of my work was smeared with tears. I cried so many nights, but I never stop working hard. I did all my work and I found my own way to get help. I was in the Bridges Program to help new ESL students about the homework and to learn new things. Students tease me every day calling me all those bad names, like “illegal person and poor refugee” but I never ever STOP even one day going that school. I did my best to show love and respect and I tried to make them my friends. I was the only refugee students who was going to that school.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

After struggling two years in my middle school. I finally make new friends. There were three male students who use to tease me and bully me every day. I never fight them back or even say bad words to them while they are mean to me. One day one of them come the school while the other two skipped school that day. He come to me during a break time and he said “hey lovely bird, you have money today” I know he was bullying me but I said “Sure.” I gave him one hundred Kenyan shilling. He grabbed the money quickly and walked away. After he ate his breakfast, I went to him and said “Can I talk to you?” He said “Sure you can.” I said “I am sorry I don’t know that much English, but at least I will try to tell you my problem, I am a nice student. I don’t have problem with the other students in this school except you and your two friends. You always tease me and bully me. I don’t know what I did to you guys. Please if you have a problem with me, tell me what I did to you.” He said, “Listen b**ch, I hate you, go away.”

I said “Why do you hate me?” He said “I don’t know.” After that I walked away because I felt hurt. After five minutes, I saw somebody running toward me, I glanced and he is the one who was saying “I hate you boy”. He come and grab my shoulders. He starts crying and I cried too. I said “What happen to you?” He tried to talk but he cannot because all his eyes were full of tears. We sit down on the floor. I wipe his tears using my hands. He talks to me but the first word that comes out from his mouth was “I am… I am sorry SALMAN”. I did not say what, because I know what he means, so we talk and he asked me to forgive him. Finally, I said “I am good. You are like my brother. Let us be friends”. We become friends and his other two friends started to tease him. We both went to them and talk to them. They agreed our advice and they stop bullying. We become good friends. I help them a lot. I was the third place in my school every term we took a test, but for them, they have bad grades in classes. I start something called “Group study”. I invite them to my house to study together every night. After doing that activity one month. They start improving and getting good grades in their classes. At the end of the year when we took the final exam, something wonderful happen. These guys, who never before ranked in the top ten in their class, became the top three in the school.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

After I finish my tenth grade in Kenya in February 2014, we moved to the United States and settled in Omaha, Nebraska. I continue my education. I’m back in high school and now I am a senior at Benson High School. Sometimes in life it just takes the influence of one person to help you see yourself in a whole new light. For me that person is my high school counselor Mrs. Cameron. I have been meeting with her twice a week and the difference these meetings have made in my outlook in life and my goals for the future.

However, sometimes I have a hard time since there is a lot of challenges as well. But even so, I always try to look in a positive side, because I know becoming a doctor in the United States is not easy. In order to improve my weakness and reaching my goal, I believe myself that I can make my dream true no matter how hard is it. I need to strive for having a better life in the future. To sum up, moving to the United States was an important change in my life because of giving me the chance to have a healthy lifestyle and a new way of thinking. I have changed my eating and sleeping habits in a good way. Meanwhile, I have become more understanding of different cultures. Thus, this change is very important and beneficial for me.

My dream is to become a helpful registered nurse. My goal is to complete four years’ college and then go to study beyond later if I have a chance because education never stops. That was just one of my dreams. I want to have a good future and a loving family. I will rise and provide my children to become a successful person. Because of what I have been through I don’t want my children to go through the same experience. I hope they will use my story as a role model for them to work hard and to be successful in their lives.

T.B’s Journey Journey to Wellness

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I have struggled with healthy relationships, mental illness & trauma from my younger years, and making choices that weren’t in the best interest of myself. It became too much when I focused on every single thing but myself, and I turned into this terrifying person who was just not me.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I felt as though no one truly knew what it was that I was trying to do or get through, but now I realize that my family and friends just wanted me to be happy and when I wasn’t happy I just didn’t believe I was supported.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I moved to CT from Maine, after facing homelessness and feeling alone… I could not take any more hurt. I had been in a bad relationship and knew that if I wanted any chance of living a normal life.. now was the only time I had.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life has taken a complete 180. I am more focused, I am in a healthy, loving relationship, I have an amazing support system and I am generally just a happy person. Although there are still tough days, those tough days are manageable when before.. they weren’t. Today, I am in training and orientation for the first statewide Young Adult Warmline that is launching in October, I work closely with peers who are also in recovery, and everyday I get opportunities to do what I love to do.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell people who are having a hard time to seek recovery and live a life that can full. Before, I wasn’t living up to my potential. Now, I can honestly say there is a purpose in my life. Don’t push help away because you’re scared.. take it because you know there is more to life than a mental illness, an addiction or a bad relationship. There is so much help out there.

Dan O. Talks About Coping with Stress

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I was always an active kid, but during my sophomore year of high school I took it too far. All but one of my classes were honors or AP, and I ran for two hours on weekdays with cross country, then swam for another two hours not long after. I never had a stress free moment. Eventually something inside me broke. I started to feel depressed, and by the end of the month I was suicidal.

My relationship with my parents was vital to my recovery. I told my Mom what I was feeling, and for the next few years, she advocated my needs to many uncooperative mental health professionals, and bludgeoned her way through mental health administration for me. My parents were willing to give up everything to bring me back, and I can never repay them.

I spent a few months bouncing between inpatient and outpatient services at Manchester Memorial Hospital, and actually got worse. After a terrible reaction to a drug and an even more harrowing withdrawal, I was barely hanging on, and was not safe alone at any time. The fine mental health professionals at Manchester Memorial Hospital revealed to my parents that they now believed I was not faking mental health problems to get out of school. They went on to say that with the severity and abnormality of my symptoms, it was likely I would be in and out of hospitals for the rest of my life. My parents were furious and sent my to Brattleboro Retreat for some real help. I was not happy about this.

The usual stay at Brattleboro Retreat is 6-12 months. I had only spent 3 weeks in the hospital at Manchester and that was enough to last me a lifetime. Even though I devised many escape plans, I never used them. Deep down, I knew I wouldn’t last a day by myself. I had a lucky break. after about a month, insurance said they wouldn’t pay, and I got to go home. At this point I was showing improvement, due to incredible med management. But the med mix still caused problems. I gained 80 pounds in a few months, I couldn’t pay attention whatsoever, and I almost completely ceased to have any emotions.

This caused some issues in school, and I was told I wouldn’t graduate on time. With tutoring, and a lot of hard work, I did. Toward the end of high school, my parents took me to a the Pfiefer clinic in Chicago. They specialize on creating custom vitamins to supplement the meds. After being on them a week I felt way better. I was able to go down on my meds, and got a grasp on mental clarity for the first time in years. Without the vitamins, I didn’t stand a chance in College. With them I continued to improve, and I did very well at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU).

The challenge I faced at CCSU was more social. I felt if people knew what I went through, they could never look at me the same way again, let alone be friends. So I didn’t talk to anyone. During the end of my Freshman year, my Mom forced me to take part of the WRAP (Wellness Recvovery Action Plan) program on campus. This exposed me to other students who also had mental health problems. For the first time since I started at CCSU, I felt like I could talk to people without worrying about being judged. Amazingly, after this I wasn’t as afraid to talk to anyone at school. I started to get involved more on campus, and made a few close friends. After that I still had limitations. I have fatigue problems that started about the same time as my mental health, and I still had problems with my body wrecking meds, but I began to enjoy my life.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I went to a physician and a therapist in the beginning, but I was way past that so it didn’t work. The hospital didn’t work for a bunch of reasons. Brattleboro did work because they had good doctors. Good doctors are the foundation of my support even today. It is absolutely necessary to get a doctor who thinks out of the box, and listens to you even when what your saying goes against accepted psychiatric wisdom. Which happens often.

My parents and friends help me deal with being a person with mental health problems in a world that can be very unfriendly to people with mental health problems. They help me deal with the non clinical part of being someone with mental health problems.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I started taking the vitamins, I was really able to build my life again. After a mental health crisis, you can never go back to who you were. Because of the meds, I never had it together enough to figure out who I was now, and what I was going to do with my future. I was stuck in limbo with no hope of leaving. I knew I could only take so much of a devastated, futureless life, and when I took the vitamins and was able to reduce the meds, I left that behind.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I graduated from CCSU in the class of 2015 with a degree in history. I would love to work in the mental health field full time, and I now have a part time job as a warm line operator. My fatigue problems make it hard for me to work more then 20 hours a week so, I’m trying to find other ways to support myself so I can be independent.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell people who are having a hard time that you will not feel this way forever. If you hang in there, and keep reaching out for help even if you have not had any luck before, you will eventually get what you need.

I wish I knew how helpful peer supports are. I would tell myself to get into one ASAP. They are also pretty easily accessible.

Depression and Anxiety: how Jenna J. Has Managed to Cope

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

This is my story on journey to Mental Health. I have struggled with Anxiety & Depression. It became too much for me in high school. It affected my everyday life and kept me from achieving my dreams when I wanted to.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I had a ton of support from teachers at school. Yes, it helped to know that teachers were there for me when I couldn’t be there for myself.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

A turning point was when I graduated. I felt full of myself and the proudest I have ever been!

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is going good. I was hospitalized and medicated but the medication seems to be helping. I’m going to college and working.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell the person to keep his/her head up held high. Things will get better. It takes time!!

Wayne’s Story

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

My experience with drug abuse. all my life I have had struggles, from foster homes to group home then to some drug house after that then drug selling, life!

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

Never got support I’m one of those pplz that fall though the cracks.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I got a legit job but it sucks n I don’t get paid everyday.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I got a son n all I do is try to do the best I can but his mother cuts me down all the time n I got nothing to show for it cuz why should I when shes doing a lot better then I?

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

What would I say? Life sucks, but we got a part in this, we call earth, good n bad around, the world ain’t no sunshine and rainbows.

Living with Mental Illness by Valerie S.

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I was born with health issues and colic because I was extra sensitive to sound, light, etc, so my mother did her best to maintain routine for me to keep me calm. Experiencing significant trauma in early childhood, however, triggered me to become more hyper-vigilant. I was always preparing for the worst and I feared most males and I worried about losing those I trusted.

I started to feel the effects of my mental illness when I was a freshman in high school. I had high expectations I made for myself academically as well as my involvement in my extracurricular activities. Part of me loved to be busy with dance competition, musical rehearsals, after school club meetings, studying etc. because it kept me on track and it masked many of my compulsions. Unfortunately, I pushed myself so hard that my expectations became unattainable. I crashed and began drowning in depression. When I was stressed or overwhelmed with too much emotion, I self-injured to secretly maintain my pain. The constant phrase of “I want to die” turned into “you deserve to die” on repeat in my brain and I didn’t know how to shut it off. I questioned if anyone else was experiencing the same thing as I was or “was I just crazy?” Instead of cutting to hide the pain, it became cutting to bring me back to reality. This self-injurious behavior stopped working and before I knew it, I attempted suicide various ways and landed myself in the hospital a few times.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I would occasionally visit the school psychologist to seek support during emotional times, but I was referred to a private practicing therapist in my junior year of high school. After seventeen years of trying to present myself as a “perfectly fine” and “never angry” child, I couldn’t believe I was sitting in a therapist’s office expected to talk about my feelings. Once I got over the shame of being there, I eventually opened up about some of the demons inside my mind. I believe it’s helped me because I can finally grant myself permission to release the burdens troubling my mind (and today I believe it!). My therapist also reinforced how I don’t always have to be happy and reminded me the specific tasks I was doing to keep grounded, was self-destructive.

