You have a choice
At just seventeen years old, I was a mother of two and married to an abusive husband. Life was a challenge. As a child, I knew I was different. I have always felt afraid, like something bad was always about to happen. I didn’t know that my mental illness was the reason I felt constant fear and dread. I had no idea what mental illness was, let alone how to treat it. Growing up, emotion wasn’t allowed in my household and medication was to only be taken when someone was ill or in physical pain. I didn’t know I could get help for my mental health and no one reached out to help. If someone did, my life would have been different.
My family moved to Arkansas from Texas when I was 10. I dreamed of going to college in Austin or joining the Navy when I graduated high school. As a teenager, I was driven but I struggled finding who I was and was easily lead by people I shouldn’t have followed, and that got me into a lot of trouble. I was 16 when I had my daughter, married her father at 17, and had a son the next year. I didn’t know how to deal with my illness and I allowed it to consume me. I was beating myself up for being where I was, I didn’t achieve those goals. I tried to commit suicide twice. I was lucky to survive then and I am so thankful. I knew I couldn’t make a choice like that again with two small children. I knew something had to change.
If you are struggling with a mental illness and don’t know where to turn, find something that can keep you above water and a reason to get out of bed when you can’t seem to do it alone. Don’t give up.
You are not alone
When my illness was bad, all I wanted to do was to be still because everything hurt. Not only did I have my own struggles but my sister was waging her own battle with addiction. I was under a lot of stress that almost pushed me off the edge, I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t believe in myself and had no support from my spouse. At 23, I felt myself slipping away but I didn’t know how to tell people. There’s a stigma with mental illness and I didn’t want people to think I was a “head case” or a “freak.”
I finally reached out for help when I was 23. I was diagnosed with clinical depression, general anxiety, and codependency. I needed the help, not only to help myself but for the sake of my children. I didn’t want to fail them. I wanted to get better. I attended therapy, was on medication, and divorced my husband. I could no longer be in a negative relationship and try to help myself. And I’m glad I did.
Every day is still a struggle, but I try to focus on my goals; being the best mom I can be, learning as much as I can in my field of work, and making sure my family is happy. I keep myself busy and keep the darkness away.
My advice to you is, it will be hard but you can’t give up. If you know someone who struggles with their mental health, don’t give up on them…even if they push you out. It took me the hard way to find that out. I ran away from friends and relationships because I was certain they would have abandoned me anyway. I was wrong. Sometimes all a person needs is someone to tell them it will be ok and to know that they are not alone, even if they feel that way.
You are worth it
After being diagnosed and beginning properly treated at 23, I’ve learned to cope with my anxiety and depression in healthier ways. I model and run: two things I could do to make my mind stop racing. These activities make things quiet and help my brain de-stress. Modeling was refreshing. I loved seeing a different side of me. I felt confident in front of a camera…I felt brave. I love my job as an Optician, I am the proud mother of two great kids, and I am in a new happy and loving relationship.
Just last year I shared my story to friends and family through photos I took that captured how I felt dealing with my depression and anxiety. The response I received was shocking. Everyone was supportive and caring. Two of my friends and even my sister reached out to me, letting me know it helped them. It melted my heart knowing my voice helped someone.
That experience pushed me to joined Youth Home’s Live Stigma Free campaign. I want to help others and to help myself. It’s nice not to have to hide anymore. I’m not afraid to admit I’ve had a problem with mental illness. I am not a label or a statistic. I am a person who struggled for many years, picked myself up, and got help. If I can do it you can too. If I can reach out to at least one person with my story, it will all be worth it because I want them to know they are worth it.
At 26, I can say I do my best every day to keep my head up and I am confident about my life and future.