I have mental illness and I take medication for it.
A few years ago, I was having a very tough time. Majorly entrenched in what I’ve always referred to as a “down,” I barely wanted to leave my apartment, I didn’t want to see friends or family, and it was a struggle to get out of bed and go to work. I was isolating myself because it was much easier to do that than to actually face the anxiety riddled Hell that was socializing. I knew I needed help. I called a therapist, we talked a little on the phone and set up an appointment. An appointment I skipped. I thought I could deal with it alone, like I had for years. In reality, I probably should have asked for help a lot sooner. The first time I remember going through a down was fifth grade. I knew it was something more than regular unhappiness, but I was eleven and I didn’t know the word for it yet.
Depression haunted me for the next few years from that point on, and I stuggled with the enormity of it alone, or with a few selected friends. I hated myself, deeply and thouroughly. Fundamental Christianity added another layer- I hated myself and thought I would never be redeemed for my sins. I would never be good enough for a spiteful and vengeful God. In sixth grade, I made two attempts at suicide by overdosing. Looking back, I often ridicule myself for being so stupid to think an entire bottle of ibuprofen would kill me. I remember waking up and feeling like a failure. I had lived. Perhaps it was God’s way of punishing me. In seventh grade, I cut for the first of many times. I wasn’t able to stop until the age of 22. It’s been four years, and perhaps that is why I am writing this entry. For over a decade I struggled with accepting my mental illness and refused to get treatment. To this day, I’ve kept so much of this from my family. Why? Shame. Fear. Pride. I wanted to be perceived as strong, capapble, sane, normal, and independent. As if a chemical imbalance in my brain would make it imposible for me to be those things.
At the time, I tried to cope the best ways I could. I kept a journal. Every so often, I go back and re-read what I wrote all those years ago and I am blown away that I was able to keep the struggle I went through from so many people. Writing was a huge release for me, not just in my journal, but poetry and fiction as well. Reading helped me so much too. It was my escape.
I would say the darkest time was between 6th and 7th grade, but by high school I had leveled out somewhat, made a bunch of friends who were all sympathetic, left the church, and slowly I climbed out of isolation and felt normal sometimes. I still could not regulate my feelings very well, and I still battled depression, self-loathing, and anxiety. I still cut. But it all seemed more under control, or maybe I had just gotten used to it. I started meditating and doing yoga as well.
This was my normal for a very long time. Through the rest of high school and all of college, this was how I functioned. I knew something was wrong, I knew I was delaing with depression, but I kept going along. My senior year of college I decided to never cut myself again, and I haven’t. The scars on my legs have faded, but I can still feel the ripply cords of scar tissue on my thighs that remind me of how out of control I used to feel. During my senior year of college I also met and fell in love with the man who I would marry, and it was actually the stress of wedding planning that finally made me seek treatment.
After years of calm and healing, the anxiety that on set in the early months of 2013 was alarming to me. It wasn’t until after our engagement party that July that I knew I had to do something. My social anxiety had morphed into something more, I felt crazy all the time. I was in such an anxious space during and after our engagement party that I literally blacked it out. I don’t remember a majority of the party and it physically exhasuted me so much I slept over 18 hours after it. I had a doctors appointment to see why I was having such terrible jaw pain- turns out I clench and grind my teeth in my sleep and guess what? Stress makes it worse! I broke down in tears at the appointment and I told my doctor I needed help. I filled him in on the things I hadn’t told any doctor, and I told him I felt absolutely out of control of my feelings, my anxiety, and myself. He gave me a referall for a therapist and a prescription of Zoloft.
I was hesitant to take it at first. I wasn’t necessarily raised in a psych-med firendly family and taking meds was admitting that something was wrong with me, for real for sure, not just something in my head. I’m glad I did, so glad. Once the Zoloft was in my system and working, I noticed a huge difference in myself. I no longer felt like I was on edge, all the time. I didn’t feel like I was going to lose it or burst into flames with rage. I was more comfrotable around people, and less tense. In other words, it worked.
It isn’t a magical fix all. The depression still lurks and anxiety still haunts, and there have been times when I’ve run out and not gotten my presciption refilled immediately and I can feel it all start to bubble up again. There is a noted differnece in my mental landscape. In my opinion, I am so much better off. I could not believe that such a teeny tiny pill would help me so drastically. I don’t black-out social events anymore, and while I do enjoy alone time, I don’t feel the desperate need to isolate myself from everyone I love.
Pills aren’t the answer for everyone. Talk therapy isn’t the answer for everyone either. I’m not here to tell everyone to become a slave to Big Pharma and get a script, but I am here to tell you that it’s ok to get help. It isn’t weak, and you shouldn’t fear what the people who are supposed to love you will think of you for getting help. There are people in my life who don’t understand my choices, and it hurts, but in the end I have to do what is best for me, to live the most comfrotable, full, and happy life I can because, after all this time, I finally think I deserve that.
If you are having a hard time and need support, someone is ready to listen to you and help. Be it a friend, a family member, a mentor, a doctor, or one of the hotlines below. People love you and care about you. You don’t have to go through depression or anxiety alone.
