Blessed with an Illness
Editor's note: Trigger warnings for depression and suicide. Angel, thank you for your inspiring and motivating story on your journey through recovery, and overcoming your struggles with depression and anxiety.
Hello, my name is Angel. I am a nineteen year old, first year college student, who has dealt with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. My depression still lingers. I take medication, and undergo therapy each week. However, I would not be in the place I am right now if I had not taken the steps I did to battle my illness. I have had a long, tiring journey to get where I am - about six years to be exact. Although I am in the process of recovery, I have made an impact by helping others in their own struggles, trying to be a positive source of light to people around me, and taking the time to be empathetic to everyone. I also experienced immense progress through the years I have been under the chains of my illness, by understanding that self care is important and putting myself as a priority, no matter what may be going on in my life.
It took me a long time to understand my mental illness and realize that it was okay to feel sad sometimes and that recovery meant that I would still struggle through my negative and suicidal thoughts, and feelings of hopelessness. I would regret the fact that I was not doing enough to get better and hate myself because I believed I did not deserve to feel this way. I thought the sadness and despair would end, but it just got worse. I wore a mask to hide the sadness and fear of being judged. Every time I tried running away from the problem, it would come back harder than ever. I could not understand what was going on or what was happening. All I wanted was to get out of the dark and to escape the demons that were taunting me every single day.
I was formally diagnosed with depression in my first or second year of high school, but as I reflect back, I realize it all began in seventh grade. I remember the first episode of my depression around the time that everything I once knew about myself started to fall apart. I was entered into an honors program thinking I could handle the intense workload, the overwhelming feelings of disappointment, the fluctuation of my grades. The stress ate me up inside, and I did not know how to process it, so I turned to self harming. I did not open up to anyone about it for the fear of judgement and humiliation. My mother thought it was a phase, and my family thought I was overreacting, "There is nothing to be sad about," they said. I agreed because there actually wasn't anything to be sad about. But depression does not have a concrete reason to be there. Sometimes, it is a biological reason or a chemical imbalance. I remember feeling stressed out about school because I was a perfectionist. I needed everything to be perfect, whether it was school or home, everything I did needed to be perfected, and if it wasn't perfect, I would be disappointed in myself to the point where I felt worthless. In the moment, I did what I thought was the most logical thing: I pushed my feelings aside... but that made everything worse.
I had constant thoughts about who I was and why I was not good enough for myself, my family, and others. I questioned why my father left before I was born and concluded that it was because I was a mistake and a failure. My ruminations and negative thoughts led me into a deeper depression, and my anxiety continued to eat me alive. I learned that I had major depression and anxiety and that I needed to get help or else I would end up doing something I regretted. At first, I refused. I thought that getting help would label me as "crazy" or "mental", so I constantly denied it. When things started to get chaotic with school and I started to have serious thoughts about killing myself, I came to the realization that help was the most important thing for me. I am not going to tell you that it was an easy road to recovery because it was not. I faced even more suicidal thoughts, mental hospital admissions, self-harm urges, attempts to overdose, and I isolated myself from everyone I cared for and loved. I was a complete mess because my illness told me ignorant and untruthful comments.
I remember the light striking me as I sat on a lumpy chair in a mental hospital after attempting suicide for the second time. I remember looking at the teenagers around me and thinking, “They are just like me. We are all the same.” They were no different from my friends at school, and they acted like normal teenagers. So what if we were in a mental hospital? We are all the same; we just have some issues to overcome. At the end of the day, we are the stronger ones because we are achieving the strength and persistence to stay alive even when we do not want to. That was the day I understood. That was the day I knew I wanted to become an advocate for people like us. Even in the midst of a group therapy session, the leading therapist shunned us and did not show us appreciation. I remember speaking up and saying, “You have no right to just brush us off like that. These people are amazing. Within the week, I have known all of you, I am so glad and happy to have been here because you are all so strong and so courageous. You are all so amazing. You are all so strong. I am so proud of all of you even though I spent such a small amount of time with you.”
Now, six years later, I write this to you, sharing my story. I want you to know that I am on the road to becoming an advocate and a voice in the mental health field. As you are reading this, I am full time college student that struggles with her mental health everyday to become a better individual. Every moment I can, I speak against mental health stigma and continue to pour out my passion to those around me. I am more than eager to be a mental health advocate because of the experiences I have been through. I hope you know that you are not alone, you are loved, and I care about you. Much love goes out to you. I know you can do this. I know you are strong. Do not let anyone ruin your spark. You were born into this world for a reason and I know you are destined for greater things. It may look bleak and it will be a tough ride, but you can and will achieve more than you will ever imagine. I believe in you.
Los Angeles, California, USA
More about Angel:
I am a second year student in college. My passion is mental health, and I love supporting and being there for people in need. Whatever it may be, helping people fuels the fire in my heart. For my goals in life, I’d like to be a voice for the people who are not able to express themselves the way they want to. When I feel like all is lost, I tend to remember what I’m working so hard for and why I decided to go to college. With a goal, I feel it’s easier for me to reach for something instead of feeling lost and confused.
This is a candid picture of myself from my trip to Arizona! It was one of those moments that reminded me why I love to be alive.
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