“I’ve seen a lot of stuff no one should have to see. Seen my dad go to jail. Saw my uncle put a hatchet to my mom’s throat. I was really depressed for a long time . . . You know, if I didn’t get help I wouldn’t be alive anymore. I was skeptical at first. I didn’t know this dude, but I’m supposed to sit and tell him personal stuff? But I’ve learned more about myself through counseling than from any other experience in my life”.
“I’m diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety, Bipolar, PTSD, and Panic Disorder. That’s a lot of stuff. The PTSD is from the bullying. They bullied me for the way I acted, for the way I dressed. I get flashbacks to when it happened, and when I see certain people, I used to have panic attacks right off the bat. When I’m in one of my funks, people always tell me to just chill, stop moving so much, calm down. They say I’ll be fine, it’s no big deal. They don’t understand that it is a big deal . . . I’m tired of people downplaying mental illness. More people than you know are struggling with it. And maybe if I tell my story, they’re going to be more likely to get help. To feel like they’re not alone”.
“When I’m by myself, I feel lost. That’s the worst thing about having bipolar disorder, the not knowing – what direction do I head in? Am I doing the right thing? How I feel right now, is it going to change? I’ve been in these down phases before – blaming myself for all the mistakes I’ve ever made. Looking at everything I’ve lost in my life because of my stupid decisions. Out of all the possible feelings, empty is the worst. I’ll come out of it eventually, but right now it just sucks”.
“In 6th grade, I was dealing with all kinds of bullying. Kids were cyber bullying me, and another student actually handed me a razor blade in the bathroom at school and told me to kill myself. I started struggling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts. I’ve been working on it all for about two years now. Things got really bad in December last year when I was hospitalized after a suicide attempt, but I got some help and things have gotten drastically better since then”.
“People don’t understand depression. They want to look at depressed people and say it’s somehow the person’s fault. They want the person to take on the blame and all the guilt. But that’s not how it works. It’s not my fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. I was born, I ended up with depression and anxiety, and that’s how it is. People who haven’t had to struggle with mental health issues are fortunate. When you’re in it, it’s hell . . . I’ve learned that my biggest strength is being independent and relying on myself. Being single and living alone, whatever has to be done, I have to do it. I’m not going to ask anyone to take care of me. It’s my responsibility, and I’m good at it”.
“The last time I self-injured was August 12, 2012. That’s also the last time I was in a hospital. That’s a really important day for me. That wasn’t what I wanted for my life. Meds and doctors can’t fix me. I can’t just sit back, tell people I’m miserable, and not do anything about it. I’m accountable for what I do. So I decided to get better. Don’t get me wrong, life is still hard. But you know what? We all go through life differently, but we all go through life”.
“It started when I was about 2. My father and I had a good father-son relationship. We did all the fun stuff you would do, and he was a good father. My parents got a divorce when I was three. A few months after the divorce things changed and his anger increased. One night when I was three, I distinctly remember being at the dinner table with people laughing and then he struck me with his fist. As months and years went by, it became more frequent and I would get beaten every weekend that I went with him. That continued until I was about 12 . . . “My dad moved to Arizona when I was 12 and 4 years went by without us seeing each other, but we had been reconnecting and talking more. I was trying to let bygones be bygones. I had formed a better relationship with my stepmother out there as well. He flew me out to Tucson and immediately upon seeing him I could feel his disappointment again. He wanted me to be better and be famous and be this superstar. Then things just got worse on that trip. My stepmother was coming onto me sexually while I was out there whenever my dad wasn’t around . . . I got back to Illinois and within 8 months I was so overwhelmed that I attempted suicide. “My suicide attempt was in September of 2015. Since then, I’ve been given my diagnoses. It’s a long list, but it helped paint a picture for me of what’s been going on and it helps me to understand what was previously unknown. I’ve gotten more in touch with my emotions and my story, which has led to falling in love with art and music”.
“A lot of people say that they know the time in their life that their mental illness started. I don’t have that. It’s always been here. I have PTSD from when I was sexually abused as a child. I’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. I always felt like I was living under a spotlight – everybody knew there was something wrong with me, like I was crazy. When it comes to mental illness, other people look at you as if you’re broken. I’m not broken. I don’t need to be fixed. Mental illness is just another illness. Take the word mental off the front of it. If you’re sick, you’re sick. But know this too: you’re stronger than you think you are”.
“You have to be pretty and skinny to be wanted and I’m not any of those things. I don’t want to stand out, but I want to be unique. So I saw a counselor the first time 2 years ago when I was 13. I’ve became more positive. I dropped all the negative people out of my life and I write poetry and I sketch tattoos. I’ve also realized that I really love music. Those things work for me. I transferred out of public school to a therapeutic day school. There, I can talk about my feelings. I can take breaks if I’m going to have an anxiety attack. No one makes fun of you. No one judges you for your mental illness. My dad, on the other hand, doesn’t really get therapy. He thinks you should just smoke weed instead of taking medications”.
“I know I’m not functional. I’m 60 years old. I should have finished my degree. I should be a practicing social worker. In counseling, I work on trying to manage my anxiety and depression. There are days I feel like sticking a firearm in my mouth. Having a mental illness keeps you more human. You never see yourself as being above others. I’m trying to stop being so hard on myself. I mean, I used to literally get angry with myself because I couldn’t fly. Superman could fly. Why can’t I? On days like that, I just tell myself to knock it off”.
“I don’t have a mental illness or anything. I just needed help. My youngest son Nico has been psychiatrically hospitalized 16 times. Since he was little, he’s been diagnosed with autism, mental delays, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and ADHD. He has so many acronyms that follow his name, it’s not even funny. My husband was in Linden Oaks twice for nervous breakdowns. He was diagnosed with Bipolar when he was 40. I was like, ‘I didn’t sign up for this, I don’t deserve what this does to me.’ I get angry because of all of it, having to be everybody’s everything. I feel like I have to be my husband’s brain, Nico’s brain, all besides being my own brain. It’s never time for me. It never has been. I’m your typical Sicilian mom. I’m doing it all, trying to fix it all”.
“I was first diagnosed with mental illness when I was fifteen. I was obsessed with being perfect – the perfect student, the perfect friend, the perfect daughter, the perfect musician – but my obsession only made me move farther from these things. My “failures,” such as getting an A- in a class instead of an A+, finally took me over, and I spiraled into a deep depression. After bouts of extreme sadness and thoughts of suicide, I was put into an inpatient hospital. There I was told that I had a mental illness, and that in order to heal I needed to alter the way I viewed myself. Unwilling to change my drive for perfection, I left the hospital and continued on my never-ending quest to better myself into oblivion. Not surprisingly, my constant anxiety, bouts of depression, and random bursts of energy and irritability, continued to spiral out of control”.