Thinking back to where I was four years ago, I would have never dreamed of being where I am right now. Fortunately, I am extremely lucky to have the support I had and continue to have. This brings me to an important message I’d like to start with on the subject of mental illness: not everyone has support. I want all of my supporters, and even people who aren’t supporters, to know that I am support for you, and if you look in the right places, you will find the support you’re looking for. Mental illness is scary and completely life-altering. I sympathize with everyone who is afraid to speak out about what they feel, what they’ve seen, and what they’ve heard in pure fear of being labeled as an “attention seeker.” This is so common, but why? The media. Mental illness is so glamourized that people underestimate the severity of it.
I’ve made countless drafts of this blog post, trying to make the perfect one. I’ve got such a long story I really can’t put it all in one post. This is going to be an extremely brief summary. Let’s take a blast to the past, and reminisce on what made me who I am at this very second.
Growing up I had plenty of friends. In a small community, all of the kids are close, and it’s nice – like family. Looking back at the fun times I had as a child makes my heart warm – all that I can remember that is. For those of you who don’t know, I have horrible memory. A huge part of it is my anxiety. When your brain is so preoccupied with the future, it really focuses on that rather than remembering things. All I can remember is looking at pictures and having someone tell me what happened – but I never remember being there or living through it.
My grade seven year was my year of experimenting. I dyed my hair, wore makeup, and dressed a lot differently than most of the kids. I’m sure you all would love to see a picture of that, but there is no way I’m showing you. Never. What happened in 2012, stays in 2012. Being so different appearance-wise than the rest of my peers, I was isolated. This is what truly triggered my anxiety, and during this year, I went through a rough depression.
In grade eight I switched schools. Some of you might be thinking her mental illness must be gone now. She ran away from the reason for it. No. You are very wrong. Let’s get one thing straight: never blame mental illness on anyone. Sure, the way the kids were treating me made me feel hurt, but they were kids. There is not one person in this world who can force mental illness on you. It was something that was coming, and ultimately, I couldn’t stop it. Mental illness is hereditary, it was going to happen sometime in my life, and unfortunately, the events I dealt with in my grade seven year are what triggered it. Secondly, mental illness doesn’t just disappear. Whether is is psychological or biological, people need treatment. Treatment varies on the individual. Maybe you need a few sessions with a psychologist, maybe you need to go see a psychiatrist for medication. Either way, the person is getting treated. It can be something simple as a heart-to-heart with your favourite person. It depends on the degree it has impacted your brain, and whether or not medication or therapy will best serve you.
Okay, we can finally talk about my grade eight year. Grade eight was an amazing year. I of course dealt with the usual anxiety attacks, but I made amazing friends and met awesome teachers who helped me through everything.
Grade nine and ten were the peak years of my anxiety. I was at a very low point in my life and attending school was difficult. I’d have anxiety attacks at least once a day and I barely slept.
The summer before grade eleven is when I finally sought out help. I was supposed to be going to my first track practice, but the anxiety hit me like a bullet wound to the chest. I was very choked up, rocking back and forth, sobbing, and hyperventilating. To sum up this afternoon, I never ended up going later that evening. This is the first time my parents saw my anxiety attack, and that’s when they realized that there’s something wrong.
I saw a few counsellors who gave me breathing techniques and pressure points (I suggest that you guys try these – I heard they work for some people especially if you are having trouble sleeping! ). Unfortunately, they didn’t work for me, in fact I tried them countless times before even being told about them by a professional (thanks, Google). I finally got an appointment with a child psychiatrist after coming to terms with the fact that therapy was not working. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety that summer. I started my medication which took a couple of weeks to kick in – just in time for my first track adventure: NL Summer Games. I couldn’t find a picture of me in my track uniform for the life of me… I hope you guys enjoy this one of me and one of my good friends Holly taken in Conception-Bay South before we left for our return to the west coast!
Trying not to make this too long, so I’ll cut it short and tell you how I’m doing now. I’m feeling great. I don’t remember the last time I had a full-blown panic attack. I’d be lying to you if I said that my anxiety is nonexistent, because it totally is there, and I do have my off-days. The most important thing is that they’re not most days. I didn’t realize how much my mental illness took over my life until I got help. I was constantly searching for the light, but then I realized that I am the light. So are you. I am so much better, and that’s why I am so sensitive and passionate about helping out others too.
You are the light.
Madison, Miss Teenage Western Newfoundland xoxo