Welcome back to another guest post for Shattering Stigmas 4.0! I can’t believe how quickly this round has flown. I hope you all are enjoying the conversation as much as I am! Today, I have Heidi here to share her story. Enjoy her post!
(P. S. Be sure to check out the masterlist of Shattering Stigmas 4.0 posts to ensure you haven’t missed any content from our five wonderful hosts!)
Mental health is a relatively new topic for me, even though I have struggled with it as long as I can remember. Growing up in a small town, we never discussed mental health. We never talked about what depression and anxiety actually looked like, much less how to talk about or treat them.
I can distinctly remember telling my best friend in fourth grade that I wondered if anyone would even notice if I didn’t exist. Not that I was suicidal, but I seriously thought nobody would notice if i just wasn’t there anymore. In middle and high school, I took ridiculously long showers and sobbed while sitting on the floor of the tub. When I was a sophomore, I thought it was because my boyfriend had broken my heart, but now looking back I realize that I was struggling through a very, very dark period of depression.
My freshman year of college, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and severe depression, but after one trial of an antidepressant they gave up and said I didn’t have mental illnesses, I was just severely anemic and lacking vitamin D. They left it at “take your vitamins and get outside more.”
In 2014 I married the love of my life, but nearly had a meltdown every day leading up to and after our wedding. In 2015, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease that means my small intestine attacks itself when I ingest gluten. Nine months later, I was diagnosed with severe lactose intolerance.
In 2016 I accepted a position at a financial institution and started on a whole different mental health journey. This position drove me to the very brink of my sanity and broke me down to my very core and shattered my spirit. The only good thing I got out of that position was that I finally went into therapy. That first therapist helped me leave that position and find the words to tell my doctor that I needed medication to get myself under control.
Long story short, I have now seen 2 primary care doctors, 1 mental health specialist, 1 mental health nurse practitioner, 1 social worker, and 1 incredible therapist. I’m currently trialling my 3rd antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication with a new sleep aid. I am very, very open about my diagnoses of severe depression, severe generalized anxiety disorder, and a possible hint of adult attention deficit disorder. I can’t sit still unless I am reading or deeply involved in a movie or TV show. I have struggled with anxiety making me so nauseous and spinning out that I can’t function in real life. But being an open book and honest about my struggles has made my new job easier and created more realistic expectations for my boss and myself.
My mental health journey is far from over, and I don’t think it will ever will be, but it’s becoming much easier to talk about with everyone in my life, from work to my parents. I’ve been able to develop deeper and more real relationships with my friends, and my husband has grown with me throughout this whole process. We have more meaningful conversations and I feel much more confident. Opening up has helped me change my narrative, and I strive to help others shatter the stigmas and start sharing their own stories.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Heidi. I see a lot of my own journey with mental illness reflected in your words!
Talk to me about your experiences with mental health in the comments!