October 10th was World Mental Health Day. So naturally, I posted a picture of myself from the month of March — the month of my mental breakdown. Just to debrief for those of you who haven’t seen it: I’ve been struggling with anxiety my whole life, was diagnosed with depression at 15, and was diagnosed with PTSD last spring.
I’m not here to “fish for compliments,” but rather to say that there’s no shame in being vulnerable. I’m not ashamed of telling my story because it’s a story of how I kept fighting. I knew going back to school was going to be difficult. I’m always tired, and sometimes I find it hard to keep going. But really, getting the education and experience that I have now is all I’ve ever dreamed of.
Now, I’m going to share with you another story that’s not mine, but a story that did give me hope. This is a story my dad’s oncologist shared with me. This is one of the top oncologists in Massachusetts, if not the nation, and she took time out her busy day with patients and a family of her own to write out this story in an email. It went a little something like this:
“After some prompting, your dad did share with me that you transfered to Roger Williams. I also ask about you and how you are doing at Saint A’s. I could tell he was concerned about something. As his doctor, I encouraged him to open up a little but so he did confide to me that you had gotten sick and were in the hospital. I was sorry to hear that for both of you. Any kind of illness is a difficult thing. Certainly your dad knows that first hand.
I relayed to him a story about one of my other patients and her daughter. I have known both of them for 20 years. The daughter was just a toddler when her mother got cancer. Mom is doing great. The daughter grew up to be a lovely young woman. She went to Wellesley College where she excelled. After graduation she got a great job in Boston and an apartment with her friends. Then everything fell apart for her. I can still remember the email I received from her mom, so worried about what was happening. We got her daughter in to a good medical-mental health care. With some time and and medication adjustment she got better. She just graduated from BU with a Master’s Degree and has a wonderful boyfriend.”
She told my dad this because when you are in the midst of something like this, it’s scary for everyone. Sometimes it feels eternal and hopeless as if it will never get better. But her job is to preach over and over to her patients to take things one day at a time. At times, it may seem like hard work, but you have to keep at it. The same thing is true for my Creative Writing studies, editing for the paper, and so much more. My dad’s doctor reminded me that I, too, have supportive parents as I’m making my way down recovery road.
Someday when I have a publishing career or writing/editing for Vanity Fair, I hope I can take the time to write to someone, or, even better, help someone when I can.
I guess I didn’t preach this when I talked about my hospital stay, but mental illness isn’t one of those things you can’t power through on your own.
Moral of the story: never be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and there’s always time to help someone else out.
Did you know my goal going into college was to become a doctor? Yeah, things change, and that’s a fact. But I still want to impact people with my writing (but that’s another blog post). ☺