Hannah s Story
“My older sister had been dealing with mental illnesses since about 7th grade, so I was accustomed to looking after her. I felt so much responsibility to make sure she was always okay, even though I was the little sister. When she got into arguments with my parents, I would sleep either outside her door or at the foot of her bed just to make sure she wouldn’t do anything to hurt herself in the middle of the night.
I felt like it was my obligation to take care of her. It put a lot of stress on me and made me worry all the time. I felt like I had no time to work on myself because I was always helping her. I felt like I was always pushed to the backburner by my parents, so eventually I learned to suppress my feelings and just tried to deal with things on my own, which was the unhealthiest thing I could’ve done.
After a few years of my sister struggling with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, my family had many ups-and-downs. My parents and I would argue a lot, so things went from bad to worse very quickly. The summer before my senior year of high school, I got into a particularly nasty fight with my mom.
I ended up running away from home and sleeping in the woods that night because I didn’t want to go back. My parents were planning to send out an amber alert, so when I became aware of this, I went home.
We were supposed to leave for a family vacation that day to Cape Cod, which also happened to be the day before my birthday. I thought about how awful the trip would be due to the animosity built up between myself and my mom. I also thought about how much stress it caused the family because my parents had to get the police involved when I ran away.
I was working myself up thinking about everything- I felt like I could never come back from this and never have things return to normal with my family. I was telling myself that they’d have so much less stress in their lives if I wasn’t around to cause it. I felt like a burden to my family and completely unwanted.
That night before I left for Cape Cod with my dad, I took about 15 pills of Benadryl. My thinking was erratic and I had panic attacks the entire way down, but I was trying to suppress everything, which only made it worse. Eventually, I told my dad what I did and he took me to the hospital.
I spent my entire 17th birthday in the Cape Cod hospital and I would say that was probably rock bottom for me. I’ve never felt that worthless in my life. But, I got the help I needed. I always knew something felt ‘off’ for me. I always felt like everyone was a lot less stressed about things than I was.
I was both relieved and worried at the same time when I was officially diagnosed with anxiety. It was a relief knowing that the extra stress and worry I had in my life was justified, but now that I knew where it came from, I was worried I still wouldn’t be able to manage it.
Since my diagnosis, I have been on medication, but I also try to stay as organized as I can to avoid school-related anxiety. Even though I may seem like a very social and outgoing person, social situations with new people scare me more than anything.
I always have that little voice in the back of my head telling me that people aren’t interested in what I say, that I shouldn’t talk or participate in conversations, and that I’m not good or pretty enough to be with these people.
It’s hard pushing that voice out of my head, but it’s the daily struggle that I have in order to find my way through. Lately, I have been trying to seek out reliable people that I can count on because nothing stresses me out more than feeling alone when I need someone. Luckily I’m very close with my suitemates, so I talk to them a lot. I don’t know where I would be without them.
I feel like some people with mental illnesses feel like others view them as weak when that is definitely not the case. It is not weak to ask for help when you need it: it’s responsible. However, I have found that in recent years, people have been more open to talk about mental illnesses if they have one and more open to learning about them if they don’t. I really like seeing the progress society is making with this and it’s comforting to know that I have people who will support me when needed.
If you’re currently struggling, reach out. No matter where you are, or what you are suffering from, there is always someone who is there to listen. It sounds so cliché, but it is so true.
More people are coping with mental illnesses in our lives than we think, so the chances that you have someone that would be open to talking, listening, and helping you are higher than you think.”