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The Question I Dread Being Asked as Someone Who Grew Up With Emotional Abuse

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I dread that moment when someone unexpectedly asks, “…and how is your mother?” I never have an easy answer at the ready. “Oh, umm she’s fine, thank you,” I usually say, with a quick change of the subject. If the asker is extended family and the subject will surely come up again, I might say “We aren’t in touch very much.” And if my intuition tells me that the person will not judge, I tell the truth: “We are estranged.”

There is no easy way to explain you don’t speak to your parent. Or parents. Or entire family. The inquiry comes up casually and often enough. It’s a normal question after all, under most circumstances. But we are not most families.

After a lifetime of trying to maintain ties with the people who formed my world for so many years, while also addressing the sexual and emotional abuse in our family, it became clear I would finally have to choose. My family or my emotional health. Their love or the truth. Them or me.

I chose me.

Every time I get the question, I hope the asker will not judge me. In fact if they know me at all, if they see me for who I am, they often give me at least some benefit of the doubt. It’s easy to see I am a loving, forgiving, family-oriented person. Given the choice, I would keep my family members in my life. But their rejection of my truth and my refusal to participate in old family dynamics leaves me with no healthy choice but to walk away.

Sometimes the person looks at me with disapproval when it becomes clear that I am estranged from my mother. It may be an old friend or relative of hers or one of the many who’ve enjoyed her fun-loving personality and interest in the plights of those around her. They don’t know my experience is different. They don’t understand I feel like I have two mothers: one who loves me deeply and one who can’t seem to tolerate my presence. They don’t realize her concern for other people’s feelings only underscores her rejection of mine. They can’t grasp the crescendo of betrayal I felt to my core before I finally chose to walk away.

It’s not seen as “normal” to be estranged from your parents. For those of us who are, we know that separation is a monumental and painful step, taken only when there is no other safe choice. Others may not get it, they may question our morals and judge us outright. But we know the truth. And since we have made the break from our families, we will always choose truth, sanity and freedom from abuse over the approval of those who don’t understand.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via kotoffei.

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How to Help Someone Get Help for Their Mental Illness

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

Getting help is hard.

First, there are the phone calls. You typically have to make them yourself due to privacy laws. So you call around and try to find a clinician who doesn’t already have a full roster. Then you wait at least a week, sometimes a month or more. Then you get to try on your therapist, walk around in an initial conversation and see if they’re a good fit. If not, it’s back to calling around again.

This isn’t even to mention if you try to get a psychiatrist. Sometimes you jump through all the hoops to get a therapist just so you can get a referral so you can see the psychiatrist, whom you hope is a good fit because you don’t want to have to wait months more for another. Then the experimentation with the drugs start. Try this one and come back in a week. How do you feel? OK, now let’s up the dosage. Come back in a week. How do you feel? OK, this one isn’t working for you or maybe the side effects are too much so let’s try that one. Come back in a week. How do you feel now? OK, let’s add this one and see how you do in a week. Repeat and repeat and repeat, on and on and on.

All of this is just to try and get stable, to beat back your depression, manage your anxiety, control the psychosis. It’s a lot of effort to get mental health help. It’s emotionally draining. It’s dealing with getting on and off medications and all their side effects, all of which can wear on your body. This is work you have to do to get the help you need.

Now, imagine doing all this work or even starting this exhausting process when you’re in crisis — when the depression is eating you alive and whispering suicide in your ear. When panic attacks leave you debilitated and crumpled up on the floor, desperate to catch your breath. When you think your grip on reality is slipping. It’s in a crisis we need help the most, yet crisis is the point that it is hardest for us to put in all the effort to find a psychologist, psychiatrist, someone, anyone who can help us.

It’s not easy to survive a mental health crisis. The people we lose to suicide are proof of that. I don’t blame them though. The struggle is real, the fight is hard. Sometimes we lose to the illness. Sometimes we don’t get help in time. Sometimes we can’t even begin to reach out for help. I refuse to believe suicide is some unforgivable sin. It is an enemy, a stalker, a killer. It isolates us, cuts us off from our communities, our support, our loved ones. Then it kills us. Suicide is the terminal result of an illness. It’s not a selfish or cowardly action. It’s the result of a broken brain. It sometimes is the only option we can see to end the tremendous amount of pain we are in. Suicide is the dangerous end of a crisis if we don’t find the help we need.

