The story of your experience with mental illness is a powerful weapon in the fight against stigma. Your story can open eyes, ears, and hearts, breaking down barriers and opening conversations about mental health. These stories were submitted by people of all ages, gender, religion and backgrounds.

Please be aware that these stories of mental illnesses deal with serious topics and themes that may be triggering.

Please note, we are not counselors and cannot respond to mental health needs or give therapy or advice. If you need emergency help, please call 911 or visit your local emergency department for assistance.

In a nutshell

TRIGGER WARNING: suicidal thoughts

i started showing signs of bi-polar at age 11 or 12. when i was 14 i started hearing voices. i told one person about it but didnt realize something might be seriously wrong. at 15 i was prescribed anti depressants. they made me manic. i stopped taking them and rapidly fell into depression. i was suicidal. i went to the dr. he didnt believe me. he called me a liar and said i was doing it for attention. i attempted suicide. at 17 i started hallucinating. i still didnt know something was seriously wrong because everything - the voices and hallucinations were so real. i got to see a psychiatrist finally. after trying many combinations of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and anti-anxiety medications, it took about 6 years to find a combination that i could function with. i still suffer from anxiety on almost a daily basis but at least i have no more audio or visual hallucinations. thank you for reading my story. sorry it was so long.

Submitted by Anonymous

My Journey with Bipolar Disorder

TRIGGER WARNING: suicidal thoughts, self harm,

I originally shared this in May of 2018 for Mental Illness Awareness Month. I have bipolar disorder type 1 with psychotic features. In December of last year I started ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) for severe, treatment resistant depression. I had a total of five episodes last year; one mixed, and four depressive...three landed me in the hospital. "I figured I should write something for Mental Illness Awareness Month... As many of you may know, I have bipolar disorder type 1 with psychotic features. It’s not as scary as it sounds.

No, I am not a psychopath. It just means that I hallucinate and get delusional when I have episodes of mania or depression (mainly mania). Bipolar disorder has landed me in the psychiatric ward countless times, given me a criminal record, given me self harm scars, cost me a lot of friendships and relationships, I’ve been stripped of my second amendment rights (not that I need or want a gun) and almost took my life last year. I take 5 medications for my bipolar disorder, twice a day. I’m always in touch with the fact that I have a progressive brain disease. I can hardly complete day to day tasks. I am unable to work because my symptoms are too severe. I see a therapist and a psychiatrist twice a month and go through frequent med changes. Am I stable now? No, I’m definitely in a depressive episode.

I’m not just “sad”. I can’t focus, I have feelings of guilt, lack motivation, I’m overeating (someone bring me brownies and a frappuccino), and I’m sleeping too much. I struggle with intrusive thoughts and suicidal ideation almost daily. What if I unlock this car door and jump out while going down the interstate? What if I go ahead and take all my pills at once and end it now? Am I going to do it? No. Am I going to one day? Who knows. It’s always something that’s in the back of my mind. Bipolar disorder results in 9.2 years reduction in expected life span, and as many as one in five patients with bipolar disorder completes suicide. (National Institute of Mental Health)"

Thankfully, ECT has pretty much been a miracle treatment for me. I'm currently getting it done every two weeks. After my first treatment, the suicidal ideation that I struggled with as far back as I can remember, stopped. My psychiatrist, therapist, friends, and family have all noticed the difference it has made with my moods. The doctor that performs it was worried I was too young at first (I'm 28), but he agreed to it after I told him how long I had been diagnosed (2002) and how many medications I have tried with no relief. Honestly, I wish someone would have told me about ECT a lot sooner.

Falling off and Climbing back on

TRIGGER WARNING: self harm, suicidal thoughts

I’ve been in and out of treatment for various things, hurting myself and feeling alienated from everyone. I received a handful of diagnosis and treatment over the last decade, being 25 this is a sad way to live. I do not do drugs, and my life is chaotic. I get congratulations for holding a job.

Over the last two years I've found something different. Mental health for me isn't the absence of illness anymore. It's a multifaceted pile of goop I have to keep track of daily. Numerous suicide attempts, major or minor have allowed me the benefit of seeing things from a different perspective. This means learning to trust supports and others around me, not belittle and destroy myself at the slightest let-down. All of these are hard to do, but while being mentally ill I had learned, and I'm still learning the definition and catalyst between being reactive versus proactive. I can build myself or destroy myself and the only consistent trait involved is perseverance.

