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Navigating life while mentally ill

Growing up I never felt different. I wasn’t overly moody, or anything of the sort. I was “normal” (whatever that means) and I felt like I belonged. It wasn’t until junior year of high school that, that began to change. I was under a lot of stress both at home and at school and while being stressed was nothing new to me at the time, something in me changed. I no longer felt motivated, I overslept, my appetite disappeared, and I became socially anxious. This confused me and for a while I attributed it to normal teenage girl stuff. I figured if I performed better in school or if I were a better daughter, I wouldn’t feel this way and eventually everything would right itself.

However, when my symptoms didn’t go away and then worsened, I finally gathered the courage to tell my mom how I felt. To me at the time it felt normal. I talked about what I later found out was depression as one would talk about the weather. To my surprise my mom booked an appointment with a therapist and I was diagnosed with severe depression and general anxiety. To me, therapy was great, and I enjoyed talking however the downside to therapy for me was the fact that I was out on medicine that did not fit me (or so I felt). I wanted to be normal and to me, no normal teenager takes medicine everyday just because they’re emotions get them down. It was the wrong attitude to have and I’m sad to say that this attitude is something I’m still struggling to get rid of today. Today as a new college graduate, and recently bipolar diagnosed woman, I find myself trying hard not to stigmatize myself and the things I need so that I can be healthy. It’s a process but I feel like there are several important things that I’ve learned along the way.

1) It’s okay not to be okay. No one feels 100% okay everyday. Even if you think they do, it’s not a realistic expectation to have for yourself. You’re going to go through things, you’re going to feel emotions that aren’t always nice and you’re going to be sad. It happens. The difference is how you cope with these things. You can either recognize that things happen and sometimes you’re going to feel bad. Or you can drown in whatever negative feeling you’re feeling and push yourself into a bad space. So here’s a mini list of things that I am finding helpful as I go through this journey.

2) Its okay to talk to friend about what you’re going through. A lot of the times mental illnesses can be isolating because you wonder who you can talk to. Even if you have a large supportive friend group, it can be hard to sit there with a friend and let them know how you have been feeling. However, you shouldn’t have to feel that way. Any person that calls you a friend should want to know how you feel. You don’t even have to share with them everything, but sometimes a brief talk with a friend can do wonders when you’re not in such a good place.

3) If you’re being prescribed any type of medication for your mental illness, take it. This is something that I constantly struggle with. For me I would get on a medicine, feel normal after a while, and then start to ponder if I even needed it in the first place (this is common for people with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses). I am here to tell you that you need your medicine. Mental illness is not all just mental, they are caused by real physical and chemical issues within your body. So, if you’re psychiatrist thinks that it’s best that you’re on a mood stabilizer or an antidepressant, take it. If you’re worried about the side effects or if you’re not feeling well while on them talk to your doctor, but don’t stop unless given specific directions.

4) You don’t have to go through anything alone. With the advent of new technology there are more ways than ever to reach out. One of the most popular ways to find things such as hotlines and online chat rooms is the SAMHSA (substance abuse and mental health service administration). They have a hotline 1-800-662-HELP that can help you find doctors or even other lines to talk to someone. These people are usually trained individuals who will listen and also direct you to your closest doctor. If you find yourself stuck or feeling like there is no way out, this can be your way, you don’t have to struggle.

This is definitely not an end all be all and I’m still learning lots until this day, I hope you guys find these tips helpful for you as go through the journey that is life.


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