Stigma Fighters: Tara E.

Have you ever tried to describe air to a toddler?
“You can’t sense it with sight, touch, smell, hear or taste but I guarantee you it’s there!”

I get the same look when I share with people my mental health diagnoses. You can watch the gears in people’s minds slowly turning, eyes twitching and feverishly looking for the nearest excuse and exit. In fact when I meet others with true understand (aka they have mental health history) it’s a refreshing friendly look and near instant friendship.

Just to give you an idea of what my daily struggles are here is a list of what I suffer with:
-Depression
-Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
-Learning Disability (Math Specific)
-Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD)
Borderline symptoms of:
-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
And more!

When you look at the list you might feel overwhelmed and that’s ok – I feel that way looking at it too. In fact I’m very blessed that I’m where I am now. A brief history and late introduction.

I’m Tara Everett. I’m in my early twenties and I’ve likely suffered with anxiety, ADHD, and my Learning Disability since kindergarten or Grade One. My depression onset around grade five and towards grade right or so I started showing symptoms of OCD. You may have noticed I used the term “likely.”

In the medical world they like to have scientific proof and a record of behaviours to back up the diagnosis. While I like to agree with this I know firsthand that people fall through the cracks – it took me until the age of 23 to have a 20-some page document telling me what I had known for years.

When my official diagnosis came through I cried with relief. Someone outside of a select group of family and friends had finally validated me. It was terrifying and joyous all at once. I have an incredibly vivid memory which then began to match all the pieces of my life puzzle together – events that never made sense before. Like how my anxiety stemmed from my fostering and later adoption and abandonment fears, intense bullying and teasing on the bus and at school and later personal family life events that moved us from the country into the city – which would end up saving my life.

My first suicide attempt was in Grade 5. I had a few other subsequent ones as I got older. Happy to report they all failed but mentally they have left their marks. I don’t like to wear necklaces, I won’t take Tylenol Three’s and I will not leave home without a small pharmacy in my purse. My depression runs in cycles and it took years to find the right medication and dosage to not turn me into a zombie. I also take medication for my anxiety and panic attacks.

Anyways present day:
I am a mostly functioning member of society. I finished high school, most of a college diploma and I am in a successful long term relationship. In fact writing this I’m amazed I have a full-time job some days. I want to say I’m lucky but I’m not. I’m clumsy, stubborn and determined. In fact it’s one of the reasons why I’m so devoted to sharing my story and making sure others feel supported in situations where I wasn’t.

Life is so ridiculously confusing to begin with when mental health problems lifts its head I want people to feel empowered to play an imaginary game of Whac-A-Mole to get them to where they need to be.

If that’s the next minute –Hit the mole.
If that’s not barfing and shaking during a test –Hit the mole.
If that’s coming to terms that some people… or a lot of people will leave you in your weakest moment because frankly they don’t get it or they’re scared – Hit the damn mole.

It can be the most simple of tasks that you might struggle with and feel ridiculous about it – by now I hope your mental game of Whac-A-Mole is almost destroyed.
To whomever is reading this I want you to take a small grain of hope, support and love with you. Believe me when I say I understand – many of us understand. That you might not be in a life or death battle with something visible but I believe in the monsters under the bed and in our heads and no amount of straight talking will convince me otherwise.

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Biography:
Tara Everett is a 20-something year old lady living in a semi-isolated area of Alberta, Canada with her military boyfriend of a long time, pug, beagle and fluffy cat. By day she works in the Human Services field as an Employment Facilitator and by night she can be found on Twitter or sometimes her blog if she feels so inclined. As an advocate she is devoted to listening to those that need help, providing support or advice when she can and educating the public that people with mental illness backgrounds are in fact normal people who sometimes eat ice cream.

Twitter: @tara_everett
Blog: achickadeestory.wordpress.com