I always knew I was different. A little too sensitive, a little too anxious, a little too much. As a child, I struggled with social anxiety and an obsessive need to please others. And, although I
appeared to be a very happy child, something was starting to change in me.
As a teenager I began to struggle with suicidal thoughts but was too afraid to tell anyone. I had been placed in therapy, but I was too scared to tell my therapist just how sad I was for fear of what would happen to me.
my facade crumbles and my mental health along with it
I once heard Jim Carey say that “depression” means “deep rest” and that a depressed mind is your body’s way of saying, “I need a break, I don’t want to play this character anymore.” That is exactly how I felt. I was physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to be happy all the time, trying to please others, and wearing a mask so that no one could see the real me and how much I was hurting.
By the time I reached college, the façade that I had been holding up for so long came crumbling down and I had a full mental breakdown. I was forced to drop out of school and was eventually placed into McLean hospital as my behaviors became increasingly dangerous. I felt like I had failed everyone in my life and had failed myself. I no longer saw a bright future. I didn’t care anymore about anything, especially myself.
Borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and depression diagnoses help me make sense of myself and my life
I was hospitalized at 19 years of age and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, anxiety and depression. Once I came to understand my diagnoses, the distorted way that I thought started to all make sense. I finally understood why I was such a people pleaser, why I was so terrified of being abandoned by my loved ones, why I was so afraid of anger, and why I had reached my breaking point.
I started to realize that these illnesses had dictated so much of my thought processes that I didn’t even really know who I was. I lived in such paralyzing fear for most of my life, afraid to upset people and afraid to fail. I was exhausted.
BEGINNING REAL WORK OF UNDERSTANDING WHERE MY ILLNESSES END AND I BEGin
But now the real work has begun: learning to understand where the illnesses end and where Dina begins. After spending ten years in and out of hospitals and rehab facilities, I was able to slowly
reintegrate into mainstream society. I was able to go back to community college and then finish my Bachelor’s degree at Boston College while I worked a full-time job. The more I learned about myself, the more I began to realize just how smart I was, how kind I was, and what a great laugh I had.
FULLY EMBRACING MY LIFE’S DREAMS, I Go for it
With a lot of grit and hard work, I was able to finally pursue the career path that I always envisioned for myself, landing internships and eventually a full time position working in television. I have achieved things that many thought were not possible for me and, even now, I need to constantly remind myself to be grateful for that.
However, as we age and mature sometimes our dreams change and now, I am beginning to
envision a whole new career path as a mental health empowerment keynote speaker. And once again, I plan to achieve that because I know that I can.
my journey to recovery is a medal of honor
I used to want to sweep the fact that I had endured a life-altering mental illness under the rug and just move on. I was ashamed and embarrassed of my past but now, I realize that I should NOT be ashamed of this. Rather, I should wear my journey to recovery like a medal of honor. I should be proud, and I should remind myself of that every day.
A mental illness that alters your life never truly goes away but rather it lies dormant and
reappears when life gets tough. I often try to control all aspects of my life because I have somehow convinced myself that if I can control life then it can’t throw me off the tracks. It can’t derail me and make me sick again. But that is not how life works.
my light is A Beacon Reminding me We ARE All Perfectly Imperfect
I am still learning to let go of the reins every once in a while, embracing the knowledge that even if life breaks me, I won’t stay broken forever. I am still actively in therapy and on a daily medication regimen. I fully support this because it allows me to lead a “normal” life. I still have issues that I struggle with daily, and I continue to work on myself every single day.
Do I wish I was not an anxious person? Yes, of course! Do I wish I had not lost ten years of
my life? Absolutely! But am I proud of the person I became? Undoubtedly!
please heed my advice to you
I once heard a quote, “when you go into the storm, you don’t come out the same person … you aren’t supposed to.” Mental illness is a storm but, like the quote says, you can come out of a storm, you just aren’t the same person who went into it. You are stronger and more resilient.
My advice to you is this: don’t allow your mental illness to dictate what you are capable of. Only you can determine that. And remember, you are not flawed. You are not unlovable. You are not unworthy. You are perfectly imperfect. Go chase your dreams. You got this!
Three Words, I Need Help, Changed His Life - A Father Finds Happiness After Suicide Attempt And is now Helping Others do same as Stigma Fighter And Mental Health advocateRead Now
Meet Pat Lawson, one of our stigma fighters on our Wall of Solidarity in our Accelerating Mental Wellness Campaign.
Pat is many things to many people but I will try and sum it up here. He is a loving, devoted and amazing husband and father, a much loved son and brother, incredible friend, international keynote speaker for mental health and suicide prevention and founder of 3Words Mental Health Awareness.
From the outside looking in it seems as if he is totally fine doesn’t it? Looks can be deceiving.
Pat has his own mental health challenges and diagnoses and things got so bad for him that he tried to end his own life.
"DON'T MAN UP. IF YOU WANT TO BE TOUGH, EXPRESS YOUR EMOTIONS."
Nobody knew the internal pain Pat was suffering. He hid it from his wife, his parents, friends and sisters. On the outside he was this exuberant happy go lucky man, but on the inside he was struggling.
He didn’t reach out for help as most men don’t. Men are far less likely to seek help for a mental illness due to a number of reasons, e.g., societal factors like they have to suck it up and be a man, stigma and long standing cultural issues around men.
While Pat hid his mental health from everyone, he sought no support. He thought he had to “man up”. It was this that led him to the fateful day he tried to take his own life.