In my senior year of high school, I hit another major low. After being hospitalized for the second time, I was sent to a three month partial hospital where I had to participate in intensive daily group talk therapy, art, music, etc. to help me become stable again. This type of hospital was helpful because I was working with people in my age group, so we all could connect about the current struggles we were facing. While I was in the hospital, I had to come to terms that I could not go to college until I was managing my illness well enough to attend. It was heartbreaking for me because I was accepted into my dream school with an amazing merit scholarship and I had to turn it down. I was baffled by how fast my life changed because of this illness, but today I am grateful for this experience and what my life now has become.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

It took over a year to track my moods and tendencies for my therapist and prescriber to finally diagnose me with a primary diagnosis of bipolar disorder (or as some people say “bipolar depression” or “manic depression”). In the beginning, I was in denial because this illness has a bad reputation, but I’ve learned more about my illness and now I feel more empowered to share my story. The biggest turning point for me was after another hospitalization when I was nineteen. The clinician who worked with me felt I needed to go for another type of treatment for my Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). She referred me to another therapist who specializes in a process called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which helps individuals cope with significant repeated trauma. When I started doing the work, it pulled so many unresolved traumatic memories out of my brain that I kept in the back of my head to protect myself. I had no idea how significant it was to work on these experiences because every tendency or connection I had with people was because of specific events I went through in my early childhood. It was (and still is) tough work and I have to take it one day at a time.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Today, I am in more control over my mental health. I am not perfect, but I definitely feel much stronger than I was about six years ago. Instead of filling my workload to the max and moving to New York to attend school, I take a couple of courses each semester at my local community college and I moved into my own place nearby. It is one of the healthiest and scariest decisions I needed to make, but it has significantly changed my life. I have not self-injured in almost two years now and have been surviving the extremes of my illness. I also am currently working a full time position in the mental health field and LOVING IT! I have the opportunity to work with young adults facing the same challenges I’ve experienced and focus on their recovery, so they too can live successful and healthy lives. I plan to continue working in the mental health field and obtain a degree in psychology. I thank God every day for the second, third, and many more chances that turned my life around into a more positive light. Now, I want to wake up and live every day to the fullest.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

For those of you having a tough time, I encourage you to reach out and talk to someone (especially a professional). I know it is hard to think about, but people do care! We have so many resources and hotlines to call now, so please dial 2-1-1 and talk to them. I didn’t realize when I was a teen there were so many individuals struggling with the same problems I was, but now I know and I have supports that’ve helped me. I also learned not all therapists and medication are a correct match the first time, so be patient and speak up! You are not alone in this fight!

A Path to Recovery, by Tyrene C.

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I knew I was different when I use to pray to God to take my life while I was asleep. I knew I was different when I had the urge to hurt myself. I also knew I was different because I was afraid to fall asleep, always thinking something was coming to get me; not sure what that something was or why I believed that something was coming for me in specific but I knew one thing; it was coming. I knew I was different when I started crying over a boy I liked that never knew I existed and saying to myself if only I was prettier, he would then pay attention to me. There were so many different signs looking back that told me my future was going to be the most horrific adventure I ever encountered. I never thought or could comprehend at such a young age that something could be so wrong with the way I was; so debilitating, so tremendously saddened and lost.. I never had the awareness to say to myself this is not the way things should be or that maybe I should be different . I believe when you are as young as I was at the time of my signs of my different and unique mindset, that you cannot be aware of these things and compare yourself to much because what does a child really have to look at that would make me say to myself “hey! I am different, is this ok?” I wish there was for goodness sake but no, I never got that glimpse of awareness gifted to my consciousness and if I did; what could I really do with it at that age, how would I be able to explain to anyone what I was experiencing and convince anyone I was dying inside? All I knew was that I felt this incredible fear, never felt happy and never really questioned it.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

I was not diagnosed till I was about 20 years old. When I was first diagnosed I laughed in my psychiatrist’s face and walked out. I didn’t even care if it was true or if it wasn’t, I was so high and life was great; what did it really matter? I can’t even remember why I was there in the first place to be honest. I spent most of my life on an impulse; using drugs and alcohol and craving danger. I had so much rage in me as well that if I was provoked, I became the danger. I was depressed at times but it meant very little because I was always on drugs. I spent ten years drinking and drugging to keep my disorder suppressed; re traumatizing myself and being traumatized in various ways that almost took my life till one day, I had enough. I decided to get sober and the breaking point for me was when I overdosed for the second time on methamphetamine; the first time was on ecstasy. This particular overdose brought me to the huge realization that there was something extremely wrong within me and I needed help.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Six months clean and six months after my second overdose, I developed something called agoraphobia; the inability to leave your home due to feeling unsafe. How ironic that my inner child that I was completely unaware of at the time; felt unsafe and brought me to a diagnosis of agoraphobia. I just woke up one day and was not able to go outside my house without my stomach hurting and the attack of unmanageable fear that stopped me every time. This went on for a week and then I decided I need to go to the ER as soon as possible because this was not ok; I was not ok and I did not understand what was going on which created so much fear in my mind that I could not describe to you what that felt like for me with actual words. When I arrived; I was seen by a psychiatrist and was diagnosed again with someone who has PTSD, agoraphobia and BPD. This time; instead of laughing, I thanked god they had a name for this experience of mine because I was so bloody afraid. This was truly the birth of my recovery and the beginning of my new life.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Today; I am six and a half years clean and have spent seven years in various long and short term therapy programs to recover from the horrific anguish and suffering inducing disorder. I spent seven years in CBT, DBT, EMDR, Bioenergetics, Psychotherapy, and various recovery groups such as NA and AA. Today; I am a police foundations graduate, in my third year of university for child psych. and I am happy, recovered and using my experiences to help others. I am a huge huge passionate advocate and spend all my time spreading awareness, teaching, learning and writing.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Do not give up. Do not look for others to save you but save yourself. Learn as much as you can about you, life, and the mind. Keep asking for help and do not take no for an answer. Be your biggest advocate even though you are your worst enemy. Fight the good fight and know you will win and I promise you; you will and when you do, I promise you, you will know it. DO NOT GIVE UP.

Jessica

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

Looking back, I suppose I first experienced symptoms around 9th grade. My serious long term boyfriend had cheated on me and I was devastated. Despite being hurt, I begged him to stay with me. We were in limbo for a while, and when he finally chose to end things with me I was extremely sad. I have a specific memory of being on a ladder and wanting to jump off die. Although I did not jump off the ladder, this was the first time I had such intrusive thoughts.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

My ex boyfriend’s brother referred me to the social worker at my school. He came with me my first time because I didn’t know what to expect. I quickly formed a very strong bond with her, little did I know how much I would need her through the next few years of high school. After I got over the break up, things only got worse. The sadness and despair grew and grew. On the outside, I had the picture perfect life. I was an honor roll student, a varsity athlete, the president of my youth group, and I had more friends than I could have asked for. However, when I went home at the end of the day none of that mattered because in my father’s eyes nothing I ever did was good enough.I was criticized and degraded for everything I did. Eventually, any encounter with my father turned into a paralyzing panic attack. I could not move, speak, or even look someone in the eye. This could last anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

After one of the worst panic attack’s I ever had, I voluntarily admitted myself to the emergency room with because my father wouldn’t bring me. I was admitted to the inpatient unit and when I was released I was mandated to 3 days of group outpatient therapy along with individual therapy. I came home, but shortly after my father kicked me out. During the last 3 months of high school I was living with different friends and family. Unfortunately I had my senior prom and graduated high school without my parents, but my community at Hartford Hospital was with me every step of the way.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am now a full time student at Central Connecticut State University studying Psychology. I am working at the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Hartford, creating support groups for young adults in recovery. I am living independently with my therapeutic kitty named Handsome.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I wish I knew that I wasn’t the only one suffering through these challenges. I felt so alone and afraid to ask for help, but when I did reach out everyone was there to help.

Living with Migraine by Shannon

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I was involved in a lot of activities when I was younger – I practiced Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do, played the alto saxophone, drums, guitar, and piano, was one of the best goalies in my travel soccer league, was the first girl to sign up at the local skate park. But I was born to a mother who spent the first eight years of my life with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and rarely got off the couch, and a father who is a pilot and was never home. In 2003, she was diagnosed with Bipolar 2; the same year I was diagnosed with Migraine.

This diagnosis is what changed my life. I remember the first sign something was wrong when I started self-harming at age 11. My migraines were manageable at first, but that was before I was diagnosed with Chronic Migraine in 2008. This qualifies as 15 headache days a month, 8 or more of which are migraines. That’s when the self-harm got really serious and has been an issue all the way up until now. My parents were oblivious for 6 years. I managed to stop for just over one full year, but that wasn’t permanent.

I was forced to drop out of high school before it was even legal to because my school refused to make the necessary accommodations for me to get an education while dealing with chronic migraines. Instead, they tried to place me in alternative education where they stuck the kids who didn’t show up to school because they chose not to. I refused to do this, so they sent me to a tutoring club – as if I could make it there after school hours instead, but still with a migraine. They thought I was full of it, so I stopped attending high school just before my 15th birthday and waited two years to turn 17 and get my GED, which I did not want. I was probably one of the very few kids in my high school who really did want to learn and this is something I still struggle to accept.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I would say the first kind of help I attempted to get was through a neurologist right when I was first diagnosed with migraines in 2003. I was told I would be a guinea pig until we found something that worked. I saw several different neurologists and I was hospitalized more than once for migraines. I pumped full of morphine four separate times before I was 17 for over 3 week long bouts of pain. I was prescribed medication for migraines that then caused polycystic ovarian syndrome – a hormonal disorder that causes depression and anxiety, as well as inappropriate masculine features in women. As you can imagine, this just boosted my self-esteem through the roof.

My first help with depression came the same year I was diagnosed with Chronic Migraine. I was prescribed Prozac at first, which made my migraines much worse, and told to see a therapist. No, it did not work.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Things started to change for the better when I met my second therapist. This woman, may she rest in peace, made such an impact in my life. Because of the isolation from the people in my town due to my migraines, I met my now boyfriend of nearly five years online. She helped me make it through the difficult months of waiting to turn 17 to take the GED test and move to Maine to be with my boyfriend as well as start college. While I ran into very similar problems at this school as I did at my high school, (they did not have a disability coordinator so the Dean, who knew nothing about the ADA, was “dealing” with it. I failed my courses because they, too, couldn’t make the simple accommodations to the attendance policy that I needed), I was not nearly as affected because everything else in life was so new and fresh. I spent 2 years in Maine until my boyfriend and I decided to move back to Connecticut because as it turns out, he has family here too.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now, I have managed to pass a total of 14 college courses and am currently going to school both in person and online. I’m studying horticulture and pursuing a floral design certificate online. I’ve had a few jobs, only one of which has been affected majorly by migraines. I’ve learned that I am always going to run into people who do not realize Migraine is a disease, not just pain. It is not just a headache – I cannot drive, eat, open my eyes in the sun, bend over, or think of simple words for that matter. I see auras and it’s like someone is like someone setting off a fireworks display three feet from my face. Because of this, I’m working towards owning my own business. My boyfriend and I would like to have a farm or a nursery down in Florida someday.

However, I was hospitalized last month for depression and I am in an intensive outpatient program to learn how to deal with the thoughts and feelings I’ve been having. I’ve come to this website to make sure that one day, I will own my own business. To make sure that I’ll make it.

Reese’s Recovery From Depression and Alcoholism

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

My earliest memory of depression occurred in preschool. I can remember bursting into tears for no reason. I had no idea what was wrong, I just wanted to cry. I did not enjoy interacting with other kids like most children do and so I had very few friends. This continued throughout elementary school. Things worsened when puberty struck me at a very early age. I would sit in the dark in my room for hours, sometimes crying, sometimes angry. I wanted to be left alone. My family gave me my space most of the time and I learned how to hide my emotions from the world. I got so good at it that by the time I went off to college, I was an expert at putting on a good front. Even though I was an academically accomplished student, college was not the good time I had heard it would be. I was lonely, homesick, tired, and depressed all the time. I know now that it was because I was laboring under a heavy burden of depression. The dark cloud that followed me turned into a hurricane. In my final semester of college, it became too much for me to bear and the long-standing thoughts of suicide turned into a definitive plan. In a last ditch effort, I reached out to a school counselor who insisted I check myself into the hospital. I did not want to but I was too tired to argue. I spent two weeks in a psychiatric wing. It gave me a chance to rest but not much else. My school sent me home for a little while where I attempted suicide two times. I eventually started seeing a therapist who put me on medication.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

Therapy (and eventually AA), have helped me get to this point. The people I have met in recovery have also been a great source of support as is my family. I am blessed to have them all in my life. While there was a time that I did not have them, I understand my part in that and I take responsibility for it.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

After eight years(!) with a therapist and little progress, I decided I needed someone else to help me. I found someone who specialized in dual diagnosis and the work I did with her led to my sobriety and finally managing my depression. I completed three rounds of DBT therapy which also changed my whole life.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Although I might not be where I thought I would be at this age, I am happy with the way my life is going. I have a great job, better relationships with family members, and I am stable in my recovery from alcoholism and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). I have wonderful friends who help me when I am down and I have learned the importance of being happy with who I am. The future looks brighter than ever!