“You kind of remind me of scars on my arms that I made when I was a kid with a disassembled razor that I stole from my dad, when I thought suffering was something profound… I know they’ll never fade and it’s not something I think about each and every day, I just occasionally catch myself scratching at them as if they’ll ever go away. These tell tale signs are here to stay, and in the end, that’s ok”
-Frank Turner, Tell Tale Signs
Call any of these hotlines for help.
United States of America (1): 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
United States of America (2) (for teenagers in the US): 310-855-HOPE (4673)
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (2433) – Can use in US, U.K., Canada and Singapore
Suicide Crisis Line: 1-800-999-9999
National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK (8245)
National Adolescent Suicide Helpline: 1-800-621-4000
Postpartum Depression: 1-800-PPD-MOMS
NDMDA Depression Hotline – Support Group: 1-800-826-3632
Crisis Help Line – For Any Kind of Crisis: 1-800-233-4357
Suicide & Depression Crisis Line – Covenant House: 1-800-999-9999
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide: (UK only) 0844-561-6855
Beyondblue info line: (Australia only) 1300-22-4636
24/7 Crisis Line:(Canada only) 905-522-1477
Lifeline Australia: 13-11-14
National Child Abuse Helpline: 1-800-422-4453
National Domestic Violence Crisis Line: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Domestic Violence Hotline (TDD): 1-800-787-32324
Center for the Prevention of School Violence: 1-800-299-6504
Child Abuse Helpline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Domestic Violence Helpline: 1-800-548-2722
Healing Woman Foundation (Abuse): 1-800-477-4111
Child Abuse Hotline Support & Information: 1-800-792-5200
Women’s Aid National Domestic Violence Helpline: (UK Only) 0345 023 468
Sexual Abuse Centre: (UK Only) 0117 935 1707
Sexual Assault Support (24/7, English & Spanish): 1-800-223-5001
Domestic & Teen Dating Violence (English & Spanish: 1-800-992-2600
Relationships Australia: 1300-364-277
Alcohol & Drug Abuse:
National Association for Children of Alcoholics: 1-888-55-4COAS (1-888-554-2627)
National Drug Abuse: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Al-Anon/Alateen Hope & Help for young people who are the relatives & friends of a problem drinker): 1-800-344-2666
Alcohol/Drug Abuse Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Be Sober Hotline: 1-800-BE-SOBER (1-800-237-6237)
Cocaine Help Line: 1-800-COCAINE (1-800-262-2463)
24 Hour Cocaine Support Line: 1-800-992-9239
Ecstasy Addiction: 1-800-468-6933
Marijuana Anonymous: 1-800-766-6779
Youth & Teen Hotlines:
National Youth Crisis Support: 1-800-448-4663
Youth America Hotline: 1-877-YOUTHLINE (1-877-968-8454)
Covenant House Nine-Line (Teens): 1-800-999-9999
Boys Town National: 1-800-448-3000
Teen Helpline: 1-800-400-0900
Youth Crisis Support: 1-800-448-4663 or 1-800-422-0009
Runaway Support (All Calls are Confidential): 800-231-694
National Runaway Hotline: (US only) 1800-231-6946
Child Helpline: (UK Only) 0800-111
Kids Helpline: (Australia) 1800-55-1800
Youth to Youth: (UK only) 020-8896-3675
Kids Help Phone Canada: 1800-688-6868
National Youth Crisis Hotline:(US only) 800-442-442-4673
AAA Crisis Pregnancy Center: 1-800-560-0717
Pregnancy Support: 1-800-4-OPTIONS (1-800-467-8466)
Pregnancy National Helpline: 1-800-356-5761
Young Pregnant Support: 1-800 550-4900
Gay and Lesbian Hotlines:
The Trevor Helpline (For homosexuality questions or problems): 1-800-850-8078
Gay & Lesbian National Support: 1-888-THE-GLNH (1-888-843-4564)
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) Youth Support Line: 1-800-850-8078
Lesbian & Gay Switchboard: (UK Only) 0121 622 6589
Lothian Gay & Lesbian Switchboard – Scotland: (Scotland Only) 0131 556 4049
Self-Injury Support: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288) (www.selfinjury.com)
Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention: 1-800-931-2237 (Hours: 8am-noon daily, PST)
Eating Disorders Center: 1-888-236-1188
Help Finding a Therapist: 1-800-THERAPIST (1-800-843-7274)
Panic Disorder Information and Support: 1-800-64-PANIC (1-800-647-2642)
TalkZone (Peer Counselors): 1-800-475-TALK (1-800-475-2855)
Parental Stress Hotline: 1-800-632-8188
Parent Help Line (Australia only): 1300-364-100
National AIDS Helpline: (UK Only) 0800 567 123
Mensline Australia: 1300-789-978
Want a country by country list? Here are some more resources: helplines
The following sites also provides a country by country list of helplines available:
international suicide hotlines
Accepting help is BRAVE! Mental illness is real!