Category Archives: Bipolar

Stigma Fighters: Sarah M.C.

More than anything, I want to help other people around me. Ever since I was young, I’ve always helped others before helping myself. I was under the impression from a young age that if you gave yourself self-love or self-care that you were selfish. This is unfortunately the conditioning that we receive at a very early stage in our lives, especially for young girls were we are primed for motherhood at four years old when we get our first doll. We’re taught to care for everyone else around us, no matter what the expense. As I helped my friends through their own parental struggles, I suppressed mine, and kept mine hidden from others. Only when my friends would come over to our home would they really see the tragic Shakespearean drama unfolding. From the outside, our house looked normal. We seemed like a normal family. We lived in a beautiful suburb in a small town close to the sandy shores Lake Michigan. I went to a public school that was rated more as a private school because of the high academic standards. I played some volleyball, and softball in school, but was drawn more towards the arts, creative writing, ironically drama. I had kids comment to me that our family was “rich”, and that they were actually jealous that they didn’t live in our house. They didn’t see, however, the hell that was unfolding inside of our Beaver Cleaver home.

The truth was that while I was busy helping the other kids in school with their own problems, I had to learn to live with my mother’s alcoholism. It started when I was about thirteen years old. That’s when I found out that I was an aunt. Everyone in our family knew that my brother had a child out of wedlock, but my parents thought it was best not to tell me until they thought that I could “handle” it. To this day I’m not sure why they thought that. My sweet little niece was nine months old before I finally got to meet her. I was so upset with my parents for lying to me. I knew months before they told me because of the not so subtle hints dropped around the house. It was also about this time that I noticed that my mom started to drink a lot more than usual. My parents always loved a good party and lived a pretty affluent lifestyle, but after my niece was born, everything shifted in our home. No longer did I look forward to going home after school. I would spend much of my time locked upstairs blaring my music, dancing, or writing poetry or short stories as a form of escapism from the hell that was below me in the living room. I lashed out with teenage rebellion and started to drink and smoke too, although that only turned into an enabling her behavior. My mom bought me my first pack of cigarettes at age sixteen, and let me drink as long as I was at home with her. I also learned very quickly, that you don’t talk about your problems with others because the first thing that people have a propensity to do, is to judge you. The only worse thing than being judged was to be pitied.

When I moved out for good at twenty-years old, I thought that things would be different. It was so much worse. The drunken phone calls at work, the weekends of her destroying herself, the cornucopias amounts of cigarettes and beer consumed to fill whatever void in her soul that needed to be healed. Yet, I never stopped loving her. I knew that whatever inner demons she had, she was working on it in the only way that she knew how to. I never blamed her for her shortcomings. Where she lacked in some areas, she excelled in others. Like every child of an alcoholic, I desperately sought my mother’s approval, and let her own self-destruction also consume me. I felt utterly responsible for her, and felt guilty if I didn’t pick up that phone call at work. Sometimes, I would just let her sob and speak incoherently while I typed up daily memos. Other times, I would softly yell at her, so my co-workers couldn’t listen, of what a mess she is. She never remembered our conversations the next day, so there were some nights were I said some pretty awful things to her.

I wanted so badly not be anything like my mother, but instead, I turned into the thing that I feared the most. I started going to parties to purposely get drunk. I was hoping that she would see how pathetic it was and learn something from my behavior. Instead, she tossed it up for her daughter just being a “party girl”. There’s actually three years of my life that are a complete blur. I would go to work in the morning, get off by eleven o’clock p.m., go get drunk with some friends, then go back to work the next day. I can’t tell you how many times that I was stupid enough to drive home drunk. I am so lucky that I never killed anyone or myself in those years. I was reckless, and had a wild abandonment, and I didn’t care. I just wanted her to see me. The truth was that she was so self-absorbed in her own narcissism that she never noticed what I did. As long as the appearance was there that we were a “normal” family, she didn’t really care too much about anyone else unless it was convenient for her. Neither of my parents paid that much attention to me.  My mom was consumed with grief from her own past, and my dad worked eighty hours a week, leaving me a lot of times to my own devises. I slid by with C’s and D’s in school, and they rarely ever went to my parent teacher conferences unless I was about to fail a class, and only a handful of times attended school functions. I didn’t like myself starting at a young age.  After being bullied for years, I thought for a brief moment to commit suicide at thirteen years old.  Luckily it was only for a minute.  For my own form of therapy I began to photograph, write poetry and short stories, and paint. The truth was, I had a lot of potential, but no one believed in me. I didn’t realize that I could’ve believed in myself, because no one ever taught me that before.


It’s no wonder then, that I developed General Anxiety Disorder and Depression when I was a child. My mother (having the stigma belief that if you had a mental illness that you were crazy) never thought once of how her drinking behavior would affect me in the long run into my adulthood. Never once stopped to think that maybe she had a mental illness.  After seeing one of my paintings, she threatened to take me to a psychologist in a not-so-nice tone.  As if I should be ashamed to seek help.

Almost two years ago I finally broke down to see a doctor because my anxiety was so bad that I had now developed IBS/ SIBO from the years of anxiety in my digestive system. My intestinal lining had started to eat away, causing leaky gut. One day I noticed fungal lesions breaking out all over my body. Then the panic attacks started coming more frequently and with more fever. I was desperate to get to the bottom of what was happening to me. I went to my naturopath with a list of symptoms, and for some reason that day I added anxiety and depression. After careful review of my chart she said, “You have General Anxiety Disorder”. She gave me some herbal supplements, and sent me to see another doctor who also diagnosed me with anxiety and depression.  For the first time I was in my life I recommended that I see a therapist.  I was terrified. But I took the leap of faith and had my first therapy appointment where she mentioned she suspected that I might have bipolar disorder. Immediately, I thought of my mother, and how my sister and I would comment about our mother’s own mental wellbeing. For years we speculated that she was bipolar. If I had it, chances were good that she did too.

The cruel irony of all of this is I had to move 5,000 miles away from my mother to start to heal our relationship. She continued to drink until three years ago; four months after my Dad passed away. She quit cold turkey. Overnight. When I told her that I was seeing a therapist, she told me that she went to a psychologist once when she too turned forty. She told me that when she left she was so upset with herself because the therapist made her feel inferior. She screamed at herself in the car as she was sobbing to pull herself together. That she was “stronger than that” then added, “That’s when I picked up my first case of beer”. I will never forget that conversation. I realized that she also didn’t have any self-love for herself, so how could she show love for others? If only she had stuck with therapy, and gone on medication, she might have not needed to feel a need to pick up that case of beer that day.  That would have made me eight years old.  I guess she and my dad hid it well from me until I was thirteen.

