My Mental Health Coming Out Story

It’s May, and in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I decided to write about something very personal to me. 

As I am writing this story, tears are rolling down my face, because it is bringing back strong memories. But I finally want to tell my story, because I think it could make a difference in someone’s life, and I am finally strong enough to talk about what I went through. 

I never knew how badly anxiety could affect someone's life until it started to take over mine.

During the end of the winter quarter of my third year of college, I started noticing myself changing, and I didn’t feel like myself. I was having shortness of breath, constant worrying, heart palpations, and dizziness. I was feeling fear and a sense of impending doom, which is very unlike myself. These symptoms started to affect my everyday life and made it really hard to accomplish anything, especially my schoolwork. 

Image Source: Sydney Sims on Unsplash​

While I was at home for winter break, I decided to go to my doctor and tell her all of my symptoms. I was scared because I thought that I was dying. I had never felt those symptoms before, and they were starting to occur on a daily basis, multiple times a day. 

While in the office, my doctor handed me a survey and I wondered what it was for. The answer was to check me and run tests and make sure nothing was wrong with me. My doctor did end up running some tests and everything came back normal … and the next news she would tell me was something I was not expecting to hear. 

She told me those symptoms I was having were panic attacks, and I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and mild depression. I was shocked and scared; how did my life go from being great to it being so hard just to be able to function every day? 

She guided me step-by-step through a list of possible treatment plans that included yoga, meditation, taking medications, and exercising. 

I was determined to do all the natural treatments that I could to help with my anxiety and depression; I didn’t want to take medication because of all the bad stigma surrounding mental health medication. I tried aromatherapy, I went to counseling, I went to meditation classes, and nothing was helping. I was actually getting worse as each day went on, and sometimes I was unable to leave my house because my symptoms kept me in constant fear. 

As winter break was coming to an end, I had not seen any improvement in my symptoms. I acted like everything was fine, when in reality it wasn’t. I remember trying to leave my house on the first day back to attend class, and it was so hard. I ended up leaving in the middle of class and crying because I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep living like this. 

I remember calling my mom crying and letting her know everything that I was feeling. I trust my mom with anything, and she was my biggest support system through all I went through. She told me that I should take the spring quarter off from school and come back home, so I could get the help that I needed to get better. 

Image Source: Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

If any of ya’ll know me, you know how difficult of a decision that was for me. I am not the type of person to take a break and leave school. However, I’ve realized that taking the quarter off and going home was probably the best decision I’ve made in my life so far. Going home allowed me to heal and get the help I needed. I ended up meeting with my doctor again and agreeing to take medication. 

Honestly, if I hadn’t made that choice I don’t think I would be where I am today, and I don’t think I would have been able to come back to school and be graduating this spring. 

I have learned a lot about myself and how strong I am. I am slowly starting to learn to put myself first and take care of my mental health, because it’s not something to take for granted. 

I am currently still on anti-anxiety and antidepressant medication, and the stigma about mental health medications really needs to disappear. No, medication is not for everyone, but it does help millions of people to live normal, functioning lives. Taking medication is not easy, and it can require a lot of trial and error to find the right medication for you, but in the end it’s worth it. 

I’ve never told anyone this story besides my friends and family, but I hope that by sharing this I can inspire someone with mental health issues to get the help they need, whether it be from friends, doctors, counselors, or family members. It is important to seek out resources; going through these things alone is not easy. Do what is right for you and your body, and try not to listen to all of the mental health stigmas out there. 

I want to thank all of my family and friends who supported me during my lowest moments, and who were there for me when I needed them the most. I want to give an extra special shout out to my mom and my boyfriend for being my daily support systems, and for having my back no matter what.