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How My Mental Health Breakdown Saved My Life

I had always seen university as the opportunity I wanted for as long as I could remember: I could finally move away; away from a house that hadn’t felt like home in years; away from a city that was plagued with haunting memories. Everywhere I looked, I was reminded of people who had hurt me and people I had hurt — I could finally leave it all behind and start again.

The only thing I would be bringing with me, except my book collection and my Xbox, was my boyfriend. We had been together for over a year and had kept it going while he was at university in Liverpool and I was at home in Newcastle. He was to be my anchor and my rock when I was finding my feet in Manchester. Now only a fifty minute drive away, I knew we could see each other whenever we wanted to.

In the lead up to leaving home, I found myself desperate for his attention more than ever; I became jealous, paranoid and argumentative, which wasn’t like me at all. I would find myself in the blackest of moods and take it all out on him because I had nobody else to vent my frustrations to. By the time I actually moved away, I had become an unrecognizable version of myself — things were strained. I pushed it over the edge by trying to make him jealous. I would talk about another guy who was interested in me and talk about how funny and talented he was. I wanted my boyfriend to be angry or at least upset, but that didn’t happen. He did the worst possible thing: he acted with indifference.

Drunk, alone and frightened in the middle of a student festival my mind spiraled: He doesn’t love you, he never did. He loves someone else. Why would anyone love you? You’re ugly and useless and pathetic and awful. Everybody must hate you. You’ll never make friends at university. People just pity you. No one would care if you weren’t here. You should just kill yourself, you’re pathetic.

I sat on my bed, stunned at what I had just tried to do. I texted him to tell him what I was thinking and feeling.

“I just can’t handle this right now,” came his reply.

There was begging and pleading and crying, but the outcome stayed the same: the relationship wasn’t good for him. I wasn’t good for him. I was alone.

I’ve never felt as low as I did right then, with absolutely nothing to tie me to life. I was in a strange city, living with strangers, on a course that I thought was pointless and with what I felt like were no real skills or talents. And now, no boyfriend.

Rather than try to take my own life again, I called my mum. Through that one choice, I proved to myself that I was stronger than my thoughts. I could, and I would, be stronger than the voice that told me to give up. She made sure I was safe, staying on the phone with me while on a three hour drive from Sheffield to pick me up. She hugged me and told me everything was going to be OK. She told my flatmates what was happening and that I would be going home for a couple of days. She put me in the back of the car with my pillows and duvet and just let me look at the stars as we drove home. I felt safe.

The best thing my mum did for me was get me to a doctor. I chose to ignore the years of struggling until it became part of my everyday life. If I didn’t acknowledge that I had a problem, the problem wouldn’t be there. After my mum rescued me, I was driven to the doctors and forced to get the diagnosis I had been afraid of — depression.

What I have found is that the diagnosis gave me a tangible thing to fight against — a reason to get better. A reason to attend counseling and work on my negative thought patterns, rather than letting them consume me. It allowed me to share with others what I was going through and help them understand what was happening. I could make friends with the people around me without having to falsify myself. Makeup became unnecessary because I felt comfortable being exactly who I was. It helped me learn to love myself. All of the demons I had caged over my lifetime came spilling out in the emotions of that one night, and I had beaten them.

I’m reminded of motivational posters with quotes like “It always gets darker before the dawn,” and it is true, no matter how cliched that may seem. You will probably never again feel as bad as you did at the lowest point in your life. Even now, when I have bad days, I can look back at the pain I survived and I know I can do it again. I am infinitely better off for having faced my problems directly, no matter how painful it may have been, because it has made me realize I can carry on.

Follow this journey here.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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When You Can't Afford to Put Self-Care First

I keep reading articles about how with a mental illness, self-care is so important and it’s OK to have bad days and days where you can’t do anything. And I think that is so, so important and correct.

But for me, and I suspect for a lot of people, that’s just not realistic.

puppy I’ve had a lot of really positive life changes this year. I got a fantastic new job, my boyfriend and I have this great new apartment and about two months ago we adopted a lab/border collie mix puppy who is now the love of my life. I should be ecstatic. My life is pretty much perfect now.

But the depression symptoms are getting bad again. I can’t trust my own thoughts and my whole body hurts all the time and I am so tired. Showering is too much effort more often than not. Just 10 more minutes in bed, just another five. And then another five and then I’m late. Or even worse, I text my boss that I’m going to be late, but can’t muster up the initiative to leave at all. I make up an excuses, I’m sick, my car won’t start, my mom needs me. Sorry puppy, we’re not going to the park today because mommy can’t leave the house. Mommy can’t leave the bed. Can’t even turn the lights on.

But here’s the kicker; I work on commission. If I can’t work I don’t get paid. I’m too new to have sick leave, and my boyfriend makes less than me and can’t afford for me to even miss one paycheck if I took a leave of absence. And I don’t really want to put that kind of pressure on him to begin with. He already does so much for me that I can never thank him enough for. So I come to work and do the bare minimum. Just one sale a day, doesn’t matter how much. Just get through today and tomorrow you’re off and don’t have to do anything (except the dishes and the laundry and go to the bank and go grocery shopping with your mom and your doctor’s appointment and walk the puppy).

