MHAM Post #6: Kaley

Sometimes you meet friends who teach you more than you ever expected. That’s how I feel about Kaley. 

In many respects, Kaley has a way of always keeping things lighthearted, but she also has this depth and sincerity about her that you just can’t help but be drawn to. She’s the kind of person that makes it feel so comfortable to connect with her, no matter the scope of the conversation.

I genuinely believe that Kaley’s words have such weight, and I am so happy she agreed to let me publish her raw and honest thoughts.

Here is her personal experience with mental health: 

My mental illness reared its ugly head when I was 18 years old, the second I got to college. Sure, I had some signs when I was little. Like being overly sensitive to the point where my mom actually had to say to me “try not to cry today”. Or like having a scene from a nightmare stuck in my head for days. Or complaining of stomach aches that didn’t actually exist because I just didn’t feel “right”. But when I think back to those instances now, none of them were really cause for concern. None of them were even close to comparable to what I experienced from the age of 18 onward.

The second I got dropped off at college, I started crying for no reason. I started crying, and I didn’t stop (for probably about 5 months). I talked to my mom daily, and she comforted me saying that this was normal and it would soon pass. As the weeks went on, and then as the months went on, she said that I was welcome to come home if college wasn’t for me. This terrified me even more, because I didn’t WANT to go home. What was for me at home? My life was at college – my old friends, my new friends, my classes, my future.

The depression soon developed into anxiety. I now know that these illnesses often go hand in hand. The anxiety, however, was unbearable. I couldn’t sleep, eat, think. All I could do was exist. The anxiety developed into what I now know is called obsessive thoughts. Some examples of the thoughts I wrestled with every second of every day were that I was going to commit suicide, that I was going to hurt someone I loved, and worst of all, that everyone was going to die someday, so what’s the point? These thoughts were not me. I did not believe these thoughts, I did not want these thoughts, and I really had nothing to do with these thoughts. However, my brain had convinced me I did.

Looking back now, I know that this anxiety and the accompanying obsessive thoughts were ultimately provoked by a major change in my life. The only solution was to get comfortable with the change in order to calm my brain down (easier said than done), and/or to turn to medicine for help. In my case, medicine was my answer. Medicine got rid of every single one of my symptoms and allowed me to be the person I wanted to be.

College was not my only rough time. There have been 3 more periods of misery since then due to other various life changes (ex. breakups with boyfriends). However, each of those times, I got back on my medication to fix my chemical imbalance. Then, without the crippling anxiety and terrible thoughts, I could cope and move on. At this point in my life, I have learned and come to terms with the fact that I might need to be on medicine my whole life, and I am completely okay with that. Life is FULL of changes, and with a little something to cure my chemical imbalance, I truly believe I can handle and embrace all of them.

Something very important to note is that, for each of the periods in which my mental illness took over, there was really nothing wrong in my life. This caused me to feel a lot of confusion and guilt. I had SO many things to be thankful for, so why was I so miserable? Even to this day, I feel guilty for what I’ve been through because I’ve been blessed with so many amazing things in this life, while there are people out there struggling for so many REAL reasons. I have to remind myself, then and now, that I couldn’t help it. No one chooses to feel this way. No one chooses to not be able to control their thoughts and emotions.

My mom always said to me, “this is happening to you so that you can someday help someone else”. I still like to cling to that idea to make a little bit of sense out of why I am the way I am (hence why I agreed to write about my story).

The last thing I want to say is that I could not have gotten where I am today without the support of my amazing friends and family. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I am grateful for them more than they will ever know.

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