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

One big piece of advice I would give is to not be afraid to reach out for help. Find someone you trust and you know has your best interest at heart. It may feel like an invasion of your privacy but it will be worth it in the end. It may take a while and more than one person, but remember that your life is precious and you deserve happiness!

Michael S’s Amazing Story of Recovery From Brain Injury

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I have always been a sensitive, introspective child, but a pivotal moment was my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) at 4 years old. I fractured my skull and broke my jaw, losing the ability of most of my motor skills and speech. I was hospitalized for over 2 months, the first memorable experience of what would be almost 2 decades of doctor visits.

At adolescence, I started experiencing mood swings and severe, crippling anxiety and depression, which derailed my educational progress. I could not function in public, with PTSD symptoms and extreme fear and worthlessness. I was bullied and did not have the social skills to make friends – I could barely look at my own family in the eye.

I remember many evenings of looking into a mirror and despising what I saw, and who I was. I would sit, curled up and cry, not wanting to live. My mind hurled thoughts crueler than any bully could ever say. The frustration and guilt of seeing myself deteriorating at an age when others were expanding and thriving was too much to bear.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I was brought to a few therapists and psychiatrists before I found a good match. It was difficult at first, because I couldn’t express myself authentically and did not have the awareness or motivation. But my recovery has (as always) been a step by step process. I was put on a few different medications, some with major side effects that were almost as bad as my symptoms.

I was hospitalized twice for depression when I was in high school, and fought hard to handle everything to avoid going back. I eventually came across a wonderful therapist who I worked with for a handful of years. I felt safe, and grew to looking forward to our sessions. Therapy helped me correct my negative thoughts and patterns, and was a source of hope and healing. The change was not always instant, but everyone has those moments where someone can say something that moves you. Quite a few have been from therapists!

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I believe one of my biggest breakthroughs came after a devastating breakup a few years ago. I was broken and my entire reality was shattered. At first, I was hurt and lonely, but then I realized it was an unexpected gift. Looking back, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship that had left me void of all identity and power. The loss caused me to look inward for the first time and take responsibility. I forgave myself, and people in my life who have hurt me. Having that happen was an amazing experience that I am grateful for.

I quickly started reading about anything that would help me. From healthy nutrition based books, to relationship and communication, I surrounded myself with only positive and beautiful things. I would draw and use my creative outlet to imagine amazing pictures and stories. I was using my abilities in a positive way, and staying busy helping others. I left no room for the old way of living.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is amazing right now! I smile as I think about it. Each day is not perfect, and there are times when I feel low. However, I can quickly snap out of it and not stay there!

I have been in a loving, healthy relationship for almost 2 years. I have an amazing job that utilizes my creativity and love of supporting others. I am working towards my degree, and on my art that inspires me.

I look forward to the endless opportunities that life has to offer!

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell anyone who is struggling to stop, slow down, and be present in this very moment – and be still enough to look inward. Practice acceptance for where you are, and know that every person, place, situation and struggle has helped shape who you are. When you look back, you can see each isolated thread has woven you into a stronger and more powerful person. And above all, I would tell anyone that is struggling that you are loved and worthy of life, with unique and special gifts that are meant to be shared

I wish I had known the mind/body connection when I was younger. I believe the traditional route for mental health is focused solely on medication, shame and blame. In my case, solely medicating was like slapping paint on rotting wood. When I started approaching recovery from a holistic aspect, in addition to taking responsibility for myself, my life starting to change.

Whatever you focus on, becomes real. Find the joy around you, and keep it your prominent thought. You are where your life starts and stops – It is not selfish to take care of yourself. You have full permission to live a happy, joyful life.

Michaela: Healing From Childhood Abuse

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

My journey began when I was very young. As a child I experienced various forms of abuse that I believed I needed to keep a secret. I was ashamed of what was happening, while I was confused and scared because something inside me knew that it was wrong.

I spent my time trying to come across as “normal” – getting involved in sports, making friends, doing well in school, and following the latest popular trends. On the inside I was miserable and continued to struggle to make sense of how I fit into a distorted view of reality. My reality was warped because I couldn’t trust that this life would be good to me.

By the time my junior year of high school hit I was a mess. I was using drugs, skipping school, engaging in self-harming behavior, struggling with an eating disorder, and no longer participating in the activities that once brought me a sense of normality and purpose. This went on for years.

I eventually was homeless from 17 through 19. Going in and out of shelters I was trying as hard as I could to survive, yet survival was simply running from my past. I needed to address the abuse of my childhood, make amends to those who I had hurt in the self-destruction of my teenage years, and finally define my purpose as a whole person.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

After years of struggle, I found myself on the edge and I jumped. For me this means I attemped to die by an overdose. I was 21 at the time.

Looking back, there were multiple attempts to connect me to resources made by individuals in my life. My mom brought me to psychiatrists, the shelter workers provided me counseling, and a handful of supportive adults in school encouraged me to open up. It was futile.

Their attempts to offer me guidance was unsuccessful because I was not going to be a “crazy” person. I did not believe that there was anything wrong with me, yet that was the message being delivered to me over and over again. “Michaela you are f@$&ing up your life.” “Michaela you are not going to get anywhere acting like that.” I still don’t understand why anyone didn’t just state their observations using a nonjudgmental approach and then ask me what happened.
I didn’t need a psychiatrist – I needed someone who would share with me their own struggles that they overcame.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The turning point in my life was when I realized that I could acknowledge openly that what I had experienced was beyond my control at the time, yet I now had a choice to take control over the outcomes of my life. That I could choose to live a life of self-defined purpose. This included identifying and accessing resources, building a strong support system of compassionate human beings, going to school to understand how I could utilize my experiences to influence change to ensure that others do not have to experience struggle like I had, along with seeking job opportunities that allowed me to get involved in the behavioral health system of Connecticut.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Since that time when I recognized that I had the innate ability to rise above the circumstances of my life and be something more than a diagnosis, my life has been amazing! There have been times where I have struggled to make sense of challenges and barriers presented in my life, but I am fully aware that I have options. The most basic option being to work through the struggle or to be limited by it. I choose to push through.

I am now married, with three young sons, I have continued on through graduate school, and I am now working and volunteering to help create the opportunity for recovery to be made available to all young people across the state.

I am living the dream – you can too!! To get involved with our recovery network – please email me at michaela@mindlink.org or text me at 8608784296 I need your help to make systems change a reality!!

Pedro’s Take on Fighting the Odds

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I grew up in a city whose sole mission, I felt, was to never let me escape. I received substandard education, in addition to having to deal with social and economic issues. I felt like I was not performing to the best of my abilities, it seemed as though even the education system did not want me to succeed. I will never forget the moment Freshman year when I was told that I would never attend college and therefore should give up on school (this coming from a teacher, mind you).

Moving forward, Sophomore year was not any different. I still received the lowest quality of education possible while still having to deal with the misconduct and drug issues that plagued my school. Not to mention, I am really into theater, and my school including peers, did not support my love. The drama club consisted of a small group and we performed for a small audience (mainly family and friends). But there was never any true support.

I knew coming into the end of Sophomore year that I no longer wished to stay at that school. But that decision only became clear when I started to receive threats (for what, the world will never know). It was then that I knew that I had to get out of that school system for not only my safety but also my future (I actually care about becoming someone in life).

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I was lucky enough to get into a program that allows students from my city to attend schools in more affluent communities. I was able to get a spot at, what I think, is the greatest high school in Connecticut.

Coming into this new school for my Junior year was terrifying. I felt completely alone, I mean I really was alone since I did not know a single person at this school. Moreover, I was very behind on my education. I spent months trying to catch up with my peers, I did eventually but only after much effort.

But despite the struggle of catching up academically and making all new friends, I must say that it was all worth it. My quality of life and education now is not even comparable to what it was before.

I also sought solace in the theater. I am a firm believer in the idea that the arts can provide social and emotional help to all who seek it. I continued to do theater at my new school (a school in which theater is completely supported and one is not persecuted for associating oneself with theater).

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I think a real turning point in my life was when I started attending my new school. I have had the best two years of my life there. I spent Junior and Senior year there, and I must say that it was two years too short.

I met some of the best people in the world, and I have made immense amount of friends that I know I will treasure for the rest of my life. The experiences I have had are nothing but positive. I cannot begin to explain how much I love my school.

It is funny, people tend to hate their high schools and wish to leave as soon as possible. But for me it is the complete opposite. I love my school so much, and if I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life now is not even comparable, as I said. I love the person that I have become. I am more understanding and compassionate with others–more open minded. In addition, I am definitely prepared for college. In the fall I will be attending the Honors Program at an excellent school in the West studying Psychology with a pre-med track. I want to be a psychiatrist. I am super excited for my future endeavors.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I spent more than half of my childhood in a system that did not wish to see me succeed. I felt trapped. But what got me out was my own doing. I did not sit and wait for something to land on in my hands. I sought it myself. I knew where I wanted to be, and I got myself there. Of course, we all go through obstacles in life that warrant a little more help from others than ourselves. But that initial feeling to seek help, needs to come from within. Often times, we tend to feel as though we are a very small part in a huge machine that is the world. But if every little piece does not function properly, than how can the machine as a whole function? You are worth it, you are powerful, and you surely can succeed. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Had I listened to that teacher freshman year who told me I would never attend college, I would still be at my old school probably giving myself up to the misconduct and drugs. Lead your life the way you want it to be. Never let socio-economic issues stand in your way. If anyone ever tells you that you cannot succeed and you might as well give yourself over to the statistics, you simply say “Thank you, but that is your prerogative. I am someone, and I will beat the odds.” Aside from all of the negativity, there are people who wish to see you succeed, and there are resources to help you reach success. You can do it. I believe in you. Godspeed.

M’s Story on Conquering Self Harm

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I can’t really put my finger on it. I always felt like I was sad. As I grew up, it became harder and harder to push it aside. My brother had a drug and alcohol problem that caused him to almost die twice; the cops were constantly at my house. My parents argued all the time. I never caught a break. It really spiraled out of control the summer before my Freshman year of High School. I locked myself in my room and barely ever came out. I didn’t have any motivation. That’s when I first started to severely self-harm because I was angry at my family and I couldn’t express my feelings properly. I felt like I had a big chunk of my childhood ripped away from me. It didn’t feel fair. I wanted to try to kill myself. I couldn’t stand breathing. I just hated existing.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I met with the social worker at my High School regularly throughout my Freshman year. She really helped me through a lot, as well as brought me together with some amazing girls who knew exactly how I felt. We were a group that met every week. I didn’t tell them very much, but I always listened. They knew how I felt. I didn’t feel as alone, and that made me very emotional. I had to physically stop myself from crying each session we met.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I moved away from that High School and that group which really set me off. I didn’t show up to my new school at all which caused my grades to plummet and I fell way behind. This, however, is when my parents decided that it was time to focus on me instead of my brother, who, by court order, was drug tested every week which really set his behavior straight. We saw a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with some new medications. We also brought in two amazing ladies from a program called Intensive In-Home Services (IICAPS) who try their hardest to improve my family dynamic as well as my mental health.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I still meet with IICAPS, and am working very hard to improve my grades and myself. There are days when I have slips, but I feel way better then I did. I no longer self-harm, and I go to school regularly which is a really big thing for me.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Please do not keep quiet. Speak to your family, your school counselor, anyone you trust. If you feel at all the way I did, your issues need to be addressed. It could save your life.

