Having grown up with a bipolar mother I was educated on mental illnesses pretty early. Although my mom had tried (and succeeded) to hide her mental illnesses from us by being a very positive, outgoing and happy role model, my parents’ divorce set her back. It got too hard to hide from us because she was feeling worse than she had in a long time and because we (my little sister and I) were older, and we could sense something was off.
So she decided to tell us how she had struggled with her mental health since she had been a child and how her uncle had killed himself. I remember asking myself how a person can feel like they want to die.
It was only a couple of years later that I came to understand how deep this desire and despair really goes and how long I had been struggling with it myself.
I have depression, anxiety with panic attacks and depersonalisation. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at the age of fifteen. I’ve been on antidepressants since I was sixteen. I have been in a mental hospital twice and although it wasn’t for a long time, it helped me understand some things better. I have been going to therapy irregularly since I was diagnosed.
When I was eleven-years-old I was bullied. I used to lock myself in the bathroom and cry. Then, I’d come home and fight with my mom because I was so stressed and sad. At the time I didn’t know what bullying or mental health was, but it triggered anxiety in me that had always been there and has gotten worse ever since.
It's something I have to deal with every day. It sits at the back of my mind, feeding my insecurities, telling me it’s never enough and making me restless. It doesn’t allow me to sleep. It makes me scared of school and failure and life. When it’s really bad I get panic attacks, and then the whole world stops and I have to battle for breath, survival. At least that’s what it feels like.
Then there is depression. Somehow the total opposite of anxiety, exhausting me, draining me of all energy and wish to live. It tells me “why bother? You are going to fail anyway.” I battle my own mind every single day and on the really bad days, every single second. I can’t fall asleep and when I do fall asleep, I can’t get up. Sometimes even the idea of getting dressed is too much to handle.
So because it all became too much to handle, my brain decided to create an emergency break: depersonalisation. It's like everything becomes distant. You stop physically feeling and it's as if you’re not inside of your own body. Voices seem distant, even touch feels weird. And you stop caring. That’s the most dangerous part. You stop feeling altogether. Emptiness is all there is left when your brain traps you inside of yourself.
Even though all this is bad enough on it’s own, for me one of the hardest parts of having a mental illness is struggling with all the people in my life who don’t understand and just label me as lazy, showing disappointment instead of support. A lot of people in my life don’t realize that I struggle and fight every single day and that I’m exhausted because my own mind is fighting against me most of the time. That I can’t do certain things because they overwhelm me and make me panic. That I am trying my best and fighting really hard.
That’s something mental disease does to you. It isolates you from the ones you love because you’re too scared to burden them, disappoint them. Or, you simply don’t feel like you’ll get the support you need because you don’t understand yourself, what is going on, and whether or not you’re just crazy and lazy or it’s real and treatable. But if there is one thing therapy has taught me is that mental diseases are very real. Going to therapy has been a part of my life ever since I’ve been a child, and although I have been to different therapists (some more fitting for me then others) and I haven’t done so regularly, I am grateful for it. I am not ashamed, nor have I ever been so, because of it, because I believe that it takes a lot of courage to ask for help. I would really encourage everyone to seek help when they feel they need it and I want people to know it’s okay.
All these struggles, the tears, and the pain have made me who I am today. They have made me strong. I have good days and I have bad days. Sometimes I just want to give up but I don't. And that is something I’m proud of so I want the world to listen, to open their eyes and change the stigmas we’ve got about mental health. By sharing our experiences, speaking up, educating people, we can change that. We can encourage compassion and encouragement.
At the end of the day, depression taught me to be grateful for all the good things, no matter how small. Anxiety has taught me to overcome fear. Depersonalisation has taught me that giving up and not caring is never the answer. And that’s what I want to share, to project in my life and to teach other people.
#dontcallmecrazy. My name is Valeria and I have #depression and #anxiety, but it does not have me.
- Val H.M., 2018