I finally feel comfortable discussing this special topic on my blog. I am sorry I have been a little inconsistent with posting. From here on out, I will try to post a full blog post once a week and a few shorter pieces throughout the week. Anyway, I want to share my experience with mental illness.
At the wonderful yet naive age of 17, I had extremely low self-esteem. My weight depressed me. I felt like I did not have any real friends. I felt nervous about college. These are all extremely common themes that run through girls in high school. On February 8th, I had the brilliant idea to cut myself. Will the release of blood relieve the internal pain? Will this physical act justify all the pain I suffer in my head? Soon after making a few pathetic, and I really mean pathetic, cuts, I instantly knew this was not the answer. Self inflicting pain may have appealed to me, because other people who suffered from depression did it. Unfortunately, Tumblr had, still has, a large community of people who romanticize cutting. I wanted to feel connected to others like me through this action, but it did not feel good. I felt dirty. I was ashamed that I thought this was the answer.
A month or two passes. There was this event run through my high school’s brother school that put parents and students in groups to discuss depression and anxiety. I rose my hand to share my story. I admitted to a group of random people that I cut myself recently. Looking back, I was really brave. I know people might have thought I was doing it for attention. Fun fact, yeah I was. There’s nothing wrong for people asking for some attention regarding the need for help! After our discussion, I had a few people approach me. Truthfully, I do not have a vivid memory of this due to my hysterics during it. A teacher in our group contacted my mom, which made me embarrassed. I was already embarrassed that I did something so stupid and meaningless, now I have to tell my mom. At the time, I was meeting the school counselor to talk through some of these things. It was not fulfilling. It was not a reflection of her, but rather her technique did not match my healing process. That is okay! Back to my mom, she asked me if I wanted to see a therapist. What choice did I really have?
My first therapy session. I enter a small office space on the 17th floor of a medical building in the middle of Center City. (Philadelphia, of course!) Her office window looks out to skyscrapers, making therapy almost an aesthetic experience for me. My mom came to the session on her lunch break. “See you next week.” I showed up next week. I opened up to the healing process. Learning to talk about things with someone who has no connections to the people you know in your life felt relieving. I could tell my therapist anything. I stopped going to the school counselor, because I no longer needed that. I had my sacred place with a window looking out at all the possibilities. I understood that the healing process was not a quick fix. I broke down almost every week, pretty much like clockwork. Thank God for therapy during my senior year of high school. I did not get into the colleges I dreamed of or got the SAT score I needed. However, therapy allowed me to see the positives in my situation. My therapist watched me get into Temple University with the desire to write. She emphasized how college will introduce me to new people and opportunities that will shape me into my true self.
I learned that my anxiety about making friends and desiring to fit into some sort of community followed me to college. Commuting to school made it hard for me to make friends. I would make myself so depressed over something so trivial as going out. Looking back, it was a ridiculous worry. But, I felt like I was missing out on an experience I deserved to have. In my therapy sessions, I would focus on what was wrong instead of what was right. It took a lot of discussions with my therapist on the positives going on in my life. Once I said “Yeah, look around at all the good things happening. You are going to school to study film and you love all your classes.” I felt like my recovery process was at a stand still. I was only getting so far with my talk therapy. The questioned I dreaded the most came up. “Do you want to try medication?” My therapist compared anxiety and depression to diabetes, which is a great analogy. Some people are born with these things, but other develop them over time. But, you would never tell someone who needed insulin that it was not going to work or they didn’t need it. You only have control over yourself, and what you need for your recovery is your business. After some thought, I said why not. I’m going to try medication. I went to the appointment with the psychiatrist who prescribed me Lexapro. I was on 10 milligrams for about a month, then got bumped up to 20. I felt like it was working. My mood was improving. I no longer spent my time focusing on my emotional turmoil and took steps towards personal growth.
