Trigger Warning: Depression, Anxiety, Mental Health Issues, Self Harm and Thoughts of Suicide.
My Journey with Mental Health Issues is a 4 part series I am starting on my blog and Youtube channel as a means to share my story and provide resources to those who may be seeking help. Everybody’s journey is unique and I hope by reading or hearing my story, you will be strong enough to share yours in a way that will empower others as well.
My mental health journey is a complicated and is one that started over a decade ago when I was a preteen. I was bullied during some points of my life due to my weight fluctuations and a normal awkward-looking phase. The bullying got so bad especially in the sixth grade when the same couple of kids would make fun of me in the halls and once tried to break into my locker so badly that it jammed my lock. I remember feeling down and isolated but never thought much of it beyond that.
For the next couple of years up until I started high school, I seemed relatively okay but something was truly off in my heart. I did not enjoy doing many things, I was fatigued all the time and for being a 13 year old who was already at the height that she would be until this day, it definitely was not a growth spurt kind of fatigue. 2009 is what changed it all for me. I was finishing up middle school when my grandmother’s health started deteriorating. I saw her slowly become immobile which lead to her being hospitalized. It pained me to see my grandmother in such pain and not being able to help her. At the time, my mother and I had lived with her for 5 years so she was very much a second mother to me. Sadly in August 2009, 1 week before I was slated to start high school we got a call from the nursing home saying she was unresponsive during the morning check and they rushed her to the hospital. I got there with my neighbour and uncle and roughly an hour later, I witnessed my grandmother die in front of my eyes. Little did I know that very moment would trigger something indescribable for me.
I was in denial for the first week or so after her death. Denial is the first stage of grief. I had lost my second mother and as her only grandchild you can imagine how close we were. You would think after I went through the denial stages I would go through anger then bargaining but in fact i jumped straight into a depression, one that lasted just over a year. I started isolating myself more than ever before. I would force my mother to drive me to school every day and I would each lunches (if I even ate) all by myself in a quiet hallway. In class, I tried to act normal so people didn’t ask me questions but the moment I could break free from that façade I had created, I took that chance. There was literally not a day for over a year where I did not bawl my eyes out. I felt like I was worthless. Honestly, I don’t think I was always grieving but the grieving triggered some unmanaged feelings in my heart.
Fast forward a couple of months, I finally got help. Luckily my mother had her fair share of struggles and saw the signs and facilitated a session with a psychotherapist and an appointment with a psychiatrist. From my answers on the intake form from the psychotherapist, she could immediately tell I was severely depressed (the psychiatrist would later confirm that and add anxiety to that diagnosis).
My mother never shyed away from explaining what mental illnesses were and she was as open as she could be to me at my age at the time about her struggles. I understood to an extent what was going on but I didn’t know how to help myself. I was still feeling like all my unresolved feelings from my parent’s divorce 5 years prior and the bullying I endured in my preteen years were coming out.
I am thankful that therapy helped me. I did not resort to medication until Fall 2015 (I will get into my journey through that moment in my life in another post) but the therapy got me to where I needed to be at the time. While I was still crying every day through the summer of 2010, I still managed to get through my days and crack a smile once in a while. That summer, I decided to go to Egypt for 8 weeks and while I had my moments there, I was grateful I got to fill the void of losing my grandmother by seeing my other grandmother (and my only grandparent left) on a daily basis for 2 months.
What that time in my life also did for me was bring me closer to my faith. I was always a believer and a proud Muslim but I was not praying my obligatory prayers on time or all the time. That summer, I committed myself to doing so and making sure I worked on such a fundamental part of me that would heal my heart far more quickly than anything else would.
2011-2013 were better years but my depression and anxiety would be triggered by my constant being physically sick and the expectations that were to be held by getting into good programs at university. I am a firm believer that physical and mental health are directly connected and that stress manifests itself into so many ailments. I was seeing a therapist regularly through these years and regularly if not on a daily basis talking out my feeling to the very few loved ones who understood and could sympathize with me.
In Part 2 of my story, I will talk more about my journey in my early years in university and how yet another death in my close family sparked another change in me.
LinkMentalHealth is a great place to find the professional help you need. It helps you find help based on needs, location and budget.
Naseeha is a Youth helpline that provides an anonymous, confidential, non-judgmental and toll-free peer support helpline to listen to and be there for youth experiencing personal challenges.
Kati Morton Youtube is an incredibly useful Youtube channel that I discovered with my husband when I was recovering from my mental health crisis in 2017. She provides curated tips on specific topics from a professional and curated lens.