My name is Heather, and I am on a journey to improve my mental health by exploring my past to try to understand how past events and traumas have ultimately affected my life. I am a registered nurse on a postpartum unit, taking care of new mothers and their babies, and I also work closely with preemies. My position allows me to come into contact with many individuals who suffer from mental illnesses, and I also provide information to the women in my care about postpartum depression, which is more common than what you may think. I have a unique perspective that I can offer my patients, in that I am a sufferer of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
I have a series of bad memories that began when I was a child, starting in the second grade. These earliest memories were instrumental in setting the course for my life as I know it. I was very quiet and kept mostly to myself. It wasn’t long before the teasing began, whether I was trying to participate in class, playing on the playground,
eating lunch, riding the bus, or even using the school bathrooms. I was different, and everyone knew it. The name calling, teasing, bullying, and excluding made my life miserable. This was not “kids just being kids.” They were relentless. I became isolated, confused, and felt like I was alone in this world.
I know some children are resilient, but, for some reason, I wasn’t. I absorbed all of the negativity, and I held it all in. I didn’t talk to anyone. The teachers didn’t notice or ignored the behavior. My parents and my siblings never knew what I was going through. I didn’t have any friends, and I was all alone in this big world. I grew up without telling anyone what I was going through. The days I would stay home because I was “sick” piled up, my grades were being affected, and the bullying continued. Today, I suffer from social anxiety, panic anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I know that the events and trauma I faced as a child and teenager played a significant role in the development of my current mental illnesses.
I spent my life hiding from my problems and not sharing these memories with anyone. A year ago, I hit rock bottom, as I was facing the most depressive episode of my life. I was in a fog that I could not seem to find my way out of. I lived every day, just going through the motions of what was required of me in my everyday life, giving nothing more than what was required. I started seeing a therapist, and I finally started talking about my experiences. It hurt. It hurt like you wouldn’t believe.
I spent my sessions in tears, reliving every painful memory I could think of. My panic attacks became more frequent. I was prescribed Prozac to be taken every day, along with Vistaril as needed. The Prozac made me gain a lot of weight, so I was put on Wellbutrin to try to counteract the weight change. It did not work, but I was afraid to stop taking it. I didn’t want to sink back into that black hole. I didn’t want to feel sad and hopeless. I didn’t want to give up something that my body so desperately needed. Something did happen, though. I started participating in life again. I felt a little numb, but I felt better.
The therapy sessions continued, and each day seemed better than the day before. I hit a wall back in January of this year, and I started to feel like I was slipping again. I read some self-help books and decided to take the advice of one of these books. I wanted to get my story out there. I wanted to help others who were in my same situation. I wanted to use my mental illnesses to help those who couldn’t help themselves. I started a blog and began journaling my early childhood experiences and adversities. This was very therapeutic for me.
I was getting my story out there, and people were responding. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only one who was suffering. There were lots of resources out there, and lots of people who wanted their story heard. I was a part of something. It hurt to write my stories, but the feedback and kind words that I received from readers kept me going. I feel content. I feel like I am helping, and I feel like I may be changing people’s minds about mental illness.
I started my blog, and have typed out my experiences. My hope is that others will find my story useful for what they are experiencing now, or what they experienced as a child. I have used my stories to come to terms with what happened to me as a child. My story has helped me realize that what happened to me as a child was not my fault. I wish I could go back and change things, but I can’t. I have to live in the present and stop living in the past. That chapter of my life is over, but I can use my experiences to teach my own children about empathy and being kind to others. I can use my experiences to help others. I can share what has helped me. I can advocate for those who are not able to advocate for themselves.
There are many people who suffer from mental illness. It is important for you to know that you are not alone. There are others who have experienced some of the same things you have. There are others who are suffering now. I want to say that it is OK to talk to someone, whether it is a close friend, close relative, therapist, helpline, or anyone else you trust. More and more people are getting their story out there, and this momentum could help change the stigma that is related to mental illness. So many people suffer silently, with fears that they will be ostracized, dismissed, ridiculed or will lose those closest to them.
Talk to someone. Spend time journaling, maybe not to share with anyone, but to get your words out on paper. It is so important to not hold anything inside. Draw a picture. Read a poem. Go for a walk. Try meditation. Try mindfulness or yoga. Make time for yourself every single day. I am a busy wife, mother and full-time nurse, but I always make time each day doing something (even if it’s just for a few minutes) that I enjoy doing. Your mental health is important. It is just as important as your physical health. I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to make new memories with my girls. I want to teach my girls lessons in life, and have them grow up in a world that is better than mine was. I am going to continue this journey to better mental health, and help as many people as I can along the way.
Thank you so much for reading my story about my mental health journey. I would love if you could find a way to improve your own mental health. I challenge you to think of something you can do every single day that you enjoy, that is all about you. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, do something for yourself.
My name is Heather, and I am a long time sufferer of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Instead of letting these conditions define me, I am on a mission to help others by drawing from my own experiences. At home, I am a wife and mother of three daughters and have been married for 20 years to my high school sweetheart. I live in Ohio, a little north of Cincinnati. When I’m not working, I love to read, watch movies, go for walks, and watch epic television shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Stranger Things, among others. I love helping other people and being involved in the community. I am excited to start this mental health journey and share my stories. My hope is that others will see my enthusiasm and dedication to the mental health field, and follow along on my journey to better mental health, and perhaps help them along the way. Heather can be found on her website and Twitter.