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My mental illness doesn’t define me!

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By Kayla Logan

Photo of Kayla LoganLooking at me you would think I was just another Western girl, wearing lulu lemons and UGG’s but you would be terribly wrong. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder that affects my systematic nervous system, accompanied by panic attacks. My biggest fear is that I am going to die. I don’t want to feel this way, but everything scares me. I can’t function normally in society because everything is a trigger for panic attacks. I know I am not alone in this struggle, but for a long time I thought I was. I thought that I was the problem! No one really talks about the reality of living with mental illness, and when I mention it to people they look at me like I am crazy.

By law I am not allowed to be discriminated against for having a mental illness, which is a permanent disability, but that doesn’t stop the medical community or anyone else to do so. The medical community would rather prescribe people like me pills then set a plan for our recovery, or even acknowledge the severity of our daily struggle and successes (which may seem minor to some but major to someone with mental health struggles). All prescribing pills does is throw a band-aid on the present issues and not address the root issues.

I am not crazy, I am like any other student, stressed out about school, finances and just life. I feel like no one is hearing me! They pretend to listen but they aren’t. I feel that my voice is silent. That I don’t have a voice, or that people do not care to hear it. Unlike others I recognize that I have a problem, and need help. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? So why is it that I have to yell at the top of my lungs to be heard? Why is it so hard to find help? I know I am not the only one who struggles with mental health, or even accessing mental health resources, the difference is I was able to ask for help when so many others cannot. Too many people fall through the cracks of our health care system, left to suffer silently or leave this world all together. It’s not right! It shouldn’t be happening!! There is no excuse for it, especially considering the advances in medicine and treatments currently available in our communities and hospitals! Why is this happening to so many students, people and children? We see all these ads on television telling us that “help is out there” but I don’t see it. Do you? Why is the government making so many cutbacks to our social programs and health care when so many people are still suffering and need treatment? It doesn’t make sense to me.

I finally had to take myself to the emergency department to seek help because I didn’t know where else to go, and I was tired of fighting to be heard and having the onus on me to get the help I need outside of the hospital. At the time (a few years ago) I was on numerous waiting lists to see a psychiatrist and believe me we’re not talking about a two-week wait for someone who has serious health issues, I am talking three months. It is too long to wait for someone who is mentally ill. There are too many negative consequences that can happen within that time period. People may no longer be with us in three months, if they are that depressed or ill. It is a serious gap in our medical system, and this is how children fall through the cracks. This is why our suicide rate is so high.

The result of my visit at the hospital was horrendous and no amount of detailed words will truly highlight the discrimination I faced. I didn’t go into the hospital initially that evening for anxiety. I was very ill at home and called telehealth, which instructed me to go to emerg[ency]. When I arrived I was so scared about being ill that it induced a panic attack. The moment I mentioned the words “mental illness” to the triage nurse and the anti-anxiety medication that I was presently taking was the moment any physical [ailments] I was suffering from didn’t matter anymore.

I went in to the hospital at 11:00 pm and I was not admitted until after 3:00 am. All of this waiting resulted in a response that “there was nothing they could do for me” but give me another magic pill to help calm me down. At this point I realized that my physical [ailments] didn’t matter to the doctors and nurses, so I took a different approach. I asked for a psychological evaluation. The response to this request was that my mental illness was not serious enough but they could give me an urgent referral to a psychiatrist. What good does that do me? Especially when I am telling them I am unable to make it to my appointments because I can barely get out of bed!

The hospital cannot help me, my school cannot help me, I am not serious enough to be admitted yet it’s serious enough to ruin the rest of my life! The only way for me to be admitted at this point is for me to threaten to harm myself or someone else and as you may know the moment you utter the words “I am a harm to myself and or others” your admittance to the psychiatric ward isn’t voluntary and you don’t have any assurances regarding when they will release you either.

The moral of the story is that we all have a voice and a right to fair treatment, equality, human rights, respect and to be treated with dignity. Your voice matters and you can make a change for the better of society by using it! So, use your voice and as Gandhi said “be the change you want to see in the world.”