Most of my recovery friends, readers, and regular visitors know I enjoy finding many amazing websites about recovery from addiction and mental health. I vowed this year to write and share more openly about my mental health challenges. So when I recently visited one of my resource websites on mental health, my friends of National Alliance on Mental Health ~NAMI …I read a new article I wanted to share.
Because when I got to reading the part of the guests” experiences with panic attacks, anxiety and such, it brought up those old feelings I got when I was in therapy and looking back to then and connecting the dots to my own problems as a child and early teens with symptoms, especially after my abuse and sexual trauma that happened. I was able to see that I had many mental health issues even back then but was never diagnosed until my gambling addiction took hold of me in adulthood.
The gambling I used to ‘escape and numb out’ those old hauntings which brought out the symptoms I was suffering again now. When I attempted my first suicide and placed in a crisis center for several weeks was when I was finally diagnosed. I went years without knowing what “that” was, and why I felt severely depressed on and off and PTSD, mild mania and anxiety. I was a mess!
Thanks to therapy and medications I am manged and have learned to treat my mental health just like any other disease like diabetes or heart disease. And that rings true for maintaining my recovery from addictions.
And why it is important to heal all areas of Emotional, Body, Spirit and our Mental Well-being … Catherine
You Can’t Plan For Mental Illness ~ Courtesy of Allie Quinn | May. 23, 2018
My 5-year plan after finishing high school was simple: graduate from college in four years, then begin graduate school directly following graduation. It was easy for me to imagine a 5-year plan at 18 years old when my toughest challenge at that point had been taming my frizzy hair.
My first two years of college were very successful. I made close friends, was hired by my college as a writing tutor and connected with teachers and administrators in the school district I wanted to eventually work in. I was right on track with my 5-year plan.
During my third year of college, however, the mass shooting occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I felt a very deep connection to the event and in the following months, I noticed that I was on high-alert in public areas. I worried for my safety.
A few months later, I learned about the Boston Marathon bombing when I was in my college’s library. I immediately looked at the entrance to the library and wondered where I would hide if a shooter came through the door. A habit of making “escape plans” in my head became uncontrollable. I created them for any public place, and I avoided walking in open spaces and going out at night. Each night, I dreamt that I was trying to escape from a mass shooting; even in my sleep, I couldn’t shake this overwhelming fear.
Looking back, I can see the warning signs that I needed help. I didn’t tell anyone about the thoughts and feelings I was having because I didn’t want people to think I was “unstable.” Admitting to myself or to others that something was wrong could jeopardize my 5-year plan. I told myself that all college students felt this kind of stress and that I’d feel better when the semester ended.
My junior year ended, but instead of feeling better, I felt significantly worse. I experienced severe panic attacks, paranoia, and anxiety that made it impossible for me to drive, work or stay home alone. After I sought treatment with a therapist and psychiatrist, they recommended I check myself into a psychiatric hospital, so doctors could balance my medication, and I could learn skills to help manage my anxiety. I would be hospitalized five times, spending nearly three months in the hospital. My worst day was when I had to withdraw from my senior year. It felt like years of hard work just slipped away.
I questioned: Why didn’t I seek help sooner?
After my last hospitalization, I immediately re-enrolled in classes. I didn’t give myself the chance to heal because I wanted so badly to get back on track with my 5-year plan. Because I wasn’t working on my mental health, I struggled through two classes, and I wasn’t enjoying school like I did before.
One day, I finally accepted that if I kept putting my education before my mental health, I could risk having another breakdown. I decided to take medical leave from school; I needed to focus on my mental health and regain my strength and confidence. For the next two years, I attended therapy, worked with my psychiatrist, adopted a psychiatric service dog, discovered skills to help me cope and practiced self-care. Eventually, I felt like myself again.
So, I began college again last year. This time, I felt ready. I will be graduating this December with a B.S. in Community and Human Services. The deadline for my 5-year plan has long passed, and my life has not gone as I planned, but I am happy, healthy and have a mission to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Battling mental illness and maintaining mental health is an ongoing part of my life, but the struggles I faced have put me on the path I’m meant to be on.
For example, I recently became a young adult speaker for NAMI Ending the Silence. I travel to high schools to share my journey with mental illness and talk to students about mental health and stigma.
The experience has been life-changing. For years, my goal has been to help people, and through NAMI Ending the Silence and blogging, I am making a difference. I believe that talking openly about mental health issues will end stigma and lead to more effective treatment for mental illness.
Please, if you’re experiencing symptoms or warning signs of a mental illness, seek help as soon as possible. Your mental health is farmore important than your 5-year plan. I’ve learned that college can wait—treating mental illness cannot.
Allie Quinn is a mental health blogger, public speaker, and young adult presenter with NAMI’s Ending the Silence. She works to educate people about the realities of living with a mental illness and raises awareness about the use of psychiatric service dogs. Allie’s mental health blog is Redefine Mental Health.