This is the 45th story of the Mental Illness Recovery Series. Sarah has been most her life dealing with difficult symptoms, but thankfully she received help. This is her story:
Sarah is from Michigan, USA and loves to draw, paint, and write poetry and she is very career driven. Sarah’s said, “I would love to work at a design studio and be a full time graphic designer. A personal goal of mine would be to have one of my drawings or paintings hung in a gallery.” She was diagnosed by a psychologist in 2012 with bipolar type II, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. Sarah still has bipolar disorder and will continue to have it for the rest of her life. She has been able to manage her panic disorder with proper medication. Even though she was diagnosed with agoraphobia, she doesn’t believe she truly had it. Sarah said, “I think with the combination of my severe depression episodes and panic attacks, they kept me from leaving my house and socializing.” Sarah believes her mental disorders stem from genetics, because her birth mother was a bipolar schizophrenic. Sarah has different therapists, but has not been able to see them because she does not have the proper resources. Sarah also does take medication for her bipolar and panic disorder.
Sarah showed symptoms way before she was diagnosed, according to her older brother. She said, “When I was younger I would lock myself away in my room. I didn’t think much of it because I figured that’s what most young teens do. When high school started I got ‘sick’ on the bus every morning. Sometimes I would even end up throwing up as soon as I got to school. I thought I was just sick and it wasn’t until years later that I found out they were panic attacks.” Sarah ended up skipping class and by junior year she barely went to school. She would sleep for 15 hours straight at times and didn’t know she was depressed because it was never talked about in health class or with her family. She said, “I became more educated by doing my own research. That’s when I started to make sense of it and realized that I had a problem. I was embarrassed so I didn’t talk to anyone about it. When mental illness was talked about among my family, they thought these people were faking it or it was an excuse to act out or these people were plain just crazy.”
This affected her daily life. Her depressive episodes were basic, but her manic episodes made her irritable, angry, and she did not want anything to do with anyone. Sarah would come off as rude even though she didn’t mean to be. Her family doesn’t quite understand so it causes some tension at times. This made her miss out on some important events. She said, “I remember one time my family and I went out to Big Boy’s for dinner and I threw up right before we walked in the door from the anxiety. I sat in the bathroom the whole time my family was sitting there eating. I missed my niece’s birthday party, trips up north with my grandparents, so many things and I don’t think anyone really understands the toll it takes on your mind and self-worth.”
At the age of 20 Sarah would scratch and pick her skin, it gradually progressed as this made her feel relief from bottled up guilt, anger and frustration. She unscrewed the razor from a pencil sharpener and used that. Sarah ended up considering suicide and tried to OD on pills. One time she cut deep in her hip to the point she saw fat, but a knock on the door from her mother made her stop. Thankfully she has been over a year self-harm clean, but she still thinks of it during her depressive episodes. Sarah also stopped eating, to the point where she only weighed 104 pounds. When her family noticed, Sarah ate in front of them to cover up, but her mother told her, “You’re wasting way”. That comment was a big wakeup call for Sarah. She is now at a healthy weight, but still feels guilty at times for eating.
This affected her relationship with others, her family thought she was just lazy and that the medication would fix her. This made Sarah feel angry. She said, “I remember once when I was doing the dishes and I was listening to music but I could still hear my grandmother and mother talking about me and my ‘disorders’. My mom was standing up for me but my grandmother said that I wasn’t even trying to be happy. That’s when I lost it. I screamed that I try every day and just ran to my room and slammed the door.” Her family understands her better now, but it is difficult to deal with the stigma. Sadly, Sarah’s mother died June of 2013, this made her feel lost, but she has pushed herself to get better because she knows her mother would want her to be happy. On March of 2014 Sarah stopped self-harming and went to Chicago to stay with her brother for two months. Sarah said, “That helped me more than any amount of therapy ever did. Having a change in environment and being around positive people just turned on a switch and I was actually happy.”
The strategies she used to control her mental disorders were listening to music. Sarah said, “I constantly had headphones in my ears. Listening mainly to Demi Lovato since we went through the same struggles and I relate to her music the most.” She focused on schoolwork, painting, drawing, reading and writing. Sarah used art to express herself and release any emotional buildup. She also found the right combination of medicines. Sarah’s friends, Carlie and her mom, Jake, Kristina and Kaitlin helped her by lending an ear.
This experience has changed Sarah, she said, “I am thankful for everything I’ve been through because I think it’s made me stronger and more understanding. I put on a fake smile constantly and it made me realize that not every smile or laugh is genuine and you never know what that person is going through. So I make sure to smile and give compliments to strangers. It could brighten up their day.”
This is her advice for others struggling with similar situations:
“Reach out. Your doctor, your parents, a friend, anyone. Talking helps and it could save your life. I know when it’s bad, really at its worse, the last thing you want to do is talk. But I promise you, it’s worth it.”
– Sarah G
Sarah is an amazing young woman, with a positive life ahead of her. I am sure that with the help of friends she will be able to accomplish anything. Help me make a difference by sharing your story.
Edited by: Carl Hilaire