Sometimes it feels like we are asking people with mental illness to walk miles to the hospital on a pair of broken legs. I know in my own times of crisis, reaching out has been the absolute hardest thing in the world, the last thing I feel like I can do. But it is what I needed the most. So we do reach out in any flailing way we can. We are desperately seeking immediate help and when the mental health system fails to provide us with that (no matter how much it tries to), we begin to look elsewhere.

We turn to self-medication behaviors — things like drugs, alcohol, self-harm. Anything to ease the pain we feel. Other times we go to the ER and get some triage for our mental state and emotions. We reach out to various crisis lines, hoping to find some relief, some connection, some solution to this plight. Sometimes, we reach out to churches, pastors and priests to give us some blessing, some wisdom, some healing for our soul. We even reach out to family and friends, hoping not to be a burden but to find some sort of solace, help, support in our times of need.

The point is, we are looking for help in any and all places.

So, let me pose a question to you. Knowing that one in four people will struggle with at least one mental health crisis in their lifetime, do you know how to help someone when you see them looking for help? Do you know how to be the support they need, how to get them to the professionals that can help, how to keep them alive while they go through pain and torment? Do you know how to be the community people you know may desperately need?

Let me tell you what you can do for us, how you can help, how you can be our lifeline in crisis.

Love us.

Love us enough to be there, physically, even when it’s ugly and uncomfortable. Love us enough to take us to the ER in emergencies. Love us enough to find the numbers to psychologists and psychiatrists for us. Love us enough to make us a meal we may not eat. Love us enough to not leave us alone when we might push you away. Love us like you would want to be loved if your life was on the line.

You may not save us, you may not do it perfectly, you may need others to help you, but please don’t leave us. Love us because we need it.

You may not be the help we need, but you can be a bridge to the start of a solution. Get us through this night of hurt. See us through till sunrise. Be there when we feel like no one is. We need you to be the answer to our prayers in these moments when the darkness is swallowing us whole. We don’t need you to be an expert or to have the silver bullet to solve our problems. We just need you to love us. Help us hold onto life when we are slipping.

One practical thing you can do is get suicide prevention training. The QPR Institute is a great facilitator of this. With the right training, you can be such a lifeline and bridge to help us get the help we need.

Love and preparedness are powerful tools you can wield to help us fight the best of mental illness. We need a community to bolster us up when the illness is trying to isolate and kill us. You are our community; you are love incarnate to us. You are hope with skin on when you can step in and be present with us in our crisis. So please, love us hard even when it is hard. Be the help that can get us to the help we need long term. You don’t have to do this forever, just long enough for us to get into some other safe hands. And safe hands are what we need. Our own hands are jagged and weak and we can’t hold on by ourselves. Don’t let us let go.

Be the bridge.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm or suicidal thoughts and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via guruXOOX

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A screenshot from the "Going Sane" documentary

The Mental Health System Was Failing My Daughter – So I Made a Documentary About It

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Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from the author’s daughter. If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

For years I went to bed at night fearing I’d wake up to find my daughter’s body, cold and dead. The imagination is cruelest when it plays with real possibilities. She had anorexia, depression, anxiety and was suicidal. When she was not in a treatment center, she had weekly therapy with a psychologist. But it seemed like the more she worked with professionals, the worse she got. By the time she reached her senior year of high school, she was pleading to die.

Still I had to believe the professionals were doing the best they could and that things were getting worse simply because mental illnesses are extremely complicated. That’s what I told myself and that’s how I lulled myself to sleep at night. It’s how I was able to endure year after year, and how I was able to write check after check.

As I waited for a miracle, I began to read as much as I could, to understand for myself the illnesses that plagued my daughter, thinking maybe I could help fix everything. But I stayed in the waiting room when she talked to her therapist. An hour later, when we went home together, I would ask about the session but she wouldn’t talk much. It was devastating to feel entirely left out of the therapeutic loop — not only the illness but now the treatment itself stood between us. I longed for deeper connection with my struggling daughter.

I think part of the reason it hurt so much was because I believed that if I could understand more, I could help more. It felt unbearable to simply sit on the sidelines. This was my daughter, a girl I had loved all her life. A girl I prodded out of bed in the morning. A girl I drove from place to place. A girl who haunted my mind for hours each night and stole away my sleep. A girl I could perfectly remember as a newborn, how healthy her pink body seemed and how she loved to be held. And now I felt helpless, just waiting for whatever magic was taking place behind closed doors to finally kick in. It was miserable.

