his 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 that within this interview, there is discussion about depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety. 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.
This story was submitted by Rachel. As I have read, re-read and reviewed her submission, one part in particular stands out above the rest that I wish to highlight here.
In response to the question about Hope, she mentioned that she has a list of Patronus Thoughts. (For those who are unfamiliar with the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, a Patronus is, “a partially-tangible positive energy force… or spirit guardian” that appears after casting the Patronus Charm. The Patronus Charm is used by Harry Potter in the third book Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to defend against Dementors.) Anyways, now that the brief Harry Potter lesson is over, and you have been left with more questions than answers, let me explain why I find this admirable.
She describes her Patronus Thoughts as being, “the moments in [her] life where [she] has been truly happy, felt extremely loved, or felt a lot of love for someone else.” These are the same kinds of thoughts necessary to conjure the Patronus Charm – hence the name. I think it is a brilliant way to keep a record of positive experiences to look back on when life seems incredibly dark, frightening, and overwhelming.
When did you realize there was something mentally or emotionally wrong? And what did you do about it?
I first started to notice increasingly consistent symptoms 10 years ago – around age 12 or 13, and I did everything I could to hide it. Shortly after I turned 14 is when I remember my depression getting really bad and kind of out of hand, but I still tried my best to keep others from knowing because I was “supposed” to be the happy one, and I felt that I didn’t have the right to struggle.
Are there/were there moments in your life where this mental/emotional struggle becomes more present and you’re more aware of its existence?
There have definitely been times when it has been worse. Most of the time, when it’s gotten particularly bad, I have been able to pinpoint external circumstances that were at fault, such as an abusive relationship, a lot of school-related stress, or other things, but there have been times that I have plunged into a deep pit of depression and anxiety for no discernible reason.
How has this experience affected your relationships with others?
For a long time, it really affected my relationships because I felt like any relationships I had were between other people and this fake version of me. Depression, also, has always manifested for me in feelings of worthlessness which meant that I had a really hard time trusting that anyone could genuinely like me as a person. It made things difficult with forming deeper relationships until I became more comfortable with my depression as something I could talk about.
What methods have you found are beneficial for your treatment and healing?
I always thought I could deal with it on my own, as I have always been very high-functioning, but a little over a year ago, I fell into a deeper hole than I had been in for many years, and it got to the point where I finally tried an antidepressant because I was unable to function. It really helped me get back to a point emotionally where I could start implementing cognitive behavioural techniques to try to change my thought patterns. It has been a great help to me and has helped me understand that there really is nothing wrong with needing medication for mental illness.
What keeps you from receiving or accepting treatment and healing?
What kept me away for the longest time was the fear of judgement and rejection from others and fearing that people would start treating me differently. I felt like there was something shameful about depression and anxiety that I couldn’t let other people know about. Even after I felt that there was less of a stigma on the depression itself, I refused to try medication for a long time because there was still a stigma attached to it in my mind. It honestly took me until I was at my breaking point to overcome the pridefulness and fear of the stigma I felt and get medical 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.
Suicidal thoughts and a loss of motivation have always been the hardest for me. As I have always been high-functioning, when I am no longer able to function fully because I can’t seem to motivate myself to do anything without a specific external motivation that I can take seriously, it really affects me. Suicidal thoughts are obviously very hard to deal with. Being at least passively suicidal (my term for when you desperately want to die but don’t really want to be the one to do it) every single day for months was what finally convinced me to try antidepressants, and that really helped.
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?
I have shared my struggles with quite a few people. And, I have had mostly supportive reactions. At first, I only referred to my struggles as having been in the past – even though I have been dealing with mild to severe depression constantly for over 8 years. During the last 5 years or so, I have been more open with the fact that it is something I am currently dealing with, and it has helped other people open up to me about their own struggles. Seeing how I can help other people just by letting them know they aren’t the only ones has been really amazing to experience, and I have been grateful for that.
What inspires you to stay hopeful through this experience? Or how do you find hope during this experience?
As a Harry Potter fan, I created a list of what I call my “Patronus” thoughts – the moments in my life where I have been truly happy, felt extremely loved, or felt a lot of love for someone else. I think of how others I know, friends and family, have gotten through similar struggles. When my depression is not making it feel impossible to connect with God, I have also leaned heavily on my faith to strengthen me – reading scriptures for comfort. Serving others, though often repeated as a thing to do, really does help, and when others are helping, it does give me some hope.
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?
I would tell myself to not keep it hidden. I would tell myself that there are so many other people around me who are dealing with the same thing, and I don’t need to try so hard to put up a mask. I would tell myself to just trust my parents with my struggles. Maybe then, I would not have gotten so deep into it.
If you met someone else going through a similar experience as yourself, what advice and words of courage would you give them?
I would remind them that they really aren’t alone, that it really does get better, and that there are people out there that can help them. I would tell them that there are people who care about them, and that they have so much potential. There really is hope and happiness ahead, even in the darkest times where those seem like foreign concepts, and you can’t even recall what happiness is supposed to feel like. If they can find people to trust with their struggle, it will help them immensely, and they should not be afraid to seek out therapy or other professional help. Also, needing medication is not a sign of weakness.
Is there any final part of your story or thoughts of encouragement you wish to share with the readers?
Be kind. Remember that people all have their own struggles. If you feel alone, reach out to someone else who looks like they feel the same. If you are in a good place, help others and do good deeds. It will help keep you in a good place emotionally. Mental illness is not a personal failing. People do not choose it, and it can’t just be wished away, but you CAN do something about it. If you are dealing with it yourself, you CAN get better, and you CAN seek help. If you do not have personal experience with mental illness, you CAN learn about it; you CAN be supportive, and you CAN help end the stigma around it by not judging people. Everyone can do something to help themselves and others, and together, we CAN change the way mental illness is seen.
Thank you for sharing!
Continuing The Story
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.