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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.

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.

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