And so I read. Book after book. The more I read, the more discontent I felt toward the behavioral science field. I quickly found the most effective, evidence-based treatments for adolescent anorexia was, hands down, Family Based Treatment. This is a manualized treatment that brings the family into the therapy session and teaches them skills to help re-feed and rebuild their child. It connected the person who was struggling with his/her family. And yet after 10 years of therapy, this treatment had never been used for my daughter.

How is this possible?

Ten years and tens of thousands of dollars, and none of the professional therapists had bothered to adhere to or inform me about the latest science? It was incomprehensible, almost unbelievable. I thought I must not understand something about my daughter’s case. I was just beginning my research after all, and the people treating her had years of education. That’s what I assumed. But then I read a blog by Tom Insel. It was his last blog as President of the National Institute for Mental Health. Talking to the mental health professionals, he stated: “We can save lives, many lives, simply by closing the unconscionable gap between what we know and what we do.”

After reading this statement and the blog post it came from, I wondered (and later confirmed) that maybe I had been right about my daughter receiving poor treatments. But what I found to be the case was even more horrifying. According to the research, it was not just my daughter who was receiving bad treatments, but also the vast majority of patients with mental illness.

It was almost too large to comprehend. I reeled with the awakening, like I had risen from a deep sleep in the middle of the day. It was not some conspiracy theory. All the science and the very top leaders of the United States Institute for Mental Health were saying it. The message was clear: in America, most of the time disproven, outdated treatments or sub-optimal treatments are used for patients with mental illness. It is simply wrong— “unconscionable” as Tom Insel put it.

And so I decided to do something about this unconscionable gap between therapy and research.

For 15 months I crisscrossed the nation interviewing top professionals, individuals with a variety of mental illnesses and families who had children with mental illnesses. Working with professional filmmakers, we made a documentary identifying the root causes for the gap between research and practice and why practitioners are so hesitant to include family in treatment.

The outcome of these interviews is the documentary “Going Sane: The Insanity of Mental Health Care In America.” If you are struggling to understand why the mental health field is failing your child, this will not only explain many of the problems you face, but also help you overcome them.

Parents cannot assume the therapies their children receive are up to date. It’s shocking, it’s discouraging, it’s almost unbelievable. But it’s true. And the most obvious example is that most therapists exclude family from therapy sessions, even though family involvement has been proven again and again to be crucial to successfully treating most mental illnesses.

If you’re left in the waiting room while your child goes off to see a therapist, that’s a big red flag. Watch “Going Sane” to understand why families continue to be excluded from treatment and why they need to get involved. It will change how you approach treatment, empower you to get better treatment and give you hope for the future. I know, because I’ve been there.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead image via Going Sane

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4 Ways to Combat Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace

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We all say things sometimes that aren’t exactly “politically correct.” I believe this is just part of human nature. But as the 21st century wears on, people are realizing the effects of their words more than ever. One area this doesn’t quite seem to be occurring fast enough though, is with stigma against mental illness. This can be a particular problem in the workplace because while friends may care enough to watch what they say, co-workers and supervisors don’t always “get it.”

Sometimes, it comes in funny lines and jokes that seem harmless.

My supervisor very kindly offered to get root beer floats for a difficult meeting, and a co-worker suggested we top them with “Xanax sprinkles.”

One co-worker reminded another co-worker to pack her “Prozac” for a stressful vacation, referring to chocolate.

One of the managers in my office said one day that he may just decide to check himself into a psych ward if things didn’t settle down soon.

During a stressful board meeting, the board members (all doctors) suggested they start making appointments with the psychiatrist on the board.

A co-worker just joked to me that if he wasn’t able to work from home on Fridays, he would just walk into traffic.

To some, this can all seem harmless — and perhaps if it was one statement by itself it would be harmless. However, it can take a toll if you are battling mental health struggles. I tend to go along with the laughter or sit uncomfortably while people make these jokes. My co-workers and supervisor are all genuinely caring and wonderful people, and I don’t think they would ever want to cause harm. However, sometimes these words and attitudes have a very real impact in my interactions with them.

These statements are why I do not disclose that I see a psychiatrist twice a week before coming to work. They are the reason I hide my Facebook posts from my co-workers. They are why I always take my meds secretly. The impact of keeping the extent of my battles a secret wasn’t even clear to me until I suddenly had to inform my supervisor I needed to take two days of medical leave and my attendance had been so spotty because of medical issues. Her shock revealed just how much I have hidden what I’m going through.

