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.