Dana’s Story

A week has passed since #BellLetsTalk. While some people have forgotten all about it, others, like myself, have been unable to put it out of their minds.

I personally suffer from severe anxiety and depression. I take medication – twice a day actually – and it helps me a lot. But sometimes, when things get to be too

much, my body says “sorry girl, we need a break”. This happened to me this past week. On Monday, I woke up at my usual 6:40 wakeup time to get ready for work. Out of nowhere (usually how it happens), a bad anxiety attack came on and I wasn’t able to work, eat or accomplish anything really. I was in bed for three days not because I wanted to, but because I had no strength to move. I barely even had the strength to shower.

Most people don’t really understand what it’s like to constantly fight with yourself and have no control over it. Every day is another battle. Sometimes my battle is as small as deciding when to go talk to my boss, and other times my battle is so bad that I doubt myself when it comes to everything.

A lot of people have said to me, “I want to understand what you’re going through but I just can’t – I can’t see your pain”, as if I have a broken leg or a cut on my arm. And other people have basically just moved on and let our friendship die. Unfortunately, I understand where they’re coming from. Mental illness is a very hard disease to cope with. As hard as it is for me to deal with, I sometimes feel that it’s harder for the people around me. After all, it’s extremely difficult to understand what you can’t see or feel.

I started to feel down, for lack of a better word, back in 2012. My grandpa had passed away, and just two weeks later my family had to put our dog down. Not only was it a lot of change in a short period of time, but it was the first time that I experienced loss and was old enough to understand it.

A few weeks later, I was sent to a therapist to talk about how I was feeling, what made me feel this way, and what I could do to help myself. She gave me pictures to color, work to take home, and books to read… As you can imagine, that didn’t last very long. I then went on to see another therapist. After seeing my fair share of therapists, five to be exact, I gave up. I didn’t like what they had to say about me.

In October 2015, all of that drastically changed. I had a breakdown, or what some people call a ‘burnout’: I didn’t get out of bed for over a week, I slept for 20 hours a day, and I didn’t eat anything or speak to anyone. My parents pushed me to go see my doctor, and I was given a prescription that I didn’t fill for a while. To be honest, I was scared to take the medication, probably because of the stigma surrounding it. More than anything, I was worried that I would become addicted to what my doctor had given me. But finally, I gave in. I decided to take the medication because I wasn’t able to do the one thing that allowed me to relax and escape everything that was going on. I wasn’t able to read. I had no concentration, no motivation, and no drive.

Midway through October, after not attending classes since my breakdown, I decided to drop out. I took a medical leave from university, and spent a year trying to rebuild myself. There were a lot of bad days at the beginning. There were more bad days than good days for a long time. But slowly, things got better. Trust me, I still have bad days, but I have learned how to cope with my anxiety and depression.

What I’m really trying to say is that everyone is fighting their own war and no one truly understands how someone else is feeling. Mental illness needs to be talked about more than just one day a year or when something bad happens. Mental illness should be an everyday topic to prevent breakdowns and burnouts. In my life, it has become just that. As a result, I am not longer ashamed of who I am.

I am proud to say that I have anxiety and depression because it has made me a much stronger person. I now have a full-time job in the finance industry and still take classes on the side. I have become a different, yet better and stronger person because of my mental illnesses and would have it no other way.

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