The girl behind the mask

by She Flies With Her Own Wings

 

I want to introduce you to two people: Sophia and Sydney… Two girls who grew up essentially the same, but when they got to high school things changed.

High school meant a whole new world of possibility for Sophia. She was a smart girl, an athlete, and eager to get involved. She became captain of her volleyball and basketball teams all while maintaining A’s and B’s. When she was 14 years old she helped her dad co-found an organization that would allow her and other students to travel to developing countries to build homes for people in need. Sophia got the travel bug and flew across the world by herself at the age of 17 to volunteer in a Rwandan Orphanage for a summer. She served as the Junior Class President, and then went on to be elected the ASB President for her high school. Sophia was also an officer for the National Honor Society, involved in other clubs, and volunteered in her community. She graduated with honors and then went on to the University of Oregon. There she continued to be heavily involved: she joined a sorority and was elected as the Philanthropy Chairman and then the New Member Educator, and she was also elected as an ASUO Senator. People saw her as someone who was constantly happy and positive. Sophia had it all together; she was the life of the party and always doing something to better herself and those around her. You could say Sophia was a bit of an overachiever, or a go-getter.

Sydney’s experience, although similar, was very different. When Sydney got to high school everything became very real for her, and the pressure to meet everyone’s expectations overwhelmed her. Although she got good grades and was an athlete, she felt like she was never good enough… that B should have been an A, and it didn’t matter if she scored 14 points because she should have scored 20. Sydney began to believe that no matter what she did, she would never be enough; that the world might be a better place without her. One night, when Sydney was just 15, she attempted to overdose on pills from her parent’s medical cabinet. As she was taking the pills, a few words, “you’re my hero” popped into her head, which a friend had said to her a few months before and that stopped her. She felt incredibly sick the next few days, and as time went by, things began to get better. When her senior year of high school rolled around, ‘it’ came back. Sydney struggled to get out of bed in the morning; she had lost her motivation and interest in things. Although she wasn’t suicidal, she was very depressed. She too went to the University of Oregon, where she really felt like a no-body, just a number. Her grades dropped, she spent a lot of time on her own, and seriously considered dropping out her freshman year. ‘It’ went away again, and she thought maybe it would go away for good this time. During the winter of her sophomore year ‘it’ came back again… one night she made a phone call at 2:00 in the morning because she was living alone and scared of herself, scared of what she might do. Again ‘it’ went away. Just like always though, it came back. The end of her junior year proved to be a real struggle. Reckless behavior joined the depression this time – alcohol was easily accessible and she also had a stash of prescription painkillers from a previous shoulder issue. Walking home from work at night she would think about stepping out in front of moving vehicles, and sometimes she would fill the bathtub and completely submerge her body, as she would think about drowning. This phase carried on over into the beginner of her senior year when it eventually faded.

Now if you haven’t figured it out yet, these two girls were the same person; On July 1st 2015, I was diagnosed with Clinical/Major Depression and Anxiety.

Back in May of this year, my depression came back. ‘It’ came back strong and probably worse than it ever had. It was always frustrating when ‘it’ came back, because each time I would beat it, I would think to myself ‘maybe this time is the last time’ … but it never was.

I didn’t want to ask for help. I didn’t want people to know. I liked what most people saw on the outside: it was who I wanted to be (and it still is who I am). The stigma that comes along with mental illness made me feel like people would think I was crazy and unstable. I didn’t feel normal. I didn’t want to take pills, and I didn’t want to have to see a therapist. I wanted so badly to beat it on my own. I wanted to be strong enough. I would try to focus on the positives, but that just made me angrier with myself and filled me with guilt. I had a great life, so how could I be this way? I wanted a reason, I wanted to be able to put my finger on something and say ‘There! That’s why I’m depressed’ … but I couldn’t.

Living with depression was like being stuck in a thick fog. Everything became a struggle. I lost interest in the things that once brought me so much joy. Everyday tasks became a challenge. I couldn’t get through the workday without breaking down. I remember looking for jobs and feeling completely unqualified for everything: waiting tables and/or serving coffee became tasks that I didn’t even think I could do. I felt absolutely helpless and completely hopeless.

I wanted off of the roller coaster that I had been on for 10 years, and the thought of another 10 years was unbearable. On June 30th, 2015 I made a goodbye video. I was over it. Done. Ready to check out.

Thankfully I had a friend who was willing to call our local behavioral health center and take me to the doctor. Going to the doctor was by far one of the hardest things I’ve done. And honestly I don’t think I could have or would have done it on my own… but I’m so glad I went. I can’t say thank you enough to that friend – you know who you are. I’m now on anti-depressants and see a therapist every couple weeks. I’ve gotten used to taking the pills, and I don’t mind it because they seem to really help. I actually love seeing my therapist, and look forward to my visits with her. I also make it more of a priority to get outdoors and be active – as those seem to help me too. My mind is now clear and I feel like I’m finally 100% myself.

The brain is a powerful organ. It has the power to take a smart, beautiful, accomplished and ambitious person and make them feel absolutely worthless… like they’re nothing. How can the woman who is sitting here writing this today, be the same girl that 4 months ago was sitting at the bottom of a shower, blood dripping from her wrist, biting her lip, and screaming through her teeth that she hated herself; hated her life.

Depression isn’t a mood – it isn’t something someone chooses to have, and it isn’t something we can just ‘snap’ out of. Suicide isn’t selfish … choosing not to talk about mental illness because it’s uncomfortable is selfish. People need to be able to talk about it, they need to feel like they can ask for help. (Now depression isn’t anyone’s fault – it’s not mine, it’s not because my parents weren’t loving enough growing up, or because I don’t have good friends – because that all couldn’t be further from the truth). This isn’t an easy story for me to share, but I hope that someone reading this might realize there is hope, that they’re not alone, they’re not crazy to think/feel this way, and that they can get help! No one is in this battle alone.

I think people need to be more open about their flaws and broken parts. Scars tell stories. Scars mean survival. Scars mean you showed up for the fight instead of running from it.

Life requires guts. It requires bravery and courage… It requires vulnerability.

It’s time that we bring mental illness to the table.

#BeVocalSpeakUp | #BreakTheStigma

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