Since losing my sister, and experiencing mental illness myself, I feel the most important thing I can do is open up. I am not my depression or anxiety; I am still Callie.
I view life as a series of experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today. Why did I choose to become an engineer? Why am I so passionate about mental illness? How did I become so lucky to have so many great people in my life? It all comes down to a series of choices. Some that are made for us, and some we are able to make for ourselves.
One of my experiences that has had a significant impact on my life, is losing my older sister to suicide when I was only 13. I still to this day, almost 12 years later, cannot exactly understand what my sister experienced or why she made the choice that she did. Depression is an evil disease, that completely takes control of your mind and body. The will to live exists in each and every individual. There are people who as they take their last breath, are still fighting to hang on. Imagine that will to live disappearing and instead hoping for that last breath. It is difficult to comprehend.
At the age of 19, the same age my sister was when she took her life, I began to experience my own little hell. I say hell, because the Callie I knew once before, was no longer there. Anxiety and depression robbed me of my happiness, concentration, a silent mind, and my will to get out and experience life. I spent my time crying, having panic attacks, wondering if people were talking about me, overthinking every little thing, being irritable towards others, sleeping, and asking myself over and over again what was wrong with me?
Finally, after almost a year of feeling this way, I decided it was time to seek medical attention. I required help in a form other than counselling and exercise. After describing the way I was feeling to the doctor, I was prescribed antidepressants. I asked the doctor to refer me to a psychiatrist as well so I could be monitored under a specialist.
What is my number one piece of advice for people taking medication for mental illness? Research the drug and understand the side effects. No, you are not going crazy! Your anxiety may increase for a few weeks, you might yawn excessively, have headaches or feel nauseous. These drugs can take up to 6 weeks to work. Be patient, and know that things will level out. Most importantly, you are not alone! Maybe not everyone opens up about it, but there are others out there fighting the same fight as you. Since losing my sister, and experiencing mental illness myself, I feel the most important thing I can do is open up. I am not my depression or anxiety; I am still Callie. Has mental illness affected my life and who I am? Yes, of course, but I am stronger and a better person because of it. In memory of Brianne, …life is worth living*