Mandi, 30, Canada

12373405_10153809733769451_276432887783842656_n“I had always felt like I was different, and didn’t fit in with the rest of the kids. I was bullied about my weight and about my “weirdness” my entire school-aged life. I tried very hard to fit in, but it never worked.

Throughout my life, I struggled with depression, but there were so many other symptoms I was experiencing and had no idea what they were. I thought it was just me…that I was strange. My “friends” often “kicked me out” of the group and bullied me, so I never really felt like I had anyone to be close with (outside of family).

When I was 14 I was diagnosed with depression. It went untreated for many many years. When I was around 25 I had a complete breakdown. The stress of my job, deaths in my family, my health, and relationship stress came crashing down. I was further diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, ADD, social anxiety, binge/restrict eating disorder, and mild agoraphobia.

I felt like my life was ending. How could I possibly defeat all of these issues when I could barely get out of bed in the morning? I was offered therapy and decided to give it a try. It didn’t seem helpful at the time, but I kept going. It made me feel like I was doing something about my issues.

After a year of therapy, some medication trial and error, supportive parents, and surrounding myself both online and in real life with people who understood the struggle of mental health, I decided I needed to make a change. I contacted a local mental health center to find out about programs to assist people in retraining for jobs that were better suited to their disability. Through this program, I was able to go back to school for retraining! It made me feel like I had some worth again…some purpose.

While it has not been easy, and I still have days where I miss school and don’t leave the house; it has given me a goal. I went from someone who was scared to leave the house, couldn’t make a phone call, cried constantly, had constant panic attacks, and could barely eat anything without getting sick, to a person who is graduating with honors in April, got her drivers license, and can go out on her own with no serious panic! It’s a daily struggle, but I am stronger than I ever give myself credit for.

There is ALWAYS hope. There is ALWAYS a way out of the pit that mental illness throws you in. I know I will fight this fight for the rest of my life, and it won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it.

Every step you take is making a difference, no matter how small it may seem. To climb a mountain you have to start at home, packing your gear, before you even get to the mountain itself. Every little step counts and is important. The mountain may take years to climb, but the top will always be there waiting for you.”

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