Maddie s Story
“If you met me, you would never guess that I suffer from any mental illnesses. You probably wouldn’t think that Maddie, the girl from Chicago who sits next to you in class or walks by you in the halls, has even contemplated something a little darker than your average thoughts.
My family has a significant history of mental illnesses. And, if I had known this earlier, I probably could have seen my diagnosis coming years beforehand. I knew for awhile that I wasn’t the same girl I used to be, that I had changed, but I didn’t know why or how.
I usually look to science and medicine for answers to my questions, so when a psychiatrist formally diagnosed me, that’s when it finally clicked. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and OCD back in the 6th grade and it all made sense to me.
Let’s just say middle school was hell for me, as it is for practically everyone, but I was tackling this brand new diagnosis, while also taking medication. I didn’t feel comfortable telling my best friend nor most of my family members about it. I remember my mom telling me that it was not important for anyone to know because they would forever think of me in a different way and it would become a bigger deal than it really was. That comment shook my world- Living with something that no one should know about? Then how could someone actually live?
At that point, I decided I either had to try to live without my depression or not live at all. I initially chose the first option: I stopped taking my medication and stopped seeing my therapist. I stopped treating myself to help feel ‘normal’ again because no normal person I knew saw a therapist or took antidepressants. All the sudden, I lost interest in the things that made me who I am.
Ever since I was little, I was in love with playing the piano. I could never pass our piano room without playing at least a song… or five. I was never anxious before going on stage for a show, but things drastically changed. Performing used to be my true love in life, whether it was playing the piano, acting, or singing. And, if my self-esteem wasn’t taken from me during that time, I believe I would be going to school for music. I was livid at my parents for not believing my struggles and angry at myself for letting my illnesses take control of my life.
‘Episodes’. That is what my doctor would call them. I would be overcome with so much anger and confusion that, most of the time, I didn’t even remember cutting my wrists in the moment. My therapist called my episodes an out-of-body experience, basically a form of blacking out.
It wasn’t until I was first admitted into a hospital that I truly saw my depression for what it was: a genetic, chemical imbalance in my brain. From that point on, I could begin coping with my mental illnesses correctly and actually work towards getting better, not just living episode-to-episode.
Recently I’ve entered a state of remission. It’s been amazing living in a new place and feels almost as if I’ve been given a new life to reinvent myself without my depression taking control. Opportunity is what motivates me now.
Hollywood and the media have created this persona of depression that’s projected onto a person’s outer-physical appearance when it’s an internal thing. That’s why people are rarely able to tell when someone has depression. Someone with depression could be the president of a sorority, a starter for the basketball team, or even your best friend. There’s no mold to fit, because it doesn’t exist. Until everyone understands that, depression and other mental illnesses will continue to live under the rug.
You never know who has been touched by mental illnesses- no one is alone in this. The best thing to do is to talk about it because it allows the problems to come to the surface and become validated. When someone’s problems are validated, it makes it easier to seek out the help they need.”