My name is Yolanda, and for the last 21 years I have battled anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, low self-esteem, toxic self-talk, suicidal thoughts and more. A year ago, my battle with mood disorders and their side effects triggered a panic attack so bad, I was rushed to the hospital.
Prior to my panic attack, I was the person my co-workers came to for motivation, a boost in their mood, life/career advice, positivity. I was always smiling, and if you asked how I was, “I was living the dream”.
I have always been the life of the party, the girl who could make you laugh, make you believe that you could achieve anything and give the best hugs. I always had the right Super Soul Sunday quote on hand if you were struggling with a life problem, the phone number/website to get you out of a jam and my friends teased me about being a walking Rolodex of information and fun facts.
While I was “living the dream” to anyone looking in (great job with a Fortune 500 company, globe-trotting, killer shoe game, yada yada yada), I was imploding internally. I just blamed it on the stress of being a young 30 something year old with a demanding job and hectic social calendar. I wasn’t any different from my peers.
When the “stress” got to be too much, I would run to a meeting room or the bathroom, cry into my hands until I couldn’t cry anymore and then come back with my smile back in place. I was paranoid about how EVERY person perceived me. I was in deep denial about my illness and I was drowning in my depression. I battled insomnia and when I finally woke up from my ‘sleep’, I would wake up sobbing, talk myself out of attempting suicide, plaster a smile on, and strut into work as if I had just won the lottery. I was a high functioning depressive, burying my crumbling psyche under multiple projects, expensive trips and a smile that hid how broken I was.
By the time my panic attack happened, I had lost 45lbs in 3 months, dealt with a kidney infection from starving myself and ran on 3hrs of sleep every few days. I tried to bounce back and act like I was ok, but my mind, body, and soul had had enough. I could no longer concentrate on anything, I would forget entire conversations and tasks seconds after completing them, I would lose minutes to hours of my day. There were times where my body would seize up or go numb, I would space out (disassociate) whilst walking into heavy downtown traffic, or waiting for a train/streetcar and completely miss the train, or barely miss being hit by a car. A month and a half after my major panic attack, I just couldn’t get out of bed, the dam had broken.
That was a year ago. For the past year, I have intensively peeled back the layers of my brokenness, allowed myself to be honestly vulnerable for the first time, and worked with professionals to diagnose, treat and manage my mental health and mood disorder challenges. I am far from being at 100%, but I am getting better and stronger every day. I still see a therapist regularly, I am working with my doctor to regulate my meds, psychiatrists at two hospitals have worked to diagnose me, and I am on the waiting list for a SECOND 6-week intensive treatment program.
I now have issues with being in large crowds, I cannot go to certain places or ride transit during peak times without an escort. My anxiety has me terrified of telephone conversations, voicemails and emails; because my mind has me convinced that every conversation is a confrontation. My low self-esteem has me vacillating between borderline obsessive exercising and binge eating. The list goes on about what is not ok with me. But that is not why I shared a glimpse into my story.
I shared my story today, during #BellLetsTalk because it is important for others to understand that the life of the party, may be fighting the desire to take their life. That mental illness is as crippling as a broken leg. It is important to have these conversations to erase the stigma, the derision, the ignorance and the shame. I did not share my story for pity, I shared my story because I am strong enough to be transparent about what I battle with daily. Some days I am balanced and can make it to the gym as well as the grocery store. Some days I don’t get out of bed till 3 pm and I cried for an hour before I face the world. Heck, the last time I contemplated suicide was last week.
But I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I am still alive to fight for myself. I am surrounded by an amazing family, my friends love me even when I let them down, my doctor and therapist refuse to give up on me and I am still here.
Despite it all, like many other amazingly strong and resilient people battling mental illness and mood disorders, I am still here. So let’s talk