Amanda's Story Part III: The Beauty of Hitting Rock Bottom
All of us have defining moments in our lives. In my previous post, I shared some of mine. Not for sympathy, but rather for connection. I choose to tell my story because for so long, I dealt with mental illness on my own. No one truly wants to suffer alone, and no one should have to.
On “that day” my doctor made me a simple promise. She said, “I promise you that in a year, you’ll look back on this and ask yourself, ‘why didn’t I do that sooner?’ You will feel more like yourself again.” Of course, at that point in my life, I couldn’t ever see myself feeling that way again. But I wanted to believe her. Up until that point, I had completely lost my sense of self. I was going through my day to day robotically. I cried all the time. Sometimes my girls would catch me in my weakest moments and ask me what was wrong. I lied and told them I just didn’t feel well. I was consumed with grief and guilt because I knew my daughters deserved a better mom, my husband deserved a better wife, my siblings deserved a better sister, and so on.
I was tired all the time and slept a lot just to escape. I would often sit in grocery store parking lots, trying to talk myself into going in and convincing myself I wasn’t going to be shot. In the midst of my grocery store panic attacks, I would plan my escape if something were to happen. More often than not, I would just go home without ever having entered the store. I loved my job. Teaching was an outlet. As much as I loved my students, I knew they deserved better, and I couldn’t go to work feeling the way I felt. Oddly enough, I was nominated to be an advisor for the Hope Squad at the junior high I worked at. Was it a coincidence that I was here again, at the lowest point in my life, and teaching our students about all things depression and suicide? My anxiety and depression were crippling. I decided I would track my own anxiety so that I could identify triggers and maybe deal with them by myself. But I was always fearful of everything. Everything was a trigger. I read self-help books determined to overcome this overwhelm on my own. My mental illness had completely taken over my life. It consumed me, and worse yet-it controlled me.
Things got really bad after my miscarriage. I had to have a D&C and I thought I wouldn’t make it through the procedure. I envisioned my husband leaving the hospital alone and telling our daughter what happened. I was told that after even losing a baby to miscarriage, you could still experience postpartum depression. I convinced myself it was PPD, and it would be simple to overcome. Oh boy, was I wrong! It was a downward spiral. I would ignore texts and phone calls. I made excuses to not go to church. I hid in the bedroom with the lights off at family events so that I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I knew how hard this was for me, but I had no idea how hard it was for everyone around me. My relationships were strained. My husband and others thought I hated them. My reactions and behaviors that were a result of what I was dealing with-but nobody knew. I was miserable, and I took it out on other people without realizing what I was doing. It caused more pain and embarrassment than I could have ever imagined. Ugh… I could go on and on. Which brings me back to “that day.”
That Friday as I left my house, I felt hopeful. I felt scared, ashamed, and embarrassed. But hopeful. I felt physically sick as I pulled into the parking lot. I wanted to turn around and go home so badly. I had a lump in my throat as I waited for the doctor. When she came in, we just talked. She asked me questions, I answered. She explained mental illness to me in a way that no one else had ever done before. She gave me specific examples of illnesses that require medication and explained that your brain is an organ that sometimes gets sick too. She helped me overcome the shame of turning to medication and therapy. She said that mental illness should be treated like any other physical ailment. Sometimes our brains just get overloaded and need a little help processing it all. She told me I was strong, not weak for seeking help. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel like a crazy person.
After the evaluation, I was prescribed medicine. It took a very long time and consistency to find the right medication and dosage. Two years later, I am finally feeling like myself again. I have been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, and PTSD. Don’t get me wrong, I still have difficult days and moments, but I am also better equipped with the tools necessary to overcome my struggles, including a great support system.
The journey since my diagnosis has not been easy, and it is ongoing-but there is so much beauty to be found in my experience. As I mentioned previously, a side effect of mental illness is losing your sense of self. One of the most beautiful things that has come out of all of this is a desire to redefine myself. I have slowly found things that make me happy. I started exercising and have run several half marathons. I have done many things that have put me out of my comfort zone like attending conferences and retreats, learning new things like watercolor, and refining my party planning skills. Because of my experience, I have become a better communicator, I am more self-aware, and I have learned to identify and eliminate triggers. I have rebuilt relationships with my loved ones that had been so deeply wounded by my mental illness. I have made new friends and connections with amazing women who inspire and encourage me to be the best version of myself.
Admitting that I could not overcome this battle on my own was one of the greatest gifts I could have ever given myself and my loved ones. I have come to understand that it is okay to be vulnerable, and it is absolutely okay to rely on others when you feel you can’t go on. I no longer look in the mirror and see a broken and lost girl. I have gone from merely existing to existing with a greater purpose. I am surviving and rebuilding one day at a time.
One of the most valuable things that has come from this experience is a greater love and compassion for others. I have a deep desire to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and to bridge the gap between the mentally ill and the mentally well. I believe that together we can educate each other in order to create a better understanding of the reality of mental illness. This is why I have created Village. I want to share my experience in order to empower others to overcome the stigma of mental illness. For so long, I believed in what the stigma told me. I let it define me, and because of it I struggled for a lot longer than I had to. I know it might seem difficult now, but try to find some beauty in your storm. I encourage you to let people in, start building your village.
The beauty in hitting rock bottom is that the only way is up. I believe that we are all better and stronger together. Let’s continue in that direction together.
Continue to my husband's story→