Trigger warning: This Spotlight post contains subject matter including mental illness, suicidal ideation, self harm, overdose, self destructive behaviors, and hospitlization in a psychiatric facility.
When I started high school, it felt like the beginning of the rest of my life. Until it felt like the end of my life. About a month into ninth grade, I developed depression and it just got progressively worse. I had already been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a young age. The combination of depression, anxiety, and ADHD created a living hell for me and I honestly have no idea how I survived. Symptoms showed up in ugly ways. I started self-harming. I couldn’t sleep. I started restricting my eating. I would go days with nothing more than an orange and a granola bar. I didn’t take care of myself. I didn’t wash my hair for weeks and I hardly changed my clothes. I lied to people I care about to protect behaviors that were destroying me. I lied to the world about so much. It wasn’t pretty.
The inside of my mind wasn’t pretty either. I started having suicidal thoughts. I imagined myself dead in the most horrific ways and felt relieved that I had a way out. I had thought patterns so twisted that looking back I realize I was almost delusional. I was so far down a pitch black hole I couldn’t tell what was healthy and what wasn’t. I was paranoid and terrified of the world. I would become overwhelmed by stimuli so easily that too many people in one room would cause me to shut down. The summer after ninth grade I started experiencing dissociative episodes and became afraid to leave my house. By the time that school started again, I was so far down a hole that there was no way that I could go to school. I barely left my room and I barely talked to anyone. So, I took a medical leave of absence and spent what would have been my tenth grade year trying to get better. It has been extremely hard, but I have gotten back on my feet and I have come a long way.
One year ago, I thought I would be dead by the end of the year. I didn’t think that I would see 2017, turn 16, or be alive to write this. But, against all odds, I am and I have something to say. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and I wish that the awareness that people give to simple, understandable parts of mental health issues was also extended to the more unsettling parts of mental illnesses. There are so many people who stay silent and don’t talk about their experiences because their symptoms are ‘scary’ or ‘weird’ to others, but that needs to change. Let’s raise awareness about how paranoia can take over your life. Let’s raise awareness about embarrassing thought patterns. Let’s raise awareness about intrusive thoughts of awful things. Let’s raise awareness about how horrific suicidal thoughts can be. Let’s raise awareness about not washing your hair, changing your clothes, or brushing your teeth. Let’s raise awareness about how ugly mood swings can be. Let’s raise awareness about scratching yourself until you bleed. Let’s raise awareness about being afraid to leave the house. Let’s raise awareness about hallucinations and delusions. Let’s raise awareness about the lies disorders cause you to tell. Let’s raise awareness about all the ugly, hurtful, and unsettling symptoms and parts of mental illnesses; because, no, they may not be pretty, but mental illnesses aren’t pretty. They need to be talked about, just as much as any other type of symptoms. So, let’s make May and, hopefully, every month a Mental Health Awareness Month for every mental illness and for every symptom, no matter how small or how unsettling.
This Spotlight post was written by Genvieve Wilhelm a 16 year old who has dealt with mental health issues all of her life. She enjoys writing and raising mental health awareness. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org