Alyssa s Story
"The word 'invisible' is really appropriate for my experiences with mental health and disability because that’s what they’ve made me feel like. Invisible to the world. Not really there. Slowly disappearing, bit-by-bit, until there’s nothing left of me.
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a child. I didn’t know it then, and really only started to understand it in the last few years. Numbness, combined with the occasional bout of overwhelming panic, was my 'normal' from the time I was 5-years-old to 20-years-old.
On top of that, in my teens I developed some inexplicable physical health issues that no doctor could seem to diagnose. When you’re fifteen, in constant pain, with no voice - both literally and metaphorically - when your whole body is shaking and you can’t think straight, and the people who are supposed to help you, who are supposed to support you and love you, are telling you that you’re just 'faking it' to skip school and that you need to 'suck it up', it makes you feel like you’re two inches tall. It makes you feel like you’re completely alone. And, you start to wonder if what they’re saying is true. Am I making this up?
After that experience, I closed myself off from everyone. I isolated myself as much as possible, and when circumstances forced me to see other people, I would just go through the motions, so no one would realize how much I was truly hurting. I’m not sure I even realized how much I was hurting because to admit that would mean I had to feel it, and I didn’t want to feel it. But you can’t live in that hidden world for very long. My mental and physical health got a lot worse before they got better.
I graduated high school a year late, and in my first year of university, I dropped out because my depression and anxiety became too much for me to handle on my own. The shame I felt was so real that I was lying to everyone constantly. I didn’t tell a single person, until I had a meltdown at the end of the year. I was suicidal, I couldn’t leave my room, and I developed an eating disorder.
When I finally did seek help, I wasn’t actually ready to accept it because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. I didn’t want to be 'crazy'. I didn’t want to tell strangers that I was struggling – I could barely tell the people I knew. And, the amount of medication I was on - for sleep, for depression, for migraines, for low blood pressure - made me feel brainless.
I was slipping away, and what’s worse is that I was fine with it. I didn’t want to be here anymore. I didn’t want to live an existence-less life...
I lived like that for about five years. I would sit and watch the world move on without me, and I felt nothing. Eventually, after a lot of struggle and doctors’ appointments and tests, my disability was finally properly diagnosed. And, in that moment, it hit me. I couldn't keep ignoring what was happening to me. I couldn't keep using my physical health problems as an excuse for my mental health problems. Learning how to manage my blood pressure and fainting will not stop my depression from impacting my life. It won’t stop my anxiety from taking over.
I think, after nearly ten years of struggling and being told my story wasn’t real, I finally got some trust and that’s what I needed. Someone believed me! And, maybe that meant someone would take me at my word about everything, and not just the things they can see.
To me, that’s why talking about mental health is so important. That’s why I share my story with the world as @lysslady. I’m 28 and only now getting the help I need for something that I have lived with my entire life because I was too ashamed to talk about it. Because the world made me, and so many others like me, believe that mental illness is bad and dangerous and a hundred other misinformed things. Mental illness doesn’t make you crazy and it doesn’t make you a threat to society. It is an illness, like any other, and it simply needs to be treated as such. I don’t want to be invisible anymore. I don’t feel like I have to be. This is me, with invisible mental illnesses, with an invisible disability, and I refuse to hide it."