30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness – Days 8 to 11

Day 8: What age you were diagnosed at? At what age do you think your symptoms began? (You can make a timeline)
I was officially diagnosed with conversion disorder in the spring of 2013, although my symptoms showed up in late 2012, so I was 18 at the time. Despite the fact that my seizures and such didn’t start until I was 18, when my brain had close to fully developed, conversations with my family and sister especially indicate that there were some signs that my brain didn’t always connect emotionally. For example, sometimes when I should have been sad about something, I would get really angry instead, or during something really exciting, I just wouldn’t really get excited (this one drove my sister nuts). I was 19 when I was diagnosed with depression and placed on anti-depressants, although I’m positive my symptoms started when I was around 13 years old, but I never got the help I needed for it until I was 19 and it was almost too late.
Day 9: What are some of the important events in your life, that may have effected your mental illness(es) for the worse or better? (You can make a timeline)
When I was in grade 10, my uncle passed away exactly 3 weeks before my 16th birthday. Him and I were not visibly extremely close, but he held an incredibly special place in my heart, and was like a second father to me. He taught me all about sports, and how to play pool and hockey, and at one point tried to teach me to ride a bike (a skill I have yet to master). His passing was so sudden and unexpected and made me truly realize that life can end at any moment, and it is important to enjoy as much of it as possible. I strive to live my life, and cope with my illness, using a motto his family and I believe embodies his spirit: Live, Love, Laugh. It’s simple, but it’s really all you need to have a good life.
Another important event was moving away from home for university. I forced myself to live my own life, independent from my family, a choice that was supported by very few, but I was lucky to have a family that placed full trust in my abilities to handle every obstacle I was forced to overcome.
The most significant event in my life to this day, in terms of my mental illness, and perhaps in my life in general, was the time I spent in a psychiatric ward of Vancouver General Hospital, when I was admitted for a week for being considered a danger to myself and was placed on suicide watch. It was one of the toughest weeks of my life, and I vowed I would never allow myself to go back there because I would do everything in my power to get better, but I learned more in those few days than I did in my entire life about myself. It was an eye opening and extremely difficult experience, but really helped me understand my illness and how to cope properly with it.
Day 10: What is the best thing in regards to your mental illness(es)?
I’ve become so strong, and am now able to talk about my incredible journey, which has allowed me to connect to so many diverse people and have wonderful opportunities to speak on behalf of those who also struggle with mental illness but cannot use their own voice, and to me that is the greatest reward I could imagine for all my struggles.
Day 11: What is the worst thing in regard to your mental illness(es)?
Feeling alone because there are times where you’re forced to realize that some people will never understand how significant mental illness is, because there is still so much stigma surrounding it, and people are ignorant enough to blame me for my illness, as if it is somehow my fault that this was the hand that I was dealt. It can be a very lonely and sobering experience, but one that is necessary for growth and resilience building.

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