Perseverance sometimes means lists, and discussion. Sometimes it means crying on the floor watching the same TV show over and over again. Sometimes it's repetition, sometimes it's abrupt changes. Perseverance looks different for me, it straddles between surviving and thriving. Sometimes it's hard to jump from one side to the other, but knowing at the lowest points it's always there is comfortable. Perseverance to live, and not just to survive is something we all get stuck on. To be proactive about mental health involves perseverance. Through the misery and tears and through the smiles and laughter.

All said and done, I'm learning I would rather be able to say I'm persevering in the face of adversity over being /perfect/ any day of the week. I'm taking control. I'm taking pride in what I do. I'm taking pride in perseverance above perfection.

Submitted by AEG

I didn’t know who I was for 25 years

TRIGGER WARNING: violence, suicide, death, drug abuse, sexual assault

I remember having symptoms of OCD, ADHD, and Tourette's Syndrome at the age of 5, when I started just screaming out my thoughts, and constantly blinking and pushing my stomach really hard. As time went on, the grunting started, the stretching, the whistling, the scary thoughts, the pain I inflicted on myself from hitting my body, and no one, not a soul to talk to about this until the age of 31. So basically I thought there was something wrong with me for 25 years, I believed what all the teachers and parents and professionals said, and that was "I was lazy", "unteachable", "hyperactive", "daydreamer", even "crazy".

All of my friends and family thought I was out of control, a rebellious, trouble-maker, who didn't care about anything but himself, I was always getting into fights at school or at the mall or anywhere, If someone looked at me the wrong way I would fight them, I didn't know that people with Tourette's don't like people staring them. I thought it was just me, I thought I was forever doomed to have a bad temper, I thought for sure I was going to spend a lot of time in jail, I started hanging around with the wrong crowd, involved with guns and gangs I was doing terribly in school but when I hit high-school, I started getting brilliant at the arts, Drawing, Photography, Media Arts, but I was most interested in Drama, because I found out one day that when I was on stage, my Tics disappeared. I was focused, I was lost in another world where none of my disorders were prevalent in my mind. It was incredible! I found out that I would lose my "Craziness" when I was on stage or in front of the camera, saying words that I didn't have to create, or worrying about what to say next, I felt confident, I felt "normal" for once in my life, even if its 5 minutes, its 5 minutes of freedom, from the torturous, insecurity ridden jail that I created for myself for 25 years. In 1987 the unthinkable happened.

I was 17 years old and good friends with a buddy named "Mark Wildman", we all went out 1 Friday night and had a great time and went home, Mark had other plans. He went to his estranged father's house and stole his gun, a Luger (I don't know why I remember the gun), went to John, Ed, and Dana's house and killed them in their sleep. Mark ended up at his Mom's house and he shot himself in the head on her front lawn. I read all of this on the paper, and heard the different accounts throughout the whispers in the high school halls, none of us thought he was depressed or crazy, he was so "normal". To this day I don't know why he did it, or why he spared me. I got into drinking and drugs because when I did them, I would forget about some of my disorders, I got into all them really hard, by the age of 27 I was addicted to Opioid's, alcohol, crack cocaine, cocaine, MDMA, and cigarettes. I almost died on 3 occasions (long depressing stories ill tell later!) I was doing drugs all day all night, I never did them to get high, I did them to get normal, people never knew when I was high, they just thought that I was in a better mood. I went to jail in Hong Kong due to a fight I got into trying to protect my girlfriend at the time, then I got into a fight avenging one of my staff at a bar I worked at, she was groped and sexually assaulted at work and I wanted to regretfully "make him pay" for what he did, that also got me arrested and charged.

It wasn't until I met the girl of my dreams in 2000, that my life had changed for the better, she became a different reality to me that proved that I didn't need to be high all the time to be with someone, It was also a time when a good friend of mine told me that I should go to his ADHD doctor, Dr. Timothy Bilkey, and this was a life changing, mind-blowing event. I spent about 3 days there doing various tests and questionnaires and gloriously passed every one of them with flying colours! When I finally sat down with Dr. Bilkey and he basically told me my life story without saying a word to him, I now had an answer to everything, then he noticed my Tics and sent me to University hospital to see a Tourette's Specialist and because I didn't swear I thought this was ridiculous but when she sat down with me and told me everything about Tourette's I basically cried and said "that's exactly me"... I now knew what I was! I now knew what was wrong with me, I had a name for it! I wasn't crazy! or difficult, lazy, or selfish, or anything I just had Tourette's.. and OCD, ADHD, SAD and depression.

