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Mental Illness: 20 Years to Life

June 22, 2018

"I had stopped taking my medication because I thought I was cured."

 

As a child I was nervous a lot. Nervousness is normal in certain times, but I was getting nervous doing everyday activities. Going to school. Going shopping. I had trouble making friends.

My Mom was seeing a doctor for panic attacks. In August 1996, roughly a month before I was to start high school, my Mom had an appointment with her doctor. She noticed that I had been experiencing symptoms that she had been. She gave me her appointment, was diagnosed with anxiety and given samples of an anti-anxiety medication in the smallest dose available. I couldn't believe the difference. I felt *normal*. The doctor even admitted that he'd never seen such a positive reaction from such a small dose.  

Fast forward to college, fall 2002 and winter 2003. I had stopped taking my medication because I thought I was cured. College workload along with extracurricular activities became overwhelming. I was anxious, depressed and felt helpless. I went back on the medication and have been on it since. 
 

 I successfully graduated college in 2005, moved to a new city and started another college program. Graduated at the top of my class in 2008 but was unable to find work in the field. A big factor was my oral communications skills were terrible. I stuttered and spoke very quickly since I was a child. I was never treated because my family thought I would grow out of it. Between April and August of 2009 I visited a speech therapist and at age 25 I literally re-learned how to speak. My speech became slower, clearer, and for the first time in 20 years I wasn't constantly hearing "what? Pardon?" A year or two later I was asked to give a speech in front of 500 graduates and faculty at my college's convocation ceremony. I wasn't overly nervous, the crowd understood every word, and I had the entire audience laughing at a joke. Former professors who didn't know I had seen a speech therapist were in disbelief.

The darkest points of my life were between August 2013 and May 2014. Work became overwhelming, stressful, and even a dose increase in my medication wasn't working. I had to leave my job because it was negatively affecting my health. I started a new job in November 2013. In January 2014 I was let go from this position after my 3 month probation was up. I was devastated. 36 hours later my Mom suffered a heart attack. I thought that me losing my job and my reaction is what caused it, but it was merely an unfortunate coincidence.

 Over the next week I lost 10 pounds because I hardly ate anything. I began seeing a specialist every week to help me get over everything that had happened. As my mental health improved the appointments got spread out to every two weeks, and then to every month. Also during this time a card came in the mail that was addressed to R. Alexander. My Mom, who has the same first initial as myself, opened it thinking it was a card for her after her heart attack. Nope - it was for me from the workplace I was let go from, signed by former co-workers who were sorry to see me go.

In May of 2014 I got a call out of the blue from a gentleman I had worked for previously. He said he was at a new workplace and asked me if I wanted to work for him. My Dad constantly says that everything happens for a reason, so I figured this was a sign that I was mentally ready to return to work. I accepted the job and have been there ever since. 

 

Since conquering these mental health issues I've obtained my driver's license, purchased my own car, went on road trips to new cities, and made several new friends. I'm still taking my medication and likely will be for the rest of my life. There is no cure for anxiety and depression but I'm proof that it is possible for those with mental illnesses to lead successful, happy lives.

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