What are you supposed to do when you literally can’t afford self-care? I can’t afford to take my time and get better, and so everything gets worse instead. Life becomes a hurricane of responsibility and all you need is for everything to just stop. But it can’t.

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Thinkstock photo via Ryan McVay

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Depression Is My 'Dark Passenger'

Depression sucks. It’s hard and can be painful, numb or detrimental; but it can also be an amazing teacher. My depression has no name, yet he has a strong personality. He is, as my favorite TV show character, Dexter, would put it, “my dark passenger.” He is dark. He lives and lurks in the shadows, wearing his dark cape to always hide his true self. He is always watching me, and whenever he can, he creeps in and tries to grab hold. He isn’t always successful, but lately he has been.

He hates marijuana because it shines a light on him and starts to expose him, yet he loves alcohol because everything gets darker — his reach only expands. His sly, dark smile is the only part of his face that you can ever see. When he grips me, he holds tight. He sedates me so I can’t move, can’t speak, cant do anything. He tells me I’m worthless. He says that I’m “crazy.” He loves when bad things happen and is always the first to try to pull me down.

He works in tandem with my anxiety. When anxiety makes me panic, depression works with him to bring me down. They work as a team; they want to control me and they want me to loose it so they can swoop in and steal the show.

Now depression, he has a way of making me feel comfortable. “Just lay in bed and watch TV,” he says, and “it will all be OK.” Then, after hours of mindless tv binging, I’m depressed.

Medications make him irritated and he acts out worse. Therapy calms him, yet somehow he sneaks in when my guard is down and grips me tightly again. I try to keep him hidden. Most people would never guess that I can’t get out of his shadows — the shadows are where he thrives. He keeps one hand on me so I can always feel him there. I smile and I say that I’m OK.

I’m kind and I’m gentle to those around me. I make people laugh because I don’t want their dark passenger to find them. I like to see their smiles. Their laughter makes my dark passenger hide, but when he comes back, he is angry and grips me tight. Family gatherings can be interesting for me because he tells me that I’m not really wanted. That I’m an outcast. That no one really likes me. They love me, yes, but they don’t really care. I go outside to be alone, to try to gain control of myself. He comes up, pats my back and says, “I’m here now, I have this situation under control.”

Someday I will control him better. I learn a little every day. He is not me. He is his own person, and someday I will be the captor. He will not hold me captive or stuck in my own head. Today is what counts. One day, one hour, one minute, one second at a time.

Follow this journey here. 

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Why I Hide My Happiness as Someone With Depression

Life has been shitty for me for a long time.

Depression, instead of giving me a break for any length of time, chose instead to be an obnoxious guest, crashing on my couch and putting the empty box of Froot Loops back in the cupboard without telling me before I went grocery shopping.

Right now, things are better. Nowhere near perfect mind you, but better. I was fortunate to be offered an opportunity to work for a friend when I needed the extra cash, my company finally landed a large development contract I had been chasing for two years and I have a great family who are supporting me while I get back on my feet. I still have plenty of things to work on, but right now, there are fewer obstacles than there were.

This isn’t meant to be an allegory to prove I should always, “Hang in there because things will get better” or “See? Good things will happen if you work hard enough.” For someone with chronic depression, these moments offer up only temporary moments of light to be followed by darkness, too soon for me to rely on as a solid foundation for misplaced promises of eternal optimism. Too often, depression strikes whenever it damn well pleases. I can be at the height of my game when I’m suddenly brought low, only to have to start all over again.

This is an acknowledgement of a moment in my life I tend to hide. I hide it because I fear if people see I’m doing “alright” — even for a moment — they will be quick to dismiss the seriousness and authenticity of my situation when I invariably stumble and fall once more. Some people become frustrated by my circular circumstances, and I don’t blame them. “But you have been doing so good,” they say. “Just repeat what you did the first time and things will return to normal for you.” Others want me to “get over it,” as if it’s a cold that has passed and I’m looking for attention. I will be depressed again. It’s not a thing I’m planning. It’s a thing that happens, whether I want it to or not, and believe me, it’s a big “not.”

Unfortunately though, this tendency to hide when I’m doing better, and sharing only when I’m not, threatens my ability to find purpose in my life. By not openly acknowledging the positives as they happen, I inadvertently dismiss them. I refuse to celebrate my accomplishments for fear of drawing attention to them, an act which can later be used against me. I disregard a valuable part of me that makes me whole — the good enmeshed with the bad.

I believe that for me, being brave is not openly sharing my struggle with others, no matter what they might think. It’s openly declaring my successes when they happen. I will never be “great,” but I want to get stronger, and to do that I need to be whole.

Life has been shitty for a long time but right now, I’m doing OK.

