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my story of survival

by Julie Barber 12 days ago in humanity

of mental health issues

a drawing of how I feel at my lowest times

Well, this is the first story that I'm writing on here. I guess I should probably introduce myself, my name is Julie and ever since I was 12, I have struggled and battled with depression and anxiety. While, I have battled for a long time, for reference I'm 20 now- there have been many coping strategies and general things about how these disorders/illnesses interact with each other. Specifically how they are within myself, my behavior, my mood, and my general perspective of life.

To begin, in middle school I was bullied many times throughout my time there. It mostly started in 7th grade, so I was about 10 or 11 at the time. Obviously I will not share the names of the people that contributed to my hardships during that time due to privacy reasons, however I will share some of the common things that were said during that time period. There were a couple of people who bullied me back then. All for different reasons, actually. For perspective, I have always been one of the oldest people in my grade, which brings a whole new addition to the issues back then... puberty! While puberty is a common thing that everyone has to go through, it hit me especially hard back then. Between the majorly sensitive skin, acne, and all of the normal physical changes that happen during that time with horomones, chemicals, etc. I had incredibly low confidence during this time, as well as most of high school, until I reached college actually. Same with my skin improving.

*warning triggering content*

In 7th grade, I was in my middle school's choir. To be completely transparent, I only joined to spend time with my friends that enjoyed singing and we had the oppporitunity to go on a chorus trip in 8th grade to Disney in Florida. (I always confuse which Disney is where, even to this day lol) Anyways, there was a girl in our choir class that constantly had issues with me. She always talked horribly behind my back and said that my voice was horrible, since we were similar heights we were always near each other in concerts and throughout the class in general. Not to mention, she always wanted to be friends with one of my good friends, and in order to do so she consantly tried getting us to fight with each other and caused countless amounts of drama between my friends and I. Since many of the times back then were not the greatest, I do not remember much and all of this comes from general memories and friends telling me what happened. Then there was this guy back then that I began liking/had a crush on him and we were friends and then we stopped since my guy friend stopped being friends with him. Now I am not entirely sure what prompted him to be a complete jerk to me, but he basically said that I was hideous. I believe both of them said that I did not deserve to live, knowing I was not in the best mental state- I should mention. Though the guy did end up apologizing as well, years later. Random side story, but my confidence was so horrible back then that two guys both had feelings for me, the guy I mentioned previously as well as a different guy. They were discussing who would get to date me, and I moved on to the other cause I did not think the original would like me... turns out they BOTH did! No I did not date either of them unfortunately, sort of glad I didn't though.

Hearing these things during a time where I already felt horrible, it started a lot of issues. A lot of self doubt, lack of confidence, motivation, feelings of worthlessness, crying, among many other strong emotional reactions. Well in terms of the anxiety, it first was triggered on our choir trip to Disney. The circumstances tha we were put under during traveling down to Florida in January from the Midwest, was most definitely not ideal. Our flight that we were all on was cancelled because of the weather, so we each had to travel separately, when I was getting excited to travel with my friends down to paradise. They ended up putting us on different flights with parent volunteers and our choir director, from arrival times between 3am to noon or 1 o'clock the next day. This was the first time I was traveling without my parents and could not have a checked baggage, so I ended up having to put my expensive skin care products in my choir director's bag. I was freaking out about it, now I know it was an anxiety attack looking back on it- a guy ended up saying: "Just get over it." Which, you most certainly do not want to say to someone that is having an anxiety attack. Though I did reach out to him years later, I think we reconnected on a dating app actually, he apologized so no issues there. Since I obviously could not just throw the skin care products out, they were recommended by my dermatologist who I am beyond grateful to have, still do to this day actually. I also did not want to stay in a room by myself so I stayed in a room with my other friend that was on my flight. Then the following day I ended up moving all of my clothes and suitcase to the other room. After this whole ordeal, as soon as my friends arrived- all was good on the trip. These were both the pivoting moments in my mental health journey, if you can call it that.

Years passed from both of these instances, and I was struggling in silence for the longest time. Keeping all of my emotions to myself, trying to get work done and be an achieving student and motivated, which is beyond challenging if you are struggling with depression. Every little thing gave me anxiety as well, and normally nerve-wracking experiences that people faced, were even more anxiety producing for me. It was not until my sophomore year of high school where I finally told my parents, and found a therapist. She gave me many coping mechanisms, and positive outlets to experience my feelings in a healthy way. When I began struggling with these issues, I promised my self I would not harm myself, and to this day despite everything I have gone through, I have stuck to that promise. Sure I have skipped meals and not eaten as much at times, whenever I thought I did not deserve it or I felt extremely anxious during that moment, and eating made me feel nauseous if I was overthinking or spiraling. Delaying telling my parents was challenging, because I did not want them to worry or myself to feel as though I was burdening them with my issues, same with my friends, teachers, horseback riding instructor, etc. It is a unique feeling with both of these mental health issues.

After a couple of years of therapy, I realized that what we were doing only put a band-aid on the problem, and did not allow me to function to my fullest potential. After talking to her, we both realized I needed medications in order to keep the chemical imbalance in check. Then, I hit the lowest point I had ever had in my entire life, which is most certainly saying something considering how long I have been battling in silence. The main trigger for that was my classmate that also struggled with the same things ended his own life, and I began spiraling and crying constantly after. Grieving while you are already depressed and anxious, is a whole another feeling, that I hope no one has to experience. It is basically wishing you were not alive anymore and wishing you were with the person who passed away... I know very dark. After talking to my primary care physician and explaining my symptoms, she put me on two different anti-depressants. Started with one, and after being tired and not as motivated on that one- she put me on another. Ever since that life changing decision, I have been the happiest I have ever been in my life. While of course I have both my good days and my bad, finally I can function and not be anxious, overwhelmed, and crying all of the time.

Now, I am in college, studying psychology wanting to help others who are also struggling with their mental health in anyway that I can. Giving people hope, encouragement, a reason to stay, a smile, anything to make them feel better even if it is just for a moment. These struggles have defined who I am and encouraged my passion for mental health awareness even more than it was before. To anyone that is struggling right now, thank you for being here, your feelings, experiences, emotions, attitudes, struggles, are all valid, there is no doubt about that. Your life means everything to those that care for you, and love you. Keep fighting, be a survivor, inspire others with your stories, share them if you would like, save others with them. I believe in you. Help is out there. There are so many resources and healthy coping mechanisms that you can use, while it is challenging it will be tremendously worth it whenever you find the process and support that works for you. Surround yourself with a healthy group of people that will support you, no matter how many. You are loved and appreciated. To anyone that read this entire thing, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will do a more uplifting story soon about my passions and what I would like to do with them and how I have gotten through my hardest times.

Much love.


Julie Barber

Read next: Forward: Perfect

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