Anxiety Helped Me Become a Better Person

anxious man bed

As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we shared stories that raised awareness about mental illness and empowered those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

I believe that every story has two sides and that each side deserves to be told. More importantly, both sides deserve to be heard.

As I became more involved in the mental health community and began speaking openly about my illnesses, I quickly realized one side of an important story wasn’t being heard. People often overlooked it, ignored it, or saw it as a fairytale. This was the story about how I became resilient, compassionate, and aware of my emotions while attempting to endure another seemingly endless string of self-sabotaging thoughts. It was the positive side of my mental illness.

I’ve suffered from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) for eight years. For a majority of those years, I spent my days in agonizing physical and mental pain. My day would often consist of relentless attacks of intrusive thoughts, shortness of breath, erratic behavior, and total isolation.

Living with anxiety is similar to the feeling an astronaut would get if you opened their helmet in space but, as they started to suffocate, you pulled them back inside to safety so they could breathe again. Continue reading Anxiety Helped Me Become a Better Person

My Lost Decade: A Story of Addiction and Recovery

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As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we shared stories that raised awareness about mental illness and empowered those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

It is the middle of the morning and I am standing in front of a sliding pocket door. The pocket door is made of wood and my forehead rests against the surface. The door divides the apartment: me on one side and my roommate on the other. It’s not a particularly nice piece of wood — unfinished, some rudimentary bevels — but it is holding me up. Earlier in the morning, I was snorting Ritalin in my closet. I have a pretty indigo glass plate I use for crushing the pills that’s now scratched with use. I was looking down at a line of powder on the plate. It was my fifth or sixth pill of the night, at a time when I was snorting 20 or so pills in a day. With the straw in my hand, I considered a couple of truths: I’d stolen the pills from my roommate; I’d eventually be caught; part of me wanted to be caught; part of me hoped I’d die before that happened.

“We really have a problem,” I said to myself. When things got really bad — when I couldn’t believe the things I was doing — I’d start referring to myself as a group.

I snorted the line. The burn felt like pain and ecstasy and shame. But no matter how high I’d get myself those days — dripping sweat, heart jumping in my chest, and ringing in my ears — I couldn’t shake the feeling of loneliness. And later in the evenings, I’d start drinking whiskey to slow down my body. Rinse, lather, repeat. Continue reading My Lost Decade: A Story of Addiction and Recovery

A Day in the ER: Hitting Rock Bottom with My Anxiety

ambulance red light woman anxiety

As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we shared stories that raised awareness about mental illness and empower those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

Every morning before work was exactly the same. Prior to getting out from under the covers, I spent time dreading the day that was ahead of me. I’d look out my window at the downtown Manhattan skyline — it no longer brought me joy. Then, I’d cook scrambled eggs and toast, only to take one tiny bite of each before dumping it all in the trash. This was my life as a 21-year-old who had everything going for her. But, with crippling depression and anxiety, it didn’t matter.

Each day in the summer of 2015, when my mental health was at its shakiest, I got weaker and my clothes got baggier. I had no desire to eat, which is how I knew something was seriously wrong. One morning in August, I woke up weaker than usual. What did I expect? I’d barely eaten in days. How could I when I felt so horrible? I could barely get out of bed, and when I did, I thought I was going to topple over. My mind raced, I was petrified.

Leaving my building, my hands trembled. Every step seemed to be a step closer to passing out. Before even getting to the street corner, I decided going to work wasn’t physically possible. Quickly but cautiously, I walked back to the entrance, one hand gripping onto the building’s exterior, and told the security guard I needed an ambulance. I was mortified. Continue reading A Day in the ER: Hitting Rock Bottom with My Anxiety

Am I a Good Person? A Borderline Personality Perspective

woman psychiatric hospital cell illustration

As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we shared stories that raised awareness about mental illness and empowered those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

Am I a good person? It’s a question we all ask ourselves from time to time, but for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, it carries special significance.

As someone living with BPD, I’ve heard all sorts of negative comments about those dealing with the condition: we’re manipulative, angry, selfish, unable to empathize, incapable of maintaining long-term commitments — the list goes on. While it’s true that many people with BPD do exhibit some of these qualities at various times, they don’t describe all of us, at all times.

I’d love to say that I’ve never exhibited any of these qualities, but BPD, like most mental health disorders, exists on a sliding scale of severity. It’s a spectrum, one that changes depending on the amount of pressure being applied.

I’ve never been under as much pressure as I was in 2014. My second marriage fell apart in February (seemingly overnight, but was actually the result of many years of neglect and denial). In the weeks that followed, I enjoyed a tryst that ended horrendously (another story for another time). Then, on a rainy April afternoon, I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child (I’d spent the two years leading up to that moment on a waiting list to get my tubes tied). Continue reading Am I a Good Person? A Borderline Personality Perspective

When I Knew I Had Bipolar Disorder

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As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we shared stories that raised awareness about mental illness and empowered those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

Recently I began experiencing symptoms of hypomania. I was irritable, had the sex drive of a teenage boy, and felt euphoric. I knew something was off with me. I hadn’t felt this way before, not to this extent. I contacted my psychiatrist and made an appointment. He confirmed that I was experiencing hypomania, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II.

It was a relief to know what was happening. Nonetheless, I was frightened because — unlike what the media portrays — mania isn’t fun. It’s exhausting and scary.

You do feel temporarily euphoric, at least I did. The feeling of mania is surreal and sometimes wonderful, but other times terrifying. It makes you feel out of sorts and a different version of yourself. I feel pressured to speak quickly, keep moving and keep doing things until my body can’t take it anymore. It’s awful and I don’t wish these feelings on anyone.

Mania isn’t wonderful. It’s a terrible feeling that impacts people living with bipolar disorder. Continue reading When I Knew I Had Bipolar Disorder