Do not look at my mental illnesses as a disease that is to be feared, and never listen to my real feelings. This is folly. This is foolishness of heart. No medication will replace what listening to the issue from those who live with so called mental illnesses.
I have been battling depression my entire life and yet I have managed to survive even after several attempts at suicide. My father committed suicide in my presence when I was a child and my Uncle committed suicide because he was terminally ill. They say it runs in families, but I’m trying to break the cycle. My diagnosis is Major Depressive Disorder and like many others who suffer from this mental illness, I’m aware of society’s outlook on it, but I also know it’s not my fault. My ability to get through this is not without help. I take antidepressants and go to therapy; the two go hand in hand. More importantly, I am learning why I hurt myself and why I’m self destructive. I think this is the first step in accepting one’s self and learning how to understand and deal with certain behaviors associated with depression. People have told me that my father was a coward for taking the easy way out and I grew up ashamed of him. When people asked about how he died I would lie and say “he was in a car accident” because people could handle that better and I wasn’t ousted. Now I am him and I understand what he was going through and I do not think he was a coward, I just think he was ill. My wish is that the public would become more educated on the subject.
I care deeply about the wellness of people’s lives and how the act of simply talking and truly caring about someone can potentially save other’s lives.
My first real art lesson was when my father taught me how draw a rose using basic shapes and shading. I don’t exactly remember my dad when I was little except that he was a really jolly fellow and as round as Santa. But today I’m really glad that I got my creativity and corny humor from him. My father had always prompted me to be creative and that was one of the greatest gifts he had left me with.
When I was in 6th grade and only 11 years old he passed away all too suddenly. I had arrive at the hospital the day he died from kidney problems and there were no last “I love yous” or “I’m proud of you.” I wanted to be strong, I wanted straight A’s and I wanted to do it all for my dad. This was my way of thinking that temporarily helped me to survive my 3 years in middle school. But the years of denial and the bottling in of my emotions caught up to me and strangled my health. I needed help but I wasn’t conditioned to ask for anything. In my graduating year in 8th grade I wasn’t only struggling with delayed grieving of my father but I was also having extreme difficulty making speeches as the student body president and preparing for the 8th grade oral presentation all at once.
I work as a peer supporter. I came down with schizophrenia in college when I was 22 years old. For the first seven years, getting the wrong treatment, I thought I didn’t have an illness, but was plagued by a conspiracy. I finally had to accept that it was an illness when I finally got on a medication that worked. I worked for my state NAMI and then for a peer-run wellness and recovery center, both of which have given me the peer support that allowed me to recover. I have also been in a support group run by a social worker for over half of my life, and the social worker has been in the group for over half of her life. About nine years ago, I found a spiritual community where I could fit in, which I never thought I would find. This has given me a spiritual teacher, meaning in life, a meditation practice, and holy company. With both my spiritual peers and my mental health community peers, I have a fulfilling life. In fact, a while ago I looked at an old song I wrote where I said: “I do not live, I merely exist.” I was surprised that I had ever felt this way, although in the old days I had periods when I was suicidal. I still have times when I am depressed and frustrated, but overall, cliched though it may sound, I have come a long way from where I used to be.Recovery is real.
I am currently 24 years old. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17 after a manic episode that had me up for 3 days with burst of energy and anxiety. It was strange, it was exciting, but most of all it was scary for myself and family. After staying in a inpatient facility for a few weeks and having my 18th birthday in the hospital. I felt the love, compassion, and selflessness of the workers there. I felt so lost in my own mind yet also comforted that I was somewhere that provided me with hope that things were going to be okay.The people there and caregivers gave the strength to forgive myself for the stress I had put on my loved ones. I look back after 7 years and think about what would have happened without the help of mental health professionals, medicine, and the compassion of the hospital community. This is why organizations like Nami are so important. The stigma of mental illness needs to go away, We are not alone and our community can only grow stronger. I want to help others who were scared like me talk to family members who may not understand and share my story. I continue to fight the stigma, ignorance, and the illness everyday and I know the NAMI community is right there with me. You are not alone
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