Learning to Overcome Fear by C.H.

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

When I was in elementary school I always had trouble controlling my emotions and was always scared. In 2nd grade I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety and adhd.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I went to a private therapist weekly but I hated her and it didn’t help that much . I was put on multiple medications but found my true medications that work in 4th grade. On top of medications I use praying as a tool to help my anxiety .

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

My first strong year with my bipolar was fifth grade. My anxiety has gotten worse since then and same with my adhd but the way I learned to control it was in 8th grade I went on a retreat and it helped me connect with my inner self and helped me have faith it was gonna be ok

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I’ve recently gotten over many of my huge fears such as staying home alone and going to the movies. I still am scared of speaking in class but do it everyday , I still get scared when I hear a noise at home and am very scared of losing someone I love . Other than that I’m doing really well and am very happy. I’m doing a sport I love and doing good in school! I have friends and most people don’t even know about my struggles! I’m a strong girl.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Stay strong it will get better! You can get over your fears , I thought I couldn’t until one day I did it. Also you can make friends and if you feel like no one likes you I promise someone does !

Why Audrey J. Keeps Smiling

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

When I moved to America at age ten, I hit the ground running. Sixth grade had just begun and with a confident smile as large as my face and a laugh that was infectious, new friends were flocking to me as if my french accent was made of gold.

Inevitably, time went on and years flew by. By seventh grade, I was no longer the new-kid with the smile that everyone wanted to know, but I became the girl who”s ability to “laugh anything off” was taken drastic advantage of. I became known for being able to take any joke, and so, for the next four years, thats just what I did.

From seventh grade to my sophomore year of high school, I never caught a break. Any word I said or any question that I asked was first remarked as ‘stupid’, and then, over years, completely disregarded as a whole. Students, teachers, friends and friends’ parents laughed at every word that came out of my mouth as if any thought that I formed was somehow inadequate. In seventh grade, I was on the receiving end of every joke because my ear-to-ear smile and my contagious laugh meant “I could take it”. By the end of my sophomore year of high school, those jokes had somehow become my identity.

While everyone else still saw my smile, holding back tears on the car ride home became my familiar routine. I hated what their words had done.e to me and I began to hate myself for somehow letting this happen. For so many years I had disregarded their quips because I told myself that *I knew* my own value, and that that’s all that really mattered. By sophomore year, It didn’t matter how confident I once was, because after years of hearing that I was worth nothing, I started to believe that it was true.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

The hardest part of the situation that I had found myself in was that there really wasn’t a word for it. I felt uncomfortable saying that I was being “bullied” because, well, I wasn’t. I was friends with everyone, and as far as they all knew, I was a steel wall and their jokes bounced right off of me and got a laugh from all of us. How could they know how much their words actually hurt – that I was only laughing so that I wouldn’t cry?
So I didn’t feel like I was being bullied. I was desperately misunderstood, and it seemed like there was nothing to really be done about it. What helped was the support of my family. My parents and brother know me better than anyone, and as much as I tried to hide my pain to keep it from hurting them, it became inevitable that I would have to tell them everything. I don’t know if making it out of sophomore year would have been possible without them, their support became what kept me afloat through that lowest point in my life. When I started to believe that I was worthless, they did everything that they could to make sure I knew that was not true.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

It’s my nature to put every person’s wellness before my own, and for so long I found that it was impossible for me to tell my friends how their words really hit me in fear that they would become embarrassed and upset. By the time I actually worked up that courage to tell them, those words in themselves became a joke as well.
When that school year came to it’s end, it was a huge weight off my shoulders. I was able to take the following few months of summer to rediscover myself. I found the greatness within myself once again, and I made new friends who saw it, too. The turning point for me became having enough courage to realize what was best for me, and that transferring to a new school would not be cowardice nor a sign of weakness, but would be a brave step towards becoming the person that I am capable of.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now, high school has come to it’s end, and I haven’t once looked back with regret at the decision that I made to switch schools. The last two years of high school became my much-needed clean slate. I grew more than I could have hoped for, met tons of new people and even continue to stay in touch with those from my past school. Over everything, I’ve learned that words and relationships with people are what you choose to make of them, and neither should ever get in the way of you become the best person that you can be.
So now, despite everything, I still wear a smile that is almost as big as my face… and I bet if you heard me laugh you’d find yourself laughing too. I discuss things with people, ask questions, and most importantly, never let the fear of judgement quite my voice.
Two years ago, at a time when I have never been so low, I found the strength to let go of everyone else’s words and instead grow into the person that I am today. Of 8 billion opinions in the world, I stopped listening to everyone else’s. Will you?

Getting Help: Chloe

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

All of my life, I felt pressure from my mom. The pressure to do well in school and to make the right decisions. By fifth grade, I was getting monetary rewards for my grades, and once I started sixth grade, there were monetary consequences for grades which my mom deemed unacceptable. Getting A’s was the goal, B’s weren’t great but they were acceptable, and C’s meant consequences. There wasn’t even talk about D’s or F’s, they were unimaginable.

In eighth grade, I had become exhausted. School was so much work, and I wasn’t even in high school yet. I decided to stop doing my work. I didn’t study for tests, I rarely did my homework, and I was often on my phone in class. Once my mom found out, her reaction was to check my homework every night to make sure I had done it, and to push me more and more each day to make sure that I could still take advanced classes in high school.

By high school, I was talking to teachers about redoing any work I could that, even if I had gotten a B. I needed the grades I had been conditioned to believe were the only ones acceptable, but I often didn’t have the motivation. I wanted all A’s, a GPA 4.0 or higher, but I didn’t have the motivation to do so. Everything was always about looking the best for colleges, but my mom knew that grades alone would not get me into college. I had to do sports and clubs and other activities in my free time. I needed to impress admissions when the time came. By the time I would get home from school and my after school sport and activities, I was exhausted, and just wanted to melt into my couch watching TV, but I couldn’t. The constant pressure to do well had conditioned me, so despite how tired I was, or how little I actually wanted to be doing it, I had to do my work, and I had to do it well. My lack of motivation got to me – everything was saved until the last minute, and numerous late nights were common every week.
Senior year arrived, college applications were finally hitting, so I needed to keep doing well, get into my dream school. However, senioritis hit, and my motivation dropped to an all-time low. Anxiety hit, and did so mostly in tests. However, it would also hit in the most meaningless stuff – when I was running, when my friends changed our plans, when I was doing my homework. My mom started to let me take mental health days, allowed once a month, for when I had saved a huge assignment to the night before it was due, attempted to do it, and then broke down crying unable to complete it.
By December, I was committed to my top choice for school, having applied Early Decision, but I was still a mess stressing out over the stupidest of assignments. I was about to get my highest marking period GPA ever, and I wanted to make it as great as it could be, so I asked a teacher if I could edit an essay to get it from a B to a B+, something she would normally allow. However, this time she laughed and asked why I wanted to. She knew that I was in college and knew exactly where I would be the next fall – there was no reason for me to rewrite this essay. That night I went home and complained how my teacher wasn’t going to let my rewrite my essay, and my mom laughed, confused as to why it mattered to me anymore. College was no longer a worry, my grades didn’t matter, but I still needed them. I had been conditioned into needing these grades. As the year progressed, I listened as my friends talked about the C’s and D’s they were receiving in classes, while I was still getting all A’s and B’s. I needed to keep trying, even as I realized that my, now self-inflicted, pressure was irrational.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I spoke to my mom and told her how I was constantly anxious, most particularly with school work. We reached out to a therapist, someone who clicked perfectly with me, and I opened up. Even though I am not officially diagnosed with a disorder, I knew that I needed help, despite how minor. I felt the issue arising, and wanted to take care of it as soon as possible, and hopefully get started on it before heading off the college.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I haven’t been working with the therapist for too long, so it is hard to tell what improvements have been made, but having started this process I am feeling much better about myself. I am going to eventually find the point where I won’t have such high expectations for myself, and I am going to reach a point where my grades won’t dictate my self-worth, and where I know that one bad grade isn’t going to ruin my life.

I have been able to find activities that relax me, running by myself rather than for a team with pressure, finding my love for photography, and reading for fun (I swear it is actually enjoyable with the right books). My sole focus isn’t my school work, and I know that my grades will not determine the rest of my life.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

If you’re having a rough time, no matter what it is about, it is SO helpful to just talk to someone. There are always people around looking to help, but they need you to reach out to them. They don’t know what is going on inside of your head, and they need to learn about it in order to help you. If you sense a problem, even if you think it isn’t a big deal, there is absolutely no shame in reaching out for help. In the long run, it is so helpful.

N.B’s Story on Being Loved

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

It began as I entered middle school, as I began to drift and divide myself both socially and within my own family. I was regularly bullied and in seventh grade my group of friends stopped speaking to me one day, and often acted that they did not know who I was. I blamed myself for it.

My brother and I were both adopted by our parents, and he struggled with ADHD and other issues while he was young and my parents often had to devote all of their attention to him to keep him on the right track. Since I was unaware of his condition I felt that my parents preferred, or loved, him more than me. This feeling of worthlessness only got worse as my friends left me, and my parents got more and more frustrated with my poor performance socially and academically. Depression and self injury began a year later.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I first got help a long time after this, when I was a freshman in high school. I told my parents and the therapist very little of what I was feeling or thinking because at the time I was afraid of them disliking me further because of what I felt was wrong with me. Because of that, I didn’t have a chance to improve.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

In high school I found a group of friends, one very good person in particular, of whom I could rely on and that was a very big change. Socially I no longer felt worthless, but the issues between myself and my family remained, so my depression and other issues lingered, and intensified. I thought that since I had improved myself socially, I would see a change at home, but there was none. My parents found many of the people I hung around with to be socially awkward, and this created a larger rift between myself and them.

The real turning point was a series of breakdowns, arguments, and confrontations between myself and my family. I blamed my parents and my brother for disliking me, though I know now that was false, I treated them horribly because of that idea. Amid the large confrontations between myself and my family I realized that, call it an epiphany, my poor perception of myself was not real, and I began to do what I could to make up for lost years with my family.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life now is far better than I thought it could ever be. My group of friends has expanded, I feel more awake, I feel happier, my family and I can talk, laugh, and interact after years of not being able to do so. I feel loved, and happy for the first time in many years. The biggest thing I think, is being able to forgive myself and move past what I had done and thought in the past, and focus on being a real part of my family.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I tell my friends, and my family every day that I love them, I am grateful for them standing by me, supporting me, and not giving up on me. I thank my friends for accepting, and loving who I am as a person, and I thank my family for helping me in my efforts to change.

And to anyone going through anything, big or small, what I wish I can tell you is that help is out there. Friends, new people, and professionals can and will often do their best to help you. Patience and strength to go through the time it takes for things to improve are really important.

Maddy O. Talks About the Hard Times In Her Past

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

In middle school, I got sad and stayed sad for a long time. I had no idea what was wrong with me or why I was never happy, I thought it was just how I was. My parents fought a lot and I was always an outsider so I just assumed I was sad. The summer before high school, this unhappiness translated into an eating disorder, I wanted to look like the other girls in my class and the years of rude comments about my weight had taken their toll. I started school in every advanced class my school offered for a freshman, because that’s what you do in the upper class college-centered town I’m from. I was academically and emotionally overwhelmed and my self-hatred spiraled into cutting and my peers accused me of doing for attention, which was true. I wanted people to see how miserable I was, how miserable the world had made me. It physically pained me to live, I felt like I was in slow motion and every breath was hindered by some invisible weight on my chest. My family was frustrated because my depression was like a black hole, dragging in everyone around me. The only place I could vent was online, because I didn’t have any friends left in real life who weren’t tired of my complaining. I posted on my blog how miserable I was in school and I just wanted death to come.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

A girl in my school printed out basically all of the previous week’s posts on my blog in which I constantly spoke of suicide and gave it to my school guidance counselor. From there I had the school social worker call 211 on me, where I was assessed as a danger to myself and hospitalized. I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. I talked my way out of inpatient care within three days because I had this really convincing way of smiling and pretending everything is okay that I had perfected after years of lying to anyone who asked. Another suicidal episode a few weeks later landed me back in state care for another two months of outpatient treatment.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

My life only really changed a year after the initial hospitalization. I was able to walk out of that program every day and think it was all bull. After getting on the right combination of medicines and therapy was I stable enough to move on with my life but, I think only when I got a job did I really become happy. I met new people and made friends, which translated into a self-confidence which I never had before.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

It’s been four years since my first episode and I’m finally happy. I’m going to a top tier college next year and I was in my school’s homecoming court but more importantly, I’ve found satisfaction in my life and confidence in who I am. I helped my friend create a club within our school to erase the stigma against having a mental illness. This year we got 12 students certified in Mental Health First Aid to help other students in crisis and were able to talk to all of the freshman about mental health. I’m going to major in psychology and I hope to educate more people about the importance of maintaining their mental health.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Depression is real. And it sucks. Any mental illness needs to be addressed and while care can be hard to access, the fight is worth it; you are worth being helped.

