Mental health has been a huge area of my life for about 11 years now. I just like anyone else experiencing mental health issues have had my fair moments of struggles and triumphs. It is because of where I have been and the struggles I have faced both internally and externally that being a part of ending the stigma around mental health is so important to me. It had always amazed me how so many people in our world are affected by a mental illness every single day and yet there is still so little understanding, education, and services for it. We as a society are so quick to judge others based on first impressions and the definitions in which we give them without actually getting to know them. Everyone has a story, everyone has found themselves where they are due to a magnitude of different circumstances. Through the My Definition Campaign I believe that it sets a premise for others to share their stories in the hopes that others will realize that we are all only human and no one is deserving of discrimination and judgment. Therefore, I would like to share my story with you in the hopes that it will also give others experiencing mental health issues to recognize that they too have a voice, no matter the severity of their struggles.
As I stated above, my mental health journey began 11 years ago. It was an average morning, no different than any other school day I had ever had before. Well at least that was what I thought. Little did I know that this was the day that would change my life forever. That was the morning I told my mother I loved her for the last time. I was only 10 years old when I lost my mother to suicide. The situation was confusing and made little to no sense. There was no signs, at least no one noticed them at the time. She was standing up at the top of the stairs that morning and then she was just gone. Mental Illness is like heart disease in my family. My family isn’t impacted by other physical genetic illnesses, mental illness is what consumes my family. Bipolar Disorder is a common mental illness that runs in my family, so far impacting 5 people. My mother was never diagnosed with this, but it was greatly suspected. My mother was a very successful and proud woman, if she had any weaknesses I can honestly say I never saw them. Knowing what I know today about stigma I can completely understand why she never sought out help, it was because she did not feel as though she could without being judged.
6 years later, when I was the ripe age of 16 I learned about the tragic fate of my mother and began experiencing my own personal mental health issues. At the time my family was divided and my father had remarried, resulting in a very complex family situation. It was also during this time that I had come out as a lesbian, which was not alright with my father’s side of the family. I was struggling to understand my mother’s death, my sexuality, and what life even meant in general. I had attempted to seek help but the wait was so long I gave up. My father wasn’t listening and my step mother was no better. After suffering in silence for so long and having my heart broken for the first time I had tried to die by suicide for the first time. I spent a long time in the psych ward trying to recover, but in the end this meant very little as when I returned home I faced the same unloving and unsupportive environment I had previous to this. Therefore, not long after being discharged from the hospital I attempted to take my life for the second time. It was this attempt that the second most devastating event occurred in my life. My father entered my hospital room as I was hooked up to machines, looked me in the eyes, and told me he wanted nothing to do with me any longer. All of the sudden I was 16 years old and homeless, having absolutely zero idea what I was going to do.
The years following I faced the true tests of recovery. I spent my time moving between friends and family’s houses, made my way through high school after having to transfer schools due to bullying, and learning how to love and care for myself. Currently, I am 20 years old, about to turn 21. I have had a total of 5 suicide attempts and am 1 year self harm free. When I look back on everything that happened I sometimes wonder how I made it out, how I survived all of it. I like to think that I am just an incredibly resilient person, but I also know that without those who supported me I would most likely not be here today to tell my story. Now identifying as a transgender man, I like to take my experiences and turn them into good. I would not be who I am today without them and I believe that through them I am able to tell as story of loss, grief, triumph and hope.
Mental health awareness is so incredibly important. We lose to many people in this world due to circumstances that could absolutely be prevented. If the stigma surrounding mental health wasn’t so great then maybe my mother would be alive today. Everyone deserves to have a voice and to do so without fear that they will lose family, friends, their job, or something else. Together we need to stand up and promote self-care, self awareness, societal awareness, services, and education. No matter how “big” or “small” a person's struggles are in comparison to others, we need to realize that those are still their struggles and those struggles are still valid. As a individual struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder and Avoidant Personality Disorder I have for sure made my fair share of mistakes and hurt people along the way. In saying this though I cannot always help my behavior and often do not realize what it is I’m doing until after the fact, because of this I have been called a “monster”, “abusive”, “undeserving of love”, “crazy”, “a waste of space”, and the list goes on and on. It took me a long time to learn to love myself and there are still days that it is not the easiest task. So again I stress the importance of educating others so that they can come to learn what it means to live with ALL DIFFERENT kinds of mental illness, because EVERY SINGLE ONE matters.