by Jessie Brar
Anytime I tell someone about the different mental illnesses I have experienced in my past, I’m always faced with the response:
“What, are you collecting them?”
I have dealt with substance abuse, an eating disorder, and I still struggle with depression and anxiety today. My mental illnesses are very interconnected and I’m slowly tackling them, one at a time. I think many people have trouble understanding how all of these can occur at once. I often hear from people that I did this to myself or that I’m seeking attention. There’s so much stigma around mental illnesses and I hope by being open about mine, I can help erase some of that stigma.
Anxiety was first. I was 8 years old when my anxiety started. As I’ve written about in my other articles, I grew up surrounded by abuse. My father’s alcoholism and my grandparents’ verbal abuse made me so scared. I was constantly worried. I was scared by loud noises and yelling. I never felt like a normal child. I was constantly searching for ways to feel better.
When my anxiety was taking over, I grasped onto anything that would help me feel like I was in control of my life. It started with me just eating less to try and quickly finish my dinner so that I didn’t have to listen to the yelling that was going on at the table. Then I skipped meals altogether. I felt a sense of strength and control. Every time I skipped a meal, I felt like I was doing something for myself. I felt as if I was making a decision and had the power to deal with everything in my life. Then I started focusing on dropping pounds. It made me feel good for awhile until I started noticing my weight would fluctuate. Every time the numbers on the scale went up, the voices in my head telling me that I wasn’t good enough got louder.
This negative internal dialogue led me to feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and loneliness. Symptoms of depression started to occur and, when I tried reaching out for help, I was told that I was too young to be having these kinds of problems or that it was just a phase. When I eventually did get to a counselor, I didn’t know how to express my feelings, and so I internalized it all. I kept silent about my depression for years and this only made things worse.
When I got to university, I felt even lonelier. I was so overwhelmed that I would do anything to feel a bit better or forget about all the negative thoughts in my head. I started drinking heavily. I would go out on Fridays and drink until I got home. It wasn’t the type of drinking you do at a university party where you’re trying to have fun. I was drinking to forget. It was so dangerous.
All of these mental illnesses are interconnected. One thing led to another and every time I put off reaching out for help, things got worse. It kept building and building, snowballing into something I couldn’t control. Reaching out for help wasn’t easy, but when I did, my whole world changed.
Many people ask why I have had so many mental illnesses. To them I say, take a minute to think about the situation someone is in. Trust me, I never wanted this to happen. It just did.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.