Hey Ef family! I'm applying for a mental health scholarship (entering graduate school soon). Right now it's at two and a half pages. I aim to ensure that my story comes across fully without being overbearing. I want to make sure that I am answering each of the three parts fully. Any critiques, ideas, etc... are welcome. Feel free to comment on grammar, punctuation, word choice/ usage, flow, tone, say hi, etc...; whatever it is you have to say, I appreciate it.
Requirements are: A 1-3 page typed essay about your life with mental illness, the struggles you've encountered and how you've overcome them.
For a long time I lived with people who were supposed to love me. They were family, and I assumed that meant that they would treat me with kindness and dignity and respect. My reality was far different. For ten years I was scapegoated, belittled, manipulated, devalued, blamed, shamed, and pushed from the relationship before pulled back in. I was led to believe that everything I said was stupid, that I was a bad person, and even told to my face that I was "a waste of life". It was no wonder that I had become depressed. During the ten years that I lived like this, what I feared most was leaving where I lived. I believed that if I left it would somehow be worse for me or that they would blame my mom and take it out on her.
I didn't know people could be so cruel; I assumed that if they told me I was horrible and I felt horrible, that I must be horrible. I began to live in a constant state of fear and sadness. I believed all of the negative things they told me about myself. I found that I eventually stopped talking around the people I lived with. I was constantly told that I was stupid and everything I said was stupid, so I began to believe it. Why bother having an opinion if it's wrong or you're going to be told it doesn't matter? I remember one time when I was told how awful I was, I began to cry. Tears streaming down my face, I wailed "I don't want to be a bad person anymore!" Instead of being comforted, I was told to "grow up and stop being so dramatic." I doubted everything about myself: who I was, what I thought, my memories and abilities. I felt trapped. I felt powerless. I felt like I was "a waste of life."
These wounds never healed. Instead, they became part of who I am on the deepest level. Even now I have to work twice as hard to remember that I'm not bad or wrong. I have to work hard to feel confident because for so long that confidence was ripped from me. Even when I do feel confident I'm still second guessing myself or worrying that it will come back to me in the end. I'm not embarrassed to say that I suffer from clinical depression and social anxiety. A lot of it is probably a result of the ten years I lived in an emotionally abusive home. Living with depression and anxiety is something that creates fear and anxiety in itself. Even when I had no awareness of mental health stigma, I knew that speaking about it was shameful. I suffered in many ways due to a lack of awareness and a support system. Even now, I do not share with my friends and family that I see both a therapist and a psychiatrist, for fear of being judged. I even feared including in my graduate school entrance essays as I believed it might be seen as a reason to reject my application.
Overcoming mental illness can be tricky. For me, it's something I've never been able to completely overcome; instead, I live my life trying to manage it. I've always felt as if my depression never truly leaves me; it's always there, underneath, undermining my confidence and making me feel worthless. I've been in and out of therapy for a good amount of my adult life. I believe that if I'm going to be a social worker and support others that I need to do work on myself as well. I've been doing the work and since I started meeting with my most recent therapist a year ago, things are looking up. I particularly enjoy working with her because she challenges me in ways I don't challenge myself. Together we challenge my negative thoughts, explore reasons why I think the way I do, and she challenges me to get out into the world and do things that will make me feel confident.
I'm also seeing a psychiatrist, something I resisted heavily at first. I didn't want to flatten my emotions or feel like a zombie. After trying a few different types of medication, I've found something that works. I dislike being on it because I feel that all of my emotions are being repressed, but it's helped me immensely. Since re-starting therapy and seeing a psychiatrist, I've applied and been accepted into graduate school, volunteered for seven months at a youth services organization, and felt increasingly confident about myself and my abilities. I'm not thrilled about being on medication, but I can't deny that it's been helpful. There were times when I could barely get out of bed, where my anxiety was overwhelming, and when I couldn't control my negative thoughts. I'm free of those now thanks to the medication and emotional work with my therapist.
Through my experience both in and out of the classroom, I've observed that society acknowledges mental health in a way that accepts its importance but dismisses its relevance. The lack of knowledge or visual proof creates the illusion that mental health is not legitimate, yet stigma also creates identities for those suffering. Society is quick to judge people with mental disorders, yet we still dance around the subject as if it is something toxic. The harder it becomes for us as a society to talk about it, the harder it is for those who are suffering to get help. The stereotypes that that are built do nothing but confine the mentally ill and make it harder for us to speak up about their disorders. I hope, however, that as I enter into a community of social workers we can transform the perception of mental illness from stigma into acceptance.