Today, speaking with my mother, you would never have thought she was an alcoholic for thirty years. As that scared child though, who never knew what to expect when she came home from school, I still am mad at her. A part of me might always be mad at her. I may not ever have the love that I so desperately craved as a child, but I have the love of my mother as an adult.  I have for the most part come to understand the reasons why she drank, but never fully forgiving her.

I so wish that I had started therapy while I was in high school. Today, I sit here and wonder how much different my life would have been had I sought help. I lived in that hell alone, as a thirteen-year-old girl. I wonder if I would have had the courage to go off to college. If maybe, I would be a social worker, or psychologist like I so wanted to be growing up. I wonder if I would have reacted stronger and not have taken it personally when she would go on a tyrant and call me “stupid”. I try not to live my life in “what-if’s” and have little regret, but now as an adult I can see that maybe I could have been a little happier if the stigma of mental illness didn’t exist and we both got the help that we needed. I would have gotten the proper care, and would have saved myself mentally and physically. Now, as an adult, I realize that I have the opportunity to encourage, and support others going through similar situations. I want to break down that social stigma by whatever means that I have. That starts here. Being open, honest, raw and real about whom I am and my own story of how mental illness has affected me.


FB_IMG_1456624638355Sarah M.C. is an Adult Child of an Alcoholic/ Bipolar II Disorder/
General Anxiety Disorder. She has struggled with anxiety and
depression most of her life, but wasn’t diagnosed until near her
fortieth birthday. She is the Founder/ President of DBSA Aloha
Honolulu, a non-profit organization dedicated to raise awareness on
depression and bipolar disorder.  She is also a blogger featured in
Your Tango and Psych Central, along with being a tea leaf/ tarot
reader, photographer and hobby artist.  She and her husband of
eighteen years currently reside in Honolulu, Hawaii. When they aren’t
globe-trotting or working on their businesses, she can be found
sipping on some tea snuggled with her cat.

Sarah can be found on Twitter

 

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John Kaniecki

MORE THAN THE MADNESS
My name is John Kaniecki and I suffer from bipolar disorder. Please allow me to present my credentials. I have been hospitalized nine times three of them being committed. I have spent over a year locked away. I even spent a night in jail. When I first started taking the medicine I needed to get blood tests every week. Now I get them once every month. I had a pretty violent childhood. Not to the extreme as some but I’ve probably been in at least two dozen fights. Sometimes I would walk up to another child and simply punch them. The neighborhood where I grew up in was in the affluent part of town but the children were extremely hostile. I was a victim of bullying and name calling. My parents didn’t get along and my mother was constantly screaming. My father was selfish spending time working on his career or pursuing whatever his pleasures were. He really didn’t play an active part in my upbringing but he was around.
In high school I was very paranoid. I didn’t function well socially. As the shortest male child in my class I felt physically intimidated. It seemed like I didn’t fit in anywhere. Having the nickname “Myron” didn’t help. I did have a small group of friends. I did well academically. I think my dad put a lot of emphasis on education as he had a PhD. But he was a very distant individual. I remember after my grandmother’s funeral he was starting to cry. I went to embrace him and he pushed me away. That was the sum of our relationship cold and sterile. To his credit he always put food on the table and paid the expenses for my psychiatric care.
After high school I went away to engineering school. I studied very hard and did well my first semester. I pledged a fraternity and got involved with drugs and alcohol. In hindsight I may have been self medicating myself. Life was very dark and grim. I was drinking alcohol every day. I got interested in Christianity and it motivated me to stop drinking and drugging. I eventually became a Christian. At this point it seemed like I had everything in life I could want. I was a member of a very popular fraternity. I had of course my new found faith. There was a nice young lady in my life that I had romantic hopes for. I thought I had a host of friends as well.
Enjoying my new found faith I took off on a cross country trip hitchhiking and riding Greyhound buses. I made it from New York City, to Texas all the way to Washington State and back to New York. It was the best thirty days of my life. My horizons opened up immensely. Returning to my junior year I dropped out of engineering school. I wanted to go to Bible College and become an evangelist. I had experienced a period of prolonged depression and now I was to learn about the mania. I nearly got arrested going to the United Nations in Manhattan and telling them I had a message from God. A couple of weeks later I was committed and thrust into a psychiatric hospital. It was a traumatic and frightening experience.
By the grace of God and help of others I got through the first episode. So many whom I thought loved me simply vanished like dust in the wind. My ego had taken a tremendous blow. I had become something dirty and unclean. I was anathema. I had an awful doctor in that first hospital that literally spent no time talking to me at all. So when I got out I refused to see him as an outpatient. I didn’t like the environment at home so I cut out back to the fraternity. There was a lot of drinking and drugging going on there so I didn’t want to be there. I moved into a small room from a fellow from church. I spent most of my time lying on bed thinking about how I could kill myself. There were some books in the room and I started to read which lifted my spirits. I got a job in a pizza place and than one driving cabs. It seemed like I was getting a handle once more on my life.
Unfortunately I got a real stupid notion that God would cure my mental illness. So to prove my faith I stopped taking my medicine. In several weeks I was committed and back to the hospital. I could go on and on and on. My book is a story of hope and inspiration and takes a hefty swipe at fighting the stigma involved with mental illness showing that mental illness does not define my existence but rather is just part of a complex and human whole.
Hospitalizations are a very trying experience if one has never been there personally than it is hard to describe. There are long extensive periods of boredom with rushes of excitement. Group therapy, a meal or some other event becomes a rush activity. Visiting time is always a highlight. Even if you don’t have visitors yourself the influx of new faces is exhilarating. One thing I used to do in the hospital was write poetry. I wrote poems for the patients, staff and visitors. Also I always tried to write song lyrics. This was due to my fear that I would never be able to work in my life. Terrified that I would never be able to support myself I hoped for the miracle of having a hit song.
It has been thirty years later and finally my writing career has begun to take root. It is going painstakingly slow but it is doing well in its infant state. Of course between here and there has been a whole lot of living. I have had about twelve years in the business world working three different jobs. I bring up my writing because I want to show how good things happen from bad. This is the primary testimony I want to make about mental illness. It is a miserable and terrible thing to go through. The downside is immense. But if you allow yourself to be transformed by its harsh lessons there is a bounty to reap. Mental illness will humble a person and that is a good thing. Being psychiatrically sick will make you acutely sensitive of the feelings of other people. Overall if you don’t let the illness take over your life the results will be something wonderful.
Finally my mental illness has prepared me for the greatest task in my life. My wife suffers with dementia. From my experiences I can relate to the hardships she is going through and be more compassionate to her. I have seen so many of my kindred fellows fall into the surrender of suffering. I have seen the goliath of mental illness pulverize the foe to the point where they have abandoned all hope in life. It is my testimony that this does not have to be the case. As long as you can struggle, even if just a tiny bit, you can achieve and win the victory. The trial of a man is not marked alone by the distance he travels rather the road must be examined as well. Mental illness is a journey on a mountainside path slippery and full of obstacles. It will take all that you have on your trek to navigate the pitfalls but it will be worth it just for the view.

