Hi Everyone and Welcome =]
For a long time now I have been wanting to write about my personal experiences with mental health illnesses and the challenges I have faced and overcome, but I just haven't found the time....till now! I would like to apologize ahead of time for my spelling errors and horrible writing. I am far from being a professional writer. With that being said, in this post I would just like to give you a little summary about my mental health illness and where I stand at the moment.
At the age of 26 I was living a good life. I had a place whom I shared with roommates, a vehicle, and I was going to one of the best universities in the states in hopes of becoming a doctor. I was a pre-med student in my third year and had worked as an EMT (a life long passion) to gain experience in the medical field. At the time though, I was working with the mentally disabled in a independent living home. I would care for them by helping them with daily chores such as bathing, eating, and walking around in the community. Never in my life did I think that I would be the one who soon needed help.
Early in October of 2008 I started having depersonalization (where things seem less real and disconnected from your surrounding. A dream like state), although at the time I had no idea. I began to see my life as a movie. It felt like I was watching everything happening around me from a side line. I knew something was wrong but what it was? I couldn't name it. It's not like people talk about mental health issues as much as they talk about cancer, tobacco and other issues therefore I had no clue what it was.
During that time I also had several things happen to me like a domino affect, one thing after another. It could have probably lead to my breakdown, who knows. I dealt with a relationship break up (we had dated for about two years and a half), an accident (falling from the attic of my rented apartment), and having to leave school due to not being able to walk from the accident. In the end all I know is that my mental health got worse.
I was Paranoid, hallucinating, anxious, having nightmares and flashbacks, depression, intrusive thoughts and the list goes on. I had no idea who to reach out to. I had only heard of depression and suicide as the only mental health issues there ever was. Schizophrenia, bipolar, post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues were these foreign illnesses that I rarely heard of and that to my knowledge then, people rarely had. The only thing that came to mind was to see a therapist but I was not going to give them a chance. For all I knew they were going to lock me away in a padded room forever. So I decided that I would try to figure what was going on by myself.
Although I shared some of my struggles with some few people, no one was able to help me. They didn't even provide me with resources and/or where to turn. Talk about lack of education on the matter. Therefore I spend almost 2 years without any help. It was a book I found by accident that saved my life.
That book spoke about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and its symptoms. I sat there reading and saying to myself "Oh my! I feel that and that and that too", opening my eyes to what I was experiencing and finally being able to give my symptoms a name. A name that explained what I was going through. A name that meant there was healing and treatment. A name that gave me hope for a better future. It felt good to know that I wasn't alone, that there was others out there that felt what I felt. Reading the book even gave me the courage I needed to seek out a therapist.
Unfortunately, finding help would not be so easy. I called a few therapy places and they denied me help. Some were over booked while others wouldn't take my kind of trauma case. When I finally found a therapist, I was so severely mentally ill that I couldn't even leave my house to go see her. The therapist dropped my case and closed it. Trying to find help and resources was hell for me especially between hearing voices and seeing things that were not real. Experiencing flashbacks from post traumatic stress syndrome left me so worn out. But thankfully along the way I found two amazing friends that helped me in my journey of healing and recovery.
It made me realize how important it is for someone to be able to find their resources. I wondered how many people were in need and were not able to get the help they needed, so that is how Mental Health Awareness Retreat got started. I founded the group in second life (I will leave the details for another post on this virtual world that helped me heal) offering resources and raising awareness for mental health. The group started out with 16 close people I knew in November 2011, now almost 2 years later the group has 790 members and has reached thousands of people world wide (USA, UK, Third world countries, etc). We can clearly see that there is a need for resources and for people to start talking about mental health without shame. People are suffering when they don't have to be. And no one, NO ONE, should have to face a mental health illness alone.
Many people are quick to support people who have cancer, a broken leg, pneumonia, or some other illness but when it comes to mental health? Many people seem to walk out. One of the main reason people do so is due to lack of knowledge and understanding of what mental health illnesses is all about. This is why it has become dear to my heart to help wherever and whenever I can to educate people on mental health. People like me, who have the illness, shouldn't feel isolate, alone, scared and abandon. Unfortunately that is what so many people face for an illness that they didn't ask for. No one sits there and says "I want to hear voices" or "I want to see things that are not real". No one! chooses this. It is ignorant to say "get over it". You wouldn't say that to any other illness.
With that, I started up a blog, along with the Mental Health Awareness Retreat group, that holds information on mental health. If you want to get educated on the matter or share with your loved ones the information, feel free to visit and/or share the site. http://skittlesinthepit.blogspot.com/p/mental-disorders.html. There is many valuable resources from various parts of the world and I will continue to add to it.
Mental health illnesses is something everyone should be talking about and addressing. It affects 1 in 4 people. That means you either know someone close to you who has a mental illness or you have it yourself.
It is time we start talking about it!
Stay tuned for more about my illness, challenges and my recovery.