Mental illness is one of the hardest things to live with.
It is something many are born with and it can be very hard to overcome. It is a disease that people who don't have it, don't understand. And that people who have it, struggle to get rid of every day. And most importantly it kills.
Suicide kills more people than breast cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and death by drowning.
It is the second most common way for teens ages 15-29 to die. There are 123 suicides per day (800,000 per year), and in the past year, there have been THREE in my very own hometown.
Back in high school, I began getting swings of depression that would last about a week at a time. My whole body would shut down - I couldn't talk, couldn't eat, and couldn't feel, both physically and emotionally. I would look at myself in the mirror and not recognize the body that was standing directly in front of me.
When I would speak, I had no control over what was coming out of my mouth. It was like a demon had taken over my whole body and mind. When people talked to me, I could hear them, but I couldn't understand them. Life was a blur.
I didn't know how to explain what I was feeling to people so I would tell them, "I felt as if I was living in a dream." I was invisible.
I had a doctor appointment after doctor appointment and no one could figure out what was going on. My parents thought I had had something wrong in my brain, so I went to see a neurologist. Even he couldn't tell us what was wrong with me. It was scary feeling so sick, but no one, not even professionals, knew what was wrong with me. I had never met anyone who had any experience similar to mine.
Eventually, I was admitted into the hospital by my neurologist. I had CAT scans and EEGs. Definitely, one of the worst parts was having an IV in my arm for 72 hours. Let me tell you, for someone who tosses and turns all night long, it was not fun. After two full days in the hospital, still no clear diagnosis; the tests showed that my brain was as normal as any other average brain.
If you ask anyone, most people will say I am a very happy kid.
I always loved life and the world I was living in. Because of this, I was torn when my parents said, well maybe this is something emotional, like depression. I took offense and got very insulted. They made me see a therapist with the two of them in the same room. The entire time I sat there, just laughing at the fact that my parents actually thought I was depressed.
My senior year of high school I began having a lot of anxiety - your average stresses - Are my grades good enough? Do I really have to write 5 essays and fill out 10 applications by November 1st? Will I even get into college? Where am I going to go to college? I asked my parents if I could see a therapist just to talk about my right here and now issues, but it turned into so much more.
When I went into therapy I had to tell the psychologist my whole backstory, where I grew up, my past relationships, my family situation, dental history over the past 10 years, my shoe size, and the grade I received on my latest math test. (You know how it goes if you've been to therapy).
So obviously this included my struggling and having to deal with these "dream-like" episodes. After explaining the illness, she said, "I think you might have "Depersonalization." This is where someone feels pulled out of their own body. It's a detachment from reality."
I had never felt so relieved as I did at that very moment.
I didn't exactly know what the meaning of "detachment" was, but the idea of being de-attached from something sounded pretty spot on. She handed me a questionnaire with about 20 questions all related to depersonalization.
It was the type of test where you had to say how often you felt a certain way. For example, "Going to PetSmart makes me want to buy a new pet" would be the statement and you would have to bubble in "Never, Sometimes, or Always" (that would be always for me). You would never guess what the very first question was.
"Have you felt as if you were living in a dream."
Since I was a little girl I had always loved Demi Lovato. She has always been a role model of mine and she will continue to be. Similar to myself, at a young age, Demi Lovato knew something was wrong and different about her, but did not know what it was. Years later, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her suffering must be out of her control and she should not be ridiculed because of the way she was born.
In Demi's 2017 YouTube documentary Simply Complicated, she shows us that fame is not all rainbow and butterflies. Everyone puts celebrities on such a high pedestal without realizing that they are just normal people with everyday struggles and confusing, crazy lives. They get sad, and mad, and lonely, just as we do.
I will forever look up to you as a role model. You have truly helped make me the person I am today. You have taught me to be my own individual and love myself for who I am. You have taught me to be powerful and brave. To be strong and fight till the finish. To be honest and true to myself and the people who love me. To not rely on someone else to take care of my loneliness.
And most importantly to teach others and help others based on my own life experiences. Having a medical issue does not make you weak, it just makes you stronger when you overcome it. The people who judge you don't matter and the people who love you will always be there for you.
I will forever look up to you and admire you for your strength, beauty, and courage.
To those of you who are lucky enough to not have to deal with mental illness, be thankful first of all. Understand that it is so prevalent in our current society. Help those who are down. Always be there to support others.
And to those that deal with mental illness, keep fighting.
"The last decade has taught me a lifetime of lessons. I've learned that secrets make you sick. I'm learning how to be a voice and not a victim. I've learned that sex is natural. I've learned that love is necessary. Heartbreak is unavoidable, and loneliness is brutal. I've learned that the key to being happy is to tell your truth and be OK without all the answers." -Demi Lovato