A Short History: My Experience With Mental Illness

It all began when I was only seven years old. I don’t even know how it was possible for my little brain to already be plagued with anxiety, but it was. My anxiety presented itself in the form of germaphobia during the winter. Little did we know at the time that it was going to become progressively worse from then on.

When I was eleven, my anxiety was so bad that my parents decided that it was time to get me help. I had gone to play therapy in the past, but this time was different. I was going to meet someone who would formally diagnose me with generalized anxiety disorder, and later on diagnosed me with major depressive disorder and attention deficit disorder (ADD). At only eleven years old, I began the daily routine of taking medication in hopes that it will make it easier to cope with my mental illnesses. I vividly remember that when my doctor put me on my second medication, I started bawling in the doctor’s office because I thought that it truly meant that I was crazy.

Throughout the years I have been on many different medications for my anxiety, depression, and ADD. Every time my symptoms got a little worse they increased my dose or added another medication to help my main medications work better. At one point I was on high doses of at least three different medications.

Around my 16th birthday, I began to experience abnormal heart rhythms. My chest would get tight and it would feel like my heart was fluttering like a butterfly’s wings. I was terrified. It became more frequent, but my doctor didn’t want to change my medications. It was only when we switched healthcare providers that they told me my heart flutters were caused by one of my medications, the one for my ADD. After an EKG and blood test to rule out other possibilities, I decided to wean myself of my ADD medication. This means that sometimes I have trouble focusing, but who doesn’t.

Eventually, I wanted to reduce the amount of medications I was taking and got off of the medication that was supposed to aid my main anxiety/depression medication. I was only on one more medication, but at one of my appointments, my doctor told me that the dose I was on was 1.5 times the maximum dose and that it is possible the medication could stop my heart. I freaked out I gradually reduced my dose to half the maximum dose.

This dose has seemed to work for quite a while, but it came time for me to change the medication I was on. Originally, I was on Lexapro, but I have since tried Zoloft, and I am currently taking Effexor. So far I like the Effexor the best because it helps to control my anxiety as well as my depression. Sometimes I wonder if my medication is working, but a lot of things have been happening in my life that could cause depressive symptoms in healthy individuals, so for now I am taking it day by day.

I am now 20 years old and have been battling my mental illnesses for over half my life. Luckily, I have an amazing support system that is conveniently made up of my nuclear family, a few other relatives, and a few select friends. These are people that I know understand my struggle either personally, or have been with me during a rough patch, and I am so thankful for them.

Due to my mental illnesses, I act differently than most people my age. I usually do not like going out of the house, especially to busy places or at night. The caveat to this is that I love wandering nature on my own, and the quieter it is the better. Fresh air and music can help a lot when I am having trouble coping, so I always have a pair of earbuds nearby, just in case I need to escape the real world for a little while. I have trouble dealing with a lot of noise in my environment, whether it be someone listening to music out loud, people talking when I am trying to focus, or even the disruptions of my sister’s puppy playing while I am trying to study. I have trouble talking to people, even sometimes people I know. I become obsessed with movies, video games, or stupid websites fairly easily because when I have something keeping me distracted it is much harder for my brain to wander. I like to continue to believe in Disney magic and love visiting Disneyland. Disney movies, Hallmark movies, or corny musicals (especially with Doris Day or Howard Keel) can almost always help me feel better on bad days. I love reading because it helps me escape reality, even just for a little while, but I am very picky about what books I read. I tend to be dead tired most of the day, but when it is time to go to sleep, my brain is wide awake and thinking about many things. For example, I originally typed this in my phone one night when I knew I was supposed to be asleep, but sleep evaded me because all of this was on my mind. Lastly, I try not to get too excited or get my hopes up about anything because when my crazy expectations are not met, it can trigger my depression, but I am slowly learning that even when things do not go as planned, there is a chance that something even better could come out of it.

I am actually one of the lucky ones, because despite all the challenges my mental illness has created for me, I have so many caring people in my life that no matter what I’m going through, they will be someone there to give me support.

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