More Than My Mental Illness
TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of self-harm and suicidal ideation
Hello, my name is Kendall Smith, and I am a survivor.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. I vividly remember having this conversation with my therapist and psychiatrist because I had never felt more ashamed. I felt as though I was a disappointment to my parents, who were on either side of me. I also felt as though I had something wrong with me, like I was defected.
I was instructed to begin therapy sessions every week and to try taking a medication everyday. I didn’t tell any of my friends or extended family about my situation because I did not want them to view me as sick, weak, or insane. After a few months of therapy visits and prescription medications with no change in mood, I desperately asked my psychiatrist for a solution. She suggested switching my medication to another type of medicine. This prompted me to research the different types of medications and their effects on the brain. I learned about the chemicals in my brain, and the difference between my medications. After some research and family discussions, I decided to try the new medication.
However, throughout the first few weeks on the new medication, instead of feeling improvement, my depression got worse. I would have “moments” of hopelessness and sadness where I would have urges to self-harm or, in severe cases, take my own life. Again, I did not want to burden anyone or scare the people I love, so I kept these “moments” to myself until one day, my life hit rock bottom.
My mom found me carving “HELP” in my living room floor with a knife. Thankfully, she came home to drive me to my psychiatrist appointment, so she rushed me there. My psychiatrist ordered my parents to take me to the nearest hospital so they could psych-evaluate me to keep me safe. I honestly do not remember much about that day... it all happened so fast. I remember ordering a sandwich and talking to a nice woman about why I felt hopeless. I remember my parents crying and talking to the psych team outside my hospital room. When I was released to go home, I was instructed to stay at my house with at least one parent watching me at all times.
I did not believe that my life would get any better, but it did. From there, my psychiatrist urged me to try one more medication-which saved my life. I continued to go to therapy, slowly opening up about my experiences and emotions. Slowly but surely, I could feel my anxiety and depression being lessened. I became more open with my parents, and I even told my closest friend about what had happened.
Now, I am proud to say that I am healing. I now visit my therapist once a month because it helps me relieve any stress I am feeling. I am still taking the third medication I tried, and it has truly worked a miracle. Most importantly, I am no longer ashamed of what I went through and what I will continue to face. I know that I am not defective, and I know that I am loved by my friends and family, despite a chemical imbalance in my brain.
I am more than my mental illness, but most importantly, I am stronger than my depression and anxiety. The biggest lesson I learned through this journey is to never give up hope. If the first medication doesn’t work-try another. If the first therapist doesn’t fit you-visit another. There were so many resources that I was not aware of before this journey, and I am grateful for each and every one of them.