John-Funky-Photo-2I am a full time caregiver for my wife Sylvia from lovely Grenada. I volunteer as a missionary with the Church of Christ at Chancellor Avenue in the South Ward of Newark, New Jersey. I have served in this capacity for about eight years. I am a volunteer at New Jersey Peace Action serving as political action coordinator for the organization. I am a member of Woman’s International League Of Peace And Freedom. As a member of the mentally ill community I am an advocate for those who suffer in like manner.

John Kaniecki in an author and poet. He has four poetry books “Murmurings of a Mad Man” ,”Poet to the Poor, Poems of Hope to the Bottom One Percent,” “A Day’s Weather” and “Sunset Sonnets”. In addition he has a science fiction collection entitled “Words of the Future” and a horror novella “Scarecrow Scarecrow”. John’s poem Tea With Joe Hill won the Joe Hill Labor Poetry Prize. John’s work has been published in over seventy outlets. John resides with his lovely wife Sylvia in Montclair, New Jersey. John hopes one day his writing will have a positive impact on the world.

Also of particular note is John’s memoirs, “More Than The Madness”. This tells his story of dealing with bipolar disorder. It fights against the stigma of mental illness.

John Kaniecki can be found on his blog, Facebook, and Twitter

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Chad Hubbard

Hello again,

This is a companion to a piece that I penned on October 27, 2016. I would like to thank The Mighty for publishing my original post. The editors give a much-needed voice to the voiceless. The publishers at The Mighty have given a lost soul like myself a forum to tell my own private horror story. Thank you to all who read this. Remember, you just never know what is spiraling around in a person’s head,

I swore to myself that I would never share this with another living soul. Honestly, I still feel like I am right there, right where I was. It is a place that I never want to see again, but the sad reality is that it is just a matter of time before the demons return. I am definitely not a clairvoyant, but I am fairly certain of my own fate. Someday. It is coming. I hope that sharing this with all of you somehow sheds a thin ray of light onto an otherwise taboo subject. Suicide.

As I write, the tears are streaming down my face. I think about this everyday. It is maddening. It is heartbreaking. It is true pain. True suffering. Undeniable sadness. Writing this is going to be incredibly difficult. Reading this won’t be easy. Some of you may look at me differently when this story is over. I am okay with that.

My name is Chad and I am Bipolar. This is the story of my suicide.

My life had totally spiraled out of control. I was in the hospital where a doctor recommended Electroshock Therapy. Medication was no longer effective. I was at rock bottom. Or so I thought. I agreed to the fourteen treatments. The ECT had a profound effect on me. I was no longer able to continue with my medications. Whether it was real or somewhere hidden deep in my subconscious the medication began to make my skin crawl. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was barely alive. I can honestly look anyone in the eye and tell him or her that I literally have no memory of the months of May through October. I went places, did things, had conversations, lived life but I wasn’t actually inside me. I was gone and nobody knew it. Not my family, not my coworkers, not my closest friends. I was a ghost who was slowly dying an incredibly painful death.

As the pain and suffering consumed my brain, I slept less and less. I quit eating. I lost forty pounds in three months. I was empty and after years of suffering I decided that I had been through enough. My brain was telling me how much I despised myself, my very being, my soul was gone. I looked in the mirror and hated who was looking back at me. I still do. “You are a disappointment to everyone.” “You are ugly.” “You are a failure.” “You are nothing.” “You are worthless.” “You are all alone.” These are the words that bombard my brain when I look at myself in the mirror. Everyday I go through this. Sadly, I know there are others out there who say the same thing each morning and night, just like I do. It is living in hell inside your own mind. It is devastating. It is never ending pain.

I had decided that I couldn’t do it anymore. It was time. I tried before with booze and pills. It almost worked, yet all that I saw was just another failure. When I was in the hospital in Arizona I decided right then and there, next time I am going to use a gun. Next time I wouldn’t fail. I knew then there would be a next time. I just didn’t know when.
I started writing my goodbye letters. My sisters, my mom, my friends. One by one I wrote to them. Everyone’s goodbye was different. I said different things to everyone. I unearthed different stories and happy memories. I made each one special. It took days. There was however one person that got a video goodbye. She was my love, my light, and my life. She deserved more than a note. I tried not to cry, but I couldn’t hold back the tears. I was saying goodbye to her all over again. It was excruciating. I was relieved when it was over. I was totally exhausted. In many ways I was already dead, I just hadn’t pulled the trigger yet.

As the day got closer I became more at ease with what was about to happen. My only real concern was for my kids, but I outlined my desires in the goodbye messages to family and friends. The people that know me the best know that my kids mean everything to me. I knew that the people that loved me would make sure that my kids would know nothing but love from them forever. It was very hard knowing that the day that I was going to say goodbye to all of them was coming. I cried every time I saw them. I truly believe that they knew something was happening.

The day finally arrived. This was going to be my last on earth. I was so far gone that I honestly did not even care. I woke up, watched some television, then music, then silence. I brought the kids to the park one last time. We played like we had never played before. I played like I was never going to play again. When we were all worn out we walked home. I jumped in the shower, got ready and then it dawned on me. What do I want to be found in? Crazy, right? Not at all. After much deliberation I decided that my most comfortable pair of ripped jeans and my white Under Armor sweatshirt with my Cheech and Chong T underneath would be the perfect outfit to die in. There I was, hating myself, waiting to kill myself, but at least I looked half way decent.

The moments that I feared the most were here, right now. It was time to say goodbye to the kids. This was real. This was happening. Right now. I went to Slinky first. He was lying peacefully on the bed. I scratched his head and kissed his nose. He purred and stretched out a leg to let me know he was enjoying it. Tigger was next. After a kiss and a quick scratch I moved on to Shiloh. My baby girl. I was sobbing uncontrollably at this point. She was smiling at me, wagging her tail. I placed her on her side and rubbed her tummy. I kissed her nose and said goodbye. The pain was unbearable but I had one more. Sampson was sitting in his chair watching me. I walked over and knelt down in front of him and put my hands behind his ears and scratched. I kissed his nose and he licked my face one last time.

That was it. The time had come to end all the pain and suffering. It was my time. My death was finally going to bring much needed peace and calm to my embattled brain. The peace was my reward. It was my Medal of Honor. I had been fighting a war within my own mind for my entire life. It was finally over. I was going home. The war was finally over.

