Sydney s Story
Omaha, Nebraska USA
"When someone breaks their arm, everyone wishes them a fast recovery. Everyone gets them cards and flowers. However, telling someone you are depressed or anxious suddenly is frowned upon and everyone seems to flee from both you and your illness. Unfortunately, that is the stigma in society, which people with mental illnesses have to deal with every day.
I was 16 years old when my first panic attack submerged. I remember I always had flashes of anxiety, but never experienced anything like this. I was driving down an interstate as my chest started to tighten up. I became short of breath, dizzy, had a rapid heartbeat, and I thought I was having a heart attack at first.
When I told my parents what had happened, they both looked at each other in panic replying simultaneously 'She just experienced her first panic attack.' Fear spread throughout my body and I thought to myself- did I have what my parents both have- Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
'Unfortunately you are being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder. We will start you on medication to help regulate your life from now on.'
My heart sank as my psychologist told me this. What will my friends think? Will I have to be on this medicine forever? Does it get better or worse?
Being diagnosed with this is not something you want to be told, let alone while trying to survive in high school. The next year, I took my medication and things were regulated, but still had some episodes here-and-there.
My senior year came and I had hit a wall. I decided I did not want to be on medication in order to be 'normal'. I thought, 'why do I have to take it' and 'why can’t I be normal?' I flew off the tracks. I became severely depressed- not wanting to get out of bed, go out, get dressed, and I contemplated if life was worth living many times. My anxiety was at high extremes, ranging with 10-15 panic attacks daily. I could hardly drive, leave my house, and could barely be around anyone.
Battling mental health every day is not only mentally exhausting, but it truly is physically exhausting. I cannot tell you how many times I was so tired physically. I went months at a time sleeping 10 hours a night and still waking up exhausted. Things got better because I started taking my medication. I knew my serotonin levels could not regulate without my medication.
A few months later, life was not going to be any easier on me. I had just turned 18, and two weeks later the most traumatic experience happened to me. I was sexually assaulted. And, yes, it will stay with me for the rest of my life. I shut down completely. I did not sleep for weeks, could not leave the house, and questioned if I was ever going to trust anyone again.
I was diagnosed with PTSD shortly after this and was put on a benzodiazepine to be able to sleep at night along with my daily SSRI medication. Reaching out to people about this incident was scary. I asked myself many times, Was it my fault? What did I do?
I went off the tracks after this incident and became very depressed, anxious, and contemplated suicide many times, I had been given some of the hardest battles ever, but nothing good was coming out of them. How was that fair to me?
Eight months later, I had a 'Come-to-Jesus moment'. I still was struggling, wondering what direction my life was going to take me, whether I was worthy in this world and if I could turn all these struggles into something good.
I started a mental health awareness business called Serene Spirits. I wanted to raise awareness, showing and educating people about mental health. I wanted to break the stigma that is evident in society today. This has brought me great joy because I get to share what I am most passionate about- helping others know they are not alone.
I still struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD every day, but I have learned how to manage and punch the struggles in the face. Every day I work out, which personally helps me a lot. I am going to school to get my degree in Psychology and I run my business as a part-time job. I use essential oils to relieve my anxiety and calm me down, and of course, I take my medication every day to make sure I do not go off-track.
Unfortunately, mental illness is not a choice, but is a battle people have to face every single day. While you will always struggle with your illness, there will always be something good to come out of that tunnel. Remind yourself daily that you are not alone, reach out to someone; find your niche or a hobby that takes your mind off your illness and fall in love with it. Every single day my goal is to break the stigma and educate more people out there about mental health and how important it is to love yourself and know that you matter."