This is the 64th story of the Mental Illness Recovery Series. Karis has felt nothing but emptiness and sadness for a long time. With courage she took on her mental disorder. This is her story:
Karis is from Texas and she enjoys songwriting and testing new recipes while she gorges herself on television shows. She loves reading books that won’t release their grip on her long after finishing them. Karis is fond of listening music for hours on end, for a million different reasons, all at the same time. She has different goals, Karis said, “My dream is to evolve. In five years, I will smile and mean it. Hopefully I will be on writing staff for television shows that I love and creating stories that will long outlast me.” She sees herself doing what she loves and loving herself in the process. Karis also said, “My only goal is to live in the happiness that I create for myself because I finally believe that I deserve it.”
In 2012, she was diagnosed and currently still suffers with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), she hopes to one day be healthy and symptom free. Karis believes there were a combination of life events that contributed to her diagnosis. She said, “I was the first in my family to go to college. I moved from where I grew up in Houston, Texas to unfamiliar terrain in Providence, Rhode Island to attend Johnson & Wales University, alone. The environment was drastically different than what I was accustomed to and winters were harsh, long and grueling.” During her sophomore year what she thought was homesickness persisted throughout the school year and affected her entire college experience. She said, “I began a terrifying descent into the darkness that mirrored New England’s winter weather, squirreling myself away in my room to avoid another day with no sunlight. The days turned into two years. My levels of serotonin decreased with the absence of the sun and melatonin increased.”
Her mental illness was diagnosed by the university’s residential on campus counselor. Karis began with Person Centered Talk (PCT) Therapy with a licensed therapist in spring of 2012. After many sessions she discovered the right treatment path, a holistic therapy plan of supplemental vitamins that includes Fish Oil, B-12, Vitamin D, and eating more fruits and dark leafy green vegetables along with a healthy sleep schedule that would help regulate her circadian cycle. Karis said, “This treatment coupled with talk therapy worked well until I graduated in summer 2015. I now use light therapy and vitamins along with sleeping regularly to help abate my SAD symptoms. Treatment is working beautifully and I am able to function with more ease.”
Karis had to deal with debilitating symptoms, she said, “I felt lethargic and lifeless most of the day, for days on end. I craved fattening foods like carbs and sugar. There was loneliness, both of my own making and at not being able to feel the sun on my skin.” She would sleep for more than ten hours a night and still wake, tired and fatigued. Karis didn’t enjoy television, food, music like she once did.
SAD affected her daily life in ways she never knew could happen. She would wake up hours before anyone in her dorm to use the showers alone in the morning. As a Culinary student, Karis had ready access to all the foods she craved. She said, “I would pile plates high with pizza, toast, rolls, and cereals at lunch and snack on cookies, candies and cakes all day long. My weight ballooned, my skin rebelled and I didn’t feel like myself, only the shell of a person.” Karis decided to sleep during her free time instead of studying, so her grades suffered. She had no motivation to attend class and sometimes it was a physical struggle to roll out of bed and get dressed. She said, “I started this damaging cycle of internal messaging with myself that nothing mattered. Not my grades, not my friends, not my family and not even my dreams. It was the most destructive thing that I have ever done to myself and the worst part was that it went unnoticed by so many in my life.”
In 2013 Karis had suicidal ideations that she was not strong enough to live and attempted to take her own life by taking a paring knife and sliced her wrists. It was the rush of intense pain accompanied by the rivulets of blood streaming down her arms that made her realize she did not want to kill myself. Karis said, “I wanted to no longer be smothered by the blanket of darkness that covered me. So I cleaned the bathroom until there were no traces of me anywhere, I applied triple antibiotic to my wounds and bandaged them completely.”
Karis had a difficult time with relationships. Her friends and family tried to keep Karis engaged and part of their lives, but often she cancelled. Other times she did not cancel and watched the phone ring. She said, “There were people around me who loved me when I couldn’t seem to love anything in life. I kept myself at arm’s length participating just enough to avoid questions about how I was doing. I was scared to answer truthfully so I stopped answering at all. Eventually some of these people grew tired of trying, of reaching out and they stopped.”
Karis felt nothing, she said, “The shortness of the days, lack of light, the weight of a busy schedule and a tired body, the heaviness of a cluttered mind. I was trapped. And I was sad. Sad because I wanted the sun to bring my smile back when it returned and because I knew I had to endure the wait. I was angry that I wasn’t letting myself be happy and I didn’t know why.”
The turning point was when she took an elective introductory psychology course her junior year of college and was fascinated by the exploration of human experience. Karis said, I was finally given answers to questions about myself that I had been struggling to find for years. I began to make sense of myself through analysis of psychological research and theories. I devoured every bit of information I was fed and I wanted more. I was excited about life, my life again.” By semester’s end, she changed to counseling psychology major in hopes to one day help another discover their true self.
Karis hasn’t beat SAD yet, but has taken the first steps to overcome it. She opened up about her illness, diets, exercise, interacts socially and uses light therapy. Karis said, “There were people who loved me and stayed, there were some who loved me and left but each one of these people were in my life because they chose to be. For a time, they chose to help me through a difficult period, whether they were aware that they helped or not.” The lesson she learned is that having SAD doesn’t mean she will always be sad and it’s merely a percentage of who she is.
This is how her experience change your outlook in life:
“There is something to be said about living under the cover of darkness. Darkness has the power to distort the senses, mute sounds and stifle sensations. Darkness can be a feeling, a physical weight on the shoulders. It can hide in the bones and surviving it will make you lighter.I survived and after years of no light, I became the light. Life has opened up to me with each rising of the sun and each breath that I inhale because there was a time that I wanted to take my last. I have looked through clouded lenses for long enough and with help I was able to determine that even on days where there are no clear skies, I can still smile and meant it.”
This is Karis’ advice for other struggling:
“Anyone who is currently suffering from a mental illness deserves a listening ear. If you feel that you might be suffering from any condition at all, talk to someone. It could be a friend, a parent, a teacher, stranger in the checkout line. Voice your concerns. Chances are you are not alone. You deserve to feel better than you feel at your worst. Let someone help you let the light in.”
She would also like to share this:
“This is my life living with SAD and many others live with this diagnoses as well. You, reading this, has helped remove a percentage of the stigma attached to the conversation of mental illness. You’ve made me less of a number and more of a person.
Thank you. I wish you love and light.”
I am glad Karis has found the light in herself. She deserves true happiness. Help me make a difference by sharing your story. If you or anyone you know needs a safe place to vent out and recieve advice feel free to become a member of the Mental Illness Recovery Series Group on facebook.