TW: mentions of self harm, suicide attempt, substance abuse
I was raised in a single parent household. As a child, I would ask my mother and grandparents why I looked different than them. While my family did their best to explain, it always left me with one big question — do I belong? While I grappled with understanding my own identity and feeling different from those around me, I found belonging through sports. The validation I received was crucial to my development, but soon volleyball became the only way I felt valued, worthy, and enough. While trying to manage being a teenager and believing in myself, I was bullied for my hair and my identity. I was bullied in person, through text messages, and on social media. This experience impacted my mental health, sense of self, and the way I could show up in the world.
In high school, the adults in my life saw me as a well-respected athlete, student, and member of my community. I put pressure on myself to over-perform and saw perfectionism as a way to receive validation and find comfort. My depression and anxiety skyrocketed while I tried to put on a mask that I was okay, which eventually led me to self-harm, substance use, toxic relationships, and ultimately a suicide attempt. I wanted to live more than anything, but had no hope for the future. I wanted help, but didn’t know how to ask for it. After my suicide attempt, I sought out therapy and alternative ways to try and heal, but stigma was my greatest barrier; the opinions of my fellow classmates, teachers, coaches, family, and ultimately myself led her to put that “I’m fine” mask back on. I didn’t realize the severity of not truly addressing what was going on with my mental health.
As time passed, I resorted to drinking and partying in order to cope with my feelings of disconnectedness. I didn’t want to feel my bad feelings, so I traded in all my feelings, good and bad, to feel nothing. This ultimately led me to a drug and alcohol treatment center. That treatment center kept me clean and sober, but she did not fully address my mental health and the things that led me to seek recovery in the first place.
In college, I continued struggling with perfectionism. I tried to manage being a full-time student, working part-time, living on my own, and having a social life, but eventually, I could not fake my happiness or well-being anymore and returned to my negative coping skills. My junior year of college was my breaking point; after struggling for so long and grasping towards anything to feel better, I realized she was the only one who could actually change my life. I share about the important steps I took towards wellness and how I practice wellness today: through maintaining sobriety, therapy, an active support system, and numerous positive coping skills.
I feel it is my mission and purpose to let people know that healing, growth, and self-love are possible, and it’s never too early or too late to seek help. I know that we all belong regardless of what our identities or situations look like demographically, financially, or
racially. I am a passionate public speaker and mental health advocate with an empowering story of hope.
For more information on Minding Your Mind, visit mindingyourmind.org