I walked to my father’s old library table and opened the drawer. There it was, just waiting for me to pick it up. Black matte, nothing shiny, nothing fancy. It was an instrument that I had never played, and would only play once. I held it in my hands, it was cold, and it was heavy. It didn’t scare me. I welcomed the weight.

CLICK – CLICK. The sound of the hammer cocking back readying the bullet pierced through the silence. It startled me. My kids were all looking at me. I wiped the tears from my eyes and then took a deep breath. My final breathe. I shut my eyes and raised the gun to my head. I slowly opened my mouth and rested the barrel on my lower jaw. I had done my research. I knew the angle that the barrel needed to be at to create maximum devastation. I was not going to fail again.

My finger caressed the trigger and I tensed up to pull it and end it all when I suddenly felt something touch my leg. I quickly opened my eyes and looked down and it was Sampson, sitting at my feet, looking up at me, his left paw resting on my leg. You may not believe this but he had a look in his eyes that I had never seen. I would have never imagined, I would have never thought possible, I will never forget it as long as I live.

I instantly burst into tears and collapsed to the ground. As I hugged him and sobbed the others joined him. After that I couldn’t do it. I was exhausted. Done. Every ounce of energy was drained from me. I just layed there for the rest of the day, in and out of consciousness. They never left my side.

I would like to introduce you all to Sampson. He is my Pitbull. He is my baby boy. I love to tell the story about the day I saved Sampson’s life. Today I am telling you the story about the day he saved my life. Who really saved whom?

Thank you for reading this. Share this. People are suffering. We all can do better. Help someone in need. It will change your life.

My name is Chad and I am Bipolar

IMG_0311My name is Chad. I am Bipolar. I love animals. I love to write. I have decided that I am here to share my story to help others with Bipolar Disorder. The conversation about Mental Illness needs to be on the forefront of the American conversation. Mental illness is everywhere. It is especially where you would least expect it. I am your friend, your husband, your neighbor, your brother. I am everywhere. Reach out and make a difference in someone’s life. Thank you. Chad Hubbard

Chad Hubbard can be found Twitter and blog

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Karen Kaiser

Wrestling for Control of My Mental Health

Mental illness is a unique issue in that everybody has an opinion about what it is, how to treat it, the use/efficacy of medication, etc. Often, the person suffering doesn’t have a voice. In the past, I worked as a caretaker and nursing assistant for patients with physical illnesses; particularly cancer, diabetes, and kidney failure. I’ve also assisted people with neuropsychiatric diagnoses. There’s a distinct difference in the way we treat physical illnesses versus mental health issues. I believe this is due to the stigma attached to mental illness and a general lack of knowledge concerning the subject.

I’ve been dealing with mental health issues for so long that it’s hard to remember a time when I was healthy. I have bipolar disorder (bipolar 1), anxiety, ADHD and PTSD. At times I feel like a walking billboard for the DSM handbook. I was formally diagnosed in 2006, however I’ve been struggling since I was a teenager. I knew something was wrong in high school when I experienced repeated bouts of depression, mood issues and severe hypersensitivity. But at that time I had no name for what I was going through. I just thought I was different and somehow deficient. I was active in sports, had a close knit circle of friends and a supportive, loving home environment. Yet none of that shielded me from developing mental illness. That’s been the hardest for me to accept. Occasionally, I still feel as though all of this is my fault in some way.

Looking back on my college years, I see now that I was very troubled. I had extremely destructive coping mechanisms and no awareness of how my mental state affected my daily existence. I hit rock bottom during my last year of school. By that time, my lifestyle was wild and out of control. I didn’t care whether I lived or died at one point; I just wanted the pain to stop, and to find relief from the emptiness. I remember curling up on my bed in the dark one night and feeling the most alone I’ve ever felt. I knew things had to change or I wouldn’t make it. Soon after that I was introduced to Islam and eventually converted. I thought this was what I had been looking for and an answer to my problems. I was correct and mistaken at the same time. I did have a deep connection with Islam and knew I wanted to live according to this religious tradition, yet I was naïve in thinking I didn’t need to seek medical help for my psychiatric issues.

By 2006, I had a family of my own and was teaching at a private religious school in my area. I was studying in an intensive Quran memorization program and taught classes of my own, both during the week and on weekends. I thought everything was going great. But increasingly I noticed periods where I couldn’t function and I had trouble maintaining a sense of stability. I found a psychiatrist in my community with whom I discussed my concerns. He diagnosed me easily, as the symptoms were pretty textbook. I was ashamed but at the same time happy to have an answer about my mental health.

The initial response to my diagnosis was a superficial acceptance, that indeed something was wrong and I needed professional help. But quickly the tone shifted from one of understanding to blame and judgement. As my episodes became increasingly severe, people around me decided they knew what was happening with me better than my psychiatrist. They felt that mental illness had no place in a religious setting and that I needed to tap into my faith in order to heal. I was advised not to rely on Western medicine and that I simply needed to ‘toughen up’ and face my responsibilities as an adult. I listened to this advice despite my misgivings, and my illness got much worse, not better. After repeated episodes, meltdowns and unusual behavioral changes, I began to feel ostracized because of my instability. I finally decided to go to the hospital for treatment, as I recognized that I couldn’t handle this alone anymore.

This was the best decision I could have made and one that saved me. In the hospital I met so many people who knew exactly what was going on and how to help me. It took a long time and a lot of hard work, but I finally began to understand mental illness and how to proactively deal with my issues. After I completed a partial hospitalization program, I remember approaching the director of nursing for the psychiatric unit. In tears, I thanked him for his program, for giving me back my life and restoring my dignity. I told him that because of PHP, I had learned invaluable tools with which to handle my symptoms. And for the first time, I didn’t feel like mental illness was a curse that would ruin my life.

To this day, I still receive feedback on how to handle my diagnoses. Mostly from laypeople, well-meaning though they may be. But I’ve learned that the best way to address this situation is to listen to my body, and to my clinical team.

Tips for staying in the driver’s seat with your illness:
1. Always seek professional help and listen to the experts.
2. Know that it’s your right to deal with your health challenges in whatever way suits you best, not other people.
3. Never apologize for how you feel or accept being treated as ‘less than’ for having a mental illness.
4. Remember what they say about opinions 😉 and realize that when it comes to mental health, everyone truly does have something to say, helpful or not.
5. Find your tribe! I can’t say this enough. Find those who can relate to you and help you move forward despite any difficulties.
6. Trust yourself. Trust your intuition. This can be a struggle when your illness affects your thought process and overall mentality, yet it’s vital to your well-being.
7. Ignore the naysayers. At the end of the day, you are the only one facing your particular issue(s) and the effects on your life. Leave those who only want to tear you down for those who will lift you up and inspire you.
8. Advocate. Advocate. Advocate. For yourself and those in the mental health community. Your voice counts and your experience matters. Help yourself and others by speaking up and helping to combat stigma.
9. Be vocal and specific about your needs. People can’t help you if you don’t tell them exactly what will work for your situation. *You may need to be repetitive until they get it 🙂
10. Give yourself a break. Don’t beat yourself up when things aren’t going well; remember that ups and downs are a normal part of life, and it’s even more true with mental illness.

