May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a cause that is near and dear to my heart. As both an individual struggling with mental illness and a mental health professional, I am constantly working to spread awareness about the importance of mental health and to share my story. While we are making headway with fighting the stigma that surrounds mental health and illness, we still have a long way to go. Mental healthcare IS healthcare, and no one should feel that they have to hide it when they are struggling. There should be no shame surrounding mental health struggles and mental illness; however, I did feel ashamed for a very long time. I have struggled the majority of my life with my mental health, but it wasn’t until age 25 that I received help after a severe mental breakdown that led to me being admitted into a psychiatric hospital.
I am a survivor of schizoaffective disorder, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple eating disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Since being admitted to the hospital in 2019 after my severe mental breakdown, I have been in multiple inpatient, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs. I still see my outpatient providers on a regular basis, and I have a crisis plan for when my mental health becomes dire. It has taken me almost four years to be properly diagnosed, and it has been a journey coming to terms with the fact that I do have severe mental illnesses.
Some days I feel great and highly functioning. But on others, I find it hard just to do basic tasks. I can never anticipate how I will feel or what I will experience from day to day, and that makes my life very unpredictable. Some of my more extreme symptoms include hallucinations, flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, all of which often occur at once. While I have developed coping mechanisms to be able to manage my symptoms, and I take multiple medications for my mental health, my illnesses still deeply impact my day-to-day life.
To be able to function from day to day, I have found that I have to have a structured schedule. I am in recovery from my eating disorders, so I frequently have to focus on making sure that I am eating regularly. While managing the symptoms of my other mental illnesses, I also have to fight my eating disorder thoughts and compulsions, which can become severe when I am struggling with hallucinations, flashbacks, and severe anxiety. All of my symptoms impact one another, and it takes me having a structured schedule to be better able to function from day to day. My mental illnesses are a large part of my life, and they often determine how I am able to function. They are highly unpredictable, but with time and treatment, I have been able to learn coping mechanisms that help me to be better able to manage my symptoms.
Living with mental illness led to me becoming a mental health specialist & coach. I use my experiences to help others who are struggling with similar illnesses and symptoms, and I am glad that I can use what I have been through to help others.
If you are struggling with your mental health, please know that you are not alone. You do not have to fight this alone, and I am here to listen. I am here to support you, and help you find the help that you need. We are in this together.
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