Being a kid was so simple. All the goals and ideas I had seemed to be in arms reach. One of those goals was to be like my childhood hero, Indiana Jones. To travel the world and yell famous one liners like, “IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!” Then punch the bad guy in the face and go on my merry way. But when I got older I realized that I can’t just go around punching people. Bummer. But my want to explore and preserve the history of cultures around the world is still a very real dream of mine. A dream that I hope to one day make a reality. I just didn’t realize how many obstacles there would be the older I got. One of those obstacles was developing a mental illness.
It all started when I was in high school. I remember having a hard time getting out of bed while having this overwhelming feeling of depression. Some days were better than others, but it seemed like as the days went by the harder it was for me to function. I started to become irritable and my friendships were harder to hold on to. My attendance started to drop along with my grades. I almost didn’t graduate high school. I kept telling myself it would get better. That I just needed a change. Then one night as I was with a friend, things took a turn for the worst. After that night, everything changed.
I remember it so vividly; like it happened just yesterday. I was sitting on the floor, next to my friends bed, and then my mind was filled with so many thoughts and feelings. It’s as if a truck, loaded with information, crashed right into my brain. I asked my friend for some paper and a pen. I was thinking that maybe if I started to write these thoughts down, that in some way my mind would feel lighter. In the end the paper was filled with words and phrases that no one could make sense of. In that moment I realized that something was terribly wrong with this brain of mine.
I bolted out of the house. I remember the cold touch of the concrete as I tried to runaway from the nightmare. I collapsed in the middle of the driveway and every part of my body started convulsing. It was as if I had no control anymore. All I could do was lay there and watch it happen. That was the terrifying part. I didn’t lose consciousness like someone would during a seizure. I was awake for every single moment. I was awake to hear the panic of my friends voice. I was awake to hear her pray for me as I thrashed about on the ground.
I had no idea what to tell the doctors once my parents took me to the ER. I was just a kid who thought he was crazy. I was so lost and confused. My body was shaking in fear. I waited for the doctors to tell me what was wrong but they didn’t seem to have a clue. I left that hospital not knowing what happened and it stayed that way for many years after.
Through all those years I went undiagnosed. Doctors went from depression, anxiety, tourette syndrome, epilepsy, and even narcolepsy. They were all over the place! I never stuck with any doctors because at that point I figured no one knew what was wrong with me. Because of my stubbornness and pride I had a hard time holding jobs. It was difficult for me to have any kind of relationship with people. I was missing out on so many opportunities to grow as a person because I lived in constant fear. Luckily for me my Heavenly Father threw a tender mercy my way. Right when I was about to give up on everything.
Not too long ago, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a blog (click HERE to check it out) written by a woman named Rachel and her fight against bipolar disorder. Come to find out we both served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints in the state of Washington. Like her, we were both sent home early because of a mental illness. I eventually reached out to her and she was kind enough to refer me to a psychiatrist since we both lived in the same area. After a few sessions I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The day I was diagnosed with my mental illness was the day I finally started to fight back. With the help of friends, my doctor, and medication I actually felt the odds weren’t stacked against me anymore. The idea of me being like my childhood hero wasn’t completely off the table. I finally received the one thing that I needed more than anything. Hope.
I am aware of the stigma related to taking medication for your mental health. I’ve had people tell me not to take medication for various reasons. That I didn’t need to see a doctor because they would just “fill me up with pills” that would make slow and stupid. Which, by the way, is so not true. By not seeing a psychiatrist and asking for help I was forced to live years with a mind that I couldn’t control. I don’t blame my friends and family for this. We honestly didn’t know better. But I am here to tell you that it’s OK to take medication. It’s OK to see a doctor. It’s OK to ask for help.
To anyone reading this I want you to know that it is possible to get back what you feel you may have lost. You are not alone in this fight and it’s a battle you can win. The purpose of a Voyagers Journal is to shed light on the positives and struggles of mental illness. Through the stories shared by myself and others we hope you find strength. Do not be consumed by the depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and the anger. You are stronger than you know.