This story is part of a blog series called, “Your Story: a conversation on mental and emotional health and disabilities.” Please read with a heart open and understanding -free of judgement.
Please be aware that the interviewee mentions struggling with anxiety, the fear of rape, depression, anger, and self harm as well as talks about a party where people were drinking alcohol. If these topics affect you in any way please stop reading, talk with a someone you trust, or contact a mental health professional immediately. You may also call the Suicide Hotline 800-273-TALK (8255).
A Note on Editing
Minor changes were made to help make the interview easier to read.
Allow me to Introduce you to…
Another anonymous storyteller, this brave woman shares with us, in powerful narrative, that we are not alone to walk through the fear and darkness that often accompanies mental health challenges. Many of us feel we are unworthy. Many of us feel we are broken. Many of us hide in the shadows desperately fighting in silence. But we are not alone!
When did you realize there was something mentally or emotionally wrong? And what did you do about it?
I’ve had anxiety even since I was a kid. It was a normal part of a routine that never got checked and was blown off as something I’ll eventually get over. It stemmed from many different factors. I was basically an only child for much of my growing up – as my siblings were much older and out of the house. I was very dependent and had a hard time with separation from my parents. I would stress so much that I developed stomach ulcers and other ailments. As I got older, I managed to gain more control and found more freedom from my anxieties. Sleepovers were possible; school programs were available, and my personality felt more, well, personal.
Are there/were there moments in your life where this mental/emotional struggle becomes more present and you’re more aware of its existence?
Trigger Warning in this section, Anonymous shares feeling afraid that she would be raped. She also references roommates and others drinking alcohol.
During my high school days, the management of my anxiety was such an improvement, it almost seemed the struggles didn’t exist. Once I went to college, however, things took a turn for the worse. I was raised in a sheltered Christian home where I didn’t gain much experience facing the world on my own. When I left, I was thrown into a reality that was not even on my radar.
The first few months of my college career went off without a hitch. I thought I was getting along with my roommates and had a great future ahead. Then, one night, that entire ideal life was changed. It was just before Labor Day weekend. I had one class on the Friday morning before the long weekend. It was an early one, so I went to bed earlier than usual. I heard my roommates having a party in our living room with some guys who lived down the hall. I knew they were drinking, and I wasn’t a drinker, so I brushed it off just waiting in my bed until the noise went down. It became 11, 12, 1am, and the party raged on. At this point, my anxiety crept in, and I was paralyzed to my bed – too ashamed and embarrassed to say anything. I had the room door unlocked, at the courtesy of my roommate, so she could get in. Each room had its own bathroom in our apartment. At this point, one of the guys (we’ll call him Jake) kept coming through my bedroom to use the bathroom in our half of the apartment every 10 minutes or so. I was so paranoid. I just pretended to be asleep whenever he came in. At 2 am, I heard my roommate come into the bathroom and shut the door. She was quietly crying to herself. Not long after, Jake came in after her and pushed his way into the bathroom with her. I could only hear silent mumbles, but I was terrified. At this very moment, the thought popped into my head: “I’m going to get raped tonight.” That kind of imagery was never a possibility to me until that night. I sank deeper and deeper into my bed just hoping I could be swallowed up. All of a sudden, the rest of the guys came bursting through my room and starting banging on the bathroom door saying, “Hey Jake, you better come out, or we’ll break this door down!”
That finally did it. I jumped out of my bed and started putting on clothes. I was getting out of there, before anything else could go down. One of the guys tried to talk to me, apologizing for waking me up and saying they never get drunk like this. I ignored every word and walked out of my apartment; none of my other roommates made eye contact with me as I left. Outside was the darkest and most violent thunderstorm. Rain was pouring like buckets and the thunder roared so loud it shook the earth. I ran to my car and burst into tears. I had family living nearby, so I tried to call my aunt. No answer. I tried calling my cousin. No answer. I finally called my brother, who lived 30 minutes away. Thank heavens he was still awake to answer my call. I made the terrible drive to his house through my tears and the rain and spent the rest of the night there.
How has this experience affected your relationships with others?
After this, my anxieties manifested once again. I found a new apartment, but these roommates were unpredictable as well. They were never home about 80% of the time. And, when they were home, I hid in my room. When they were gone, I stood guard just waiting for them to come in, so I could retreat to safety. Along with that, I could hear all the negative connotations they said about me to their friends. I was miserable, and this is where my depression came forward. I eventually dropped out of college and moved back home because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like a failure and didn’t know how to cope with this new feeling of immense sadness. It was very much something different from the anxiety that I had lived with forever. My relationships with friends became very strained, and I lost connection with many people I loved. I was alone and in the dark for a whole year.
