For some reason, I’m having a harder time writing about my mental health disorder than I thought. I’ve been wanting to share this for a long time, but every time I thought about writing it, it felt too personal. When I started experiencing depression, I was so scared of how I was thinking so I shared it with my loved ones. However, they didn’t understand what I was going through and told me to be careful of how I told other people. Of course, they were just trying to protect me, but it made me very conscious of how I articulated my thoughts and feelings to other people and even more scared of how I was feeling inside. I didn’t feel normal. I felt alone.
The only thing that made me feel better is openly talking to others that had recovered from what I was going through; depression and debilitating anxiety. When you have depression, it seems like it will never ever go away. Especially when it can last a very long time. So talking to others who had survived it, made me want to know everything that they did to heal.
You don’t realize how many people have actually gone through similar mental health disorders, until you start talking about it.
Like Kylie Carrasco said, “Society has created such a negative stigma around mental health that we are afraid to open up and seek help in fear of what others might think, when in reality – a lot of them are searching for help too.”
It’s time I speak up about my mental health disorder in hopes that it helps you speak up as well.
I first started getting anxiety my freshman year of college. I was convinced that it wasn’t anxiety, and instead I thought I had a brain tumor.
Before college, I prided myself on never feeling anxious or nervous, and actually thought people who did have “anxiety” were just being dramatic. Little did I know, anxiety is freaking real and so hard to control. It took me 3 years to finally come to realize that my anxiety wasn’t a brain issue and in fact, anxiety.
It took me 3 1/2 years of battling anxiety until I had my first full blown panic attack, that lasted one hour. It started right before I boarded my plane in Barcelona to Paris and didn’t stop until I ran off of the plane, once we landed. I thought I was going crazy. I couldn’t stop shaking uncontrollably. I felt like I was having a heart attack and simultaneously being choked to death. It was not only terrifying, but also traumatizing.
That panic attack changed my life.
I was so scared it was going to happen again that it made me isolate myself my entire trip. I felt the safest when I was inside our apartment, especially while sleeping. I was afraid of going outside. I started getting the most irrational thoughts, that when I did go outside, I was on high alert and on a verge of another panic attack.
Talking to people made me panic, sitting in a restaurant made me panic, going to touristy areas made me panic, and feeling myself panic, made me panic.
I felt terrible for my family because they were very confused and frustrated with what was going on with me. I felt like I was ruining my once in a lifetime family trip to Europe. I felt guilty. I felt like giving up.
My depression started here, in Paris.
I never experienced something like depression before. I was terrified of my thoughts. Sad & demeaning thoughts that wouldn’t go away if I was awake. I had a loss of motivation, lack of appetite, and was exhausted as soon as I woke up.
Anxiety is one thing, and depression is another when you’re trying to talk about it. I was so scared of sharing my thoughts with my parents, but I was desperate for help. I was terrified of losing control, and needed their strength and comfort.
I was obsessing over death. However, I had no plans or intentions of ever harming myself. But I couldn’t get the thoughts of death out of my head. I remember telling my Mom, in fear that she was going to be scared for me. But, she was so strong and calming. It made me feel better that she knew it would go away.
I thought that by coming home to my job and my routine would make me feel like I had a purpose again.
My anxiety grew worse. It got to the point where I couldn’t even function.
I had a panic attack everywhere I went. My irrational thoughts made me panic even more. I would think of things that were very unlikely to happen. For example, I would sit at a coffee shop and think “what if a guy came in here with a gun and shot everyone?” The school shootings and the concert shootings definitely didn’t help my irrational thoughts either. I was living in fear 24/7. My fear made me even more depressed.
I couldn’t go to group gatherings because talking to my friends even made me panic.
For 90 days, I was fighting depression and debilitating anxiety and panic attacks.
However, from day 1 I didn’t let my disorder define me. I fought every damn day. Some days I had more motivation to fight than others, but I knew that if I focused on my self care, I could change me life around.
Eager to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I started to see a therapist. That therapist advised me to see a psychiatrist… so I did. I was prescribed a low dosage of lexapro and had the worst experience of my life. (I know so many people who are on Lexapro and LOVE it. However, every body is different, and unfortunately for me, it made me worse.) I gave up on therapy and I stopped seeing the psychiatrist because of that one bad experience. At this point, I was terrified of anti-depressants and decided on pursuing a holistic approach.
I researched how to cure depression, holistically every damn hour. It gave me hope.
I pushed myself to workout close to 5 days a week. The gym was so unappealing, so I tried a spin studio for the first time. Cardio was the only thing I could manage to do. I didn’t have to think- the instructor not only told me what to do, but was also very motivating. To help me get out of bed, I would have my friend meet me there so she could keep me accountable.
I started seeing a Chinese herbalist, who suggested for me to try acupuncture as well. Desperate to heal, I did everything she told me to do. I went to acupuncture 3x a week and simultaneously took Chinese herbs every day for 45 days. Unfortunately most of this wasn’t covered by insurance, so I paid over $2,000 out of my own pocket. At this point, I didn’t have a job and didn’t have much in savings. Time was running out before I was out of money and unfortunately I didn’t feel much of any difference.
I started getting really scared. I cried everyday. I felt like I had tried everything….
It wasn’t until I met Amy, when my life started to turn around.
Read part 2 here.