Sarah's Story

Metuchen, New Jersey USA

Editor's Note: The following story could be potentially triggering for those who have experienced suicidal ideations. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741.

"Anxiety and depression have been mental illnesses that run in my family for generations, so I was always predisposed to their symptoms and eventual diagnoses. When I was thirteen years old, my dad suffered a traumatic car accident and simultaneous seizure that required an airlift to the nearest hospital in which he was quickly put into a medically-induced coma.

 

Being that my brother and I were young, my mom decided not to tell us about the accident until she was sure of any news, whether it be bad or good. My grandparents came for a surprise visit' while my mom went to see my dad in the hospital. I was finally informed about what happened a few days later, and that thankfully my dad was going to be okay. The only thing I concretely remember is my dad coming home from the hospital with a walker, and temporarily having no awareness of his surroundings, including his children.

 

I was effectively traumatized by the entire array of events, and felt betrayed by my mom for not telling us what had happened. For the next few months, I was suffering panic attacks and believing that any time my parents left the house, they would die and never return. I was admitting ridiculous 'secrets' such as, 'I ate a cookie before dinner 2 months ago!' because I was terrified that I would face immense guilt about anything if one or both of them died. I could not be left alone, as my panic attacks would become overwhelmingly unbearable.

 

At this time, I began to develop such anxiety and fear that I started having suicidal thoughts so that the pain would end. I once admitted to my mom, 'Sometimes I think about jumping in front of a moving car.' Immediately, she responded with 'You don’t really mean that, do you?' and I was completely shut down. Not until I was eighteen did I ever revisit feelings of adverse mental health with my parents, because I knew that they would be dismissed.

 

Eventually, the anxiety and fear subsided as I began high school, but my predisposition to anxiety and depression had taken root at this point. I began to have severe bouts of depression, complete with nightly panic attacks, usually every night for a few years straight, that involved unbearable headaches, intense sadness and crying, self-harm in the form of cutting, and thoughts of suicide.

 

I developed a plan in my head. I was terrified and in so much emotional pain, and I felt completely alone. I honestly, truly thought that if I died, no one would care. Bullying at school didn’t help the situation. I looked for an outlet in sports, specifically basketball, but intense performance anxiety prevented me from reaching my full potential.

 

When I was eighteen, I finally decided that this was enough pain; I needed to tell somebody. In tears, I showed my parents my wrists, and, like I predicted, they acted with anger instead of compassion and empathy. This moment helped define such a strong will in me to advocate against the stigma of mental health in my future. I was immediately prescribed medication from the family doctor, not even taken to a therapist, and luckily, the first medication we tried worked. I have been on it for seven years, and have no plans to stop any time soon.

 

I knew at age fourteen that I wanted to study mental health in college. I decided to pursue a counseling degree when I was nineteen and began looking at graduate schools. Throwing myself into this field has been the best adventure I’ve ever been on, and I know it’s what I’m meant to do. I’m good at my job; I know how important it is to be a support for someone who has none. I wish I had had the same support during my suffering.

 

Additionally, it’s not to say that symptoms are completely gone due to my medication; they come and go quite often and I will suffer a panic attack once every few months. The difference now is that I understand myself, the disorders, the stigma, and the coping mechanisms to combat the symptoms. I’m so incredibly proud to identify as a woman with mental illness, and I look forward to raising awareness about mental health and decreasing the stigma surrounding it in the future."

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