Me & My Mental Illness – A Personal Story

by Alexis Byrd
I don’t really know when it all started. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a little safeguarded; a little worried, a little anxious about things I couldn’t control. I’d not thought it was anything I needed to be concerned about.  It wasn’t until my junior year of college when I started to notice a change in myself – and others started to notice, too. I was smack dab in the middle of what was supposed to be some of the best years of my life. Yet here I was, going home every chance I got. When I was at school, I isolated myself in my room.
Sometimes I’d lock the door and cry uncontrollably.  Sometimes I’d lose count of how many drinks I had consumed. Sometimes I couldn’t remember how I got from point A to point B. I was drowning my sorrows in alcohol and boys, and there was no end in sight.  I felt like I didn’t matter to anyone. I wanted to end my life.  I didn’t dare tell any of this to anyone. What if people thought I was crazy? I couldn’t have that. I chalked up as stress, shrugged it off, and continued life as if it were normal.
I had a few more instances during my senior year. Once again, I thought I was simply just PMSing or too worried about the wrong things. It wasn’t until after I had finished undergrad that things really got amplified.  I was working at my first job and felt totally disconnected from the entire world.  I began to become paranoid; thinking everyone around me was whispering about me behind my back. I got defensive, scared and my work performance started to suffer.
I spent large amounts of time locked in the bathroom stall, crying on the floor, just hoping for it all to go away. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I hated looking at myself in the mirror.  I was hiding from everyone. One morning I was reluctantly driving to work… Without even realizing it, I had ended up at my mom’s office instead. I walked in and burst into uncontrollable tears. I told her I wanted to end my life.  I told her I needed help and didn’t know what else to do.  That was the first time I had ever said it out loud.

The Strength To Fight Back

My family was extremely supportive of me. I quit my job, I saw a therapist, I was put on medication. My diagnosis of anxiety and depression had rocked my entire world, but I wasn’t going to let it define me. I was determined to fight back… And I have. I saw my therapist weekly (and sometimes multiple times a week) for over a year. I journaled, I found God, and I built myself back up from the burning fire of rubble I had become.
Sometimes, I still have breakdowns. At times I don’t want to drive because I feel anxious and I hyperventilate from behind the wheel.  Sometimes I sulk in bed as the sun rises and peaks through my window because I know I have to get up and leave the house. Sometimes I don’t have any hope at all and I can’t do anything. But those times are just that… sometimes. It’s not all the time. I have grown so much in the past few years and I am so thankful for how far I have come.  As someone who couldn’t imagine living to even write something like this, I have never been more proud of myself for choosing to live this beautiful, messy life of mine. I am proud of the mess, I am proud of the journey, and I am proud to sit here and share it with you.

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