Rai C on Beating the Odds

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I guess it all started when I was born. I was born into a world filled with an unbalance of hate, love, regret, and hostility. I grew up in an area in which making it to see your 16th birthday, graduating highschool, going to college, and not being a teen mom was beating the odds. My story isn’t so much about my struggle with drugs, suicide, alcohol abuse, or self harm.. but it is about being different, being a statistic and being everything that my environment was not suppose to let me be. It’s about growing up without a father, struggling with my identity and figuring out how to make something of myself in a world that only seems to be against me.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

My help came in the form of education and experiences of others. I used school as my outlet to separate me from the haves and the have nots.. to me it meant leveling the platform and putting me in a better situation so I made sure that I did what I had to do and didn’t let the peer pressure and distractions knock me down. I learned from my family members, friends & their friends. I learned what not to do and if I did do it, how not to get caught up. As of now, I’d definitely say it all helped me to cope with my existence and what I was born into. The people around me was my motivation. Everything can change and with time and effort, I saw that.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I was younger, I thought I was honestly helpless. I thought that my city was it and that eventually, I’d end up voiceless and unimportant. I never thought about college. I never thought about moving on and how my future could look. The only things that I ever thought about was wanting a father to complete the family that I never was given the opportunity to have and trying to understand why blacks were so hated, oppressed, and subjected to acts of violence. I was angry, upset and lived in the past. Lived in moments of hurt and confusion. However, overtime, I educated myself and understood my history.. grew to understand that everything happens for a reason. With every single tear, moment of weakness, moment of pain comes a succession of triumph.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is AMAZING and I wouldn’t have it any other way. To know how far I’ve come and to be able to say that I am a first generation college grad from my family is mind blowing. I’m an advocate for social justice and a leader in the very community that I thought I would drown in. I grew into a woman with a passion for success that no longer dwells on the past but is ready to sustain a future. I’m comfortable with my identity and I understand who I am, where I am going and exactly how I am going to get there. Though I still long to be “daddy’s little girl”, I’ve grown to understand that what I don’t have with me physically, is here spiritually. Everything that I am and will become is enough to remind me of my purpose. I’ve come a long way, lost a lot of friends and family on the way but a journey isn’t worth traveling if you don’t hit a few bumps on the way.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

For people struggling with their identity, living with resentment and confusion, engulfed with hatred and pain…. the only way to cope, is to wrap it all up and release it. Talk about it, get it out on paper.. release it into the world. Focus on everything that is good for you and everyone that is good to you. Pain, like any other emotion, is temporary. It’s psychological. Invest in yourself and invest in something that will last you for a lifetime. For me, that was my education. Find your significance and remind yourself that time heals all. Let go of the past and plan for your future, you’re never alone.

From Pain to Gaining Hope by Dior

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I first started experiencing symptoms when I was very young. A lot of people when they describe their mental illness they say that don’t remember when they did NOT have it – I feel the same way. I started feeling extremely sad all the time and felt worthless. I felt that life was meaningless and that it wasn’t worth living. I just had an overall change in attitude towards life which made it very difficult for me to live on a daily basis.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I first got help going to therapy and talking about my feelings. I ended up learning a lot about myself and my behavioral patterns. I eventually started taking antidepressants which I have learned work better for my recovery in conjunction with therapy.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I believe that when I came to realize that my experience wasn’t just about me that I knew that my life was worth it. Amplifying the voices of others became a turning point because this is something that affects others. Receiving such great feedback from my work humbles me and makes me so happy. It makes my experience worth it because I know that I can help others. We need to work as a community to destigmatize mental illness.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life even though there are tough days are filled with purpose. I’ve become a mental health activist because I want my story to be a source of inspiration for others. Also, I want to give people the opportunity to share their story through my activist projects. If we discuss this more, then the stigma will eventually fade. I want to show others that their experiences matter and that this can have a positive result and impact on others. Check out my current project:   http://diorvargas.com/poc-mental-illness/

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would tell people who are feeling depressed to hang in there. I know it’s hard and there are days where you feel like you cannot go on. You may feel like it will never stop. But life is worth it. As you grow older and with your own personal work through your own version of recovery you will know how to live life and keep on going. Keep in mind that the simple things make life worth living. There are people who love you and want you to succeed. Keep at it.

Through Tough Times: Laura

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

My friends always referred to me as the bubbly happy girl who always seems to be smiling and I felt the pressure to keep up with that image. Although on the outside it looked like my life was pretty good I felt like everything was falling apart inside. I was involved in a million activities including clubs, orchestra, youth groups and even sports teams. On the outside it was easy to play the part that I was this overly positive and happy girl. Although I was no longer being bullied my childhood followed me along with my self-esteem issues. The constant reminder that I wasn’t good enough from the people around me and myself fueled my negativity.

After my parents divorce I moved in with my mother because at the time it seemed like the best option. However throughout my high school years I struggled with taking care of her and myself. My mother was an alcoholic making her emotionally and verbally abusive. The things she would say to me and my own feelings about myself fueled my hatred towards myself, to the point where I began self-harming.

This is not something many people know or that I am proud of, but it had to take me to this point to realize where my life was going if I didn’t do something about it. I don’t know why I did it at first but it strangely made things better and that’s what scared me the most. No matter how small or big the problem was I was tempted to cut, just like how addicted tobacco users get. Although the time I spent self-harming was brief it was a huge event in my life. I did not want to hurt myself anymore, but I needed an outlet that was less harmful to my body in the moment. I hoped smoking would distract me and substitute for my self-harm. At first I still was tempted, but as time passed it became easier and I learned to be more positive about myself.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

One day I said enough is enough. I saw the path that I was going towards and I did not like it. I was able to step back and look at the whole picture and realize I needed to change or get help. I was able to find self worth in an organization called Young Life. YL is great Christian based support group that helped me through many of my struggles through high school. I began to open up to a select few friends about how I was feeling and through their support and my own life changes I was able to stop. Stop hurting myself and stop body bashing myself. I created goals to have better self-esteem and to be more positive. I stopped comparing myself to everyone around me and just accepting myself for me. I now focus my energy exercising instead of looking in the mirror listing the negative thoughts about myself.

Although I have stopped it doesn’t mean life is easier. There is a constant struggle, especially during the winter months for me to stay positive. I no longer self harm, but once in a while the thought crosses my mind, but I remind myself that I have come so far and that I don’t want to be in that place anymore. I only smoke once in a while now and have found healthier ways to cope. I started running, spending time outside in nature, creating art and just doing things for other people. I have made friends who are able to support me and love me for who I am. Joining a church group and strengthening my religion has also helped me stay on a positive path.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am now a junior in college studying Human Development and Family Studies, in hopes of becoming a high school social worker. I am also very involved on campus with mental health (Active Minds) and in several other clubs, but for once I am involved because I enjoy them not for anyone else or “my image”. I am even the Assistant Woman’s Week Chairwoman for my sorority’s positive body image week. Adolescent mental health is a subject that has become so important to me through my friends struggles and my own. I am excited to continue my education and learn more about mental health and how I can be an even better support for adolescents.

I am much happier now that I have learned to accept my flaws because they are who I am. Although some cloudy and rainy days I get more upset than most, I have learned to understand my thought process’ and understand exactly what makes me feel better. I have found activities that not only distract me from my stressors, but also just things I enjoy doing. I love spending time in nature, going for runs, painting, baking and just spending time with my friends. I try and look at everyday as another chance to improve and be a better person than I was the day before.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Change takes time. Recovery is not going to happen over night and if you are not patient with your progress it will feel impossible. If you are having these negative thoughts or going through a tough time reach out to your family, friends, and even therapists, they’re all here for you. Sometimes you are able to get better alone, but sometimes you need assistance and both are okay. One thing, which was difficult for me to understand, is that it does not have to be an extreme case for you to ask for help; no matter how big or small the issue is it is still a problem. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help! Don’t forget that you are beautiful and wonderfully made with a purpose. The most important thing I learned through all of this is you only have one life and one body and you need to learn to love yourself! ☺

A.S.M’s Way Out of Depression

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I first started experiencing symptoms of depression at the age of 12 or 13. I live in a family where my mother is bipolar and anorexic and my brother is schizophrenic. Living in such an unstable and chaotic family environment really took a toll on me, and I began blaming myself for all the anger and violence I was seeing at home. I would feel so much guilt, and I’d carry it around with me day after day. I’d feel sad and hopeless some days, and I honestly felt like there was no way out. I was a generally happy and upbeat person, but when I got in a “funk” (as I called them), I felt like I was somebody completely different. I would feel hopeless, unhappy thoughts would race through my head at what felt like a million miles an hour, and I would feel overwhelmed with sadness and just cry and cry and cry. I hated this other person living inside of me. At the age of 16, I started self harming. It got to the point where I did it so often, I carried razor blades, gauze, and band-aids in my school backpack and would hurt myself in the bathroom.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

At my first signs of depression, I started seeing my family psychiatrist. I didn’t believe there was anything wrong with me, and thus the therapy sessions did not do much. My relationship with my mother was a big trigger of my depression and anxiety, and I was not mature enough to realize how my mother’s actions affected me. It was difficult for me to understand at that age. In high school, therapy did not help me much, mostly because I think I didn’t want the help or believe I needed it really. I took my medication and hoped that would be all I needed. I didn’t realize recovery isn’t just taking medication; it’s a lot more spiritual than we realize. Once I got into college, my self harming habits became so bad I had to come home. I went to a hospital where I learned DBT skills, which helped me a lot. However, once I was discharged from the hospital, I didn’t keep up with my DBT skills as I should have, and eventually relapsed into self harming and eating disordered behaviors.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Things started to change for the better when I decided I wanted to get better. I realized that sometimes my brain was a sad and scary place to be. For the longest time I believed I deserved to live like that, but then I realized I don’t. I deserve to be happy. I don’t deserve to suffer. I actively sought treatment (and currently am) for my self harm and my eating disorder. Treatment will only work if you want to get better, and you really invest yourself into your treatment. You have to understand that you DO deserve to get better. It doesn’t matter if other people are suffering and you feel like you deserve to, too (this is how I feel all the time). You do deserve recovery. You deserve happiness.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Of course I still have my ups and downs. Sometimes my mood swings unpredictably, but I am working on using my DBT skills and meditation in my every day life to help myself. I am learning that even though sometimes I feel out of control of my emotions, I can help myself when I am feeling overwhelmed. I am back in college full time and working towards a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management. I live on my own (which I never ever thought I would be able to do), and am overall very happy.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

To anyone that is having a tough time– don’t give up. Please don’t give up. There is somebody out there who loves you so much, even if you are trying to think of somebody right now and can’t. I love you. You deserve to be happy, and you just need to hang in there, okay? Some days are going to be bad, and they’re going to feel like the longest days ever. You may believe that you’re going to be sad for the rest of your life. But it isn’t true. There are so many other people who have felt exactly how you have felt. There are people that care about you. There are people whose job it is to help you! You deserve happiness, you deserve love, you deserve everything good in life, and you are perfect exactly the way you are. I know bad days are discouraging and can be scary. I know that sometimes emotions are overwhelming. But I also know that some days are so beautiful, and I want you to be here to see those beautiful days!

