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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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