Day in the Life Spotlight: Living with Mental Illness

All of my life, I have dealt with anxiety and low self-esteem. I could never figure out why I felt separate from the world. Everything around me was happening, but I wasn’t part of it. 

My freshman year of college, I had a terrible experience. It broke me down to the point that I had to drop out for two years. I tried to come back for a couple months, but I wasn’t strong enough to be on my own. Trauma expressed itself as me living in the most daring ways possible. I pushed myself to the edge and consciously hurt people around me. I had a good boyfriend who I hurt deeply. I pushed my friends away. I distanced myself from my family. I battled with myself and my PTSD for years.

Woman sitting alone Priscilla Du Preez, via Unsplash

Now that I’m back at DU, that time is weird to think of. Sometimes, it feels like it was all a movie and I find myself relieving my trauma when I least expect it. I can’t help it – the movie will play in my head out of nowhere and without warning. It can happen in the morning, when I’m eating, driving to school, or during class. It feels as though the world around me shrinks and everyone is noticing what’s going on in my head. As if people can read my mind, I feel like they just know.

Going to school every day is a challenge. I have good days, but I have bad ones too. On a good day, I feel invincible. I know I went through all I did, and there is nothing that can bring me down. I fought the hardest fight, and I came back stronger and brighter. I feel confident and beautiful. When people look at me, I hope they notice I am shining from deep inside my heart. On a good day, I love myself. 

Girls in the sunset Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Bad days happen less and less to me as time goes by, but experiencing them is still the worst. I shift mentally, and not a single thing in the world can drag me out of the corner in my mind that makes me insecure, anxious, and sad. I am afraid to be ridiculed in the slightest way. Those days, I sit in the back for the class. I stay quiet and avoid as many people as possible. I can’t eat or bring myself to focus on anything but my pain. I call my therapist after school and take my medicine. Go to bed or watch a movie. I try to remind myself good days will come. 

I’ve gotten better and better. My anxiety attacks come in waves. I’ve only had to take a sedative once in the past 7 months, which is a win. 

From these years of battling with anxiety, depression, and PTSD, there is one thing I’ve learned: I am a strong woman. No matter how many times I find myself in the dark corner of my mind, there is a part of me that is fighting to get out and knows it’s okay to feel down. 

Body of water with sunset Unsplash

It’s okay to talk about how you feel and what’s happened to you. There is no shame in mental health, and everyone has their own process of working through it. Our spirits are tough. There is always someone who cares and can be there when you need it. It may be your therapist, a parent, friend, or stranger like me. The days may be dark, and the light at the end of the tunnel may seem far away – but time will go by, and your wounds will heal. 

Three years ago, I would have never imagined I would be back at DU, getting As in my classes, reconnecting with the friends I lost, and falling in love again. I didn’t believe in the person I am now. But today, I believe in the person I am becoming. I can’t say that it was all smooth sailing, and it still isn’t. Mental illness is an uphill battle. At some point, I will reach the top of that hill. I’ll look down at all I left behind with a smile on my face, a graduation diploma in one hand, and a bright future awaiting me.