Sarah: My Story

Depression, Anxiety, and Social Anxiety have been my crosses to bear in life. My path has been long and twisted, with many detours, hurdles, and road blocks. I have struggled with mental illness for over 15 years, and much of my life has been like a roller coaster filled with many ups and downs. Having depression and anxiety has been a double-edged sword. One edge of the sword had been very negative. I have lost jobs, been unable to finish college, ruined relationships with family and friends, had dreams broken, lost interest in my favorite activities, and at times have lost the will to live. I have felt broken, sad, lonely, forgotten, isolated, shamed, hopeless, unworthy, scared, misunderstood, tired, angry and lost. I have struggled with the feelings of self-hate and worthlessness, and it has often led me down a road of negative thinking and self-fulfilled prophecies. Depression and anxiety has often brought me down to my knees and taken everything good away from me. Though it is often hard to see any good in these disorders, I have found there is a positive side to this double-edged sword. Having depression and anxiety has taught me so much about myself. I have learned who I really am and how hard I can fight to move ahead in this life. These mental illnesses are just a piece of who I am, they do not define me. I have experienced so much on my journey through life. These experiences (whether good or bad) make me who I am today. As the saying goes, “Our experiences are ourselves.”

Through my many experiences with mental illness, I am able to say recovery is possible. For most of the 15 years that I struggled with my anxiety and depression I did not believe this was possible. I have taken many medications and seen countless therapists and doctors with not much success. It has not been until this past year that I could say (and even see) that recovery is attainable. My struggle with anxiety and depression came to a boiling point within the last year. I lost so much and came down so far. I let go of everything, including myself. Many days I felt like giving up – and most days I did. If ever there were a throne to depression it would be my couch! I spent day after day watching the world go by, and dwelling on my miseries. I hated myself and what mental illness had made me become. I lost all hope, and closed myself off from experiencing anything but pain, sadness, and loneliness. I felt as though my life would never change, and I would be stuck in this sort of hell forever.

I had moved to Northern Michigan (Manton) about a year ago, and little did I know this would be the catalyst that would lead me to recovery. I sought help for myself at Northern Lakes Community Mental Health shortly after moving to this area. That was just one of the stepping stones toward my recovery. I began to see a wonderful therapist, who focused much of her treatment on self-love, positive thinking, and behavioral therapy. I also began to attend Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). This DBT group has been life changing. If not for DBT, my life would have stayed stagnant. The skills I have learned in DBT have been the turning point in my recovery. I have learned coping skills, self-respect, positive thinking, changing my thought patterns, controlling my emotions, having positive support systems in my life, being effective and participating in life (those are just to name a few!).

With these newly learned skills I have been working on becoming active in living my life again. Even on the hardest days I must force myself to move ahead. I found that doing the activities I love, such as: spending time with friends and family, playing with my cat, watching the sunrise or sunset, looking at the stars, taking walks in the peace of nature, going to the beach, taking pictures with my camera, scrap booking, and doing crafts helps keep me afloat. These activities have been a pivotal point in my recovery. Using these skills have been another stepping stone to learning who I am and what encompasses me. I have found what keeps me going on the long road ahead. I had to really look inside myself this past year, and have had to come face to face with what I have become. I am still learning so much, and each small step I take brings me closer to healing and repairing my inner self. I feel as though I am a puzzle and many pieces make up who I am. By coming to terms with myself, my depression, and my anxiety I have been able to look ahead with hope. I want to continue to reach for my dreams, look to the future, find happiness and contentment, and seize the day ahead. I want to continue to chase rainbows and achieve my goals. I am growing and blossoming out of the weeds of mental illness. I am like the spring flower growing out of the death and decay of the cold winter ground. I will overcome. I will reach my potential. I will see my dreams blossom before my eyes.