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When I Realized Having a Mental Illness Doesn't Mean I'm Crazy

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There’s a rhyme to every reason and a reason to every rhyme.

I wasn’t given an outstanding singing voice at birth (Or so I’ve heared. I beg to differ — especially when I’m belting out to Beyoncé in my car) because I wasn’t meant to be a top-charting pop star. Sam Smith, on the other hand, has a naturally stunning voice and hence forth has put it to its proper use. I was given generalized anxiety disorder and depression and have used them both to write my own music, otherwise known as my life story.

Since before I can even remember, I never felt like I fit in with the rest of the world; I always felt different. For years and years, I tried to bend my personality to be like the rest of my peers, friends and family. It didn’t work. Having two parents in the medical field didn’t help matters much either. I was trained to think that nothing could ever be wrong with me. Only people who sought my parents’ attention needed help. 

Let’s be real, I didn’t even know what mental illness was until I was in high school. 

When I was about 17, I decided it was time for me to be proactive. I remember going to a therapist for the first time, feeling so uncomfortable and embarrassed. After a few sessions and about half a year into college, I was diagnosed with dysthymia, a chronic type of depression in which one’s mood is regularly low. I saw a psychiatrist and was prescribed an antidepressant. The only thought going through my head was, “This is confirmation; I’m an outcast who will most likely be dependent on medication for the rest of her life.”

ariella on a scooter

The medication began working its magic, and a few months later I made the worst mistake to stop taking it (with my doctor’s permission). I knew there would be consequences, but I thought I could teach myself to cope with them. Nope, that’s not really how it happened. I was back at school for the fall semester of my sophomore year and slowly felt myself dwindling. My major no longer interested me, my gut told me my relationship was rocky, and I was all-around frustrated that I couldn’t just feel content. 

Spring semester rolled around. All sh*t hit the fan. I was dumped, depressed and felt like I lost in my mind. I woke up in tears for almost two weeks straight, with the water works happening non-stop. It got so bad that I didn’t think there were many other options. It was either get to a hospital emergency room as soon as possible or the other thing that starts with an “S.” After a trip to the ER and less than 24 hours in a psychiatric hospital, I had a revelation. 

I was sick with a mental illness but wasn’t a “crazy person.”

I looked completely “normal” on the outside but fought a constant battle on the inside. I prepared myself to go against societal norms and do what was right for me, not what was right for everybody else.

I went home for the rest of the semester to take care of myself and myself only, which was something I had never done before. Cognitive behavioral therapy became part of my normal routine, as well as visits to the psychiatrist. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right? 

I started to make light of my situation, enjoying visits with my doctors. My therapist became one of my biggest supporters. Life started getting back to normal — a new type of normal. Instead of waking up every day and ignoring my feelings, I remind myself I’m living with GAD and depression, and it’s OK to not be OK.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally published: October 17, 2014
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