I’ve learned to like myself again
Ana is a young, athletic woman who smiles and laughs easily. She also is someone who has felt the heavy weight of depression—lacking the desire to get out of bed for days on end and experiencing uncontrollable and unanticipated bouts of crying and sadness.
It started when she was a junior in high school.
I would go through these spurts where it would just hit me, and I would be at an all-time low for a month or two and then I would come back up and be fine.
As Ana’s depression intensified during her first year of college, her friends pressed her to seek professional psychiatric help. She eventually, but unenthusiastically, went to see a mental health counselor on campus, but instead of feeling relieved or hopeful afterward, she felt “so weak and so pathetic.”
As I was walking out, I saw someone that I knew—and I just felt so embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was there.
A few weeks later, Ana attempted suicide. Fortunately, her friends walked in on her and immediately called for help. From that point on, Ana—diagnosed with major depressive disorder, social anxiety, and an eating disorder—has been a willing participant in treatment. She decided that she no longer was going to let stigma make her feel embarrassed about seeking help.
You don’t have to go through it alone. You don’t have to be afraid to reach out for help.
As Ana’s mental health improved, she started to exercise regularly again. With encouragement from her father, she decided not only to run the Boston Marathon on April 17, 2017, but she also decided to add greater meaning to her goal by running for a cause—Deconstructing Stigma.
The stigma around mental illness is so prominent that people just associate it with weakness. That’s what’s motivating me to talk about it, because it’s not only about helping the people who are living with mental illness, it’s also about teaching others how to help those who are suffering.
Ana has continued to thrive since completing the marathon and returned to her undergraduate studies—at a new school—in August 2017.
I’ve learned to like myself again. I’m starting to go back to the person I used to be.