What methods have you found are beneficial for your treatment and healing?
After a year of misery, I had an opportunity to get out of my hometown and move to a whole new state. It was a sporadic two week period of quitting my job and packing up a car to drive away from my sorrows. It was the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done and was very out of character for me, but it felt like a change – a good change. I was riding high on this new sense of freedom in my life and was ready to put the past to bed and make something new with my life.
In my new home, I found myself again. I found love and kinship in the most unlikely of people. I learned to love and trust others again. I learned to be honest with my feelings and not be ashamed of those feelings. I’ve learned new ways of coping and recovery. I’ve truly blossomed into an ideal version of myself that I can be proud of.
What keeps you from receiving or accepting treatment and healing?
Even with my improvements, I know I can do more. There is a whole medical side to my anxiety and depression that I have never indulged in. I know it would be beneficial for me to have an official consultation about my mental health, but I’ve developed such a habit in my routines and my behaviors that it doesn’t seem important. I have my moments, and I acknowledge that they will pass in due time; eventually they do, and I move on. I know there’s a way to prevent those periods and even make the process of going through them easier on myself, but I feel like it would then be out of my control, and I have a hard time with things being out of my control. I hope I can further develop the courage to get more help.
What symptoms or behaviors of your mental/emotional health experience are the most difficult for you to handle? For example: self harm, disordered eating and sleeping, suicidal thoughts, loss of motivation.
Trigger Warning at the end of this section, she mentions the ways she self harmed due to anger.
My anxiety is hard to describe because it’s very invisible to most people who know me. My anxiety is very cerebral. Sometimes, it seems to be happening without my knowing. Tension builds up in my body until it manifests in stomach ulcers or body aches. I’ve had digestive issues from it all my life. At night, I clench my teeth which causes migraines, and very rarely, I will have a full panic attack that involves a rapid heart beat and hyperventilation. My depression mostly consists of no motivation or movement, self-doubt and detriment, and occasional suicidal thoughts, though that is also a rarity. If there is anger mixed with the depression, I dig my nails into my hands or punch my palms until they bruise.
Have you shared your struggles with family and friends? If yes, what have their reactions been? Are they supportive, or do they wish to keep your struggles hidden?
These behaviors have constantly been brushed off by my family – particularly my parents. Growing up, it was something to “get over” and, to an extent, it still is. I’ve been able to be more open about my mental health with my siblings as we’ve been discovering that we’ve all had similar issues in our own experiences.
What inspires you to stay hopeful through this experience? Or how do you find hope during this experience?
The one thing that I know has kept me alive during these times is my faith. I believe that God has not let go of me, and He has been there pushing me to find help and encouraging me to see myself as He does. I’ve found peace and comfort in Him, and it is through my prayers that I can feel His love for me. I think of my family and friends, and I want to be here for them, and I hope they never have to go through these types of ordeals alone. I’m grateful I can talk to my siblings about these feelings and not feel judged. I am constantly inspired by friends of all walks of life who are lifelong supporters of my success.
If you could travel back in time and visit yourself just before or just after recognizing there was something amiss, what would you tell yourself?
If I could go back in time, I would immediately hug myself and tell her that she is worthy of being alive, being loved, and being happy and that life is going to be so good to her. She is so much stronger than she realizes and that strength is helpful to so many other people.
If you met someone else going through a similar experience as yourself, what advice and words of courage would you give them?
I would give anyone who needs help the same little montra: You are worthy of being alive, being loved, and being happy. Give yourself the chance to find yourself again. Believe in the good and be the good in the world.
Is there any final part of your story or thoughts of encouragement you wish to share with the readers?
I know my personal story with anxiety/depression is not as severe or critical as more obvious cases, but I think those like me need to know that we exist. We’re not just being dramatic or being worry-warts; we have real problems that need real solutions. We need support and understanding just as much as anyone. That’s something we all can relate to, and it’s something we can all share.
Thanks for allowing yourself to be vulnerable by sharing your story.
Continuing the Conversation
The final question I asked as part of this interview was whether she was willing to connect with others about her story. She agreed and said that she would be willing to talk with those interested over email. To continue to protect her privacy though, I will not disclose her email in this post. If you are interested in connecting with her, please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will forward your message to her directly.
Feel free to continue the conversation on mental and emotional health in the comments below. But please understand that your comments are being moderated and will be deleted if they are hurtful, hateful, or inappropriate in any way. This is a safe space to share your story about mental and emotional health and disabilities and find support. Please do what you can to keep it as such.
A Note for Readers
If you feel inspired to share your story, please click here to be taken to the introductory post where you will learn where the inspiration for this blog series came from as well as how to participate.