I struggled with anxiety and depression throughout my teenage years, and it was precipitated and exacerbated after a horrifying experience with mescaline at 16 years old. I was taken to the emergency room, and in the following months I was taken out of my classes and home-schooled due to displaying agoraphobic (fear of outside places and situation) symptoms. Over the next year, I spent time in psychiatric facilities and was on a cocktail of medications were prescribed over those years and into my early 20s.
My mental health challenges continued into my 20’s but were outshined by the consequences of my drug and alcohol abuse. I was not sober throughout any of this time, and I used drugs and alcohol primarily to self-medicate. My drug use and mental health challenges caused me to have suicidal tendencies, extreme self-pity, and tons of self-hatred. I was more or less an emotional basket case when I was sober. I felt like I could hide my emotional wreck in social settings when I was under the influence.
My family was in a perpetual state of worry, fear, and frustration for me throughout my teenage years. My friendships were based mostly around drugs and alcohol, and I don’t believe they knew or understood my struggles with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.
I started to find recovery on July 11, 2005, at 28 years old. Peer support, therapy, and holistic health played a huge role in helping me stay sober and emotionally stable. Also, building emotional maturity through not picking up drugs and alcohol and through dealing with struggles with outside support was huge for me.
The advice I’d give someone struggling with similar things is to trust in others who have had similar experiences, expose your fears, and challenge yourself to get through them. You are stronger than you believe. Let your actions dictate your feelings, not vice versa. You are never alone in how you think and how you feel. Allow yourself to be loved, and take the actions in your life to feel good about the love you give and receive. The hardest thing is that anxiety and depression can make the fears feel so real and permanent, but in actuality they aren’t. Sometimes you just need someone strong in your life that loves you to guide you through the tough times. Being open to trust is vital, and most importantly feeling bad is never the answer.
My past struggles are a huge part of who I am, and I do my best to use those years to support others going through similar things. I still struggle with bouts of anxiety and depression, but now I have the tools to get through them without medication and, most importantly, without drugs and alcohol.