Courtney’s Past Experiences with Substance Abuse

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

The pain began at an extremely young age for me. I remember wanting to disappear and eventually began my obsession with my own death around the age of 9. After my first attempt, I began drinking and smoking weed when I was 12 years old eventually progressing to absolutely living and dying in active addiction using heroin and cocaine. Many of my years were filled with dark, death filled hopeless and helpless feelings. Mental anguish and despair which was amplified by the nightmare of active addiction. I don’t believe I need to describe what active addiction destroys in detail because aside from literally giving away everything and anything I have ever owned time and time again, each time I chose to use, I gave away myself. I sold my soul over and over again.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I was first hospitalized in middle school. I had no interest or hope in any help that was forced or presented to me, I prayed for relief of pain and to me, the only real relief would be my own death. I spent years with therapists, counselors, clinicians, psychiatrists, medications, diagnosis after diagnosis and eventually the cycle of substance abuse treatment centers. At one, or even all of the treatment centers I was in, I was finally, for the first time able to connect with another human being’s heart. People believed in me and I found myself wanting to talk and feel better. I ignored the fact that it was their “job” to work with me, because I could feel that they cared. Out of about 10 treatment centers/programs, I can name 5 women who will forever be in my heart.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I at one point realized that I need to take care of myself, (which includes a laundry list of things), in order to get well and stay well. Finally getting the will or ambition to take responsibility for my well being has allowed me to embrace so many opportunities that I never thought were possible for my life. I also believe I choose not to use drugs today, one second at a time, not only because of how bad it gets, but because of how good it can be.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is beyond what I could have ever imagined even just a year ago. I work full time, I participate in my community and a 12-step recovery program. I spend time with my family. I have continued to pay my rent and my bills on my own with my own money. I have roommates of my choice who are also some of my very best friends. I still work with a clinician and a doctor on a regular basis, and sometimes I leave feeling major pain and shame, and other days I leave there laughing. It’s a part of the work that needs to be done.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Every day is a battle but what I am still learning myself is that everything eventually passes. Maybe in moments, days, weeks or even months, but feelings pass. As I said before, I work with a clinician and have friends who I am completely honest with. Having people in my life and taking the courage to allow them to help me and support me is definitely what has saved my life time and time again. As scary as it is, using my voice and just stating out loud whatever I am feeling helps other people help me. Life is possible!

Julia’s Battle with Different Diagnosis

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

The first time I chose to starve myself, I was thirteen years old. Since then, my life plummeted into a downward spiral of anorexia, depression, anxiety, and self harm.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

At first, I saw one therapist a week, but it clearly wasn’t enough. I’ve been to an IOP program and as of now, I see two individual therapists, one group therapist, and one family therapist.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I guess when I was sent to IOP [Intensive Outpatient Program] the experience as a whole opened my eyes up to how bad my disorders had gotten.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Today, I still suffer from the illnesses listed above, though I am on the road to recovery. I’m an aspiring author and I just finished my first official manuscript, Inside Her Plastic Skin. I’m currently in the process of getting it published.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Reach out to those around you; you cannot fight these battles alone. Also, stay positive and remember — it WILL get better.

S.F: Living with Manic Depression/ Bipolar Disorder

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I was 20 years old when I had my first major manic episode in the spring of 2011 while I was going to school in California. Looking back, I know now that in the fall and winter of 2010 I was really, really depressed. I had such a hard time keeping up with my schoolwork that I stopped seeing my friends on weekends to try to catch up, but I could never concentrate on the reading and would just spend night after night crying. I remember sitting in a hallway before class one day trying to come to terms with the fact that I hated myself and that I just had to live with that feeling.

Then there was a day in early March when it all flipped. I woke up one morning and saw sunlight for the first time in months I felt good about myself and confident for the first time in months and everything seemed to be going my way. It got better and better and better until it was no longer in my control. Unfortunately, my student health services center didn’t catch the severity of my symptoms, told me I was just stressed out by “finals” and left me to my own devices.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

Eventually, my parents figured out that something was really going wrong and my mom flew out to help me come home. Within 36 hours of returning to Connecticut I saw a psychiatrist who called 911 from her office and had me admitted to the hospital where I was finally put on medication. After I was released from the hospital, I felt like I had to relearn how to do everything. I was on a heavy dose of Lithium, sleeping 14 hours a day, and totally unable to function.

Luckily, I found an amazing therapist who helped me process some of the traumatic things that happened in the two months I was manic and I still work with her today. It was awful to watch my friends go back to college in the fall and be stuck at home. I still was really struggling. I convinced my parents to let me return to California and we looked to my psychiatrist for the final approval. Her advice I’ll remember forever, “We’ll never know until we try.” When I went back to school my ability to read had not improved. In order to study, I began skipping my medication and fell into a spiral of instability. I began to experience suicidal ideation for the first time in my life. I didn’t have a support group or even a psychiatrist set up in California to catch me when my life started falling apart. My mom came out to rescue me, got me on a new medication and working with a new doctor, and helped me pull things together. However, I failed all my classes and decided to leave school again. I struggled with periods of mania and depression. After two years of struggling to keep everything together and a couple brushes with suicide I decided to move back home and try something new.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The major turning point of my illness came when I was referred to a psychopharmacologist who saved my life. Within five weeks on a new mood stabilizer I felt better able to cope with my emotions, and after months of tweaking and fine-tuning we finally found the right cocktail of medications, old and new, that controlled my symptoms. I’ll never forget the radical change I experienced just this past year when I started taking an anti-depressant that actually eliminated my depression and anxiety. I felt my ability to function shifting and growing. For a while I didn’t believe it was real and feared it was just a brief period of hypomania that would come to an end. Yet everyday I feel myself growing more stable. I’m making plans to take a class or two at a time, looking for a part-time job, and dreaming about the day I can go back to California to finish my degree. It all seems possible because I finally know that this illness is treatable and manageable.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

There is a saying I love that has stayed with me throughout my experience with my illness: “In the midst of a seemingly unending Winter, I discovered within myself an invincible Spring.” This past spring has been an amazing rebirth. Slowly I have grown stronger, clearer and better able to direct my life. I’m working odd jobs and saving up money for a trip to Spain at the end of the summer. I’m teaching myself how to play the guitar. I go for hikes and ride my bike to the beach. I spend time with my family and friends.
In many ways my life is like many other people’s lives my age. But there are aspects of my life that are different and that I no longer fight. I take my meds every morning and night without fail. I see my therapist twice a week and my psychopharmacologist twice a month. I’m 23, I’m not completely financially independent, and I still live at home with my parents. But I don’t play the “Why me?” head game, because it’s a game I’ll always lose. I never thought that Bipolar Disorder would be a part of my life. My soul has grown from this illness. My compassion, my empathy, and my courage have been ingrained in me for all time. I realize now that my path to what I want in this life is just a little bit more unpredictable.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my illness is to have patience. When Bipolar Disorder took over my life I thought I had been thrown off track and would never catch up. I rushed through my recovery, partly out of ignorance and partly out of fear that this illness was going to impact my life in ways I didn’t want it to. If you don’t think your medicine is working, find a doctor who listens to you and who you trust to give you the best care. You are ultimately the only person in charge of your mental, emotional, and physical health. Become an expert on your illness, not just theoretically but experientially. Build your awareness of your symptoms, behaviors, triggers, and habits. Don’t give up on yourself or on your treatment. It took me three years and four doctors to find medication that really made an impact on my illness. Be patient, gentle and kind with yourself. Have gratitude for all the people in your life who support you and forget about the ones who don’t understand. Believe in yourself and your ability to endure. This is just the shadowy preface to your incredible, unfolding story.

Dolce: Recovery From Bipolar Disorder

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

it all started when I was 11 I didn’t understand why I would have hyper days and then some days I would be down I always thought that I was a troubled kid and I was very misunderstood but all along I had a mental illness and I didn’t know it

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

at first I was acting out and not behaving while I was in school then I went to in patient hospital they told me I had bipolar and depression

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

things didn’t start changing for the better till I felt comfortable with what I had and learned to understand it and that it is other people like me that are successful with this disorder and accepting it and who I am and that I’m unique and I don’t have issues that I cant handle

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I have recently got my drivers license and gained my certification to become a Recovery Support Specialist work hard and got my GED and working on getting employed in that position and hopefully have my first car its going to be so surreal me by myself in my own car woow

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

what helped and stuff people say when I have tough times is when I get depressed but I found a new way of picking myself up and that is with music

Shenan’s Story on Overcoming Eating Disorder

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

It began when I was 14 and at summer camp. I wasn’t happy with myself back then. Whenever I looked in the mirror I was upset and wanted to change, but I didn’t know how. I was afraid. When I left for camp, I was given an opportunity: 3 square meals a day and no snacking in between. And when I ate, I restricted…a lot. To the point where I would wake up dizzy with hunger. But when I got back home, I was shocked and happy with how much weight I had lost. It motivated me to keep going. But no matter how much I lost, it was never enough.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

At first, I had a lot of doctors appointments (to see if my weight loss was related to an undiagnosed disease or disorder). Then my doctor recommended a specialist. I hated him and I hated going to see him because I didn’t want to admit I had a problem. It was a terrible time for me because I was very unhappy but very unwilling to change.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

My turning point was my lowest point. My therapist informed me that if things didn’t start to change, he would consider recommending that I go in-patient (for my own good because my physical health was getting poorer). The thought terrified me. I refused and got very upset. Long story short, I had to be restrained and an ambulance was called. Later that day I was miserable and in-patient, but I finally knew that something had to change. I had to change. And so I began to eat. The first meal was the hardest, but while in the hospital, I ate everything and began to really examine the reasons behind my eating disorder. After a week I went into intensive out patient. I met a lot of people going through the same struggles that I was – all at different stages in their lives. Seeing what they went through and talking with them about what I went through really solidified my resolve to get better. Finally, when I left out patient, I started seeing a new therapist. When I met her, I also met her therapy dog Phoebe. The connection I had with Phoebe was instant and I loved seeing her and talking with my therapist each week. My therapist recommended that I begin working and riding at a local horse barn, and my time there really helped my in my recovery. Those last few months prepared me to maintain my new healthy way of life.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Life now is better than ever. I’m in my final year of graduate school for a degree in social work and I’m aiming to become an animal assisted therapist to help other people who went through what I did. I have great friends and family who support me. Sometimes, I get urges to restrict, but I’ve accepted that as part of my life and I now have the tools I need to address those feelings in a positive way. I am happy and healthy!

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Don’t give up. Even though it’s hard and even though it may SEEM like the people you love are trying to work against you, they’re not. They love you and they’re trying to help you. It gets better. But in order for it to get better, you have to want it to get better. You’ll get there in the end, just don’t give up.

Depression – Erica’s Story

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I had been depressed most of my life, I first started self harming during my early sophomore year of high school. My grandmother who had Alzheimer’s was living with us, so I basically became a main caregiver for her. I was depressed, because of issues with my so called friends. I was frustrated with being a 14 year old with the responsibility of helping care for my grandmother. In school I went through a lot of bullying in 5th grade, and then severe bullying and cyberbullying by my “friends” from 7th-9th grade. Soon after the start of my self harming, suicidal thoughts came too, and 1 1/2 years later, I tried to take my own life.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

Soon after the suicidal thoughts came, I was admitted to the hospital. multiple times. I have been admitted to the hospital 12 times in a little under a year and a half. At first the hospital stays worked, I was being taught other coping skills, but after a my 9th hospital stay, I wasn’t getting the support I needed. My last hospital stay was followed by a suicide attempt. I was so hopeless, I kept going through the mental health system, not getting the help I truly needed. I was frustrated. I was angry, I was done with everything. At my last hospital stay my doctors, parents, therapists, and I all decided that I needed a residential level of care.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

Once I got into a residential program is when my life really began to change. I opened up about my past, and came to realize that the severe bullying was verbal and emotional abuse. I was diagnosed with PTSD, and started EMDR therapy. That along with a therapist that I finally “clicked” with and changes in my meds, made all the difference. The staff and doctors at the residential program actually listened to me and heard what I said to them. Even if I woke up at 3 am because of a flashback, there was a friendly face who could talk me down. Because of them I was able to transition from a therapeutic school back to my public high school for my 2nd semester of my senior year. I was able to go to prom, do all my senior pranks, and the biggest….GRADUATE! with my class. I was always told that I would never graduate with my class because of how behind I was due to my hospital stays. It felt SO great to be able to walk across that stage with my class and get my diploma I so rightfully earned.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now, I am a first semester student at a community college. I plan on becoming a Social worker, I want to be able to help older teens and young adults realize that with the right help, you can do anything you can dream of. I also plan on minoring in politics. I WILL change the mental health system here in CT. It is broken in so many places, and it is only hurting the people who need help the most.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

that it is OK to need help. That there ARE people out there who want to help you. The weight of the world may seem to be on your shoulders, you just have to keep looking for those people who will take some of that weight.

