The Road to Mental Health

Artist: Chelsea Dicken

Artist: Chelsea Dicken

Sometimes Bumpy and Tough, But Always Hopeful

My mental health and I have had a long, twisted, not always healthy relationship. My journey with my mental health did not start in a good place. It doesn’t exactly have a great middle either. It is where I am now that I have grown and I am learning to listen to my mental health more. Let’s go through some moments of my journey.

I’ve known that I’ve had depression since I was in ninth grade. At the very least, I knew I was susceptible to impulsive thoughts. It was my first Homecoming where I could go to the dance. A friend of mine, who I considered to be my best friend, asked me if I wanted to go over to her house to get ready. I told her I couldn’t, I needed to stay home and watch my siblings. Before she hung up, she said: “OMG Sarah, it’s like you have no life.”

Two minutes later I was standing in the kitchen with one of the steak knives to my wrist. I figured it would be quick and painless. If my best friend thought I had no life, I may as well not live. I heard my sister giggling in the next room and stopped before I did anything to myself. I didn’t want her to be the one to find me.

Throughout high school, I continued to struggle with suicidal ideation. I planned out many different methods and when I would implement them. I wrote over a dozen different suicide notes. I burned them all before they could be found. Every time I came close, I would get a small moment of comfort. Sometimes it was my cat unexpectedly headbutting me. Other times it was a call from a friend that I hadn’t heard from in a while. Whatever it was, it helped ground me and I was able to continue with my life.

When I was 15, a close friend of mine lost his mother in a car accident. She was so kind, sweet, and caring. I loved her a lot. I cried so much over her death. A few weeks after that, my younger brother was taken away from my family. He had abused my two youngest siblings sexually and was taken to juvie. He was eventually moved to a group home that specialized in helping minors who had assaulted other minors. My mother and I were both struck with such a heavy depressive episode that we could not eat. I lost so much weight over the next few months. My “friends” stopped talking to me because of my brother, but not before they told me that if I ever gained another pound I would be fat. I was 125 pounds at the time.

While my brother was in the group home, my family was required to go to family therapy once a month. However, this time was not used to talk about our personal mental health issues. It was used to voice frustrations in the family to each other. Once, I could not make it to the session because I had to go to work. I still got to hear about all of the complaints that my entire family had about me though. They presented it like it was all a joke and funny because they placed the Hedwig owl puppet in for me and used a voice to mimic me. Hearing this hurt a lot, but no one in my family would listen. The next session no one allowed me to bring it up. I began to resent the family therapy sessions and didn’t really want to go to a therapist ever again. It is worth it to note that because my siblings were recognized victims of his, they were required to go to individual therapy. I was also a victim, but the group home never put me on his list of victims because they thought I would be a good influence on my brother. As soon as I was put on the list, I could not be supervision for his home visits anymore and I could not go visit every week.

Junior year of high school, I lost a classmate to a car accident. I am still recovering from losing him. It was so hard, but I never talked about my pain in high school past the initial weekend. The first day we had back in class, my caring instincts took over. I checked in with all of my classmates, gave hugs and comfort as much as people wanted, and listened to anyone who wanted to talk. By the time July rolled around, I was ready to work on my own healing. No one was there to listen to me, give me comfort, or even just check in.

I got to my freshman year at Morris and things were going okay. I still had a lot of pain in my past that bothered me, but at the time I was just trying to ignore it. I had self-diagnosed myself with depression and my roommate was great in supporting me. That November, I lost another friend to a car accident. My CA found out that I had lost a friend and she walked with me to Counseling Services. I had my first one-on-one therapy conversation and I felt all of this weight slowly release from my shoulders. I have been going consistently now.

I do take medication to help with my depression. It was a decision I made with my doctor when I finally got an official diagnosis. He diagnosed me with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s been three years since my official diagnosis and I know I have come a long way. I go to therapy consistently to help with my depressive episodes. I know my triggers and work hard to avoid them. I have also found an amazing support system that helps me when I’m having a tough time.

I am so thankful for Mental Health Awareness Month because it is a reminder to check in with myself and advocate for my mental health.