Last week, I had a panic attack at work. I was so intent on keeping this a secret from all of my co-workers that I tried to keep the hyperventilating and crying invisible. The effort caused my whole body to lock up, I had major muscle spasms and the excruciating pain just made the panic worse.

The stigma around mental illness is insidious and part of life everywhere every day. While the ongoing issues surrounding stigma towards mental illness are massive and this battle will occur over many months and years, everyday comments and actions can help combat stigma and open dialogue on mental health. Here are four things you can start doing at your job (or elsewhere) today:

1. Shut down the jokes.

I’m not suggesting you tell your boss or the board members to stop saying certain things, but you can easily respond to quips and jokes from co-workers with, “That’s not funny” or “Why would you joke about that?” or “Can we not say things like that, please?”

2. Educate in casual conversation.

You don’t have to launch into a speech on why mental illness needs to be destigmatized. Simply making casual references to something about your therapist, mental health in general, self-care or mental health medications can go a long way.

3. Be honest

Sometimes comments like, “I’m really tired today because my anxiety kept me up last night” can help. You can also mention a family member is dealing with mental illness and that you support them. Help people see how common mental illness really is.

4. Encourage a healthy atmosphere of positivity.

In all of the situations I mentioned when people made a joke about mental illness, people were under some level of stress and were struggling to find an adequate way to express themselves. I believe encouraging positive attitudes and healthy self-expression can help reduce the collective stress levels. You can encourage people to focus on the good aspects of life instead of the negative, which I believe is best for everyone’s mental health.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Anna_Isaeva.


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25 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You Fear Abandonment

25 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You Fear Abandonment

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There are many reasons why people may struggle with fear of abandonment. If you’ve experienced it personally, you may be intimately aware with the impact it can have on daily functioning.

Maybe you grew up experiencing emotional abuse, and secure relationship attachments weren’t part of your upbringing. Maybe you’ve lost someone important to you and are still mourning the loss of that person in your life. Maybe you have a mental illness like borderline personality disorder (BPD) or anxiety — and fear of abandonment is a very real aspect of living with your mental illness.

Whatever the reason may be, experiencing fear of abandonment is a real, debilitating fear that can impact our ability to recognize, form and maintain healthy relationships.

We wanted to know how fear of abandonment can impact daily functioning — or what it “looks” like. To find out, we asked members of our mental health community who experience this fear to share with us what people don’t realize they are doing because they fear abandonment.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I automatically assume I’ll always become ‘too much’ for the people I’m close to. So I’m always trying to stop them from realizing that and abandoning me. Usually I distance myself a lot when I feel like I’ve let someone in, because if I ‘leave’ them first, it’s better than them getting the chance to leave me.” — Courtney K.

2. “Constantly apologizing or texting almost every day, even when they don’t answer because I need that reassurance they’re still in my life.” — Yaritza P.

3. “Honestly I won’t talk to people because I’ve been told I talk too much and I fear it makes people want to walk away from me. So instead I stay quiet and hope when I do have something to say, they’ll still be there.” — Liz T.

4. “Constantly asking, ‘Are you mad at me?’ ‘Are you sure?’ and apologizing all the time even if I didn’t do anything wrong. I constantly fear the person will leave me if I say the wrong thing.” — Erica R.

5. “I try to be super reliable, helpful and hardworking. I figure, if I am not ‘worth’ their time, they won’t have any reason to want me in their life.” — Jill A.

6. “[I] sabotage all friendships/relationships and then tell myself, I told you so… It’s easier to keep going on the belief that nothing will be long-term.” — Eowyn T.

7. “I always compromise. It never matters if I was wrong or right, I always let the other person win.” — Brooke P.

8. “I am constantly picking a fight and finding reasons to be mad at people. I do that because in my mind, if I beat them to it, I’m saving myself.” — Morgan A.

9. “I try really hard not to show how little changes to someone else’s mood affect me. I constantly question whether I’m good enough for the relationship and do everything I can think of to please the other person. I get really quiet and withdraw until someone asks, then I go back to the bubbly person they all expect.” — Kaitlyn F.

10. “[I] downplay when someone has hurt me. I act like it isn’t a big deal even if it is causing me a lot of pain.” — Danielle B.

