Trigger Warning: This story contains details of self-harm and depression that may be triggering to some.
“This is not a sad story. It is the story of someone who conquered their fears and realized life is so d*mn good. I am Jaden and I’m a 22-year-old female living in Ontario Canada. I am a mental health advocate, part-time worker, and full-time student studying psychology and criminology. I am going to be honest, this may sound all over the place – this is because there is just SO much to tell and not enough time. But hang in there, I promise it has a happy ending.
Since I was 9 years old, I have been diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses such as anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression, specific phobias, ADHD, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder. I have had highs and lows throughout my life, and I want to share these experiences with the world so everyone feels they can talk about their mental health as well.
At a young 9 years old, I had never experienced real, crippling anxiety. Unfortunately, one night I had caught a stomach bug during a theatre play I was in. I was not feeling great that night, but kept thinking to myself, ‘You are okay, everything is okay. I am happy and healthy.’ As most children may experience, I was unaware of the fact I was not okay… I had a stomach bug. And I found it out the hard way – in front of all my friends and their parents. I could hear them, ‘Ew! Who got sick backstage?’ Pure panic and embarrassment and although this seemingly unfortunate and crappy night seemed quite lackluster, it was anything but normal for me. This night is what would push me into a spiral of crippling panic attacks, missed opportunities, and a lifetime (or so I thought) of pure panic.
I had a phobia of vomiting and soon after, I was diagnosed with a panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and specific phobia. I would not come to know the name of this phobia until I was older, because I had never heard anybody talk about it at the time. Emetophobia – the fear of vomiting, actually a very common phobia. At my young age, I did not know HOW common this phobia was, and I was living in fear of myself and what people would think of me. Panic attacks began taking over my days, and eventually, it became a ritual. It started with one panic attack every few days, and then one a day and eventually multiple a day, the intensity of the panic attacks growing stronger and stronger each time. I began punching things, hurting myself, ripping my hair out during my panic attacks. Absolutely nothing could stop the panic attacks, and the only way to calm down was to eventually fall asleep, which was an absolute nightmare.
I developed OCD due to my phobia of vomiting – another diagnosis that was given a few years after my diagnosis of a panic disorder and anxiety disorder. I would ask my parents multiple times a day ‘Am I going to get sick?’ If they responded no, I instantly felt better. Eventually, my doctor advised them to stop answering, and so they did, which cause more anxiety of course. I would also wash my right arm every single time I washed my hands – only the right one, and I could NOT forget to do it.
The panic attacks went on into my teenage years, where I found myself missing school on the daily due to the attacks. I would wake up, get to school, feel a little sick, and have a full-blown panic attack. I would go home and feel a sense of safety, but still completely on edge. My grades were garbage for lack of better words… I was away more than I was present. There was nothing I could do to get these panic attacks to calm down. I really struggled hanging out with friends or even leaving my house at all. This is when the depression got really bad. I had always had a looming depression over me, even as a young kid but the constant panic attacks made me hate every second of my life – I wanted to end it all. I did not want to feel the way my body tensed up, became nauseated, and made it hard to breathe. The shaking – it hurt. I wanted it gone.
I began self-harming, scars I still have to this day up my wrists and over my legs. It was something that comforted me, feeling something rather than nothing at all. I always regretted it as soon as it had happened, and I would spiral deeper into a depression. I spent the majority of my time in my room alone, trying to find new ways of hurting myself. At one point, I wished to break a limb and would spend hours researching new ways to do so, just so I could feel a pain that was not linked to my anxiety.
At my first job, I would have panic attacks before going into work and unfortunately, the panic attack would continue throughout the shift and only get worse as the day went on. I vividly remember standing at the cash desk and feeling like I was on the verge of fainting due to hyperventilation, customers looking at me like I was going to have a heart attack. I would ask to take a quick break, but I was not allowed to – only my designated break time. It was because of this job I developed extreme agoraphobia. Eventually, I feared being in a place I was unable to leave and this still lingers with me to this day. Going anywhere I know I will not be able to leave immediately gives me major anxiety, but not nearly as much as it did back in the day.
As I got into my late teens, I searched for help from my psychiatrist. It was recommended I completed cognitive behavioral therapy to help cope with my anxiety. This recommendation was life-changing and helped me manage my anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. At this point in my life, I began to realize it gets better… This was a changing point in my life. I began to realize all my feelings were completely valid. I am allowed to have these feelings and not be ashamed of them. I believe the shame I felt for being afraid of something so natural is what made me so afraid of completing therapy, but once I overcame those fears, therapy came naturally and was a life saver.
I went from being an underachieving teenage girl with severe panic attacks daily to a motivated, excitable girl looking at moving away for university – something I NEVER thought I would do. Eventually, I did it. I moved away for university and it was the best experience of my life. I was able to hang out with friends, do things I would have NEVER imagined as a young, anxious girl. Do not get me wrong, the anxiety still lingered but was manageable for once in my life. I was able to enjoy the little things I was never able to before.
In my first year of university, I got a new boyfriend. We became close very quickly in the first week of school. During the year, I noticed I was having extreme mood swings towards him, something I could not describe. He would walk into the room and I would feel absolutely delighted to see him… And then he would leave for a minute and come back, and I DESPISED him. But why? I just could not figure it out for the life of me. During this time, I had been speaking with my family doctor and my psychiatrist about everything that had been going on. I was experiencing intense mood swings that lasted only hours or minutes. I would be okay and the next minute, I was extremely angry at… something?
I was in my first-year introductory psychology class when we began talking about mood disorders. Borderline-personality disorder. ‘Hmm, that sounds a lot like me… Too much like me.’ I went home and began researching borderline-personality disorder and was almost shocked the results matched me to a T. At my next doctor’s appointment, with no prompting, my doctor had diagnosed me with borderline-personality disorder. It blew my mind, the way the timing came together. I had just learned about this new disorder and suddenly, I am being diagnosed with it?
A flood of relief came over me. I knew there was a reason for the way I was feeling. There was a logical explanation and ways to help me cope with it. There always is. What was not awesome to discover was the stigma that came with the diagnosis. That people with BPD are ‘crazy’ or ‘psycho.’ It hurt me to see people automatically jumped to these conclusions.
The support I received from others made me realize how much support others may need out there. My life was never easy, but I think the hardest part was having to pretend it was easy because I was too afraid to talk about what was really going on inside my head. When I was able to open up and discuss my issues, those issues just did not feel so big anymore. This is why I decided to start talking about my mental illness and my battles. I figure if I can help just one person out there by sharing my story with them, and telling them eventually, everything will be okay, I am happy. I especially want to reach out to those who feel it will never get better because I PROMISE it does. If I could go back to my younger, depressed, anxious self, I would say, ‘It gets so much better, and life will not always feel this hard. I promise.’ This is what I want to tell everyone else, as I wish someone had told me the same thing when I was younger. There is not a day I think of taking my life the way I once had… Life just has too much to offer to not be here for it.
My entire life has been an uphill battle, but the hill got less steep the farther up I went. There is so much growing to do – even now. I know I have a long journey ahead of me and I am excited to see where it takes me. Overall, through every challenge I encounter comes a new discovery of something incredible. I decided to stop letting my mental illness bring me down and instead, introduce me to new and exciting opportunities that can help others in the process.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jaden Ruicci from Ontario, Canada. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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