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Coming out of the ‘M.I.’ Closet

Guest Author: Pam

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

“M.I.” mental illness or mission impossible? Admitting you suffer from mental illness is more like mission impossible.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in 2006.  After years of suffering in silence, I went to the doctor thinking I had a heart issue because the pain in my chest was unbearable. After doing a general examine, the doctor ran some tests on me (physically and mentally) to come up with the diagnosis. I can’t say I was surprised with the diagnosis, but I was surprised and grateful that this meant I would finally get the help I needed – without asking for help.

Why is it I couldn’t ask for help? Well, the stigma that is attached and unfortunately exists. I was put on an anti-depressant at a low dosage and I’m still on the same anti-depressant to this day (dosage has varied). I’m convinced it saved my life, but I know that isn’t the answer for everyone or even for every situation.

What’s ironic about my story is my younger brother was on the same meds as me (was on them before me), for “depression” (I use quotes because he was clearly bi-polar).  Every day was a battle for him. He had EXTREME highs and lows. He talked about ending his life or made “attempts” towards it (cutting his wrists, talking about driving into a semi, etc.) and was hospitalized many times.  Him and I used to compare our side effects and talk about suicide.  Through all this, I didn’t think he’d do it.  

My brother’s suicide was a wakeup call to me.

Fast forward to December 29, 2007 – the worst day of my life.  My mom called me and yelled that my brother hung himself.  I thought it was a joke at first.  Once I realized it wasn’t, I went numb, I started hyperventilating, the world as I knew it stopped.  It was like everything was in slow motion.  My brother’s suicide was a wakeup call to me.  I had talked to him the night before, he came with us to Christmas Eve mass at Church…he knew his end was near, but we didn’t – I didn’t.  

Almost immediately after my brother’s death, I “came out of the closet.” I shared my story and my struggles with my family – they had no idea that I struggled so severely with anxiety and depression.  I wanted to spread my message to help eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness and try to get help for people like my brother, as well as myself.  I started sharing messaging through social media and I completed safeTALK and ASIST (suicide prevention/awareness courses).  

I’m happy to say that since then I’ve had people come to me and have told me how I’ve helped them.

Throughout the years, my battle has had its fair share of ups and downs.  One of the worst bouts of depression came after a severe car accident I had in 2008. I temporarily lost my independence, my mobility, my social life.  I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t exercise, hell I could barely shower! This was the first time my mom ever saw my struggle with depression, as her and I were living together at the time.  My anti-depressants were increased to the highest dosage I had ever been on. Eventually I began a tertiary rehabilitation program. That, in addition to the meds, life changes including quitting a job that was high stress/low reward, eliminating negative people from my life, all resulted in a new, more positive life for me.

I had a new battle that arose a few times between 2009-2011. I decided that cutting was a way to self-medicate. I remember watching talk shows when I was younger about “cutters.” I always thought “how odd, why would someone do that?” Well I still think that way, but I understand it now. Using a knife on my arm seemed easier than dealing with the pain LIFE sometimes threw at me.  Luckily, I never developed a regular problem with this, and I have developed new coping mechanisms since.

As mentioned, my meds and mental health has had ups and downs as everyone else who suffers from mental illness would likely understand.

I had never experienced such severe anxiety.

In my 30s, my illness has been under control for the most part, with small bouts of depression or anxiety. However, last summer to this past spring, my anxiety hit an all-time high. My medication was increased (yet again) and I ended up off work all of March.  I had never experienced such severe anxiety.  

During my time off I read a lot, trying to understand myself and my condition better. You can’t predict when an anxiety attack is going to come, so it’s key to know your triggers to help reduce or eliminate them before they start.  I’ve ruined relationships because of not dealing with some of my issues and I’ve finally come to the realization that if I want a fulfilled and happy life, I need to deal with my past to move forward in a healthy manner. I’ve reintroduced myself to my faith which personally has helped me and I’m going back to counselling.  Daily, I continue to recognize I have things to work on and I’m finding ways to help.  Whether it be time with loved ones, spending time outdoors, travelling, reading…. I just need to be in the moment. Some days are better than others but I’m FINALLY starting to feel like myself again.

Yes, it’s hard to admit you have this illness, but I ask myself… would I hide it if I needed chemo to treat cancer? No.

If I had one request for anyone reading this, I’d ask that you join in helping to eliminate the stigma attached to all forms of mental illness. And my biggest advice to family or friends who know of someone suffering… JUST BE THERE for the person. Let them know you’re there, do NOT think of it as crying wolf.

If you’re someone who is suffering, please don’t do it in silence.

Comments

iam1in5
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Pam – I’m so sorry to read about the unbearably sad loss of your brother. I’m proud of you for opening up about your illness and for inspiring the rest of us to do the same. I wish you continued strength and good health.

Pam
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Thank you so much for reading my story iam1in5. You’re part of this community as well, so thank you for helping #eliminatethestigma. I wish you strength and good health as well. 💜

JTH
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Thank you for sharing your story Pam. I myself was diagnosed with an Anxiety disorder, and I was wondering if you had ever felt like I have , and that is “I don’t feel as bad as the things I have read, so what do I have to complain about?” There has been times where I have felt guilty for claiming I need support, when other’s hells are much more significant than mine. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Tayla
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You are amazing and im so sorry for your loss! Keep fighting and do this for your brother because im sure he would want you to be happy and live a healthy life! Fight this bitch off and show it who’s boss! All the best ! Xxx

Pam
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JTH and Tayla, I’m so sorry I didn’t see your messages until now. Truth is sometimes I feel like a hypocrite. Although I’m always an advocate for mental illness awareness, I find addressing my struggles difficult when I’m going through good periods – if that makes sense. JTH – don’t EVER feel guilty for what you are battling. The way I sometimes look at tit is, although I’m going through a hard time right now I have to keep my faith and remember things will get better. Yes, it’s true…other people may have what we consider “bigger battles” going on in life, but the problem is, having a mental illness generally means we don’t cope with situations with ease. It’s a struggle. So fighting the struggle to remain calm is what’s important! Anxiety = worrying about the unknown and worrying in general, hence you worrying about feeling guilty! Just work on getting through your bad times.

Tayla – thanks so much for your words. Let’s fight this bitch together 🙂 I love your name btw as my nephews name is Taylor and my niece is Ayla.

Jimmyjames
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I’am privileged to call you my friend, we share common ground as I have struggled with depression most of my life . It’s not an easy journey and most people don’t understand.
It’s almost ended my travels a few times if it wasn’t for excellent friends that support me unconditionally.
I sometimes wonder how we make it through the day with a fake smile on our faces, how do we ask for help without being judged or feel like we just want people to feel sorry for us .
I always felt that friends that ended their own pain were selfish , but I understand that the just didn’t know how or where to turn .
I’m glad i met friends like you ❤️
It makes the struggle everyday less of a challenge.
Maybe one day we can wear a real smile

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