Mental Illness has become such a popular conversation. More people are telling their story and bringing awareness to it.
*I want you guys to know that I started writing this in May, the last week of May, and I did not know if I wanted to publish it. But given the deaths that we’ve had this week alone that were caused by suicide, I decided that me having my concerns on what people may or may not think is a smaller issue compared to those out there who feel alone. I get it, I’ve been there. So I am telling my story for encouragement and I hope you can tell yours.*
I wanted to tell my story, on mental illness. I will also continue to update you guys on treatments and what I find helpful. There’s no set in stone way to deal with mental illness but there are many ways to balance it out.
Here’s my story:
I was 12 when I discovered that maybe there was something wrong with me. I remember listening to the radio on Saturday morning and the commercial talked about how kids tend to get depressed when trying to impress and live up to their parents expectations. I realized that I would get sad more often and for no reason.
It was not until a couple of mental breakdowns later that I decided to seek professional help.
Now I can say I have been diagnosed with bipolar depression. I didn’t know what it was before but I knew I was depressed. What I didn’t know was that my depression started before I was 12, this is something I realized after going to therapy. I have always been a sad girl, since I was about 7.
I’ve had a rollercoaster of a life since five, and I understand that all of the tragedies you have in life really mess with your mental. Just to give you guys an understanding of my life I’ll tell you bout it. So buckle up.
I am a Sierra Leonean native born and almost raised. I came to the use at 5/6 without my mother. I grew up with my aunts and grandmother (naming the mother figures in my life, I had uncles too). My father was here in the US. Growing up without a mother is hard, especially when you watch the people around you having mothers to talk to, argue with, and just be around. As a young kid you tend to want to do everything you can to fill that emptiness. I cried EVERY DAY. I remember being called “cry baby” by my family members or told to shut up.
Apart from that I was also raped at 6 (and 7 I later found out). Very traumatic. Oh, and it was by a family member. Extra traumatic. That happening and the people in my family NOT doing anything about it haunted me for a while. It’s one of those things that I’ve learned over the last couple of years to talk about. It made me realize how many people had experienced it and were willing to share their story and words of encouragement. I remember the first time I talked about this was not at the therapist, but with a group of girls I had come to build a relationship with. I didn’t end up telling me parents until I was 21. I felt that I had to forgive everyone involved first and make peace with it.
At twelve I went through what many teenagers go through, my parents split. Now I am a family girl. I love everything family related. I think it’s such a beautiful thing. My mother and brother had just come to the US and I was elated. But then my father left and we (my mom, brother and I) were left with nothing. My father paid all the bills so when he left we had no light. We slept in the cold. When it got dark it was DARK. We had no hot water. It was a very sad time in my life. In our life. I still had to go to school. And keep my grades up. And smile. And be happy. At this point in my life I was a skilled masker. Masking my feelings and emotions. I was a pro. My father ended up coming back, my mother had a daughter (my sister), and my family is back together. But there was so much trauma and pain.
Then there was college! High school was pretty easy for me. I just minded my business. I made amazing friends and built a resume. College was a struggle, and that could be the reason I haven’t gone back for my masters. I was starting to become terrible at masking my feelings and emotions. It just became harder. I became more moody and absent. I cried in the college’s COO’s office (it was that bad). I had done such a great job with the crying up to this point. After being told to shut up at 6 it became very difficult for me to cry. Here I was at 19/20 crying in my college’s COO’s office, out of nowhere. She told me to seek counseling and it was at that moment I decided I should see a therapist. So I started and well it wasn’t deep, or I wasn’t deep. I still thought, “there’s nothing wrong with me”. So I had “meaningless” conversations with my therapist, making sure not to let her in. At this point though I was open with my depression, letting my friends know and them telling me they felt the same.
After college, well, worse than when I was in college. My mood swings became larger than life. I would disappear for days and never contact anyone. I would sleep for days or I would not sleep at all. So I tried therapy again, got tested and diagnosed with bipolar depression. Lied on a couple of doctor evaluations (please never do this) just to avoid antidepressants (I am terrified of the side effects). I had a breakdown in my office and even saw Tony Robbins, for a day. Did some “find yourself” seminars. Just on a journey to find out what works best for me. But along this journey I have learned some things and I want to share them.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years:
I am NOT alone, and neither are you. There are many people that suffer in silence and many that are open with it. Over all there is someone out there with a similar story.
There are people out there willing to help, even to talk. And you won’t know until you tell your story.
You do not know what someone is going through so do not assume. Be authentic, not only with others but with yourself.
Find something or a place that makes you happy. For me that’s nature. Whether at the park, around animals, or with water.
I have shared this number on social media plenty of times
You can always text 741741. You do not have to be feeling suicidal, you can just feel overwhelmed or anxious. They’ll help, I’ve chatted with them myself.