Halfway through high school, my world turned upside down. In grade 10 I had great friends, good grades, and a positive outlook on my future. But in grade 11, I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts. While I was undergoing treatment, my mental health degraded quickly and unpredictably.
I was angry all the time, screaming and yelling at those closest to me, pushing them as far away as I could. I’d cry for no reason and hide in my room for days on end. My grades started to slip because I didn’t care to put the effort in, and I started missing school to stay in bed.
I had been told a few times that I might have depression, but I dismissed the idea. I thought depression revolved around thoughts of self-harm, which I didn’t have. I figured I could deal with my anger myself, without help. I was wrong.
Getting a diagnosis
About two years after my symptoms started, I decided I needed help. I hadn’t been able to fight it on my own. I went to my doctor and she said the words that will echo in my head for years to come: “you have severe depression.”
Once I got my diagnosis, I figured treatment would be easy. But for me, it wasn’t.
A tornado of medications, therapy, and hard work swept me up and tossed me around for a full year until I finally started to notice any change. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good change. I started to develop anxiety.
So I took some time off after high school to deal with my mental health challenges. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to pursue as a career, so I took up a job at a local grocery store while I figured it out. I enjoyed working with the people because it kept my mind off of my tumultuous life.
Having my first panic attack
That’s when it happened. It was a regular night during my shift at the grocery store. I was printing out reports for the end of the day when my breath caught in my chest. My heart started beating like I’d run a marathon, and I felt hot despite the cool office air. I paged a warbled message for my boss and then dropped to the floor.
I’m not sure how long I was lying there, and I can only remember snippets of what happened after that. What I do remember is the sheer terror. The thought that I’d never get my breathing and heart rate under control. I was shaking and crying and I didn’t know what was happening. This was my first panic attack.
I’d only just started to control my depression, when the anxiety took over. During that time I was having about 3 panic attacks a week. I had to quit my job, but I knew I couldn’t just sit in my room all day. I figured I needed to keep busy or the depression would take over again. So I decided to go to college.
Going back to school
At first, going back to school it was difficult. I had trouble concentrating in class because I was scared of having another attack, and on the day of one of my final exams I couldn’t get out of bed, so I failed.
But it was at college that my outlook on my future completely changed. When I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I had a pessimistic attitude. After failing that class, though, I knew I needed to take control. I couldn’t allow my illnesses to dictate my life anymore.
That realization lit a fire in my belly. I threw myself into my classes, started to rebuild my estranged relationships, and set my mind to determining what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve since decided that I wanted to move to England to pursue Costume Design, and each day I move closer to achieving my goal.
Going back to school showed me that it’s possible to follow my dreams regardless of the obstacles that might appear to hold me back.
I’m still fighting depression and anxiety, I still have bad days where I can’t get out of bed, but that’s okay. If I can learn to fight my mental illnesses, anyone can. They’re a part of me but they no longer control me. I’m in charge, I can chase my dreams, and I’ll keep fighting.
I’m not a survivor. I’m a fighter.
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