About a year ago today, I experienced one of the worst mental illnesses that dare creep into people’s lives. Depression. It’s a dark black cloud that follows you around, and seeks to destroy any ounce of happiness you have left. I was finishing up my last semester of my second year in University. I was volunteering, I had great friends, a new relationship, and I was preparing for a bikini competition. Even with these wonderful and exciting things happening in my life, suddenly, like an angry employee, sick and tired of working for her boss, my mind said, “I’ve had enough! I’m quitting”, and walked out on me.
It was early April when I felt myself slipping down into the depths of my depression. It became hard to focus, I was anxious all the time and in short, I was miserable. I piled a lot of responsibilities onto my plate thinking I could handle it all with ease. To my surprise, I had what I like to call ‘an epic mental breakdown.’ I returned home after struggling through my final exams, and continued to push myself to prepare for my bikini competition. Right then and there, I should have stopped myself. I should have said, “this is enough, you need a break”, but I was relentless and in pursuit of goal, so I trudged on.
After my competition, which I was completely unhappy with, I could not go a day without breaking down into tears. I can remember that when I woke up in the morning the first thing I did was cry, and it was the last thing I did when I went to sleep at night. My family was sick with worry, and knew I needed to get help. After a long wait to see a psychiatrist, and a change in medication, I still did not feel any better. At this point, I felt I needed to engage in a longer-term treatment plan. So that’s what I did.
I applied for an inpatient treatment program that required you to stay for two months. As scary as it was, I packed up my suitcase, kissed my family goodbye, and was admitted to a facility a few hours away from home. When I got there, I hated every minute of it. From the group therapy sessions to the assigned meal times, I could not stand it. However, I pushed myself to stay and it turned out to be the best decision I had ever made.
After deciding that my medication was not doing the trick, my doctor referred me to undergo ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), which is about as unglamorous as it sounds. 3 times a week I was hooked up to a machine and was administered shocks directly to my brain to activate areas that were clearly inactive. After about 6 sessions, I started to notice a huge difference. My mood was lifting, and I felt a little more like myself each time. After 12 sessions, I would say I was basically back to normal. This form of treatment does not work for everyone, but I was lucky.
I came from a place where I thought I would never get better. Instead, I arrived at a place where I had hope again. I believed it was possible to get better, and ultimately recover. We need to be kind to ourselves. We need to listen to our bodies and minds when they are sending signals to us, alerting us to slow down.
At the end of the day, you are all you have.
Your body and mind is where your soul lives, where your very essence of being is inhabited, it deserves to be treated right. Never give up on yourself, and reach out to others who you think may be struggling. It is never too late to make a difference for someone. Life is a special gift, you are on this earth for a reason, keep that in mind.
The topic of mental health and mental illness is becoming less stigmatized and more understood with each generation. Thankfully, we no longer live in a time where you are labeled as “crazy” if you experience any form of mental illness. I think it’s important that people share their stories and connect with people in order to gain support. Help yourself and help others, and don’t be afraid to come into the light.
Featured image via Melina DiPalma