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Mental Illness Looks Like: Jillian

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

Q: Do you struggle with mental illness?

A: Yes.

Q: When did you first realize you struggled with mental illness?

A: I had a panic attack when I was in college, and I finally called my mother instead of facing it on my own. It wasn't the first, and it certainly wasn't the last, but it unveiled a lot of things I tried to hide that I was struggling from mentally.

Q: What does "insert disorder" feel like for you? Describe your symptoms.

A: Anxiety felt like a giant weight on my chest from the moment I woke up. In other moments, it felt like someone taking the wheel, slamming their foot on the gas, and leaving me out of control with a short road ahead - no room to slow down or stop without consequence. Somedays, it became a panic attack. Other days I coped with food and drinking to distract myself from the symptoms and numb the emotional pain.

Q: Do you go to therapy?

A: I went to therapy years ago, but I was still not ready to talk. It wasn't until this past February when I uttered the words, "I don't want to be here anymore" that it echoed in my head and I finally sought out the help I needed. I went to the doctor who recommended therapy and prescribed me low dose medication to help combat my anxiety and depression.

Q: Do you take medication?

A: I did at first, and the medication came at a crucial time in my life. Days after being prescribed two medications, I faced a break up that truly broke me at the time. Ten days later, my childhood home burned down and I felt lucky to have found the courage to get the help when I did because I honestly don't know if I would have made it.

Q: Do you do anything besides therapy or medication to manage your symptoms?

A: I had started a fitness challenge in the midst of my whirlwind of unfortunate events this past spring, and I realized that my medication was hindering my ability to increase my heart rate in my workouts. Going to the gym was my biggest stress reliever at the time. I decided to talk to my doctor about getting off the medication and focusing on investing in my overall health. It worked for me. Every time I was at the gym, putting myself under so much physical pressure and counting reps relentlessly, I couldn't think of anything else. When I left the gym, I had endorphins running through me, and I always felt so great and successful after a good workout. I found that self-discipline = self-love. Making those investments in yourself with result in big changes both mentally and physically. I feel blessed to be where I'm at now.

Q: What do you want people to know about mental illness?

A:You are more powerful that you think. Be honest and kind to yourself. Allow yourself to feel, experience, and overcome. You are not alone in this and even though you may want to cut yourself off from the world, the people you surround yourself with could be your saving grace. Your true friends will understand and help you walk through the fire. Be strong. Be mindful. Be patient. Be kind.

Mental health doesn't change in a day,

but with the power in your hands, it can and will change.

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