October 10th was Mental Health Awareness Day and nothing makes me feel more satisfied, than to have an entire day dedicated to mental health.
If you see me on a day-to-day basis then you would naturally assume that I’m a positive, happy, full-of-life human being. Although that is a reality 80% of the time, the truth is that I live with Clinical Depression and Anxiety Disorder. I was diagnosed with both back in 2014 and it’s been a frustrating journey ever since. You see, I grew up in the Mexican culture and within that culture we do not discuss Mental Health. I’ve struggled with depression since I was about 11 years old and never got the proper help to keep it under control. I eventually had to make my own decision and I pushed myself to go see a therapist.
Getting help is a strenuous journey. My journey went a little like this:
I went to see my General Physician because I was getting really bad headaches, this was after 3 days of no -sleep and a week of constant suicidal thoughts. My doctor referred me to a neurologist (for the headaches) and right before I walked out of the door I turned around and told her about my no-sleep and suicidal thoughts. She then referred me to a psychologist.
I remember sitting in the waiting room for my appointment with the psychologist and I stared at myself in the mirror across from where I was sitting. It was then that I noticed the dark circles under my eyes, my messy hair and the frown my face was permanently set in. I shed a couple of silent tears as I realized how I no longer recognized myself. I went in with the psychologist and she threw questions upon questions at me, as I slowly realized how truly broken I was.
She then scheduled an appointment so I could meet with a psychiatrist who would then determine the dose of anti-depressants that I would be on. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with Clinical Depression and Anxiety Disorder; I was relieved to hear that what I was feeling had a name. After seeing the psychiatrist and getting my prescription of anti-depressants, I was then referred to a therapist. I was scheduled to see the therapist every two weeks for 6 months.
That is my journey to diagnosis. My journey will not be your journey. Every journey is specific to the human being it happens to. My journey wasn’t as cut and dry as I’m making it seem; the truth is that I had to see the psychiatrist a few more times. We couldn’t get the dose of anti-depressants right; I was either an energetic bunny or a robot or sleeping beauty or NOT MYSELF AT ALL. I ended up going off of anti-depressants completely. It also took me three sessions with the therapist to finally open up and it wasn’t until my second-to-last session that I finally had a semi-breakthrough.
I share my journey because … you are not alone. Even though I may have taken different steps than you to get to a better me, I still struggled and I stand in solidarity with anyone that suffers from Mental Illness. Mental Health Awareness is so much more than October 10th; it’s also reaching out to the people around you on a daily basis. Ask people how they’re doing, ask your friend if she’s okay, ask your mom if she needs anything. One question can make ALL of the difference.
I am not 100%. I have my days; I have days when I feel like the world is conspiring against me and nothing but crying and my bed will make me feel better. I have days when I feel like my bed is the only place where I am safe. I have days when I feel completely alone. I have days when a suicidal thought still creeps in. I am better though; I am better at pushing myself off of the bed. It is a lot easier to appreciate the goodness that surrounds me. My mind is so much better at pushing the bad thoughts away and it replaces the bad thoughts with empowerment and motivation.
I am not cured because there was nothing to “cure”, this is something I will live with for the rest of my life. I will have bad days and I will have amazing days; I am learning to appreciate both. If you take anything away from this; I hope it’s the fact that it is completely okay to NOT be okay. You are allowed a mental health day. You are allowed a day full of tears and ice cream. If you feel like the sadness is taking over, ask for help. There is no shame in grabbing a helping hand.
So go on; live your life, share your story, grab motivation from the people around you and SPEAK UP. Mental Health Awareness is important and I am vowing to use my voice to continue to speak on the issues that matter.
My name is Julianna, I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression and Anxiety Disorder and I am surviving.