Finding a Way to Heal from Depression and Anxiety: Elizabeth’s Story

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with anxiety and depression. I will often spend hours in my head; sometimes feeling trapped with obsessive thoughts. As a kid, I had phobias of dogs, the ocean, bees, vomiting; just about everything. Social situations tend to generate lots of fear (some of which can be contributed to my Asperger’s).

Throughout elementary, middle, high school, I was with many of the same friends, and though I dealt with anxiety and depression, was able to do fairly well. I went off to college, a new environment that produced more anxiety, and by my junior/senior year was dealing with an eating disorder. I had struggled with my weight on and off for many years, and what began as an attempt to lose weight healthily, spiraled into obsession and an eating disorder. Soon after, I discovered alcohol and realized that I loved the feeling of drinking and getting drunk; to the point where I was always thinking about drinking and prioritized it over my schoolwork.

I graduated college, and was feeling incredibly lost, had no direction, and no hope. A little over a year after graduating college, I was suicidal and was hospitalized. Now, 2 years later, I am 18 months sober, working full time, and seeking out new adventures.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

When I was 10, I began seeing a Psychiatrist for therapy and medication. She has helped immensely over the years and I still see her today. In college, had some sessions with counselors at the student counseling center, but I did not fully open up to them and so they were not useful. I went to two outpatient programs, for the eating disorder and alcohol use, as well as a residential eating disorder program. All of them were beneficial in hindsight, but I was somewhat resistant at the time.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I would say there were two turning points. The first was when I left the residential eating disorder program and went into an outpatient program. Although I didn’t change overnight, I believe it was immensely helpful at helping me open up and be honest. About six months later, I stopped drinking. This, I identify as the second turning point. It was terrifying to stop drinking, but over the last year and a half, it has made such a difference.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Life is generally stable these days. For the first time in many years, I feel hopeful on a daily basis. I am working full time for an educational consulting/tutoring group based in Greenwich, Connecticut. In the next year or so, I would like to continue becoming more independent (moving out of my dad’s house is a major goal). Hopefully I can continue to figure out my interests and hobbies. I would love to explore different paths to go with my math degree, and I also want to take rock-climbing lessons.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I would say that it is best not to let whatever you are going through build up inside. I know how it can be REALLY challenging to find someone to talk to, and also challenging to open up once you have a person to confide in. It can be difficult to ask for help (I still find it difficult to ask for help). However, it is worth it, and people want to help!

Katie’s Battle with Depression and Trichotillomania

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I started experiencing depression around the age of 13. Bullying and alienation were prominent in my middle school career and my parent didn’t really offer as much support as I would have liked. As time went on, the depression didn’t go away. Nothing I had previously enjoyed seemed fun or interesting anymore. I made up stories in my head to make up for the fact that I didn’t have any friends. After a particularly bad bus ride I seriously contemplated suicide for the first time. After I switched schools the depression became a steady background for my growing anxiety problems. I’d have moments of intense fear during specific classes and environments that reminded me of middle school. I was afraid to ask questions or give answers because I was afraid that if I spoke up, I might go back to being the “weird, Annoying Book worm”. During my first year of college, the depression resurfaced with a vengeance. I was so lonely I would literally lay in my bed and have a conversation with whatever God (but mostly my ceiling) would care enough to listen and beg them to make me pass away in my sleep. The real blow throughout my entire life was the fact that whenever I would try to do something for myself, it would ALWAYS fall through the cracks. It always felt like I was almost standing tall before something would kick my legs out from underneath me and send me back to the floor.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

At first (about age 13), it was my Dad’s therapist that I would go to see every week. It was there I was diagnosed with trichotillomania (an anxiety disorder that makes you pull out your hair). But after about a month or two, my parents didn’t feel like driving the distance to get me to my appointments. I didn’t really want to go back to therapy after that because I didn’t want to share my problems with another person. It felt like, at some point, something would reach my school and make my problems worse.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

My freshman year of college really turned my life around. It started with finding some great new friends who had some of the same issues as me so they knew what to do when I started telling them about my troubles. From there I met my current therapist, got diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and pervasive Depressive disorder. That diagnosis helped me do something that has never happened before on my college campus. I am the first student in the 125 year history of my college’s career to have an emotional support dog on campus.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Because I have my dog Frey, I don’t focus as much on my anxiety and my depressive episode have become much milder. Not only that, but Frey acts as a furry ice breaker! He really makes interacting with others a lot easier.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

For those of you who are having a tough time, I know not everything I say will make you feel like you can handle what you, personally, are going through. That’s why I would suggest taking a time out. Literally, just pick up and go. If someone asks you why you left, tell them honestly how you’re feeling even if they are not directly involved. Most people will understand. Grab your favorite sweet/fried food, write down what you’re feeling, eat the food, and then take a nap. It feels good. Once you feel a little bit more pulled together go talk to someone.

EZ: Steps to Managing My Anger

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

Well, I didn’t consider it mental health; I just thought I had a short temper. I was like 3 years old when I got into my first fight and I tried to stab a kid in the neck with a pen. I’ve been in and out of Anger Management since 3 years old.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I was 16. That’s when I first went in the hospital in Hartford. I was there for like my whole summer learning ways to control my anger. At that time I was still having issues with my family. I thought it was better but then I went to the hospital, and that just made me feel worse. But then after a while I started to realize it was worth it. I was in Waterford Country School, a residential school; they taught me different ways of controlling my anger.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

What got me really to realize it was when I was homeless. That really got me to notice that I really need the help, and when me and my girlfriend broke up, that really…’cause she’s the one who told me that I have a bad temper and stuff like that, and I need to learn how to control it. I never listened to her until I lost her, and that’s when I was like “yeah, I really need the help.”

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Back then I didn’t think anything of it, but then I started noticing what triggers my anger and all that. I can’t talk to my family about it because nobody in my family would understand. And nobody in my family takes me seriously. . So instead I always wrote everything down as poetry. Poetry and staying out of the house, finding ways to keep busy going to my neighbor’s house and watching TV with them; all those things really helped.

Patrick: Controlling My Anger Towards Others

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I was diagnosed at age 8. I was always the odd one in elementary school and as a fact of that, I was made fun of and it led to my immense anger and harbored hatred towards society as a whole.

When I was diagnosed, however, I took pride in the fact that I had something that many other kids did not and I boasted and bragged about it for months until I got expelled.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

Therapy and group therapy was extremely helpful. I went to an alternate education school called Cooperative Educational Services, where I made awesome friends and also met my two best friends in the whole world.

Cooperative Educational Services made me realize that I could change myself if I really applied myself to what I wanted to do with my life, which is becoming a storywriter for role-playing games while working with Bioware or Bethesda Studios, two of the biggest developers in the world when it comes to role-playing games.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I fell in love for the first time ever in 10th grade, it definitely taught me the importance of love and how passion and joy can quickly turn to hate and pain. It also taught me to learn when to hold onto love and when to let go.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life right now has lots of ups and downs and many twists of fate almost weekly. But I’ve been slowly transforming into a person that I can be proud of. I’ve realized that I do not need anyone’s approval besides my own.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

Keep being you. If society is trying to bring you down, ignore it and be yourself. If your friends try to change you, they’re not your friends. If your family tries to change you, don’t give in simply because you’re blood. Remember that.

Kristen: Finding Myself Through Depression and Anxiety

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I’ve been depressed as far back as I can remember. The first time I contemplated suicide I was only 11 years old. That was a clear red flag that I needed help but I kept quiet about it. When I was 13, I was appointed to a therapist because a teacher saw cuts on my wrists.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

The first therapist I saw was very unhelpful but it wasn’t her fault. I didn’t want to be there so I refused to reveal any relevant information or talk about anything of importance. Instead I would mostly complain about school or just sit in silence until she asked me about the cutting. I would reply with a vague answer and then quickly change the subject. It took me years to finally realize if I wanted to feel better, then I needed help – and most importantly, I needed to be completely honest. Only then did therapy finally begin to work.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I was 18, I had a severe panic attack and my friend called an ambulance. I was hostile to the EMTs and snapped at the doctor in the E.R. At the time, I wasn’t seeing a therapist so after that incident my mom tried to find me one. She spoke with one physician who didn’t take our insurance but my mom explained the situation to her and the physician said that based on what my mother had told her it was absolutely imperative I seek help right away.
The new therapist diagnosed me with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, because he was only exposed to me during my depressive states. After some time, I would begin to feel better and thought I no longer needed therapy. Then, after a few months, I would become depressed again and call him for another appointment. I now understand that this is because I have extreme mood swings as a result of being bipolar.
After finally receiving the right diagnosis at 20, things began to look up because I finally had a reason for the way I behaved that my previous diagnosis did not explain. The treatment and therapy I received from that point on was much more effective because my doctors and counselors knew what they were dealing with.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Living with this disorder today is still a struggle but I now know how to cope with my problems thanks to many types of therapy. My moods have stabilized with the help of being on the right medication.

I still see a therapist weekly to maintain relative stability in all aspects of my life; I also see a counselor at a recovery center to help keep me doing well in college. The college is also informed of my disability and offers me several accommodations regarding my schoolwork.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

If you are having a tough time, always seek help from friends, family or a professional. No matter how dismal any experience, I believe that there is a kind of therapy/solution for everyone, you just have to be patient and advocate for yourself. Most importantly, be honest!

Isabel Story: Thoughts of Self-harm

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I think it was probably around 7th grade. I was just really tired all the time; I would cry a lot, that’s when I started cutting myself, like self-injury. I had a hard time really regulating my emotions, I felt really alone. I was depressed, really.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I know it took me a couple months before I told anybody how I was feeling. Beginning of 7th grade I started feeling like that, and then it took me about a year to get into actual therapy, besides a school counselor. And then after that I had a therapist in 8th grade at the community center. I remember seeing a school counselor in 8th grade, and when I confided in her that I was self-harming, she immediately told my parents. At the time it felt like a betrayal of trust. I just remember that created a lot of turmoil at home. That was one of my first experiences with help. It was just a bad experience.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I was hospitalized twice sophomore year. This was where my story turns around. It sucks that it took that long for me to finally feel better, but I appreciate my struggle at this point. I went to the hospital and I was there for like 2 weeks, which is pretty long because the hospital sucks, but it was so necessary. It was the most necessary thing I’ve ever done. And my parents, when I was about to be discharged, they told me “we don’t want you home. It’s not safe for you to be at home right now. We’re very angry with you and we’re sure you’re very angry with us.” It was just a very, very bad relationship, nothing was really working. So they sent me to a group home. I was there from June 2012 to January 2013. Being there really saved my life.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I’ve been home for a year now. Half of my struggle is my behavior and my thought processes, but the chemical piece is fixed.

Yeah, I get sad, and yeah my sads are more extreme than some people’s, but I don’t get to where I want to kill myself when something bad happens. I’ve rebuilt my relationship with my parents, and I’m applying for colleges and I got into six. My life is completely turned around.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

You need to talk. You need to take the first step and be courageous enough to ask for help, because that is the most courageous thing you can do and it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Talk about how you’re feeling and ask to see someone. Ask to go on medication, if that’s what you want, and ask to go to group therapy, if that’s what you want. People just want to pretend that they feel fine and maybe it’ll go away, but it won’t. It will just bubble up at inconvenient times.