So I started to realize that it was the reason behind my outbursts my bluntness, and weird things I did, had a name, so there my road to recovery started, I took the drugs that my Dr's prescribed me and after going through different tests to find out which one was good for me it completely changed me as a person, I understood that I have Tourette's and ADHD, OCD, SAD, and depression, and instead of accepting it and making it my disability I decided I would make it my "bonus" personality perks and said to myself that I want to better myself and get back up! That's when the drugs started again, My life was perfect at the time, I had a great business, was making insane amounts of money, so the parties got wilder and wilder, it wasn't until I woke up in the middle of a park in Hong Kong, in a full suit and no Idea how or why I was there, that I decided I have to make a decision, I did, and for 3 whole months I was clean, it was amazing! I was thinking clearer, getting out of bed better, looking better, but it didn't last, I ended up getting high again and again and again. I went on this chemical induced roller-coaster ride for about another 5 years until I met this amazing woman, who was extremely supportive, understanding and strong. I didn't totally quit, I just slowed down significantly, then we had a baby, that's when I decided that it's enough, I've got to stop, that's when hell started for me. In the span of 5 months, I lost my grandmother, grandfather, very good friend, and my Mom.

It was an extremely challenging and overwhelming time in my life. I turned to drugs and thoughts of suicide. I wanted to give up. It was so hard quitting everything, I started with smoking (which I did for 20 + yrs), it was so hard to not quit, but this time I had a goal, my son, who every time I looked at reminded me of the task at hand, and that was quitting smoking, I looked at all the positive benefits and negative benefits of quitting and the positive really outweighed the negative. Then I had to quit drinking, that was a task I thought impossible, I was drinking every day and pretty much 6 days a week I would be throwing up in the bathroom. I couldn't see a way out, But I found cannabis, and slowly but surely I started my road to recovery. When the drinking got more manageable, the drugs also were easier to stop. I started to think clearly again for the first time in over 20 years, I stopped staying up all night, and started to go out more. I noticed big changes in me over time, I was more energetic, more alert, and most importantly I was happier! I felt like someone had given me a second chance, a new life, a way to start over with the knowledge I already had! I started working hard, waking up every day at 4 am, going to the gym, focusing my energy on my family, my mind started to change, negative energies, negative thoughts started to get replaced with hope, positive thoughts, my skin got better, my smile got bigger.

Another devastating blow to me was when my father got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given 4 months to live. It was during this time that I turned to Buddhism and positive energy for healing, I asked the city to send positive energy to my father, the response was incredible. the positive energy and the words of support from around the world gave him the energy to fight to get up again. Its been 8 years now and his cancer is still there but he's up and fighting! He has been my biggest inspiration and reason to change and make a better life for myself and family. I had changed for the better but something still inside made me want more, not just a better me but a better world, I want a more positive, caring community for my son it is my lifelong goal.

Submitted by Daniel

Autism and bullying

TRIGGER WARNING: bullying, isolation

Let’s call me Mira. I am a really person and I have Asperger’s a form of high functioning autism. I would like to tell you how my school friends stigmatize me. First of all I don’t have the normal interests that a normal child in school had. I liked and still like: art, writing, photography, medical stuff and forensic pathology.

I wanted to and still want to be a medical examiner but when 2002 came along and we were all thirteen years of age. The isolation, bullying and fights where so horrific that it still haunts me to this day. All over simple differences in the brain and differences in interests. I was more into books and science where as the other girls were into partying, drugs and boys. They treated me like a quasi human or sub human. As an autistic person I did not relay this to my parents until a few years ago.

My first major depression was when I was in high school trigger unknown, since then there were self esteem issues and reoccurring depression and nightmares. I still struggle with this but I am slowly going back on my feet. Beside being an Medical Examiner I also want to climb Everest for autism awareness and acceptance so no one has to go through what I went through back then.

I also want to climb mount K2 for cancer research since everyone in my family has had cancer, some didn’t beat it and I want them to be remembered.

Submitted by Mira