Our first ever Lets Get Emotional!! This is the first submission I have received from the amazingly strong Savannah. I knew that when I did this it was going to get emotional and wow I didn’t expect the level of emotional that it is. I feel a loss of words and my heart is sooo full. Lets continue to share our stories until Mentah illness/ Mental health is talked about as normally as what are having for dinner. Together us Softies can do this!!
I introduce you to Savanna!
What made you reply and want to do this with Stay Soft?—-I believe in sharing the stories of people who are living with their illness and not letting it control them. Hopefully someone who reads it might realize themselves that their illness is part of them, not all of them.
When I say Mental Health what is the first thing that comes to mind?—— when it comes to mental health the first thing I think of is the way it used to be. Anything could get you institutionalised and even more so if you are a woman. 100 years ago we had no rights beyond what our fathers and husbands allowed us. If we became problematic then we were put away, whether there is actually something wrong or not. Just being a woman was bad enough.
When did you become aware of Mental Health or Mental Illness?— I am an avid reader so I presume I read about different things. Actually yes it was a book. His Bright Light by Danielle Steel, story of her son who was bi polar.
Have you always talked openly about your mi/mh— yes 100%. Am I treated differently, hmmm maybe in some cases. It might be a reason I didn’t get a job I know I would have been amazing at but I am also not going to lie and pretend to be something I am not.
Do you have a mental illness?— At present I have been diagnosed with clinical depression and general anxiety & panic disorder as well as ADHD. I believe there may be more to my diagnosis but I have not seen a specialist for a formal diagnosis so it remains just my opinion from my own research.
Do you remember when you were diagnosed? —- I started showing signs of illness around 12. I had been showing signs of ADHD since I was about 5-6, but it was a different time in early 90’s. There was not label back there it was just a problem child. Anyway I was shy, and bullied. I had started putting on weight due to PCOS and my drama just got worse. I lied, all the time, I would steal from my family. Skipped school. Spent all my free time online talking to pretty much anyone who would pay attention to me. In 2006 I had a huge upheaval in my life. My parent’s sold the family home, my sister was moving to Alberta with her boyfriend. I was supposed to be going to India to live with my soon to be husband. I did go and get married in India but did not stay due to the temperature. I had to come to home. I went from place to place for a little while as my parent’s didn’t buy anything permanent at first. I was back on the internet talking to anyone, usually in conversations that someone who is married should not be having. I was skipping work, having reallly bad panic attacks. One day I was laying in an empty bath tub looking up at the shower caddy. I saw my razor. I remember thinking that I could cut my wrist and nobody would find me until it was too late. That was kinda scary and a turning point. The next day I called and made an emergency appt to see my dr. I went home for lunch and had a major panic attack. I cancelled going back to work. Went and saw my doctor told him what was going on. He prescribed me with Venlafaxine that day. I did not have the money to pick up prescription so I needed to ask for help from my parents.
How has mental illness effected you? —-it made sense. I have a brain that does not work properly. Starting the medication was a life saver. Within 3 months of being on medication I was a different person. I was calmer, I was even, I was sane for lack of a better word. I would still have some downs, but instead of being up and down within seconds I am so much more even. There is minor ups and downs but they are gone so much faster and don’t go down nearly as much.
Do your friends/partner/family know about your mental illness? Yes. My mom was not overly supportive in the beginning. She used to be one of those just get over it kinda people, and within 3 months of starting medication she even admitted maybe she was wrong. 2 years later she acknowledged she was wrong for not noticing what I was experiencing or doing as a teen was me begging for help, not just acting out. She is now one of my biggest supporters. She always asks if I have taken my meds, and if I feel a panic attack coming on she tries to help me calm down and refocus my mind. My partner is supportive in a different way. He lets me be as crazy as I am. I have a lot of quirks from my OCD and ADHD. Things have to be done a certain way, and he just goes with it.
Treatment/management. making it livable is so different for everybody. what does it look like for you? The number one thing for me is accepting that my brain is not wired correctly. It does not make the proper chemicals. Could I live without them…maybe but the thought of being off them terrifies me. I know what some of my triggers are, I have a supportive family who understands that my home is my safe zone, the one place that I always feel better in. I hate being away for too long. I can handle small trips but not too much. The biggest thing is reduce stress. I am currently working a job that does not pay that great but my stress levels are almost 0 and that makes it worth it. My partner and I both noticed a difference in me within 3 months of being at my new job (Been there 7 months now).
If you could say anything who might be or are in a similar situation what would you say? The number one things I can say is don’t be scared to ask for help. Even if you your not 100% sure something is wrong. Asking for help is scary but can change your life in huge ways. If you don’t know who to ask, the best person is a Dr or teacher but anyone can help you even if it is just as a sounding board to tell you to see a dr.
If you could say one thing to some one to help them understand what you feel what would it be? I don’t think there is anything that would help people understand other then this is the way my brain is. It is like being born missing a limb, you adapt to the physical disability. When your brain does not make the proper chemicals and can not read synapses properly it’s about learning to adapt your brain to the world. It’s harder because it can’t be seen like if you are missing a limb. You can’t see what my brain does, neither can I. But over the years I have figured out how to make it work better for me.
If you could give your younger self any advice what would it be? Tell someone sooner then you did. There is a better way to live.
Thank you so much Savannah for showing us that vulnerability is beautiful, for showing us that mental illness while not often seen is still very active. Thank you for sharing your truth, your story and letting people know that they are not alone. You are a beautiful human inside and out.