Fighting for my life
Editor's note: Trigger warnings for self-harm. Thank you, Amber for sharing your insightful journey of overcoming your physical and mental health struggles.
My journey started in high school. The summer before my junior year, I transferred schools and moved in with my aunt and uncle so I would have more educational opportunities. Although I loved it there, I missed my friends and parents terribly. The unfamiliar walls of my room seemed to close in on me at night. Most nights, I would lay awake and just write or lay in my bed under piles of blankets because the weight of the blankets was the only thing that made me feel grounded.
During this time in my life, I felt distant and separated. I began to see myself inverting, pushing away the people I loved the most. Even when I was with friends, I felt detached at times. I would find myself not really listening to what was going on around me and only tuning into my thoughts.
One day, I overheard two classmates talking about cutting and how it made them feel better. That planted a seed. I thought about it a lot, but I never thought I would do it.
Then one night, I broke. I had slept four hours in two days and argued with my mom. I was driven into an emotional spiral that left me numb. I broke open a razor, did what my classmates did, and I felt better; it reminded me I was alive. I did this for about 5 months before anyone knew, and then I finally told my parents. I went to therapy after that for a few months, where I learned how to cope with what I was feeling.
Things were pretty great for a while, but then college happened. Emotionally, I was pretty unstable. I had very high highs and very low lows, but I was able to cope by focusing all my negative energy into my music and performances. I felt like I was on top of the world for a while. Then I started to get severe headaches that were so bad I was unable to get out of bed and function normally. They affected everything. I was miserable.
After many doctors, dozens of trials, and a few MRIs later, I was diagnosed with pituitary adenoma hyperprolactinemia. There was a tumour on my pituitary gland that was producing more hormones than my body needed. The diagnosis made me feel better because it was the first time I had actual answers.
The medications I was on to help shrink the tumour made me feel even worse. My headaches were more intense, I was sick to my stomach most days, and had more emotional highs and lows than ever. On top of the physical ailments, I was having extreme anxiety attacks where I felt like the whole world was caving in on me. I saw a psychiatrist who prescribed me medication. I felt a small relief for my anxiety, but nothing helped the physical and emotional pain.
I visited a pituitary specialist who told me I needed surgery, and hearing that was a lot scarier than I’d ever like to admit. I had two procedures done and was on bed rest for three months.
I was home, lying flat, and only moving to use the bathroom or shower, assisted. I stared at the same three walls, day after day, and what seemed like hundreds of pill bottles. What I held onto most were my own self-hating thoughts.
I kept popping more Xanax, Percocet, and muscle relaxers to feel numb. One night I was lying there thinking about all that was going on in my life: I had brain surgery, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, and I lost my job since my medical leave was extended. I made a choice that night to not give up and to take back control of at least one aspect of my life.
My entire life perspective changed that night, and I began fighting for my life again. Fighting to be heard, to not let people take control of me anymore, and to be the best me I could. I started my own foundation for brain tumours and epilepsy research and to help those who went through similar challenges to my own. From there, I got a new job, finally broke free from my relationship, and everything in my life turned around.
Of course, there were still minor medical bumps in the road, but it didn’t matter because I was in charge. Now, I am 6 years post-op, feeling better than I have in years, I just moved to Massachusetts, and I am working my dream job.
Why is it important for you to share your story and experiences with mental health and illness?
My story is about how I struggled with depression, anxiety, and self-harm during my high school and college years and also how my battle with a brain tumour contributed to my depression and anxiety, from which I was able to survive and come out stronger on the other end. I became a licensed therapist and motivational speaker because I want to share my narrative to as many people as possible to shine the light on mental health illnesses.
Boston, MA, USA
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