I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and five years after my initial diagnosis I finally decided to try medication. I have always played sports competitively, since primary school, I have played sports 12 months a year and I have been selected to the provincial level and tried out at the national level. I have excelled academically and been very involved the community as well, with volunteering and part-time work at camps, or with sports teams. When I moved out of my parents’ home for the first time, since I had been attending university in my hometown. That year I continued playing varsity while trying to juggle school and working to pay my bills. I don’t know that there was any one catalyst, because unlike someone who may have a brief depression because of some trigger, my case, it seems is more likely genetic and hereditary. I sought help at school seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist, only once I became worried that I might not be able to graduate because my anxiety got to a level where some days it became difficult to leave my apartment or even my bedroom. I refused medication then because I was afraid that it would numb me, make me a zombie, or somehow unable to feel anything. The irony of that is that being depressed I was already numb and despondent. The best analogy for depression I have heard is that being depressed feels like wearing a weighted vest, trying to walk through knee deep mud, after pulling an all-nighter. I was also afraid of the stigma that surrounds taking medication for mental illness and the lifestyle changes that are necessary as well (for example to reduce or stop consuming alcohol altogether). So, thanks to a letter from my psychiatrist I was able to have my incomplete grades removed from my GPA, but those classes remain on my transcript. So once again I felt ashamed and limited. An incomplete on a transcript offers no explanation, cannot tell my story or defend my ability to be an outstanding student. I felt that my academic career was over because of this. I started working full time, but without seeking treatment, my condition, of course, did not improve. There are highs and lows, and I am aware that my condition is seasonally affected. When I finally decided to apply to Carleton I knew if I wanted to succeed I needed to have a plan. I spoke with my doctor and we discussed my options and I began taking medication the summer before I started at Carleton. Since then I have tried three different medications, I have gained weight, and lost weight, and I have gotten worse before I started to get better. There are a few reasons why I choose to share my story. I wish I had heard from someone else how much medication had helped them. Yes, it was a challenge finding the right medication for me. But now I feel like myself again for the first time in a long time. I feel like I am in control and in charge of my own life once more. Another reason I want to share is because of the negative reactions I have gotten and continue to receive. Those closest to me, friends, siblings, my parents have told me to keep this to myself. For some, it comes from a place of love, because of the stigma and limitations still put on people with mental illness. I had other friends tell me that they get sad too and that I just needed to work through it, which is the most frustrating and discouraging thing to hear from someone you care about. And finally I chose to share because of all the things I am today, all the things I have accomplished and the bright future I see for myself, I want to share with others because my condition does not define me and it should not define anyone else. One of the best analogies I have heard is that if you, for example, tore your ACL. No one would tell you, “I have been hurt before too, you need to just work through it”, no one would tell you after the surgery “you should not take the pain medication or antibiotics the doctor prescribed you because you don’t need them, or they will change you”.
If you or someone you know has a similar story and is in need of help, click here for services in the area.