By Mackenzie Cowles, NAMI-UW Ambassador
My personal experience with mental illness began the spring semester of my freshman year, however, I was in denial that I have been experiencing a mental illness my entire life. When things began to fall apart with my roommate and my living situation, I felt uncomfortable and unwelcome in my own room. This is when my very high levels of anxiety began. She was extremely manipulative, she made me feel like everything was my fault and she made me think that I did not deserve to feel happiness. I fell into a state of depression. I was incredibly sad and lonely, I had given up trying in my classes and I even had to drop a class because I was doing so poorly. I was on the phone with my parents, younger sister and my best friend from home every single day. All I wanted to do was drop out of school and come home permanently. My lowest point was when I stayed in bed all day and did not even get up to eat or go to the bathroom. I paralyzed and incredibly numb.
After hitting my lowest point, I decided something needed to change in my life because I did not want to go another day with feeling like this. That was when I reached out to the student mental health services at University Health Services (UHS) on campus. I started regularly seeing someone there. In addition, I went home during spring break and talked to both a psychologist and psychiatrist. I was prescribed antidepressants and took them for about six months until I felt like I no longer needed them. Admitting to myself that I needed professional help and finally going to seek help changed my life in every way.
I look back on my life and I realize that I have been experiencing anxiety since I was a little girl. I think in many ways our society tells us to just “be strong” or “don’t be sad” or “get it together”. I will spend the rest of my life encouraging people who think that they might be experiencing a mental illness to seek support from professionals, from people who have been through similar experiences, and from people like NAMI club members who are extremely supportive and understanding. To this day I still struggle with my anxiety, but I am happy to say I have not experienced any more episodes of depression. While this was a terrible time in my life, it also helped me find a new passion for dispelling the stigma that surrounds mental health.