11. “After my father’s sudden death by suicide, I automatically assume everyone will leave me at some point. So I try not to get too invested, in fear of losing someone else I love.” — Whitney R.

12. “Avoiding people, avoiding phones, avoiding noise… Avoiding responsibilities necessary to prosper. Avoiding my thoughts, avoiding my feelings, avoiding existence…” — Davina S.

13. “I tend to try to be like the person, changing my style for theirs, attitudes, etc. so we will have a lot in common and the person will find me more appealing. I lose myself in trying to fit in with someone I want in my life. [This is] something I’ve just recently learned about myself and am trying to overcome.” — Jennifer K.

14. “[I] hide my feelings most of all. There is a lot I keep to myself because I don’t want to be clingy. I always compromise to keep people happy so they won’t leave me. I will never tell anyone if I am angry at them.” — Landi S.

15. “I tend to push people away when I’m feeling low, because I don’t want to involve them in my lows and hurt. I actually warn them it is a tendency of mine, but they all seem to forget after some time and then in the back of my mind, I hope this time the friendship will last. I ask people to tell me things straight out, because the psychology of soft speaking doesn’t appeal to me, but I’d rather keep quiet than speak up when something is bothering me.” — Menita R.

16. “When I tell him ‘I love you’ and he says ‘I love you too,’ as much as I try to fight it and not say it, I have to say ‘Are you sure?’ or ‘Promise?’ I need reassurance for so much and I hate it.” — Jessica L.

17. “[I’m] upset when you break plans, like my mom always did to me as a child with divorced parents.” — Summer E.

18. “I don’t enter relationships because of it. I’m afraid they’re just playing with me and just wanna use me for sex or something else. I was used and abused pretty badly in my last relationship and yet I still want that.” — Kelsey S.

19. “I’m clingy [with] my husband. When we’re in an argument, I don’t know how to just leave him alone to think about it, so I press and press because I’m afraid the longer I let him to himself, the more he’ll realize how much better off he is without someone like me.” — Bree N.

20. “I allow myself to be a doormat.” — Sandy S.

21. “If someone ever asks me to do anything, I never answer ‘no,’ because I fear if I say no, they will leave me too.” — Jemma G.

22. “When I meet new people — which isn’t very often — I appear standoffish. I stand back and let others lead the conversation. I don’t say much at all and even less about myself.” — Paula C.

23. “I always fake a good smile, most don’t expect anything.” — Eric K.

24. “I go above and beyond doing anything and everything for the person to make sure they are happy and can’t find fault with me.” — Chrissy Q.

25. “I leave them before they can leave me.” — Samantha H.

Thinkstock photo via frimages.


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13 Reasons My Mental Illnesses Make Grad School Difficult

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I’m in grad school right now, studying to be a counselor. I’m a good student and I do well. But I’m jealous of classmates who seem to work more quickly, reading textbooks quicker, finishing assignments quicker and still having time to do fun things in their free time. While they’re out enjoying summer, I’m stuck at home working hard for hours struggling to finish readings and assignments and study. I’m taking fewer classes and working fewer hours, but school takes up all of my time and energy. School is so hard for me due to my mental illnesses. Why? There are a lot of reasons.

1. I have difficulty focusing.

I’m not exactly sure why, maybe it’s my anxiety or racing thoughts that are linked to a hyper, overactive mind. Either way, it takes me hours to read a chapter in my textbook because I have to keep taking breaks. I stare at a page and I can’t seem to comprehend it. I read sentences over and over trying to understand. I’m intelligent and can normally understand things just fine. But due to my difficulty focusing, it takes me a long time to read.

2. I experience memory loss due to medication side effects.

I was on this psychiatric medication for years that caused me to have memory loss. Since then, it’s been difficult for me to remember things. I have to study right before the test, before I forget everything again. I have to write everything down or I’ll forget.

3. I have waves of anxiety.  

I have generalized anxiety disorder, so everything makes me anxious. I get anxious because I feel like my assignments aren’t good enough, I get anxious about tests, I get anxious about what the professor thinks of me or what my classmates think of me. Often this makes things at school difficult. I’ll be trying to study or work on an assignment and a wave of anxiety hits. Or I’ll be in class and be so nervous about what people think of me that I’m afraid to speak up, and when I do speak up, I get angry with myself that I said the wrong thing. Sometimes I feel terrified for no apparent reason. It’s at these times I have to take a break to calm myself.