By focusing directly on how mental illness manifests in my life and by following my doctors’ lead, I’ve been able to not only function but actually thrive in spite of whatever obstacles I face. I wish the same for anyone with similar life tests.

IMG_0307I am an African American Muslim in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, learning to come to grips with mental illness and the role it plays in my life. I am an advocate for mental health issues in general, and more specifically for Muslims dealing with Mental Illness. My goal is to bring awareness to this subject and to do my part in erasing the the stigma surrounding this disease. I have 3 beautiful children who are my inspiration and my world.

Karen can be found on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Stigma Fighters: It’s Me, Isn’t It?

It’s Me, Isn’t It?

My dream was to get a PhD. in Philosophy from either Vanderbilt or Princeton. I’d been accepted to both of their graduate / postgraduate programs. It was Spring. I had spent all my years since college saving and planning for this.

My problems started out with a (relatively) simple emotional issue: dealing with a breakup. I was diagnosed with mild depression and prescribed a antidepressant.

Then I took a bad fall playing pickup basketball, where I fell on my head.

Then I started having seizures, and they couldn’t get them stopped. I was diagnosed as an epileptic.

Then everything else in my body started to go haywire. My immune system started killing healthy cells: platelets, collagen, the lining around the lungs and heart. I was diagnosed as having lupus.

I spent a year in and out of hospitals, while they tried to figure out how to keep my own body from killing me. I had destroyed my back having a seizure and had to have back surgery. Then they took my spleen out, as the offending part of my immune system.

When I did get out, I was in many ways a totally different person. I had lost 80 pounds when I was ill. They then put me on steroids, where I gained 130 pounds.

I would go days without sleeping, then sleep for days.

I was diagnosed as severely bipolar. I tried to kill myself, twice. Once by trying to jump out a sixth floor window, where one of my co-workers tackled me. I put myself in the mental hospital voluntarily.

The second time I took two bottles of sleeping pills, but my best friend, who I didn’t even know was in town, came by to see me. He had a key.

I woke up in a small locked room with charcoal all over my face. They had pumped my stomach.

I was in and out of that same mental institution for 9 months. I was in the hospital a total of 18 months over a 25 month period.

I lost all the money I had been saving for my graduate school dream.

I had been working a federal government job, so it was still there when I got back. People where I worked were mostly very understanding. They had done everything they could to help me all along.

But I was embarrassed. Ashamed. I was defective. In every way.

I was crazy. I was weak. I had to take medication for seizures, medication for bipolar. I couldn’t go out and drink.

I decided to play the piano for a dinner theater to meet some new people. I met a girl there, who I told my story.

I fell in love with her.

She married me – because she felt sorry for me. She told me so six years later when she left me.

By that time, I had left that old job for a new career in a new town, one where no one new me. I swore to myself I wouldn’t tell my story to anyone. No one would know. I would just say I didn’t drink.

Then, after my ex-wife had left, I had a seizure at work. I had to tell my boss what my deal was.

You see, this job was different. I worked in a field where I could help people who had been through what I’d been through. Being sick. Losing everything.

I had been pouring myself into the job with all I had; now, with my ex-wife gone, I had a child who needed me.

When the signs of mental illness started to show up in him, I was in denial. I had lived with it for years, what was I afraid of?

The stigma wasn’t coming at me, it was coming from me.

By this time, I had become “successful”. I had an extremely responsible job at a famous company. I was making more money than I ever knew was possible. I had met another woman, one with three daughters: we fell in love and got married.

I didn’t hide anything from her. She knew, but still loved me, and my child, as I loved her and hers.

However, my ex-wife, who had felt sorry for me because of my condition, spotted in my son what I had missed. He started to get professional help.

He went through a period where things got much, much worse. He’s been in and out of hospitals himself. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Treatment for bipolar and borderline personality disorder.

I can admit to people to having a physical condition: I’m still considered an epileptic, as I still am prone to seizures without medication. But why would I be ashamed to admit I’m bipolar?

I could lose my job. They could phase me out.

I have written several reasonably popular blogs online for years. I don’t use my real name.

I could lose everything.

I am submitting this to Stigma Fighters because I want people to know that mental illness is like all illness. Nobody asks for it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

But I don’t want to use my real name.

I’ve been living a good life. I have people who love me. So do you.

I have billion dollar decisions riding on me at work. They would remove me if they knew.

No, they wouldn’t. The company has an enlightened policy on such things.

The stigma is coming from me, isn’t it?

It’s me… isn’t it?

man

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Jess Landwer

Bipolar has destroyed me.

