If I could tell myself anything when it all started, it would be the following: ‘Reach out to your parents and tell them what’s going on with you emotionally. Lean on your family for help. They will be very understanding and supportive; they only want what’s best for you. Stay away from drugs and alcohol, seriously! It’s only going to make your mental health worse. Your life will be full of ups and downs. It’s not going to be easy, but you can and will get through it with the support of others. Never give up, hold on and fight, you can do it.’
The first time I got help was because of a complete breakdown during my freshman year of high school. The biggest thing I learned from that experience was that no one can help you if you don’t talk about what’s going on with you. I wish I could go back to the beginning and tell myself that it’s okay to talk to others about my emotions. Holding in your emotions and trying to cover up your feelings only makes things worse. It doesn’t matter much who you talk to – a family member, a therapist, or an understanding friend. All that really matters is that you talk to someone who is supportive.
The first changes that I noticed happened when I was in 7th or 8th grade. Not only had I switched to a new group of friends, but a major life event occurred: my father was diagnosed with cancer. I did not take it very well. I started using and abusing drugs, and it quickly got out of control. I didn’t think that any of my mental health issues were related to my drug abuse. In the beginning, I thought that everything I was going through was happening because I couldn’t handle the idea of losing my father.
I barely made it through my first semester of my freshmen year of high school. I couldn’t handle my emotions and I made a suicidal gesture that landed me in an adolescent psychiatric unit. That’s when I started seeing a psychiatrist for the first time.
When I think back to my middle school and high school years, most of my memories are of me feeling like I did not fit in. I constantly felt like an outsider; I felt alone. I was only alone, however, because I shut down emotionally and stopped reaching out to others. I now know that I am far from being alone and help will always be there for me when I reach out for it.
I learned to pay attention to emotional and environmental changes. As a teenager, changes in friendships and interests can be normal. However, too many changes at one time, or a lack of interest in people or things can be a sign that something is wrong. Drug and alcohol abuse can also be a sign that something is wrong. Substance abuse can make treatment extremely difficult because it works against the medication and psychiatric treatment.
The more I talked to others, the more I realized I was not alone. This was very comforting and helpful to my recovery. It’s important to reach out to others for help. Now, my closest friends are all people who I met in mental health support groups. These relationships are extremely important because these individuals know and understand what I’m going through. No one has to go through this alone.