According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illness is, “Health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). They are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.” Nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness every year. This Tuesday, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. Below are five stories from five individuals who have mental illness(s). These are their stories:
Demelza Leffert, Class of 2021
"Back in tenth grade, I was diagnosed with Depression, Social Anxiety, and later, PTSD. That year, I had been really struggling. I wasn’t able to go to classes because of my intense anxiety. I lost all of my friends because they claimed I was 'too sad.' I guess they were right. My depression stopped me from enjoying anything in my life. No one understood why I was so quiet or why I would start crying out of the blue. My mind was on a constant loop saying: 'You’re not good enough. No one likes you. Nothing you do matters.' It really prevented me from living my life. Most days, just getting out of bed to use the bathroom was impressive.
Over time, I’ve been able to cope with my disorders. The first step was just accepting who I was and what I was going through. For the longest time, trying to deny it made it worse. The combination of therapy and medications really work for me. I also have a certain list of coping skills that help calm my anxiety and trauma symptoms.
Some advice for those who deal with similar disorders would be everyone is different. My reactions will be different than yours. We all experience depression, anxiety, PTSD or any other disorder in our own unique way. If the skills I use don’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck. You just need to find what works for you. Also, there will be ups and downs and that’s okay. When you experience a down day or two, it will always go back up. Just knowing that will make it pass even quicker.
Society doesn’t usually treat me with much understanding. Some will see my depression as laziness, my anxiety as avoidance and my PTSD as an overreaction. I’ve run into many people who accuse me of lying or being dramatic for attention and I know others have experienced this as well. Society isn’t as educated on mental health as they should be. This lack of understanding makes it so difficult on me and others. I’m really hoping that people can take the time to learn about mental health so that we can feel more accepted and supported."
Shelby Lenhart, Class of 2021
"At fifteen years old, I was diagnosed with Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and recent sessions with a therapist since moving have reaffirmed those prior diagnoses. The thing about living with mental illnesses like anxiety and depression is that there are often times where the effects hit you hard, even without being prompted. There are days when it’s hard to find the motivation to get out of bed, or an unanswered text message turns into an hour-long crying fit. Little things throughout the day that most people wouldn’t think twice about become the source of a sick, heavy feeling in my stomach. It becomes difficult to face small tasks, to speak to friends or strangers, or to see a logical outcome of a situation. It hasn’t, however, been impossible to deal with. Over the past few years and with the help of my therapist, I’ve been making active efforts to overcome them, [such as] isolating the depressive or anxious thought right at the start and telling myself that those thoughts are simply a product of my anxiety, depression, PTSD, et cetera.
This isn’t always the solution that works, but taking one step at a time is very helpful. Another tactic that I’ve begun to utilize is creating a distraction. Involving myself in other work, hobbies I enjoy, or talking to people I love puts a buffer between myself and the negative feelings. Living with depression and anxiety isn’t uncommon, and there’s nothing wrong or invalid about the feelings you’re having, regardless of what a wider audience may say. The feelings can’t be helped when they first come, and it’s no fault of your own if you’re dealing with it. Make sure you have a safety net, a backup plan like a coloring app on your phone or someone you know will answer right away when those feelings first start to come up. Again, I cannot stress enough how valid your feelings are and that you are not alone. Media has romanticized depression, and the 'glamour' of being sad, but that doesn’t make your depression any less real."
Chloe Solomon, Class of 2021
"I was diagnosed with General Anxiety and Panic Disorder when I was 14 and then depression when I was 15. Mental illness can be extremely debilitating like not having the motivation to get out of bed, being to scared to leave the house, or wanting to just stop existing altogether because it would be easier, other times it's just a mild inconvenience more in the background, but it's always there. Dealing with these issues can be hard, I personally have gone through a lot of therapy. There are ways you can help yourself cope if you can't afford to see a doctor; one big thing that helps me is knowing my limits. Saying no to something that makes you uncomfortable is okay. If you are struggling with your mental health, talk to someone: keeping it to yourself is only gonna make things worse.
I believe there should be more education on mental health because when you say you have a mental illness you are often looked at as making excuses. Also, there have been a lot of problems recently in the media with the romanticization of mental illness and it doesn't show how messy it can actually be. Talking to people about it and making it a less taboo subject with your friends has helped my friends understand more where I am coming from when I'm struggling, but I also think it should be something taught to children in schools so they can learn how to deal with their mental health if need be."
Hailey, Class of 2021
"I have been diagnosed with Major Depression, anxiety, Anorexia Nervosa (Restrictive type), OCD and possible BPD for about four years. My everyday life has been affected because I have had to miss so many days, even months, of school to get treatment. Also, it has caused my family to be under stress occasionally. It takes a lot of effort to just stay alive everyday and deal with intrusive thoughts that I feel people don't always understand.
I have been in a lot of treatment to help with coping (inpatient, partial hospital, residential, outpatient). I try to be open with professionals so that they can help me.
My advice to others is that they are so strong for dealing with their disorders. They are so beautiful, and worth everything. Living with these disorders is hard but try to open up to someone to get the help that you need.
I think that society tends to get mental health wrong or twist things around. They portray certain mental health issues very stereotypically and that just adds to people's distorted views of mental health. Disorders can present themselves in so many different types of people and the signs are not always linear."
Jordan DePaola, Class of 2019
"I was diagnosed at the age of eight with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I remember my parents having to go to my school to have a meeting to accommodate my newly diagnosed learning disability. For a long time I felt ADHD meant I was just too hyper and could not learn. I realized that is was really neither of those things. I get really irritated when someone stereotypes ADHD or believes they have it because they have a lot of energy. I actually have Inattentive ADHD which most people from my perspective have never heard of. Yes, there are [different] types of ADHD someone can have. I often struggle with getting bored quickly, staying focused, being easily distracted, losing track of things, forgetful in day to day activities and especially with finishing things. There is a lot more to it than that but I just wanted to share a small bit of what I go through.
It is definitely a struggle for me having ADHD. It takes me a lot longer to do something than the average student does. I have to do a task way in advance just to make sure I get it done with satisfactory results. I have to be hard on myself and push myself to get it done. For example, I had to read 20 pages for my Creative Writing course at MMC, while a simple 15 page read takes me all day. I get so easily distracted it took me multiple times just to make sure I understood the material. I also did it a few days before the assignment was due. I struggle with doing school assignments and errands at the last minute. It was extremely hard and exhausting and it definitely effected my performance as well as my self-esteem. I felt that I was a failure because I just could not get things done on time and with excellent results. I learned to not let something hold me back and use it as a way to empower myself. I refuse to let my ADHD keep me from making the grades I want. I think of it as an obstacle that will always be there that I must learn to overcome. I would describe [ADHD] as someone bullying you and instead of taking it, you befriend them and embrace them and refuse to take their scrutiny. I want everyone who suffers from it to know, you are smart and you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to. I believe in you and you can do this."
Exposing ourselves to the stories and experiences of people with disorders is just one step forward to creating a better social awareness of the subject content. Mental health disorders are neither a trend nor something to joke about. Need someone to talk to? Or know someone who does? Below is a 24 hour Mental Health & Illness Helpline along with other helplines that can assist with other effects due to mental health:
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line: Text “home” to 741741
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