I suffer from a mental illness known as Bipolar disorder. Most people know it as the “happy and sad disorder”. Most people know it as one stage you are elated, and the other, you are depressed.
Yes, you are right about the “sad” being depression. But the “happy” spectrum, you aren’t entirely right. I’ll give it to you, when one is manic, they can be happy, feel like they’re on top of the world, and they feel almost invincible. But what the teachers in health class and the media hides from us is the angry, the violent, and the impulsive part of mania.
And of course, when one has bipolar, they are almost prone to have anxiety, too. It comes hand and hand.
Fortunately, there are medicines out there for Bipolar. The side effects suck, but hey, at least you aren’t sneaking out every night or shoving pills down your throat as a suicide attempt.
Unfortunately, when you treat the anxiety part of the bipolar, you start feeling manic. So, there is really no treatment for anxiety in bipolar people, unless you want to be manic all the time.
Also unfortunately, as I mentioned before, the side effects from the medicines suck. They are so terrible that sometimes I refuse to take my medicine and my mom fights and fights with me about it. For an example, I can’t remember what I did yesterday, because one of my side effects is memory loss. I can’t wake up in the morning because some of the medicines I take are extremely sedating. Not waking up in the morning means I don’t go to school, which then causes anxiety from missing classes. Then I’m too anxious to go to school, and repeat the next morning. Then, as I miss more school, I get even more anxious and start to fall into depression. You know how that goes. Either not eating or eating too much, can’t get out of bed, sometimes cryings spells over absolutely nothing, sometimes self-injury, and even suicidal thoughts (or attempts)…
But then the mania comes in to save the day. You start to feel motivated, you get out of bed, you meet with all your teachers and get caught up in one day from missing two weeks of school; you feel like you can do anything. It’s great. But, also not so great. Night comes around, and you want to sneak out. You don’t sleep because you can’t; you are too manic for sleep. You start using drugs and alcohol (when someone on as much medicine I take should never do those things). Drugs and alcohol are downers for the brain, so eventually, you go back into depression because of the drugs.
I haven’t even gotten to the worst part of mania yet. I have lost EVERY relationship important to me because of mania. Anger and impulsivity is a dangerous combination. I get angry at the slightest things, and I lash out at my friends and family. I say things I didn’t even think about saying. It just comes out. I hear myself say such nasty things and think, “who the hell is inside me saying this?”
I have destroyed every relationship I have in my life. Friends are gone, boyfriend is gone, my mom is incredibly stressed out, etc. I told myself earlier today that I wasn’t going to talk to anyone anymore, because I don’t want to hurt them. I told my doctor I am afraid of myself. I am afraid of what I’ll say to my loved ones, what I’ll do, what I’ll intoxicate myself with…I’m afraid I’ll cut and ruin my beautiful skin, and honestly, I’m afraid I will kill myself. Sadness and impulsivity is another very dangerous combination, because you’re sad and frustrated, and don’t think about what you’re doing…and all of a sudden, you’re bleeding from a blade or you’re downing sleeping pills and you then get sent to the hospital.
I’ve been impatient hospitalized twice and outpatient hospitalized three times. I haven’t gone to school in three weeks. I scared almost all my friends away, and I hurt my boyfriend so much to the point that I broke up with him because it’s too painful to watch me hurt him. I am angry, violent, and impulsive, yet depressed, and drowning in life.
I want to give up. I want to drop out of high school, because how am I ever going to catch up? Tutors? How am I going to show up to them? I don’t ever want to get involved with anyone again, whether that’s a family member, a friend, or a boyfriend. Not because these people are in the wrong, but because it is mentally draining watching myself hurt these people; the ones I love.
I want to give up.
But guess what? I’m not going to. I have survived this far, so it can only get better from here. My illness takes over my life and completely ruined it. But I have to remember: It will always be smaller than me. It operates within me, I do not operate within it. It may be all the planets in the universe, but in that case, I am the universe. I was there before it. A planet cannot exist without the universe, but the universe can exist without the planets.
I’m done letting this illness rule my life. I’m not going to let it feel like I have to isolate myself. I’m also not going to let it destroy my new relationships with people. It will beat me up, but I will slap it right back.
Do whatever to stay alive. Not only alive, but do whatever to LIVE. I don’t want to live like this anymore, so I’m not going to.

12987067_1059764677411211_807765800914737200_nI am a 17 year old female, and I suffer from Bipolar disorder. I live in Chicago, Illinois, with my mom, brother, dog, and guinea pig.

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Beth Moore

It Shines
By: Beth Moore

I’m quick to reflect on high school glory days. It’s pretty silly, seeing as how I’ve not even reached the 10-year reunion mark. Flipping through my old yearbook, I noticed one of my favorite teachers wrote “Dear Beth, calling you a delicate flower would not give justice to your violently cheerful exuberance. It’s been amazing to watch your shifts from scarily giddy to sleepy to gloomy then back again.” I didn’t learn until later that this was a much abbreviated but also decent description of someone with type two Bipolar Disorder. Even with the intensity of my demeanor back then, no one would have pegged that onto a cheerleading prom queen.

I had a hodgepodge of symptoms that I never wanted to complain about but always knew were a problem. It took me a while before I confided in my doctor. Individually, the ailments were nothing to be alarmed about but experiencing them all at the same time (nearly all the time) became too much. The fatigue was easier to notice because of the way it affected my academic performance. I could sleep twelve hours at night and still feel the need for a three hour nap later that day. I began having nightmares every night and eventually experienced recurring sleep paralysis. I was always underweight, prone to infections with poor circulation and constant ice pick headaches, etc. And an even stranger development was a tick- chronic hiccups. These symptoms concerned my doctor and after exploring several possibilities to no avail, he eventually gave me an MRI to rule out cancer. Because he knew me as that charismatic girl from high school, he didn’t even consider that these were all physical manifestations of depression/anxiety.

Starting college, I knew I had been depressed on and off. My closest friends began to avoid me. They admitted that they ran out of ways to be there for me. I was exhausting the friends who poured so much love into me. I can’t place a finger on a watershed moment in time that broke me but I vividly remember the signs. Having to cross a busy highway every day to get to class, I would dare myself to stand dangerously close to the road. I always entertained the thought of taking a swift step in front of the 18-wheelers that barreled by. Driving my car gave me ideas of swerving into oncoming traffic. I spent so much time fantasizing about dying. After sabotaging some of my strongest relationships, I was determined not to burden anyone else so I stayed quiet. Many nights I can swear my heart would break though and not in a way that typical teenage hearts do but in a way that was excruciating and I would end up begging God to please take my life away. The sadness was palpable but I wouldn’t impose on my friends.

I used to think if a person was medicated for their mental health their condition must be outrageous. I especially thought of bipolar disorder as a series of violent mood swings. In addition to this stigma, I also thought too many people are given medicine they don’t need. I figured the world was full of hypochondriacs and theatric people who manipulate doctors into prescribing pills. I dodged this avenue for the longest time. Then there was one night when my only reservation of jumping from the top floor window of my dorm was the possibility of a failed attempt. I couldn’t tell if the fall would be enough or if I would end up paralyzed. I even went outside to judge it from the ground up. By some stroke of horror I had at my own actions, I called NC State’s on-call counselor who stayed with me until 2 a.m. I could no longer ignore the need to seek help.

When I went to see someone, the suggestion that I might have bipolar disorder seemed nonsensical. That was ignorance on my part. The assessment was that I have severe bouts of depression but I had never considered the other times, the euphoria and the mountain top experiences. Most people were only familiar with my contagious joy and perpetual need to spread it. My teacher’s words come back to mind. After finding the courage to seek help, I’m now equipped with the right combination of medicine and therapy. I have help that doesn’t take away from who I am. I am still dynamic. I am still exuberant. It shines.

12705420_10156470764490371_1415796124018874212_nMy name is Beth and I’m a 25 year old bipolar existentialist. I was diagnosed 5 years ago and, not unlike many people that suffer from a mental illness, writing about it has always helped me navigate and cope. My hope is to shed some light on a dark subject that begs better attention and understanding.

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S. Bishop

My Big Decision

Making a big change in life is always intimidating. Meaning, stuff can go wrong and by the time it does it may be too late to change your mind. My big decision was made nearly four years ago now, and it was a big decision, but one I never regretted!