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Thinkstock photo via Victor_Tongdee

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When Depression Makes You Feel Like Everybody Hates You

It’s a crowed room, people all around — laughing and smiling. And then there’s me. In the middle of everything, but still hopelessly lonely. It took me so long to realize this feeling isn’t “normal.” Being so afraid that everybody hates you isn’t “normal.” In a desperate attempt to act “normal,” I start up a conversation. But when you go int a conversation already thinking the person you are talking to hates you, it doesn’t go very well.

Once again, I am sitting in the middle of a crowded room, but feeling like I am all by myself. My phone is my cloak of social invisibility. When my phone is out, it looks like I am doing something important and I won’t look like such an outcast.

It hurts. Seeing people you want to be friends with all around you and being told by your own mind that you are a terrible person and they all hate you. Before being diagnosed with depression, it seemed like truth. Sometimes it still does.

What I didn’t know was that insecurity and loneliness were all a product of bigger monster in my life. A monster that is invisible but yet so real. Depression.

So what do you do? How do you learn to be the “you” that you don’t even want to be?

If I’m being completely honest, I have no clue. All I know is I was diagnosed a year ago and I still feel like everyone around me hates me.

One comfort however, is just because you think it, doesn’t make it true.

I believe the only way to fix loneliness comes from myself. So here’s my challenge, and hopefully yours too: learn to love yourself. If you listen to depression, you may continue to feel alone. Depression isolates you. It makes you feel less than. In my case, depression made me believe everyone hates me. I don’t know if it’s true, but my goal is to control my mental illness and not let it control me. I’m tired of feeling alone in crowed rooms. I’m even more sick of going home crying about things I don’t even know for sure are true.

The question is no longer what’s wrong with me. Now it’s: Will I let my depression control me, or will I control it?It’s my mind, it’s my choice.

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Thinkstock photo via ssSplajn.


What the TV Show 'Insecure' Meant to Me as Someone With Depression

Two years ago I was diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Honestly, I didn’t know what that meant but I remember waking up one morning feeling debilitated and as if I had a ton of bricks on top of my body. I felt a lot of things. I felt anger, confusion, frustration, emptiness and I found myself questioning God. I was constantly drained and doing simple tasks like showering and eating were like climbing a mountain. As I learned more about my mental illness, it provided me with a sense of peace because I didn’t feel well for years. In fact, since I was in middle school, I masked my pain by staying busy in dance school, pageants, drill team, modeling, choir, band, praise dance, Girl Scouts… You name it, I did it. While I had a genuine passion for the arts, I also loved meeting new people and it provided me with an escape from my difficult home life.

I hid behind my bubbly, outgoing and funny personality. I hid behind being a workaholic and my commitment to inspiring others.

Yet, I neglected myself and this eventually led to my suicide attempts. I was forced into the hospital and did not understand why I was there. I am educated, have my own apartment, a car, a career and I help people. I thought, “How could I be here? I am not crazy.” I remember telling one of the counselors, “I have a Bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a Master’s degree from Georgetown University. I don’t belong here.” And she said, “People with degrees get sick too.” That’s when I realized the brain can become sick just like the body. I also had a misperception about what mentally illness looked like. I thought it was only people who talk to themselves or heard voices without realizing it is also everyday “high-functioning” people like me. During this time reading and writing helped me cope with my illness and became vital in my recovery.

After finally getting to a place where I felt like I was getting better, I went into another depressive episode. But this time, I discovered the amazing and talented Issa Rae. I read her book, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” and stumbled upon her YouTube channel. I immediately became fascinated by her because she learned to embrace her awkwardness as a black woman. She never felt like she fit in and was often made fun of. As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety disorders, I could relate.

I was embarrassed and felt awkward because people would say things to me like, “What do you have to be depressed about?” without realizing depression is not always associated with a life event such as a job loss or breakup. I was still learning about mental illness. People who don’t understand depression often think depression is a choice when it is truly a sickness that requires medical treatment. Issa Rae shared her truth and it encouraged me to do the same. I started writing articles and doing Facebook live videos on mental illness, and mental health to help educate the black community and encourage others not to be ashamed.

Issa Rae also told her story in a funny way which helped me through my depression because I found myself laughing at a time when everything seemed so dark. She opened the conversation for mental health on her HBO TV hit show “Insecure” when her character Issa suggested therapy to her best friend Molly. My heart was overjoyed because we do not see many TV shows where black women are discussing mental health or therapy. Therapy is for everyone whether you have a mental illness or not. We all have emotional wounds and often carry baggage at some point in our lives, and therapy is a safe place to begin healing.

Issa Rae, I don’t know if you will ever see this article, but I want you to know you have been helping me during the darkest time of my life. Thank you for your courage and strength, and showing people like me to live in their truth boldly and proudly. In my case, that happens to be with a
mental illness.

P.S. My dream is to meet you and work with you. You are truly an inspiration.

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.

Photo via Insecure Facebook page.

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