Mental Health and Me: My Journey with Mental Illness

From the Intern’s Desk: Riley shares her journey with mental health

From the Intern’s Desk: Riley shares her journey with mental health

This week on the blog, I will be sharing more about my journey with mental health. As I mentioned last week, my journey with mental health began my junior year of high school. I had just gotten out of a fairly unhealthy relationship at the time, and it felt as though all of the emotions that I had been suppressing in the context of that relationship suddenly rushed in. I began to isolate myself, act uncharacteristically, and I overall felt very heavy physically, mentally and emotionally. At that point in my life, I had really never heard much about mental health or mental health disorders. My mom confronted me (moms are truly the best!) about the possibility of seeing a counselor and about the possibility of my symptoms being related to depression, as it runs in my family. I was reluctant at first and I had the mindset that, “I can fix myself...I don’t need help.” Turns out that I did in fact need help and that without even realizing it, I had started my journey with mental health.

After starting counseling, I was diagnosed with depression and went through counseling for many months before I was put on medication. I have since seen multiple counselors, but have now landed with my dear counselor Lisa. Lisa provides me with the space to share my thoughts, fears, insecurities, and sometimes just updates on life. I have since realized that counseling is so necessary and so normal - it truly is like talking to a friend (just a really educated, aware, and gracious one!). Counseling for me has been huge in my journey with depression and anxiety (which I was later diagnosed with after going to college). There have been many times that my past experiences have felt like chains around me, and counseling has given me the space to break those chains and unpack those experiences in a thoughtful and helpful way, as well as unpacking my current emotions and feelings.

One thing that I mention to anyone I talk about mental health with is the fact that my journey (and most!) are not linear. I have had seasons that have been amazing, where depression and anxiety sit on the back burner of my daily life. But I have also had seasons that have been immensely difficult and where I have questioned my purpose here. Yes, I know that sounds scary, but that is where medication and counseling have come to the rescue for me. Being able to call Lisa and express my emotions and thoughts, especially when they are messy and confusing, has been a lifesaver for me, literally. Medication is also something that has been a big part of my journey and has also not been linear. In the beginning, I thought that the first medication I tried would “fix” me, but that was not the case. It has taken adjustments and switches to find the right medications for what I am feeling in different seasons. Also, the idea of being “fixed” is not realistic, nor healthy, which I have since learned. I don’t need to be “fixed” because my mental health is simply one part of me, not something that defines me.

In my every day life, there are good days and bad days. There are days when it is hard to get out of bed and days when I jump out of bed (early even!) to get a start on the day ahead. I think that being self-aware and taking it day by day is important for me. I am thankful to be surrounded by friends who support me and are understanding as well as working at a place like U!Vie who understand where I am at. Another important factor that I tie into my life that I find very helpful is being aware of ways to find moments of rest everyday. For me, rest can look like sitting alone in a coffee shop reading a book or journaling, or sitting in my apartment with friends, laughing about nothing at all. I think finding the ways that you feel recharged and rested is important to try to mix into everyday if you can!

The bottom line is that my journal with mental health has, and continues to, help me grow in self-awareness, perseverance, boldness, and empathy. I have learned how to ask for help and to be okay with not being okay.