Justine: What Happens When I Self-Harm

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I drew a picture of myself on fire—that was a red flag for a third grader! It was little things too – I didn’t want to do soccer anymore, I’d throw a hissy fit in class. I was bullied quite a bit. Books were my friends. I had no other friends—I drove them away because I would stop talking to them, I’d get too nervous. I’m constantly thinking about what other people are thinking. I can’t get out of my own head.

Seventh grade I came to school one day sobbing. I was trying to be all cool and stuff, and then I just broke down. I’m in the office and I rubbed the bridge of my nose red raw. I just kept rubbing and it was red and ugly. And I kept rubbing my fingers together. I just had to touch things. That day I remember really clearly, because that was my first hospitalization.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

My mom recognized the signs because she is also diagnosed with a similar disorder. She really helped me out there. She started with the school—I started talking to the school psychologist. I had been meeting with a therapist after their divorce.

I’ve transferred schools twice, both to special ed schools. I went to the hospital in 7th grade, in 8th grade, 3 times freshman year, once or twice sophomore year. I started at my high school for a month, then my absences got out of control. Self-harm, suicide attempt, hospital entry number 3. By junior year I hadn’t self-harmed for like a couple of months and everything was getting better.

I didn’t know even my proper diagnosis, it had changed so frequently. The medications I was on were changing every three minutes. My psychiatrist prescribed this, that, that, this. The hospital prescribed this, that, that, that.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I went to the hospital and they were like “look, this is her third hospitalization. It’s not really working out well. We need to do something.” So I went to a DBT program and that was probably one of the best decisions of my life, as much as I didn’t want to do it at the time. DBT is fantastic. The radical acceptance was awesome. The fact that you can’t change other people is great.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I’m so happy I switched therapists. I’ve had the same psychologist for 6 years now, and she’s seen me through so much. I love her to bits. And senior year has been great.

I make all my teachers aware I have super bad Generalized Anxiety Disorder and bipolar. I actually tell my peers—I do not hide it. They’re like, “whoa, you don’t seem bipolar,” and I’m like, “what does that mean?” Try to poke at them a little, make them think about what they said.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

Talking is the first step: don’t bottle. You should talk to friends after talking to someone who knows what to do, how to help you. Friends can help you on levels professionals can’t, but professionals can go way beyond the level friends can. A friend can’t prescribe an anti-depressant, you know?

You have to be really picky and choosy. I’m glad I tried everything or else I wouldn’t have found the right one.

D.T’s Story on Finding Himself

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

It all started to the beginning day of acceptance. I acknowledged there was something different from me than a normal person. Things were hard for me to manage and when explaining myself, I would get lost in translation. My parents put me through a rehab program for my drug use. Through that process of rehab, I was doing my own self-discovery.

I thought that I was different in so many ways. I felt like human being but there was a blockage for information to get through and out when talking or doing something. My beliefs were all wrong. I thought that I could be that small percentage of being different than others. But realized there are with similar diagnosis that also struggle through the similar difficulties. We all have our own strengths and weakness. Mine was comprehension and focus.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I got help by going to Rehab and grasping hold of a better understanding. I tried identifying my faults in order to balance myself back into reality. I sought professional help from the doctor who helped me understand my bi-polar and thought disorder. I didn’t identify these struggles until inducing marijuana to help me relax and do things out of the norm.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

There were turning points when dealing with substance abuse that negatively impacted my life. I tried staying positive and working on my own internal self but it was when triggers started to activate that brought me back to doing all the wrong things. The norms for me are unusual and that what I was used to. But I got better.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Life for me now is manageable. I am learning how to be a respectful and most affective civilian that I could truly be. I started to exercise the human mind as well as keeping in shape to have a healthier life and I didn’t give up! By trying you are doing half the work.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

Change is a definite. The amount of time you put in reflects on your own attributes.

D.B.

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I was born with my disabilities. I had a lot of anger problems as a kid.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I started getting help when I was 7 years old. At that age it wasn’t my decision to get help it was my grandparents. When I was 14 I decided then that I still needed help and agreed to do therapy and medication management.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I was between 13 and 14 I was having a lot of problems with impulses and depression and anger. It got so bad that I left my house and got put into a group home. I thought I would be going right back home, but I was put in a foster home. It had a big effect on me.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now I go to therapy to help with depression and life skills. My life is stable. I take my medication every day and go to group at the Young Adult Services every week.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

Talking about the past and your problems is tough but it really helps! It takes a while, but in the long run it’s worth it.

Vered Story: Life After Sexual Assualt

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

When I was 10, I was just standing by the road and thought about crossing the street in front of a car, on purpose.

When I was 18 or 19 things really started falling apart fast. I had issues with self-esteem and feeling safe and a lot of anxiety. I’d go outside and I was dorming at the time, and I almost expected the characters from a TV show to come out of the woodwork from around buildings. I knew they weren’t going to, I wasn’t seeing things, but I was struggling to keep things real. I couldn’t sleep for more than 4 hours for the last three weeks before I went into the hospital when I was 19. I would isolate a lot, I felt lonely.

Getting the diagnosis was sort of a validation of what I have: It’s a something!

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

When I was 14 I came out to my mother as being a survivor of childhood sexual assault, so we found a counselor. From that point until I was about 20, I would start and stop therapy based on, “well, now my anxieties and my insecurities and my problems relating to PTSD are flaring up,” or “I’m in a new place, so I’ll seek therapy and I’ll tell them my six-word memoir.” Then I wouldn’t know what else to do.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I was 19 there was an interview process [with a therapist] that had never happened before. It was sort of a revelation to put all of these pieces together finally. She was asking me concrete questions about suicide ideation, history of self-harm, delusions. I had never been asked before. It helped me find out what I was dealing with so I could know what I wanted to do about it.

I saw her a few times and then I erupted at my dad over something that he thought was really not a big deal, and I laid it out for him: I am not just being sensitive, I am not just being like my mom, whatever the hell that means anyway because at that point they were divorced! I told him that I had my first experience with suicide ideation when I was 10 years old and I’ve never done anything about it in terms of resolving or figuring it out or anything, and I laid it out for him and he sat there quietly and said “OK. Well, I’m going to make some phone calls and we’re going to figure out what to do because whatever you’re doing isn’t working.” So he gave me information for a psychologist and she had me crying inside of twenty minutes, balling my eyes out, and she suggested inpatient or intensive outpatient, and I said that would be okay….

I got effective treatment in the hospital. I was in there and everyone I spoke with, the other patients, said that they wanted to get out … [but] I’d been dealing with symptoms for 10 years and hadn’t gotten anything to work. So I went in there and I said “I’m not leaving until you do your damn job.”

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I’m working full-time, which I’ve never done before. I’ve graduated from community college, which I’ve been chipping away at for a long time. I’ve completed different trainings, some for me to get stronger and some for me to help other people in the same boat. I feel safe where I’m living, though I’m not living on my own yet—that’s a goal of mine. I go on adventures into the city, and I have a circle of very close friends. I have a good relationship with both of my parents, which for a while was an issue. I feel stronger.

I still have days where things don’t go the way I want them to, but I handle it a lot better and I do what I need so that I don’t fall apart like I used to. Right now I’m titrating off my psych meds with the support of my psychiatrist, to see if I can be okay without them—‘cause I’ve got a lot more coping skills and a better support network than when I started seven years ago.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

I would definitely want to say: you are allowed to have bad days, and you deserve to have good days.

I would say: your provider works for you! It is their job to help you achieve and maintain wellness, and if they’re not doing that, find someone else who will. Ask questions, like “what should I expect from seeing you,” “what should I expect from treatment,” “what goals do you think I should be setting,” “what will it look like when I’m ready to be discharged. “

To family members, I would say: trust that [the person who’s struggling] is trying their hardest. And read a lot! Do research. Don’t be afraid of doing research and coming back and saying, “what do you think? Does this reflect your experience?”

Keep in mind [that your family] may very well have the best of intentions but they are not the authority. They’re trying the best way they know how.

Arlene: Triumph From Depression and Anxiety

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

While my childhood was for the most part fine, it was not until I entered middle school when the real trauma began. Aside from the bullying I endured (which included a homeroom teacher), trouble in my family escalated. This led me down to a deep depression; my anxiety spun out of control. They both lasted for years, throughout my high school career up until my start at college. Even now I still feel the effects and I was 13 when it began.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I always received help since I can remember, mostly due to my Asperger’s. In regard to my depression and anxiety, I primarily saw the school social worker. For middle school it did no help at all (it actually caused more problems). High school was different though. She was very helpful.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

In regard to a turning point in my life, I would have to say they all happened during my time so far at college because since 8th grade, I have always thought things would get better once I get into college. For example, during my first semester at my local community college in 2012 I was accepted for a job at the admissions office and still work there, lost 21 pounds, made close friendships and more.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Overall I would say my life at this moment is going well. I’m currently transitioning myself from living with a parent to obtaining my own apartment though. A little stressful but I am going to try and worry too much.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

I am aware how being in a tough time makes you believe nothing will get better. It does, however, the person who is having a tough time needs to take some initiative to help them move in the right direction such as seeking a school counselor.

Amanda

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I had bullying issues that started in 3rd grade. When I entered 6th grade it really got bad. At the end of 6th grade I became very suicidal.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

At the end of 6th grade I became very suicidal, got scared, and told someone. I was in therapy for the summer and that was the end of it. It got a little better but mostly I stopped talking about how I was feeling. Things stayed the same till the end of high school, when I started getting what I called mood swings.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I consider certain parts of my life important. One is 6th grade, and another is 8th grade, I learned more lessons than I could count. I started college and was blessed enough to have a RA who knew something was wrong. She tried so hard to get me to go to therapy. I refused but when I realized the next year that I needed help, I already knew where to go.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am doing great now. After getting fired from my last job in 2012, I am finally working again. I have regained the ability to dream. I now believe that I can do anything, that my dreams are possible. It has taken years. It took years of trying, “failing,” then trying again and feeling like I’m getting nowhere.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

No matter how many times you fall, keep getting back up and do the work because recovery happens when the things that you have heard and keep trying to do finally click. Nobody knows how long that will take. But most importantly, I would tell someone that they are ok, that there is nothing wrong with them. They are still a person, just like everyone else. And that you are not alone, and things really can get better even though for most of the journey recovery will seem like an impossible dream.

Battling Anxiety and Depression: S.E.

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I was 15, beginning my sophomore year of high school. I woke my mom up in the middle of the night and told her that sometimes I thought about suicide. After that, I started seeing a therapist for the first time. I was dealing largely with anxiety with a side of depression.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

When I first got help, I started seeing a therapist. She and my parents worked with the school counseling department to figure out what would be best for me. It was very helpful for me and I slowly improved over the course of my sophomore year. By the time junior year came around I only saw my therapist every couple of months to check in.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

My senior year started and the pressure of college applications and other expectations sent me back into a downward spiral. This time around I was dealing with much heavier depression than I had before. I started seeing my therapist regularly about a month or so into my senior year, and at the end of November I began seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed me antidepressants. This, however, was ineffective, and I was hospitalized on New Year’s Eve. I stayed in the hospital for 11 days, where they changed my medications and recommended a new type of therapy: DBT. DBT has really helped me to learn a lot of coping strategies and preventative techniques that help me stay happy and healthy.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I just finished a gap year between high school and college. That time allowed me to learn a lot about myself and the type of person I am. I feel unbelievably more prepared to go to college than I was a year ago. Obviously, life still has its ups and downs, but I am in a much better place than I was my senior year of high school, and I look forward to the rest of my life. I even just came off one of my medications and I still feel good.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier?

As cheesy as it is, I believe that there is a fire inside of everyone that keeps you going from one moment to another. If you are alive, then so is your flame. Whether you need to build a wall around it to keep the wind out, or pluck it up and carry it somewhere else, there is a way to grow your flame. The first bit is always the hardest, but once you get some momentum going it becomes a lot easier. Find your flame and help it grow into a bonfire, and at least protect it from dying out. The long and short of it is, it may be bad right now, but no matter how hard it is there is always a way to make it better, so don’t give up.