After years of counseling, a variety of psychiatrists, and even a period of hospitalization, I made the decision to go off of my antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Big Decision! None of my friends and family could understand why. “You are finally stable and moving forward in life. Why would you want to risk changing that?” They all asked me.

Why? I hadn’t been ‘unmedicated’ for years. I hated it. I hated that my meds made me feel like a zombie, that they made me fat, and most of all I hated that I had to rely on a pill to be sane. I really felt as though I had learned enough about myself through all my therapy that I could manage my emotions and mood swings without medication.

I did a LOT of research on what might happen if I decided to wean off my meds. Really there were two possible outcomes.

1. I could go off the tracks. I could become the manic-depressive freight train that I had been all over again. All my years of hard work could be wasted, and worse, my meds might not work for me any more if I resumed taking them!

2. I could be ok. I could become a medicine free individual who used alternative ways to handle my episodes. I could rediscover who I was. I could embrace my ‘disease’ and go on to lead a wonderful life.

I promised myself I would have outcome number two. I took that leap of faith. With the help of my family, friends, and physiatrist I weaned off of my medicines. Life became beautiful.

I was a person again. I was able to regain my healthy weight, to get up off the couch, and to love my job. I was able to connect with friends and co-workers like never before because my mind wasn’t in this cloud of… nothing. I learned to meditate, take a deep breath, go for a run, or take a bubble bath when things got me down. I learned it was just fine to splurge on chocolate or a new outfit every now and then and not feel guilty about it. But the most important thing I learned was to love and accept myself. I found the ability to acknowledge that I might have more drastic emotions and mood swings than others, but it’s ok because that’s just part of who I am. And I am beautiful.

It makes me smile a bit when I see the look on people’s faces after telling them I’m Bipolar, clinically depressed, and have anxiety. They appear to be shocked that I would so blatantly offer this information. It is as if they expect me to be ashamed of my diagnosis and hide away from the world. At one point in my life I was ashamed of these things. I did hide them. I didn’t want to be ridiculed for my illness.

That all changed for me once I stopped taking my medication and started to embrace who I was. It become simple for me to explain to people, this is something I deal with every day, this makes me a little unique, but it doesn’t rule my life.

It’s sad, truly, that there is such a stigma around mental illness. Believe me, it’s not ‘all in your head’. People treat those of us with mental issues so differently when they know we have an illness. However if they are left unaware, they often will never even guess that we fight these daily battles.

The funny thing is, we aren’t ‘different’. No different from the man with cancer, the girl with asthma, the woman with high cholesterol. We have a chronic medical condition. A disease, an imbalance in hormones, that we fight, put up with, and embrace each day. We aren’t crazy. We aren’t lunatics. We aren’t faking it. We are humans, just like the rest of the world, fighting to make our way through life. Fighting for happiness and love. We want to be accepted.

Maybe there is a stigma because people don’t understand the illness. all they know is what they may have seen or heard from a variety of (likely unreliable) sources.

A lot of different ideas have come my way regarding my mental illness.

•It’s not real

•You’re just doing this for attention

•Just take a happy pill

•You will get better soon

•If you are ‘sick’ why are you still at work

•You are making yourself miserable

•Can’t you just get over it

•What is wrong with you

To these people all I can say is, I have a real, chronic, medical condition. It is a part of my world, always has been always will be. No I am not a psychopath. Rather I am a very understanding and forgiving person. I refuse to let you put me down because of our differences. You are fighting a battle of your own in some way, and I do not put you down because of it. I require equal respect; that I give so I shall receive.

I hope, that one voice at a time, we can put an end to this stigma around mental illness. We are people, who want the same things as you, forgive us, we have to work a little harder to get there.

I made my big decision, and it was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. Not only have I learned to embrace myself and my illnesses. I am able to manage my symptoms and even talk with others openly about my diagnosis. I know that it’s not the right decision for everyone who suffers from a mental illness, but that’s ok. That’s what makes us unique and gorgeous in our own way. Find courage. Learn to love yourself for who you are no matter what you are fighting, and no matter how you are fighting it.

S. Bishop

DSC_0720About me? Well I am a different person on different days. On a good day, I am a fun loving, adventure-having, smiling woman. On a bad day, I am a homebody, grouchy, and moody individual. My life is an ever changing roller coaster of emotions and situations. Some things never change for me though. My love for my husband and daughter, my passion for nature, and my diagnosis. I am Bipolar. I am depressed. I am anxious. I am ‘untreated’. But those things aren’t who I am. I am first and foremost a mother, a wife, and a woman. I am beautiful, I am kind, and I am loving. So that, that is about me in a nutshell!

S. Bishop can be found on her blog

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Stefanie

My name is Stefanie, 32 from Oregon. I live with Bipolar, Depression and Acute Stress Reaction Disorder.  I have struggled with Bipolar since I was in the 6th grade. It has been a roller coaster ride of trials of medications for me over the years. I got to the point I gave up because nothing seemed to help me feel better my mood was so unstable. I was very irritable all the time and did not know why. Then that would cause me to sink into a depression and get down on myself to thinking I was worthless…. I was fighting these never ending demons inside myself it felt like. Every single day was a battle. Life was unbearable at times. My childhood had been very unstable….. my father committed suicide when I was 7. My Mother was not a very compassionate person, my step dad was a drunk. I moved out at a VERY young age into my Grandparents home seeking stability and love. This helped to some degree but still was not what I wanted.  As I got older and became a teen I ventured out into the world and at 17 ended up pregnant with a older man who was abusive. Clearly this did not help my illness. But by becoming pregnant it did help me get a grip on life and my self worth. My unborn child was a blessing and was a reason for me to escape a dangerous situation…. a reason to live! I left his father and raised my son with out him (the father did not want the baby).   After having my son and escaping this horrible relationship I took another down hill spiral….. I became really depressed. I then started self medicating by drinking non stop! It was out of control. It did this for a pretty good length of time. Until I met my Husband and he slapped me with a reality check that I was messing up my life. I once again got my life back on the right path. I went to the doctor and got back on meds. It took a few different trials before finding the right fit but we finally got it and I have been stable every since. I still battle with anxiety and depression hit and miss but I dont go in my down hill spirals like I was and I dont have my roller coaster rides of emotions nearly as often as I did before.  Its nice to be back on track.      Heres the other deal …… My kiddo I speak of is the kiddo in the picture. My son Evan who is now getting ready to turn 13. He is also Bipolar. And is battling numerous other mental illnesses. He has been in and out of residential facilities due to being so unstable and unsafe. He has aggressive behavior that goes with his manic episodes he faces. Which causes a huge amount of stress on this Mama. But on the same note, I understand him since I myself have Bipolar. Because I see my son go through so many struggles and I see how broken our system is I have been a S-T-R-O-N-G advocate. I have pushed and fought in every way possible for my boy for make sure every single one of his needs are met. I am so compassionate about fighting the stigma. I am so compassionate about getting people help. I have started a facebook page called Parenting a Struggling Child. I did this page in honor of my boy. But also to reach out to the world and try to help in any way I could and let people know “Hey you are not alone.There are others out there in the same boat.”

