On and off since the age of 10, I’ve been somewhere in the mental healthcare system. That’s almost 18 years of treatment (mostly medication) and a whole host of diagnoses: major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and PTSD. Sometimes, it feels as though my life is made up of a series of waves of paralyzing anxiety and crushing depression.

As a child, I was almost always anxious about something. As a teenager, the depression took over as classmates told me to “go kill myself.” Both of my struggles followed me to college and grad school. One would lie dormant while the other would rear its ugly head. A diagnosis of endometriosis led to a major depressive episode. The pressure of my career were beyond anything I had ever imagined. This leads me to where I am today: fresh out of the hospital and re-evaluating my life plan.

I spent a lot of time in and out of therapy, but never really invested in my treatment. Over the course of a few weeks, I began to rapidly de-compensate, not eating or caring for myself. It was at that point when I realized that I needed to focus on getting well in the appropriate environment. With the support of my family, I admitted myself for a short inpatient stay to get what I really needed. Until then, my needs were almost always addressed with medication. This environment was completely different.

In addition to seeing a social worker and a doctor, I was able to participate in group therapy, which was a foreign concept to me at the time. These group sessions allowed each of us to open up as we chose, sharing our troubles and experiences. In addition to learning how to best cope with my anxiety and depression from counselors, I learned the most important lesson of all: I’m not alone in this fight. We, as a group, were one big support network for one another and I had never experienced that before. Because of this, I am more invested than ever in my treatment, and I want to pay it forward.

If you are on the fence about seeking treatment or possibly a hospitalization, remember: you need to invest in yourself to be your best self.

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Lauren is a 27-year-old lover of neuroscience and science communication. She is currently on the path to seeking happiness and fulfillment. In her spare time, Lauren volunteers for a local pit bull rescue.

Lauren can be found on Twitter

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