“I am strong because I’ve been weak.”
To start things off, I have always struggled with my mental health. As far back as I can remember, it was always a part of me. From little episodes of panic and sadness, crying myself to sleep for no reason at all, and having moments where I pause and tense up because I have a sudden rush of anxiety and adrenaline, I actually didn’t believe I had a problem. I actually thought I could beat it by myself.
“I actually thought I could beat it by myself.”
When I was about nine years old, I was diagnosed with anxiety. I don’t remember what kind of anxiety, but after seeing a therapist, all I knew was that I had it.
Fast forward about ten years, and I completely denied any help with my anxiety. On top of it, I had recently broken up with my girlfriend, and was experiencing depression that I thought accompanied something like this. Turns out later, try about two years later, and the depression wasn’t going away. I would have moments of panic for no reason, and experience major sadness almost everyday.
At this point, around my twenty-first birthday, I was trying to get into the United States Navy. I completely rejected any help from my friends and family who were telling me that something was wrong, but I was worried that getting any sort of help would affect my chances of getting in. Following my attempt to get in, my eyesight wasn’t actually good enough to get in, so I left. I was completely lost.
I didn’t know what to do. I still felt like I had a chance to get into a military branch somewhere. My dad offered me LASIK surgery as a way to possibly get into the Coast Guard, and the following year, I was a part of the organization. I finally felt like I had a place in this world.
After being stationed in Washington, I felt like everything was how it should be. I was working full time, I had my own place, and I was starting school. Everything was amazing. I was working towards becoming an officer, but then that all changed. I can’t explain it to you guys. All I can tell you is that I was coming off of probably the best week of my life, and for no reason whatsoever, I was all of the sudden incredibly sad.
I couldn’t tell you why or what caused these feelings to come about, but I was terrified. Like legitimately scared for my life. I would cry myself to sleep every night, I would cry at work, I would have panic attacks everyday, and it wasn’t letting up. And then it got worse. I started to think about ending my life.
To have these thoughts, I really couldn’t believe it at first. I had an answer to why I was feeling the way I felt. I was depressed, and this just solidified it. The worst of it was that I was comfortable with it. I had a way to end what I was going through. And this scared me even more.
I would talk to friends at my work as a way of coping and venting my fears and feelings away from myself, hoping to relive the pain. But while it worked for maybe a few hours, the pain always returned. Finally, after talking to a friend that I had grown close with at my work, he suggested that I tell my boss. This scared me because in the military, having a problem like this looked into could ruin your career, at least that’s what I thought. So I didn’t say anything to them, but he did.
I credit my friend with saving my life, and that one gesture started a series of events that have built a completely new version of me. I got help from doctors, have been put on medication, and feel like a completely new person, a more positive person, who sees the good in his own life. My job is still my job, and turns out that the Coast Guard takes care of their own when it comes to mental health illnesses. The biggest thing I have taken away from this is that I wasn’t alone. And neither are any of you.
I am not saying that I have conquered my mental illness. I have been diagnosed with MDD(Major Depression Disorder), and GAD(Generalized Anxiety Disorder), so the battle still goes on. I am not cured, I still get these feelings, but with the help that I’ve received, I was given a fighting chance.
Guys, mental illnesses don’t fight fair. It’s like trying to swim across the ocean and not knowing how to swim. When you try to fight what you’re going through alone, you can’t win. I know this because I tried for ten years. It never ends pretty. But that doesn’t mean that we have to fight fair either. Get the help you need, talk to your friends and family, see a therapist, take medication, meditate, whatever you have to do. Just don’t give up. Please. If there is one thing that I wish for you to take away from this, it’s to never give up. You have a heartbeat, and that’s enough. You’re enough, and you deserve to know it, and take care of yourself because of it.