My Depression and Anxiety Are Not Who I Am: Sarah’s Story

Author: Sarah M.

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 1.20.41 PMI am not my anxiety. I am not my panic disorder. I am not my depression, and I am not my suicidal ideations. I am not my irrational thoughts about not wanting to leave my house. I am not my thoughts about wanting to crash my car, and I am not dramatic.

I am Sarah McCambridge. A strong and positive person whose struggle with mental illness does not define who I am. I am the words I chose to define myself. And that was the most important lesson I learned. 

My depression and anxiety overran my life. They affected my friendships, relations with my family and how I saw myself. I let them define me, and instead of using positive words to describe myself, I used words like crazy or insane, dramatic or not good enough. I had a good family, a house and food. I had amazing friends and a good life. I didn’t understand why I was feeling how I felt: hopeless and alone. 

The day I came home from a five-day stay in a hospital for the suicidal ideation of a plan to crash my car, there was a plaque in my room that said, she believed she could so she did. From that moment on, I was going to change my outlook on how I saw life, myself and others. My favorite word then became “believe”, and I would do anything to believe that I would get better.

My anxiety started as far back as I can remember: not wanting to stay home alone or not wanting my parents to get into a car without me. But, the panic attacks were new. Junior year of high school, I had panic attack after panic attack at school. Irrational thoughts overran the positive ones I grew up with. Thoughts of someone coming to hurt my family or me overtook my everyday life. Soon, I had to quit lacrosse because of the amount of panic attacks I had during practice. I couldn’t go to Europe with the school. Even my job at theatre was changed because of the not-knowing of when a panic attack would happen. I was told that I would have anxiety for the rest of my life. It was too much to handle, and that’s when I had my suicidal plan. 

Luckily, I spoke up. I told my therapist about my plan, and I was rushed to the ER. After an overnight stay, I was put into a psychiatric hospital in March of 2016. I stayed there over Easter and was treated for depression and suicidal ideations. Although I wasn’t too happy with my experience there or at the outpatient program after, I learned a lot about myself and my family. I was one of the lucky ones. There were kids as young as 7 there and kids who were there for weeks or months and whose families barely came. My parents made the hour drive everyday to come see me. And, that is when I knew I was going to give it my all to get better.

This is just a small look into what I went through because I don’t want to make this so much about my journey but more about what I learned and how I got better. A year later, I haven’t had any depressing moods, and cutting out gluten from my diet with a mix of medicine has almost erased my anxiety. I’ve been in therapy for almost two years, and that has helped so much. Just talking to someone with an outside perspective has helped not only myself, but also my relationships with other people.

I believed I could get better, and I did. I will always have depression and anxiety but that doesn’t mean they are out of my control. I have tools and people to help me when I get run down. I have the right knowledge, and now I can help not only myself, but also other people. Wanting to become a teacher, I can now sympathize with kids that are struggling with mental illness as well. I recently even sent cards to a psychiatric hospital in San Francisco for people that have mental illness who feel alone. I did the Out of Darkness suicide prevention walk last fall and plan on doing it again this October. Most importantly, I am not embarrassed of what I went through. There were times where I felt like I let everyone down for feeling this way and that I was a bother, that I should have kept to myself, that it was embarrassing to feel the way I felt. But, there were also times were I knew I was a strong person and that I was not letting this stop me from getting what I wanted out of life. And, that took a long time to realize. 

No one is alone. There is someone out their struggling just like you. Speaking up is the most important thing you can do. It isn’t embarrassing, and you are not bothering anyone by saying how you feel. That is something that took me a while to learn, but I am so glad I did. There are going to be ups and downs through life, but a bad day doesn’t make a bad life. Always believe something wonderful will happen and take everything one day at a time. You are not your mental illness. You are you. And that is what matters the most. 

-Sarah M.



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