4. Sometimes my mood changes and it’s impossible for me to do anything.

When I’m depressed or manic, forget studying or homework. There’s no way I can accomplish anything meaningful. I just have to ride the mood out until it passes, using all my coping skills. It’s frustrating because I never know when the mood will hit and when it will change. So when my mood is level, I go into overdrive, trying to get as much work done while I have a level mood. I work ahead in case next week the depression, mania, anxiety or dissociative episode hits and I can’t work.

5. I get panic attacks.

Sometimes a panic attack hits me out of nowhere and I have to scramble to cope. I had a panic attack during class once when a movie we were watching triggered me. I had to walk out of class so I could recover. Sometimes I have a panic attack during the week and I have to rest to recover. I can’t get any work done until the mood passes.

6. I overidentify with the course material.  

I’m studying to be a counselor and sometimes when we talk about mental illness, or people with mental illness, it hits home for me and I overidentify. I’m sensitive to discussions about bipolar. My classmates are still learning, and sometimes they say ignorant things about a mental illness. I know their hearts are in the right place, but sometimes their words sting because I take it personally. I have to constantly remind myself this isn’t personal, we’re in class learning and my classmates are just asking questions because they don’t understand something. I think it will be easier in time, but right now sometimes it’s difficult.

7. I experience flashbacks.

Sometimes a video we watch in class triggers a flashback. With a flashback, it takes me a while to come back to the present. I sit in class trying to hide what is going on in my head and orient myself to time and place. I pray the professor doesn’t call on me until I’m myself again.

8. My social anxiety makes group work and presentations difficult.  

Due to my social anxiety, group work is hard. I worry about how my group will perceive me and whether I am doing and saying the right things. Presentations are even worse, even with a group. Presentations cause me to panic. I have to work so much harder to prepare for the presentation and manage the anxiety that comes along with it.

9. I’m not able to stay up late to study.  

I’m jealous of classmates who can stay up until 3 a.m. studying for a test or finishing a paper. I can’t do that. In order to stay mentally stable, I need to get a good night’s sleep.  I also struggle with insomnia, and I need to take two different medications to help me sleep. I have to keep a schedule in order to be healthy. I wish I could stay up late studying, but it’s not an option for me.

10. Having difficulty organizing my thoughts.  

Part of my mental illness is that my thoughts get scattered and disorganized. My thoughts race and flip between topics. It makes it difficult for me to organize my thoughts in order to study and complete assignments, and sometimes in order to participate in class.

11. Social anxiety makes it hard to befriend classmates.

I wish I could befriend more classmates. It would be great to have a study partner or someone to vent to when I’m stressed or someone to ask questions when I’m trying to figure out an assignment. I’ve made a few friends, but with my social anxiety, it’s hard. It would help if I had friends to support me as I go through school.

12. I often feel like I need to hide all of this.

It can be really burdensome trying to hide my inner mental struggle. I keep smiling and acting like I am OK. I don’t want my professors to think I’m unstable and not able to handle counseling. I want my classmates to think I am smart and nice. So I sit in class silently struggling. I come to class manic, depressed, anxious, dissociating and having flashbacks, but somehow I am able to hide it all  It works but it so hard to hide everything inside.

13. I feel like I need to prove people with mental illness can do just as well as everyone else.

I am proud that I am able to handle my mental illnesses and still do well at work and school, have stable friendships and a stable marriage. I always want to prove to people it is possible to have a mental illness and accomplish these things. I am proud that I excel in my classes. But in my desire to prove I can do as well as everyone else, I put this tremendous pressure on myself. The pressure of trying to show people with mental illness can excel weighs heavily on me, making school more difficult and causing me to be afraid to ask for help when I’m struggling to keep up.

Sometimes I wish my professors knew how hard school is for me. It would be nice if they gave me allowances to turn work in late or take exams at a different time, on weeks where my mental illness makes studying, reading and homework nearly impossible. But my desire to prove I can do just as well in school as other people pushes that idea away.  I want to be treated as “normal” and I don’t want to be labeled as mentally ill and needing extra help. My mental illness means I have to work three times as hard. But I am persisting. I believe I will do well in school, graduate, get my counseling license and excel as a counselor — despite the fact that everything is harder for me. Despite my difficulties, I’m two years into a master’s program and have gotten a 98 percent or better in every class but one. It’s hard, but I believe it will all be worth it in the end when I become a counselor and can use my own experience to help others.

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Thinkstock photo via elenabs.

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