Sorry If my story got a little off key there…. maybe I have ADHD too lol. Mom brain. Always thinking about kids.

Main point to my story was I live day in and day out with Bipolar, depression and acute reactive stress disorder. Every day is a struggle but I role on. Some days may be harder than others but for the most part I manage pretty well. Unless I am under alot of stress….then it all hits hard!!! Depression can really get me hard around the holiday season too. I have never really figured that out why?!! I love Christmas its my favorite time of year but somehow I always slip. Then Ill bounce back.

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 Stefanie can be found on Facebook
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Natasha

What my mental health failure did and is doing for my future success,

Failure is what teaches us valuable lessons. Growing up, my parents encouraged me to go for things I wanted, good or bad and either gain the success or learn from the failure. But one event in my life that I considered an important failure was my during my developing teenage age years, around 12-13 years old. My failure was the lack of hope and effort to survive as a human that lead me to become the worst kind of myself. Sounds like your typical developing teen stressed with life and puberty, but I wasn’t your average. I was 1 in 4. I was clinically diagnosed with Manic depressive disorder, social and general anxiety and was found to have symptoms of a few other mental health disorders.

To begin with it, I moved from a small island in the Pacific to the big cities of Europe, Frankfurt, Germany. I was only 8 years old at the time. I was also very shy compared to my other sisters. This was only the beginning. New and change was always an enemy for me. I struggled to make friends and already struggled in school, even though I tested high which lead me to skipping a grade when arriving to Germany. After a year of being an outcast though, my family switched schools. My new school was much more international and less german so to say which helped me connect to students better. This was 5th grade now. First day of school, I was already in with “the cool kids”. As the years went on, I began to come out of my shell and tried all sorts of things for example liking boys, dressing different, and make up. However, things took a turn and I was bullied for changing faster than most. I always knew that different or the unknown was not appealing to others which lead me to where I was towards 8th grade. By this time, I had fallen into the wrong patterns of outcasting myself again, becoming violent within my family, being with the wrong group at the wrong place and time. I began to drink and smoke at 13. This continued on, more alcohol and more smoking, more boys and less school and family. Eventually, I was so emotionally unstable I was forced to see a therapist. This wasn’t helping and lead my stress to expand incredibly. Also being mid stage of puberty 13/14, I had no knowledge of how to handle myself or handle my social life/queues or the science behind my life and body. Once I officially lost my friends and family, I resulted to selfharm. I resulted to suicide contemplation. By 9th grade, I had been sexually assaulted and victimized by all the bullies in my school. I had officially given up on surviving and being human. March 13th 2013, I attempted my first suicide. I woke up. Still breathing but sick to my stomach. At this point I knew I was lower than rock bottom, I wasn’t Natasha Hardegen anymore. From 8 years old to 14, I had drowned myself into a depressive stage that most people do not go through. It affected me in ways that couldn’t have been said through words but through my destructive behaviors, which everyone saw, but never understood.

On April 1st 2013, I took the opportunity with my father to travel from Germany to California to enroll myself into a therapeutic boarding school. The facility consisted of therapy twice a week, with group sessions and constant restricted supervision while doing activities such as school, fitness and ‘fun’ activities. This place wasn’t meant for me, because when you seek professional help it takes a very long time to find a place that supports you and makes you comfortable. The kids I were with were nothing like me. It wasn’t the right idea of recovery. After struggling very hard in this new environment, I was flown to Utah. I was enrolled into a behavioral assessment facility which kept me for two months after already four months in California. In Utah, I was tested, evaluated, therapised and medicated heavily with 100% surveillance. At this point in my life, it’s summer, I am clinically diagnosed with all these mental health disorders and having conclusions made without my knowing. Being 14 too, I was distraught, alone in another continent and afraid but I kept myself stable by keeping self harm free and sober. I occupied myself with art, sports and learning. I was only surrounded by doctors and 6-8 patients who were my age. I still at this point never understood who I truly was since the monster of my depression had taken me over. But I was slowly searching for this light. I learned at this point that this was serious and I needed a change.That’s when I was taken by my father once again to my third facility, that was carefully evaluated to fit my needs. I spent about 8 months in La Europa Academy. I cried, laughed, relapsed, passed the levels system, isolated myself, exploded with colors, built myself and my family, but finally found who I was. After fighting a darkness I couldn’t see, I made peace with it. I accepted what it was to me and in end made it a strength. On April 7th 2014, after 372 days of pain and happiness I was taken back home to germany, to prove myself to my family, to my friends and myself that I found who I was once again.

After being broken down and rebuilt in therapy, I grew up very fast, I became very sympathetic, very engaged in the topic of mental health in general and sought to do something about it and about myself and others. I made this quote as a motivation during those times, “Grow up to be the person you needed most growing up”. The people who helped me may have been tough on me but they were who I needed most. Smart, logical but emotional, caring and healthy people. This has helped me a lot. I now spend my days finding new ways to cope using DBT and CBT therapies, balancing medication and advocating for awareness to prevent others from going low as I did. I feel as though I discovered that not only did my weakness almost take my life, but it brought my life back together, stronger and better. This may seem odd to those who haven’t been exposed to this kind of topic, but my depression has driven my motivation to keep fighting and in the end… survive for myself and for my family.

Currently, I am now still battling with the little side effects that can not always be manageable, but I am organized, loving, understanding, leadership quality, respectful and wise. I am taking IB classes while engaging in sports such as basketball and soccer. My lifestyle of how I treat myself and help others grows everyday. I no longer fear my failure, it happened. But growing out of it is what I remember the most. It’s very upsetting to look back on, may have taught great lessons but still puts wounds in my memory…Depression may be a flaw in my brain but not a flaw in my heart and as I grow up I plan to make sure others know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, as a psychologist or mental health advocate. As cheesy as it sounds, at 13, I wish I would have had someone like myself now to guide me. So I hope everyone in any kind of experience, remember that tough times pass but tough people stay.

Screen-Shot-2016-10-09-at-7.14.44-PMI am a young but passionate advocate and part of the mental health community. I am 18 years old, living in Bangkok thailand currently. I have lived all over the world and have experienced many types of treatments for my MDD, SAD and GAD.

I am done a Ted Talk and make my own videos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEbkPvUGDy8

Feel free to contact me for any wise advice, questions or just to chat.

Natasha can be found on Facebook.