Junior year was a downward spiral that stunted all of my efforts for the past three years. I had the brilliant idea that I needed to move out of my house to live on campus. I fought my parents on this discussion. “Mom, you have no idea how much I miss! I’m going to pay for it anyway. Why do you care?” She was looking out for me, and I resisted. I moved into a crappy off-campus apartment. My roommates were awful. I spent a lot of time with friends. Do not get me wrong, school still was first. I still went to my classes and did my homework. I wish I put some more effort into my studies at the time, but you live and you learn. By February/March, I moved back to my parents’ house. If someone told me that the apartment I lived in was cursed or something, I believe it. Haha. Anyway, I was not consistent with taking my medication during my time living alone. So, when I got home and started taking Lexapro regularly, something weird happened. The medication had a slow effect in the opposite direction of recovery.
I started talking about disappearing. Let’s be clear, I was not suicidal in the stereotypical sense. I would say in therapy that I wish I could just disappear and it wouldn’t matter, because no one really cared anyway. Telling myself this negative sentence over and over pushed me over the edge. At work, which is the most embarrassing place to have this, I had full blown anxiety attack. I went up to my friend telling her “You hate me. You always hated me. Stop pretending.” I cried on the back of the host stand whaling that I just wanted to die. My parents were called, of course. They could not keep a hysterical hostess greeting customers, so I was sent home and did not go back to work for a couple days. I called my therapist right away about what happened. After the wave of panic came the wave of embarrassment. Realizing how ridiculous I seemed, I felt even worse. Where am I going to go now?
My therapist said “Maybe, we need to change your medication.” A lot of times, being on antidepressants is a trial and error process. You can plateau on a medication and then develop the reversed effects like I did. So, then I started Cymbalta. I started to feel really good. Senior year commenced, and I worried less about all those stupid social pressures. I went to school, hung out with my friends who I’ve known since I was a child, and worked. I decided soon into senior year that I wanted to do the study away program in LA over the summer. Finally, I felt some positive growth towards my mental illness. I began to put my needs over the needs of others. I practiced working on self control. The future was bright.
Sure, the move to Los Angeles was riddled with anxiety. Instead of falling into my old habits of negative thinking, I started thinking more positively about my choices. I finally understand what is best for me and my future. I have had a lot of setbacks during the last 8 months that effected my mental health, but my strength to do better and get better refuses to let me stay down for long.
I wanted to share my story with others, because often times, we feel invalidated for our mental illness due to all the people who have it worse than you. I am so exhausted of people undermining mental illness. A lot of times, depression and anxiety are genetic. You cannot control your genes! The only thing you have control over is yourself–especially your actions. Do you think that I do not feel more depressed and anxious because I know people have it worse than me but I still have all this negativity racing through my brain? Of course! Again, I do not have control over others, just myself. I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that causes me to worry to the point of obsession then get sad enough to feel numb. I am no longer ashamed of my problems, and I work every single day to recover. I accept myself, and that is all that matters. My road to full recovery maybe never end, but that is okay. I love that I am a sensitive being! I have to just learn how to channel my anxiety into my writing or work for personal success. Honestly, I have cried a lot trying to write this blog. My tears come from a place of happiness and acceptance. I just hope people reading this can recognize in themselves how they treat others. Instead of being skeptical of your friends suffering, just be gentle. Let me be clear, your friends who suffer from anxiety and depression almost never want to talk about it. Lots of my friends and acquaintances always say “You can talk to me about what you are going through! I’m here!” I know it is so ironic I’m here posting on the internet my feelings, I feel as though me talking to people who have not been in my circle for years is just unnecessary. My closest friends know who they are, because I cry on their shoulders a lot. Anyway, when people who suffer from anxiety, depression, etc. do have the courage to open up to you, just listen. Most people with mental illness just want to be heard and validated.
Hi, my name is Sabrina, and I have general anxiety disorder and major depression. My illness does not define me. I work everyday to improve my mental health.
If anyone wants to reach out to me about their mental health and want some guidance towards recovery, my email/dms/every way you can connect are always opened. Just be patient with my response. Okay, I am finished with rambling about myself.
Enjoy a list of tv shows/movies that do a great job capturing mental illness!
BoJack Horseman (I know you are all SHOCKED by this) “Stupid piece of shit” is the best episode that shows what it is like to have a mental illness.
Maniac- the limited series on Netflix with Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.
Good Will Hunting
Parks and Recreation- specifically the one where Ben makes the claymation
Thanks again for reading! Love all of you guys!