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27 October 2014

Mental Illness, Part 2: The Red Flags I Ignored

As I mentioned before,I didn't want to admit that I might have depression. So when the symptoms began showing up, at least as early as my teen years, I ignored them.  I pretended they were normal.  I don't know, maybe some of them depression is largely tied to my hormones, so a lot of those same symptoms were probably typical of the hormone fluctuation in teenagers--I just didn't outgrow them when I should have.

I had low self-esteem...I thought it was because there wasn't much to like about myself.  And I know that is a problem for a lot of teenage girls.

I had horrible mood swings.  My parents could tell you that my teenage temper could take a scary turn.

Many times I would prefer to sleep, daydream, read a book or watch TV than to interact with real people in the real world.  Some of that is just natural introversion, but a lot of it was escapism.  I didn't like myself, I didn't feel confident, I couldn't control the real world.

Maybe those things don't seem like a huge deal alone, but they took control of my life far too often.  However, there were some HUGE red flags that I ignored.  There were a few instances when I should have sought immediate professional help (probably should have been hospitalized), and I hid it for fear of being judged.

One that comes to mind in particular was the first time I dropped out of college (yes, you read that right...sad that I have to say that...).  I was having some major health issues, and fighting with my roommate a lot.  I stopped sleeping, largely due to the health, but the depression probably played a part.  I spent most of my nights in the bathroom I shared with 11 other girls, partially to avoid waking my roommate and starting another argument. I started missing or being late to classes because I waited until my roommate was up to try to sleep.  Or I would have to leave in the middle of class due to my health problems flaring up.  Eventually it became clear that I wasn't going to get the good grades that I was accustomed to, or the medical testing that I needed, unless I dropped out of school and came back after I got a diagnosis.  We did the necessary paperwork, and home I went.  Where I spent 2 weeks locked in my bedroom, eating only when my parents brought me food, leaving only to use the bathroom.  Refusing to see my friends.  Contemplating suicide.  Yes, you read that right.  I was contemplating suicide, yet I continued to deny that I might have a problem with depression.

I was eventually coaxed out of my room to go on a trip to the local apple orchard with a good friend.  That was the beginning of some healing for me.  But I never admitted the darkness with which I had wrestled, and I never got the help that I needed.  It would take several years, a tragedy, and dropping out of college AGAIN before I was forced to look at my depression honestly.

Please, please, PLEASE, if you have any thoughts of hurting yourself or others, seek help immediately!  Don't wait until it is almost too late, like I did.

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