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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!

sasha with dog

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.

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