What are your diagnoses? How do you feel about them?
Depression, AvPD, and anxiety. It's taken time to realize that I am not my mental illnesses, and it does not define me. I think of my mental illnesses as beasts, and if I don't find ways to manage them, they pull me along. I used to feel sad about my mental illnesses, but now I feel they have given me strength in a way.
Have you ever experienced stigma?
Yes I have. Unfortunately from people who are close to me or who I considered close. My mother, past friends, past relationships. It's painful and it hurts when it happens, and I can only hope one day there won't be a stigma at all.
How has your life been affected by your illness?
I had my first suicidal thought when I was 12. I was diagnosed with depression at 13. Ever since then it's been a roller coaster. I've dealt with people making ableist comments, and feeling alone. I've missed out on opportunities, and had regrets because of that. It's put me in a dark pit and made me not want to be alive. My anxiety kept me constantly on the edge, afraid of doing certain things. But through all the pain, it has given me one thing, and that is passion. I know what I want to do with my life, and it's what pushes me forward. For years I've wanted to become a mental health counselor, and help others who have felt the struggle I have. To give them courage, to help them not feel alone, to possibly save a life. I want to help lower and rid the stigma attached to mental illnesses, and make mental health just as important as physical.
When did you realize what you were experiencing wasn't typical?
I was 13, and in 7th grade. I felt lonely, and like I was an alien. I started feeling more sad, my self-esteem went away, and I just didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. That's when I knew it had to be something more.
What type of reactions are not easy for you to hear? What reactions do you appreciate when sharing that you live with a mental illness?
The type of reactions that are not easy to hear, are ones that stigmatize depression, or where it's not taken seriously. Where the people think it's easy to get out of depression, or that you are using it as an excuse for something. The type of reactions I appreciate are sympathetic ones, where the person listens, and asks what they can do to help, and not assume they know how to "fix" it or what it's like.
What do you wish people would understand in regards to mental health/illness?
I wish people would understand that mental illness is just as real and legitimate as a physical illness. That mental health is just as important as physical health. Every year we are advised to get a physical to check our physical health, but not do the same for our mental health. I want people to take it seriously, and understand it affects just as much as physical ailments.
What treatment or coping skills are most effective for you?
Taking a nap. Journaling. Deep breathes. Meditation. Listening to music. Watching a show. Talking to a friend.
What are a few goals regarding your mental health?
To manage my mental illnesses so they doesn't control my life. So I can life my life as happy as I can. :)
What does progress look like to you?
Progress to me looks like smiling more. Speaking more positively. Taking care of yourself more. Recovery to me means that you are managing your mental illness so that it doesn't interfere with your life. It may always still be there, but it is no longer in control. And if you can actually be fully mentally healthy again, that is great. Either way, you can feel hope again, and look forward to living.