When I first realized that I might have mental health issues, I vowed to never tell another soul.
The last thing I wanted was people feeling sorry for me. Or even worse, people thinking that I’m making it all up, like the way my family did. I struggled with painful, excruciating migraines and fatigue for around 6-7 years, which started when I began gaining a ton of weight after a sports injury.
There was a point in time where I would get these migraines and nausea on a daily basis and they would leave me completely debilitated.
My family always thought that I was exaggerating or making things up, as an excuse to stay in my room all day and be antisocial. I didn’t want to go to the doctor, either, because I was in denial that there could be something seriously wrong. I simply attributed my health problems to my poor diet and lack of sleep and exercise.
Unfortunately, things kept getting progressively worse.
I constantly felt irritable, worn down, and unable to concentrate on anything. I lost interest in everything and immersed myself in religion, which only made matters worse because I was delusional and always felt guilty/anxious if I did something as simple as miss a prayer on time because of class, or even worse because I didn’t want classmates seeing me pray. I already felt out of place in law school because I was the only visible religious minority at the time.
I felt very alienated, on top of everything else I was already feeling.
As one can imagine, all of these factors negatively affected my work ethic and relationships with family and friends. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or do anything. All I wanted to do was stay in my room and, eventually, I was bedridden for a few months.
My moods ranged from depressed, extremely hyper (for example, cleaning the entire house at 3 am), or just plain numb, which was the worst feeling because it led to very suicidal thoughts and contemplations of self-harm. The smallest things triggered me and I found myself crying at least a few times on a daily basis.
People never knew what mood they would catch me in.
In fact, I was called “bipolar” as an insult a few times, before I was even diagnosed with the disorder.
I finally gained the courage to seek professional help quite recently. I was very ashamed and felt so weak because, unfortunately, I internalized the stigma of mental illness. I’ve always prided myself on being a strong woman with a tough exterior, but here I was miserable and feeble, and worse yet, asking for help—a huge personal taboo for me.
However, the doctors and therapists I met made me feel very comfortable and I finally began confiding in trustworthy friends about my issues ( I only wish I sought help sooner).
Also, after much research, I learned that there’s a strong correlation between migraines/ fatigue and mental illnesses, so that helped to explain many of my symptoms. The worst part about this illness, though, is how it affected my self-worth so negatively.
I went from being a hard-working woman to someone who can barely even lift a finger.
The first reason why I’ve decided to “come out” is because NO ONE should ever put his or her health on the back burner like I did. One should always make time for their health because without good health, what’s the point of anything else in life?
And good health includes having a sound mind.
Secondly, I can no longer stand to see ignorance being spewed about people with mental illnesses. Being called crazy and psychotic, and potentially murderous, really hurts. We’re normal people with a chemical imbalance that is only temporary or hopefully treatable.
We’re your friends, neighbors, parents, and siblings.
Mental illnesses can affect anyone. My only advice is for people to stop minimizing our pain and try to understand.
We need more allies, support, and of course, love.
These days, I’ve been getting much better with the help of my amazing support system. I’m excited and hopeful about getting my life back together.
I’m now in the process of accepting myself and understanding that what happened to me can happen to anyone else, but no matter what, I should never be afraid to ask for help.