Mental Illness Recovery Series: Story # 18

This is the 18th story of the Mental Illness Recovery Series. Ciara is strong despite all that has happened to her. She has not fully recovered, but has been able to control her mental illness. This is her story:

Photo from: Ciara
Photo from: Ciara

Ciara is from Kildare, Ireland. Ciara loves to read a lot, she said, “I love to read. In fact, I am a huge bookworm. I started reading from a very young age and just fell in love with the possibilities that the next chapter could bring. Reading, for me, was a great form of escape.” She also enjoys art, especially clay modeling, sadly she hasn’t been able to do it lately because of a skin condition on her hands. Her goal is to wake up feeling excited each day and to feel satisfied with whatever she has done. Ciara would lie to move out of her parents’ house, to have a home she can call her own.

Ciara was diagnosed by her GP and counselor with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and clinical depression. She thinks she has had these mental illness for a very long time, but learned to hide it and act normal during her teenage years. Ciara is still taking medication and going to therapy with her counselor regularly. She does not believe her mental illness isn’t caused by anything. She said, “Honestly, I don’t believe that anything “causes” mental illness. I believe that there are naturally going to be things that trigger you, and cause the illness to flare up.” There were a lot of triggers that caused Ciara to become mentally ill. For instance she was told that she wouldn’t be able to have children, and her father became extremely ill by getting multiple episodes were his heart stopped affecting his memory and motor skills.

Ciara was prescribed anti-depressant, that at first caused night terrors. Her Counselor had to adjust her dosage. Gradually she started to function better, because of this Ciara pushed her recovery way too quick. She reduced her medication too quickly and she kept lying to herself that she did not need her anti-depressants, eventually it caught up with her. She told herself this, “Why am I being an idiot? If I had diabetes would I get upset about needing insulin?” After that she started to take her medication again, and will only lower her dosage if her healthcare professional advise it.

Image from: peterrollins.net
Image from: peterrollins.net

This affected Ciara’s life, she felt awful. She would have panic attacks every day and wouldn’t eat. Ciara had terrible insomnia, she didn’t want to get out of bed in the mornings. Ciara failed college, and was extremely lonely, her friends were always away due to work and college. Although she felt lonely, she wouldn’t open up to anyone including her boyfriend. Ciara continually had paranoid thoughts, she said, “I thought people were looking at me. That they were making fun of me. That they thought that they were better than me. I turned into this horrible, bitter person.” Sadly, Ciara has self-harmed and has considered suicide many times. This scared her because she would look at sharp objects as if they were old friends. Long ago Ciara also thought about hurting others, but she never did. She said, “I thought about crashing my bus to college, and how it’d shut up all the girls that are always in front of me. Always laughed. Always sneered. In hindsight I know that this perception I had of these people was incredibly twisted by my paranoia.”

Ciara ended up telling her counselor about her paranoid thoughts and that helped her tremendously. Not only that, but she also spoke to her two closest friends and explained to them about her illness. The turning point for Ciara was her boyfriend of eight years, Vinny. He has supported her throughout her illness even though he doesn’t understand it. He distracts her when she needs it, and if the medication gets her too sleepy, he helps her into bed. She said, “I honestly don’t think I’d still be around without him.” Ciara keeps herself busy by exercising, spending time with friends, and using positive reinforcement (mantras).

This is the lesson Ciara has learned from this ordeal:

“I learned that stigma is a terrible thing. Mental illness is actually incredibly common in Ireland, but it’s treated as if it’s something dirty. Hell, I felt the same when I got sick first. It was one thing to see a counselor, and another to take medication. I think if I could give my younger self any advice, it would be to stop seeing meds as a weakness, and start seeing them as what they really are; medicine.”

This has changed her outlook in life, it’s hard for her to get excited for things in life. Ciara feels cynical, constantly waiting for something bad to happen. This is Ciara’s advice to others struggling with similar situations:

“You are not weak. Needing medication is just that. No-one cares if you need to leave early, or you have to take anything. It’s just a pill. If it keeps you from falling into the abyss, then it’s good for you.”

Mental illness can be a life long struggle, the importance is to learn what triggers it and how to control it. I truly believe Ciara will in time find the relief she is looking for. Help me make a difference by sharing  your story.

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