My entire life I have been living with mental illness.
For most of my life I wasn’t aware. I just thought what I was feeling was “normal” day to day life for everyone. I had a great home life. My parents divorced when I was quite young, however, both met new partners. I had two families and I should have been on top of the world. My entire childhood and adolescence, I remember being sad. I always had a hard time getting through the day without constantly focusing on negative thoughts, feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere, and feeling like no one liked me.
I don’t recall how old I was when I figured out I was “different” from my peers, but eventually I did.
Eventually I figured out that most of them didn’t feel like they were inadequate, or at least not to the degree I felt it. They didn’t feel like they were the fattest and ugliest. They didn’t suffer from extreme self-loathing, no matter what accomplishments they made.
Not to say that people who don’t suffer from mental illness don’t occasionally have moments where they feel this way. I know a lot of people sometimes feel like they aren’t good enough.
But I was extreme. I stopped interacting. I stopped eating. I have never officially been diagnosed with an eating disorder, because my BMI didn’t drop to “dangerous” levels, but I went from 120lbs to 97lbs in less than 3 months. In high school I constantly suffered from suicidal thoughts. I would sit in class and literally day dream the most horrific things while still awake. I would imagine what it would be like to bleed out all over the classroom floor. Of course I imagined no one would care. They might get upset about the blood touching their shoes, but surely no one would care that my life force had been extinguished. When I graduated from high school, so did my mental illness. I went from being antisocial to being antisocial, restricting my food intake, as well as crying uncontrollably whenever I encountered a situation where I wasn’t in control.
I knew this wasn’t right. I was 20, dating a musician who moved to LA (away from our hometown of Halifax, NS) when I reached my lowest point. I was self-medicating with alcohol, counting the calories in the alcohol and not consuming anything more. I would spend days in bed, watching DVD’s of TV shows, or reading 1-2 books per day, obsessively. My boyfriend at the time would call me and I wouldn’t be able to talk. I would spend the entire time crying. He eventually threatened to break up with me unless I agreed to talk to my mother, and my doctor. I was terrified. I didn’t want to be known as “that crazy girl on medication.” I didn’t want to admit to myself there was something wrong. I was ashamed.
I am extremely lucky that I had a few very amazing people in my life at that time.
Finally, I told my mother how I was feeling. I broke down completely, and she hugged me and told me it wasn’t my fault. Almost my entire family suffers from some form of mental illness. My mother explained to me that it wasn’t ME that was the problem; it was the chemicals in my brain. I needed to find a way to balance them out.
I went to my family physician with my mother, who had been diagnosed with severe anxiety for a few years at this point. He prescribed me an antidepressant. At first, I was extremely foggy. I felt like I was floating through the day in a haze. Then, after about three weeks, I felt myself level out. I wasn’t crying without reason. I could make it through the day without feeling like I wanted to die.
It has been 6 years since I’ve started taking antidepressants. My life isn’t perfect. I have days where I feel bad, but that’s life. The main thing is it’s controllable. I eat healthy; I don’t obsess over my weight.
I am a stigma fighter. I want every person in the world, who feels even remotely like I did, to know it is okay to get help. Having a mental illness is not your fault. Do not be ashamed of who you are, because you are the way you were meant to be. Sometimes we just need a little help getting to where we need to be, and there is absolutely no shame in that.
I will never let anyone make me feel like I am not good enough just because I have been diagnosed with depression and neither should anyone else. Take control of your life and choose to be in control. Confide in people you love and trust. I am incredibly grateful for the people in my life who helped me overcome my fear of the stigma placed on mental illness.
I am 26 and I spend most of my time working, or talking to my Chihuahua, Zia. I enjoy reading (in healthy amounts) and going to the gym. I am the eldest child of a very blended family. I have two perfect nephews who I spend every second I can with.
My Instagram is @kayydre