Today, in 2018, the topic of mental health seems to be discussed more frequently than ever before. This is a great thing, however, understanding the signs and symptoms may still be a struggle for most people. Today, I’ll share my battles with mental illness and my thoughts surrounding the subject.
As a young teen, I didn’t know much about anxiety and depression. No one had ever talked to me about mental illness, and I didn’t think it’d be something that I’d struggle with. Little did I know, I was already struggling.
My family’s journey to find a diagnosis for me was a grueling process. The doctors thought I was faking what turned out to be mitochondrial myopathy, and so did our friends and family. The most heartbreaking part for me wasn’t that my body was failing me, or that I couldn’t run anymore. Seeing the stress and concern on my parents’ faces was what broke me. I can’t imagine what it was like for them to lose their friendships, and to witness their daughter becoming increasingly ill. I felt I was the cause of their pain and suffering, and this was the last thing I wanted to be.
Even after my diagnoses and relocating to a different school, I still found myself overrun by guilt. My episodes of depression were just that, episodes. They were never a constant thing. I have memories of sitting in the bathroom to brush my teeth and suddenly feeling a pit in my stomach. I’d feel frozen and unable to move. Nausea would follow along with a sort of numbness. As I exited the bathroom, I would paste a smile on my face. I’d carry on, but with a cloud looming over my shoulder.
One day, I decided that I couldn’t handle it alone anymore. I finally opened up to my mother. I came clean about everything I had been feeling. About how I believed that I had been the cause of my parents’ pain. I had to force every single word out of my mouth. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve never regretted it. My mother reassured me that everything was fine, and I realized how deeply I am loved. After years of feeling like I was hiding a dark secret, I was finally free. That gray, stormy cloud was gone. I was 12 years old at that time.
Not long afterward, my health started to decline once more, and my heart muscles began to weaken. Tachycardic episodes were hard to tell apart from panic attacks. By the time I graduated from middle school I had multiple episodes a day and unable to get more than a few hours of sleep at night. You see, tachycardia is very taxing on my body because my heart is working so hard to pump blood to my extremities. And my disease requires me to get all the rest and sleep that I can. All this stress resulted in the most debilitating relapse of my life. After spending some time in the hospital trying to get back on my feet, my parents and I decided that it was time to seek out a psychiatrist for me.
Now, finding the right cocktail of medications wasn’t easy. It took a couple of tries that included medications that made my daily struggles with Mito that much worse. My doctor closely monitored me, as did my mother who helped me through the worst of it. Since discovering the right medications for me, my heart and mental health are much more stable.
Over these last couple of years, I’ve witnessed some of my friends suffer from a mental illness. It still sometimes comes as a shock to realize someone close to me struggles with anxiety and depression. I don’t always notice right off the bat and usually find myself feeling guilty for not seeing it sooner. Just like any disease, although there might be defining symptoms, everyone’s experience is different. What I feel or have felt regarding depression and anxiety, may not be what someone else feels.
Many people don’t seek out medical attention when experiencing symptoms of mental illness. There are thousands of different reasons for this. In my experience, it’s liberating to be able to concentrate on living a good life without that cloud over your head. Give thought to those who love you and who want to see you happy. The purpose of medication is not to change you but only to stabilize your moods. Remember that people are willing and anxious to help, and that you are not alone.
Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.