What is your diagnosis?
Major depressive disorder, anxiety, EDNOS, PTSD. I'm actually glad to be given these diagnoses because it means that I am justified in my symptoms. I'm not making these up. Someone else, a medical professional no less, has said, "Yes, your brain is making this hard for you." It's not my imagination; it's my body's chemistry.
Have you ever experienced stigma?
Yes, even by people close to me. They assume that my lack of motivation or happiness is due to me being ungrateful perhaps.
How has your life been affected by your illness?
I've always wanted to be a doctor (since I was 6 years old), but, when I started getting sick, I felt discouraged from academics. For a while, I just wanted to give up. Education, the thing that had once given me so much hope and purpose, didn't mean a thing to me anymore until I reached out and got serious help. I hadn't been planning to reach college, but here I am. I'm living and loving life because I've found my passion in academics again.
When did you realize what you were experiencing wasn't typical?
When I was in seventh grade, I started losing friends because I just didn't want to participate in their activities, or I didn't have the energy.
Early on, why didn't you seek help?
I honestly didn't know much about psychological disorders at the time. I hadn't known what would happen to me if I started engaging in dangerous behaviours.
What types of reactions are not easy for you to hear? What reactions do you appreciate when you share with someone that you live with a mental illness?
The hardest reactions are the ones that make me seem fragile. They're belittling. The best reactions are the ones that ask questions. Ask me what triggers me, what does a relapse look like, etc.
What do you wish others would understand in regards to mental illness + mental health?
I wish people would realize that it's hard to admit that we have a mental illness because we have to admit that we're not normal and not doing well at times.
What treatment or coping skills are most effective for you?
Meditation was a surprisingly effective coping skill for me. The biggest coping skill would just be what I call "play time," where I maybe colour, paint, read, plan travels that might not ever happen but, hey, I can still dream.
What are a few goals regarding your mental health?
I want to eventually feel confident enough to not rely on medicine anymore to get me through a day.
What does progress + recovery mean to you?
For me personally, I find that the less traumatic dreams and visions I have, the more progress I'm making. I make sure to keep a written record of these moments. Recovery means letting go of the past and looking toward the future.