Overcoming the Stigma on Mental Illness

**Trigger warning**

There’s been days in my life where I’ve felt completely lost, others where I’ve felt rage and extreme sadness, and many where I just felt nothing, it was like my body was just numb to any emotion, to any reaction.

I went through so much as a teen, that I just blocked every type of feelings. I avoided any close relationships to avoid getting hurt. The trauma I experienced affected my mental health terribly. All the drugs I used altered my brain chemistry, but I didn’t know about mental illnesses then. In our family I only heard that people were “crazy”. I thought it had to be extreme like in the movies where you see people in mental facilities. Whenever I felt “crazy”, I just thought it was a teenager thing. You know, hormones, attitude, mood swings, isolation, bad judgment, and impulsiveness.

Now that I know what mental illness is or can be, I have learned to understand what I’ve experienced. It didn’t happen from one day to another, though. I first started reading about the subject in my psychology class in college. I was probably like 23 years old. I had been experiencing blackouts in school. Like I would be on the computer and feel like my brain would shut down, literally, open my eyes and didn’t know what I was doing. It happened a few times before I started worrying. I thought it would go away once I stopped using drugs.

MDMA was my favorite type of drug at that time. I had been using for months. If you don’t know what it is, Ecstasy pills come in bright colors and have cool symbols on them to make them appealing. These little things can have many different synthetic chemicals and other drugs combined. You don’t even know what you take sometimes. The only thing I knew was that they made me happy, even if it was temporary. I hadn’t felt happy for many years and I had found it in this tiny thing. Usually, everyone had some wherever I went so it was rare that I had to buy any. I would go out when the kids were asleep since my dad lived with me, I had all night to party and be happy. I would sometimes take some during the day just to function at home with the kids. They didn’t make you groggy or paranoid, they just made you feel good. I didn’t know that they were going to affect my brain so much and that they would be highly addictive. My brain needed them to keep that feeling of happiness going.

One morning after partying all night, I found myself sitting on someone else’s bathroom floor, I realized people were knocking but I was just there, like my body was numb. I remember throwing up and calling this guy I had been seeing to come drive my truck because I was feeling sick. On the way home, I felt like I was suffocating. That was rock bottom for me.

This guy knew I needed help. He stayed with us for a couple of weeks until he saw that I had recovered completely. The first three days were hell! I had hallucinations, blackouts, night terrors, chills, body aches, headaches. I couldn’t eat, sleep, function. I blamed my dead husband for not letting me move on. I had been so broken after he disappeared that the only comfort I found was using any substance to ease the pain.

I found out I was pregnant two months or so after recovering. God had sent this man into my life to give me this little angel that I needed so much. I had a healthy pregnancy and later a healthy baby boy. His father was not in the picture anymore, so after a few weeks, the stress of being alone once more, made me use again. I used less than before, but I still messed up again. This time I knew perfectly well what I was doing.

I got into trouble with the law and I was so scared of losing my children. This made me realize how selfish I had been and how much I was messing up our lives. I had been so mad at my dad and my husband for being addicts and messing up my life. But there I was doing it to my babies, the only good I had done in this life.

Studying social work for my career gave me so much understanding on my own experiences. I took extra classes in addiction and psychology to learn about myself and my family. I still struggle with the aftermath of the damage I did to myself. Mental illness runs in my family and substance use made it worse for me.

I would have crying spells while driving, panic attacks while watching tv, terrible mood swings, and uncontrollable anger. I thought of many ways to end my suffering but always thought of my kids. I was not capable of leaving them like that. I kept drowning my sorrows with alcohol until I overdid it and decided to quit. It wasn’t until I mentioned it to my closest friend that I sought help. I literally told her I thought I was going crazy. I couldn’t control my emotional outbursts. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and general anxiety with panic attacks.

I started medication and thought that everything was going to get better, but the first weeks were terrible. I wanted to die. My head hurt, I felt nauseous, I had night terrors again, suicidal thoughts and I felt every emotion times ten. I talked to my doctor and we decided to add another medication. It took a few weeks to kick in and I started to feel better, not completely normal, but fewer side effects. It took more than 4 months for me to feel good, some type of normal I hadn’t felt in years. I was on medication for over 2 years. I made the mistake of stopping my meds for months, thinking I was okay, but after 5 months, I started feeling overwhelmed again. Anxiety makes my neck hurt to a point where I can’t function. Depression makes me want to stay in bed, I have no energy, no motivation and I start isolating from the world. My doctor suggested I started taking medication again, so I did.

It was a long and difficult process, but I eventually got my life together. Slowly I gained my life back and brought some normalcy into our home.

God wanted me to learn from my mistakes and it only happened by hitting my lowest point. But he never left our side He was watching over us the entire time.

It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and lifestyle changes, the most difficult part is that my kids are experiencing similar issues. Seeing them go through this is extra hard, and sometimes I don’t know how to handle it. One of my kids was diagnosed with bipolar depression about a year ago, it is even more difficult during the teenage years. There’s good days and bad days. Yesterday was one of the bad ones. These episodes are scary and sometimes I’m not the best at how I react to the situation.

I know that with God by our side we will get through anything, he’ll always give us the tools to succeed and overcome any obstacle we encounter. He’s given me the knowledge and the strength I need to help myself and the ones I love. I pray for healthy minds, healthy bodies and healthy hearts.

Know that MENTAL ILLNESS IS REAL! We need to END THE STIGMA!! You are not crazy!! You are not needy!! You are not weak!!! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!

Love Pao.

“God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it”

-1 Corinthians 10:13

“And I was with you in weakness and in fear, and in much trembling”

-1 Corinthians 2:3

“And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that if ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation”

-2 Corinthians 1:7

15 thoughts on “Overcoming the Stigma on Mental Illness

  1. chrisbremicker1 says:

    Extremely well written. You hit home the pain we sufferers of mental illness feel. I was surrounded by a loving family. I had hobbies to fall back on. Still, the agony I experienced has no words. I felt like I was being crucified upside down or boiling oil was poured down my throat. I equated my illness to Auschwitz. Bravo to you for this piece. You show courage and faith at the same time. Prayer helped me too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Simply Pao says:

      Thank you! I recently read someone’s blog talking about her experience with trauma and how it felt like acid rain to the soul. It’s exactly how I felt for so many years. I’m glad to hear you are healing! God is good❤️ thank you for reading and your kind words.

      Like

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