January 25th, 2017.
Bell Let’s Talk Day.
This year, I have decided to take a leap of faith and open up about my experiences with mental illness.
Not many people know about this because talking to people about how I feel has never been my strong suit, but as today is about spreading awareness and ending the stigma towards mental illnesses, here’s my story.
Here I am, a happy little grade twelve, seventeen year old with my entire life ahead of me. Suddenly, I started to take on way too much responsibility while deciding my entire life plan and around this time, two years ago is when it all hit me.
At one point, it felt like my entire grade was fighting against me while I was also super stressed out about going away to university, picking which university, and leaving my boyfriend and friends that I had made throughout my high school career. I became very depressed about going to high school, often attending one class a day to avoid any sort of non-existent confrontation that I created in my head. This took over my last semester of high school and honestly ruined my entire four year experience. Everything sort of hit me like a bus. I was scared, alone, and had no one to support me when it felt like I needed it most.
All my friends were excited about going away to school and personally, I dreaded going away. It meant leaving my family, my two-year-old brother, my home, and my dog. That wasn’t something I was willing to do at the time and I felt truly left behind.
At the same time, I found out someone I knew had committed suicide due to the stresses and mental illness that he had experienced as a first year university student. This hit me hard.
I was going into first year, and I was experiencing feelings that I had never felt before. I was scared out of my mind. During this time, I was fighting with myself on whether or not my feelings were real, or whether or not it was all in my head. As any confused and potentially depressed, emotional teenager would do – I took online tests which determined your level of depression and anxiety (Don’t ever do this, stupid idea). All of them came out with the result of a chronically depressed person who should seek help immediately. Lovely.
To make up for the pain I was feeling, I made myself feel pain in other ways. Ways that weren’t obvious to others but ways that still give me a daily reminder to this day. I also stopped eating and ending up losing 15lbs. For anyone who knows me, you’ll know I’m already a small person. I looked sick, and I was.
The solution? Tell my parents.
And so I did. I told them how I felt, I told them I needed help. I told them everything that was going on and their opinion in the matter was that I needed to talk to our family doctor. That’s what I did next.
I met with my doctor, I told him about everything that was going on and this was what he told me:
“I can tell something is going on, but I don’t want to give you a diagnosis because I don’t want you to have that stigma surrounding you”
So instead of a diagnosis or medication or something to ease how I felt, he asked me to meet with him once a week to talk about how I was feeling. To keep a diary that outlined my feelings at certain points of the day and why. With doctors orders, I kept that up for about two months and met with him to speak about what was going on. Unfortunately, it didn’t help and I gave up. I lied to him, told him I was okay and I moved on. I stopped meeting with him. I lied to my doctor and I lied to myself that I was feeling better and I was okay.
Fast forwarding to first year university…..
I was happy! I was doing my own thing, I had moved in and would see my parents every couple weeks and live life on my own. Haha, Joke. I made it 3 weeks before I was sick all the time, unable to move from my bed and cried constantly. Often worrying about what my friends and S.O. were doing without me, becoming so anxious I was puking and drinking so heavily I’d pass out early in the night and not have to deal with my feelings any longer.
I became an annoying binge drinker.
This was the development of my anxiety.
As I worried and drank away every feeling I ever had, I ignored everything that I was feeling until finally I was having thoughts of dropping out, not existing anymore, and just thinking that tonight would be the night that it all ended.
Eventually I got up enough courage to go see the campus psychiatrist. She said the same thing my family doctor said. After everything I told her, she didn’t want to diagnose me with anything because she thought it would scare me too much. Again, the weekly visits to her only lasted so long before I was uncomfortable and started lying my way out of our visits until she told me I didn’t need to come weekly anymore.
So, back to the same pattern I went. Getting ridiculously drunk as often as I could, and now, calling my best friend in the wee hours of the morning during a breakdown for comfort and often staying on the phone all night until we woke up in the morning just so I wasn’t alone. Not a healthy cycle. This lasted all of my first year of university until finally, I was able to deal with these feelings, and find new solutions to cope with the anxieties that didn’t involve facing them head on.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’d have good days and bad days as any other person suffering from anxiety would. It feels like death some days, but then the next day you could wake up wondering why you ever felt that way to begin with… and that’s where things get confusing.
This lasted all first year.
During the summer, I was home. I rarely felt the pressure and anxiety that I felt away at school and life was decently good again. Every couple days I’d have some sort of panic and worry but eventually by working through it, I could shake it. I avoided it.
Then, second year began.
This has by far been the worst it has ever been.
I couldn’t last a week away from home. The familiarity, my family, boyfriend, and friends. I had just gotten used to my new routine before again having to start anew as a second year student. At least this time I knew what to expect. I knew the course load, I knew people at school, and I loved my new housemates from the day I met them. Despite all the positive things of second year, I went home just days after moving in, threatening to my parents about dropping out because I had so much anxiety and heart-throbbing feelings of what was to come. We came up with another solution of coming home every weekend if I needed to & finding another psychiatrist to talk to. My third one now. To make my parents happy, and hopefully subdue the feelings of being on the wrong path of life, in the wrong program, and with the wrong people, I went. I met with the third psychiatrist.
Hopeful that this time something would click with this lady, I opened up yet again. Something that is very tough for me. We can all guess how this ended up going. I gave it multiple shots, and eventually she wasn’t doing what I hoped she would. I felt uncomfortable and I sort of felt judged. So, I stopped making appointments. I had given up. My parents were worried about me and constantly called or texted to check up on how meetings were going, and I lied. I lied to my mom and dad. According to them, all was swell in my life.
Little did they know my entire first semester was spent either leaving classes early, not going to classes, and often spending the night drinking just to numb what I was feeling. This cycle continued for months where’d I’d have my daily glass of whatever I was drinking, and call my best friend to just cry and complain about everything. My relationship suffered, my education/grades suffered, and ultimately I suffered because I dug myself such a hole that I couldn’t climb out of.
I ruined a lot of good things in my life because I’ve never fully figured out how to control my anxiety. I’ve left bars early, feared leaving my house, I’ve cried for hours in blackened out, anxiety caused states that I can’t explain to anyone in the morning countless times.
It’s not fun, it’s not something I’d ever wish on anyone. Anxiety and depression are real. I’ve gone through three doctors who are afraid to diagnose an illness because they didn’t want me to be apart of this stigma. Instead, I’ve suffered the repercussions and started to believe that maybe these illnesses are truly all in my head. I’d rather a firm diagnosis than to believe that non of these long, hard, two years has been real.
Right now, my story doesn’t have a happy ending. I live every day learning how to cope with the anxiety I experience. Controlling this doesn’t come easy because you never know what’s going to be your trigger. All you can hope is that you’ll be able to breathe through it, and remind yourself that everything will be okay in the end.
Although I don’t open up easy, I do encourage anyone who thinks that they have something going on to talk to your parents. Talk to your doctor and find a solution that works FOR YOU. No one deserves to go through life with feelings of constant negativity. Surround yourself with people who make you happy, people who will make you stronger, and your fight easier. Everyone copes differently, and no two situations are the same. You cannot be replaced.
At the end of the day, we’re all people trying to get through life.
Take it one day at a time.
Feel free to reach out to me if you need to talk or have questions, I’m always judgement free.
Please make sure to text, tweet, talk, donate, and support today to raise awareness for mental health!!! #BellLetsTalk
Kids Help Phone: 1800-668-6868
Mental Health Help Line: 1-866-531-2600
Ontario College and University Students: 1-866-925-5454