I woke up to a killer headache and the sun shining through my windows, not knowing what had happened the night before. No, I was not hungover, I was recovering from one of the worst mental breakdowns I have had in my life.
When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed with clinical depression and social anxiety after being seen by numerous therapists, psychiatrists, and social workers. At the time I wasn’t quite sure what that meant – all I knew was that if I didn’t take all the medicines my doctors had prescribed me, my day would feel like it would never end due to the ongoing migraines and my heightened anxiety.
Over the years I learned more and more about the mental illnesses I had, but I found out the more I knew, the more ashamed I became of them. The more ashamed I felt, the more I didn’t want to learn how to deal with my illnesses; I wanted it all to go away and to just be “normal.”
Suppressing my feelings of depression and anxiety led to random breakdowns and outbursts, often coming in uncontrollable waves for the past five years of my life, with the most recent occurrence being December 12th. I can honestly say I don’t remember what happened, but I remember how it happened.
I had just gotten off of my shift from work, and not even two minutes after walking into the house I had an anxiety attack. I haven’t had an anxiety attack in quite a while, so the feeling was quite overwhelming. Between the competing demands of work, school and my social life, I saw this coming, but what I didn’t see coming was what happened next. After crying and explaining to my mom about how stressed I had become due to school, she and I had decided that I ought to go to bed, seeing as I had to return to school the next morning regardless of how I felt in that moment.
School has always been the fuel to my mental illness fire. The first time I started seeing a therapist consistently was in the seventh grade, because I had began to form unhealthy coping habits for dealing with the stress school had been causing me both academically and socially–More so socially which lead to my failure academically. Which is a probable cause of why I had the breakdown that I had Monday.
The last thing I remember was looking at my phone and getting a terrible pain in the back of my head. After that I can’t remember much, but the story goes that I had started to scream, which lead to crying, ultimately leaving me on the floor gasping for air and struggling to keep consciousness. We had ended up in the hospital, and I had been heavily treated for a migraine (which wasn’t what was happening, but we can talk about mistreatment of the mentally ill another time). While in the hospital I had been on a “cocktail of drugs” as the nurse had said, to help me with the pain in my head, the anxiety I was feeling, and my restlessness. I must’ve slept for 12 hours between the time I had fallen asleep at the hospital to the time I woke up at home.
Despite being the longest rest I have had all year, this was my wake-up call. For the past three months I had been struggling with putting others before myself and suppressing my true feelings of how much I had been hurting. I had began reaching out to a friend of mine and asking her why this happened or how it could’ve possibly happened. My friend had been responding to me with positive encouragements and the like, but the one thing she said that really stood out to me was that there was no shame in her seeing me at my lowest point.
It was okay for me to not be “normal” or “perfect”, she had still loved me anyway and we would still be friends. This encouraged me to seek help and get better. I saw my therapist and explained to her the situation I was in and she had began explaining to me the choices I had to make and the options I had regarding further treatment plans. It was quite overwhelming at first, some might even say a bit discouraging. If this was what accepting my illness was going to be like I sure as heck didn’t want to continue to do much.
I had told my therapist about my discouragement and she said to me that acceptance for things comes in steps. Then I remembered some sage words of wisdom my English teacher had said one day as I was complaining about the amount of work that I had to complete: “We always say the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that you have a problem but once we acknowledge it we get lazy and forget to actually solve the problem. What people need to do is create and execute an action plan after simply acknowledging the problem.”
Though it has not been easy or fast, I am slowly working on my recovery and taking it step by step with the support of my family, friends, teachers, and my therapist. It is important to remember that it is okay to seek help and there’s nothing wrong in doing so. It is also important be mindful that everyone’s process in recovery is different and no two recoveries are the same; take time for yourself and you know your needs best.