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End The Stigma

The subject of Mental Health has always been a touchy subject in my life. Looking back I can remember suffering very early on in my life. I can honestly remember having anxiety as early as the age of seven to the point where I would throw up and get migraines. I remember laying awake at night full of fear about losing my family (my big fear). Having a biological father who left early in my life, you can guess where that fear came from. The only problem, I was from a generation where you did not talk about these things. It was normal for kids to have fears. But I don't think anyone could have thought that it was hurting me so much inside.

The years passed and I dealt with life the best ways I knew how. With a lot of tears, sleepless nights, and sleeping beside my parents bed. When I started Middle School and Junior High the depression and anxiety came into play all over again. The depression was a bit new for me. This time I didn't know quite how to cope anymore. I began writing, putting my feelings down on paper, which helped a little. But I found a way to numb how I was feeling. Something that eased the anxiety and the fear in me. I took my first drink and my second and so on. I also smoked my first joint. I almost felt relaxed!

For once I felt confident and happy. I felt like I could take on the world when I was drinking or high. I out right felt like a bad ass! And I was getting into a lot of trouble to prove it. The lying and sneaking around was out of control. And I look back and the things I did like sneaking out all hours of the night and stealing, I am lucky I am still here or was never arrested! You may not believe it, but I was hurting so bad inside and did not know how to tell anyone.

I got to high school and actually got into cheerleading! (Yes, I was a cheerleader) But, I continued to party. It was my escape from my own thoughts. For a little while , at least. If your wondering where my parents were in all of this, they were there! I spent most of the rest of my time in trouble, and when I wasn't, I was lying or deceiving them somehow so that I could get out of the house. The only thing I was never able to tell them was the truth. The truth of the pain. The things going on in my head. Those were actually the things I knew that they would not want to hear.

So then came my senior year. I was so excited to get life started. I had blown my grades so only two colleges accepted me and one was if I took some introduction classes first. But I was going to be off to college! Then came December of 1995 and my world got turned upside down! The man that I adored, the man I looked up to, the man who was a father figure to me when mine left, the man I loved so much passed away. My grandfather had a heart attack and passed away and I was never the same again.

I had never really dealt with death before and then here I was dealing with the death of my hero. I didn't even know how to begin to handle this. My dad (my mom remarried when I was 7 and he adopted me) was there for my mom and I as much as he could be but I just fell deeper into depression. Then that May, my other grandfather also passed away. After that I decided I could not make any life changes at that point and I backed out of college!

I finally went to my mom and told her it was time for a Doctor appointment. I couldn't do it on my own. She actually agreed. I sought help and was put on medication for the first time at 18 years of age. Little did I know then that it would be a life long struggle.

The only problem was once I started to feel better the doctor wanted me off of the medication. Of course, My family agreed so I went back off. Again I started to flounder and eventually the fall was harder this time.

This time I was 20 years old and had spent the last few years trying to hold my life together. I had just graduated business school and got a job. But I had never felt so alone. I guess I finally reached my breaking point. My mom took me to the doctor for a panic attack and I told the doctor everyone would be better off without me. I'll never forget the look on my mom's face as tears filled her eyes. Those are the words I had been fighting to say for years. It did get me a few days stay at the local hospital but I was able to finally say how I had been feeling. They put me back on medication while I was there and my parents were there every day to see me. It was a bit of a eye opener for them too.

When I got home it was time for me to get out on my own and get life started. I moved out of my childhood home. Then I decided to take on the world and moved 600 miles away from home.

I am now 41 years old and married with two beautiful boys. I have floundered many times over these last 20 years but have been able to find help and get myself back on track with the help of my husband, my family, and my support system. I always have a tendency to withdraw so that puts my husband on high alert. The biggest thing is that I was open about my mental illness with him and my support system. I am trying to end the stigma. It does not change the person I am inside. It just changes what I may need from time to time and that's ok.

With everything going on right now and people being isolated, people like me may be suffering more and they may be suffering in silence. If you are depressed it is ok to reach out. This is a very hard time. We need to end the stigma!


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