Thankfully Pat wasn’t successful. The world would have lost someone really special if he had been.
After his attempt he told his wife, who had no idea that Pat was struggling. It took him attempting to take his own life to finally open up to his wife and family, who were in disbelief as he didn’t portray any outside symptoms of mental illness.
In Pat’s own words, asking for help was the hardest thing to do but he was so relieved when he did.
This isn’t a story that ends with Pat. Countless men go through the same thing and they don’t seek help as it’s seen as a sign of weakness.
But, Pat has a message to men: “Don’t man up. If you want to be tough, express your emotions.”
how 3 words - "I need Help" - changed his life
Here is a video of Pat explaining his story and how three words - “I need help” - changed his life. They are the hardest words to say and Pat still has difficulty saying them.
Share his story to help other men say 3 words
Pat is now an amazing advocate for men's mental health and works tirelessly to help those in need.
Sharing his story has helped him recover and while he still struggles, he has tools and support around him now which makes things easier.
We are so grateful for Pat letting us tell his story and for being one of our amazing stigma fighters.
Follow 3Words on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with Pat’s advocacy work.
And, let's share his story to help others share his 3 words. We all deserve to find happiness.
Post by Erin Macauley, Chief Operating Officer & Mental Health Advocate, Accelerating Social Good; Australia Chair, Accelerating Mental Wellness Campaign.
NOTE TO READER. This is a story submission to our Accelerating Mental Wellness Campaign from a stigma fighter. As part of our social change campaign to co-create stigma free workplaces built on a foundation of empathy with needed mental health programs and supports, we invite people to share their stories with us to help build the human case. Please join us in thanking Mehar, who finds within herself the courage to not only share here, but also uploads a selfie to our Wall of Solidarity, taking another brick out of the wall of stigma, signs our We Are All Worthy change.org petition, and shares her reasons why on LinkedIn, asking others to sign too. Mehar, you truly are a stigma-fighter superhero! And, we so love and appreciate you. May your inner light continue to shine on brightly.
When manic, it is about wanting to change the entire world and believing I can. I truly live the words “the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
And it is not always a delusion.
If I can brace it, channel it and welcome it. I can be just crazy enough. Just a little less crazy than the bad while braver than those who let logic come in the way and play it safe.
They say it's in my head and I say yes, you are right, It is! but they don't believe it's true.
Would it be truer if your brain was on the outside, I ask? Wouldn’t YOU do everything to protect it …anything that is needed? Why is it on me to teach you when you are the ignorant one?
Doctors say “Let’s treat the highs first.” I don’t trust them.
I feel exceptionally creative, powerful both physically & mentally. And, oddly spiritual. That to me is the best part. I can read the signs of the universe.
But this phase transitions into a paranoia where I think my doctors are conspiring against me, and the entire world is my enemy.
It is a constant battle because the highs bring out the best in me but the lows are my enemy. I know they are both liars, and still they are not.
Unhealthy high horse of self-righteousness, over-confidence, grandiosity and detachment from reality. The racing, obsessive yet beautiful ideas but that incoherent pressured speech… where they get lost and so does everyone around me. Those profound conversations, my creative hunger! Am I making the best speech?
Things I never said before, things I have never ever heard. “So profound” my friends would say, but my poor luck “what, what did I just say?!”
lost in a memory fog, I am stuck in the middle of the best version of myself and the worst one.
The bickering breaks me down. In my darkest moments, I fear the most, I see my universe collapse, and the signs fade ... no matter how much I stretch my arms.
And then the whole sky comes down falling on me. And, for some strange reason, that sky is grey and dark and awfully quiet around me. The tunnel vision, it is surreal.
And then, it grasps me in its arms, but it doesn’t want me to know what ‘it’ is. The anxiety feels like a gremlin sitting on my shoulder, whispering lies in my ears every moment of the day. But then the gremlin leaves. I just feel awfully lonely.
The memory of my high-self is what keeps me going. I believe in all my dreams, hopes, and thoughts that were racing in my mind, and I pray I will remember them.
I know now, from the help of my same therapists, doctors, and the loving community, that this is no illness. This is as humanly as possible I can respond to the miracles and trials of life.
there is help. there is hope. But wouldn't it be amazing to seize that just crazy enough moment forever?
Heck yeah! Here’s where I start. I sleep! Tired or not, depressed or not, my deep sleep is the place I start. Self-care, boundaries, and rest. I don’t need to earn, they are the natural states I was ripped off of.
I don’t call myself manic for my great ideas. I own my brilliance. But I pick them one by one and contain myself with discipline and ask for help when I want. I am beyond those checklists of symptoms and the labels been put on my every action.
I speak up, stand up for myself and do the same for everyone.
“I carefully listen to the joys and waves of laughter and the cries of those who had been silent for a while as I march on. Those ‘silenced’ will roar one day to their glory, and in their roar, the stigmatic words of hate, judgment, and despise will fade.”
I know it’s a swing so come join me, why not!
My lows are mine, my highs are too. Going so deep in my life would be impossible, if it weren’t for this Bipolar Disorder we call.
What if I am just wired differently, like so many are. My anxiety is my yearning, my depression is my cry for rest, my mania is my higher-self. All this magic is real…as real it could be.
And even if it is an illusion, it is a lucky one.
P.s. stepping out of my comfort zone into the comedy zone.
My biggest inspiration is Tim Ferriss who flipped his bipolar into learning everything he could do. One thing he said that stuck with me: if you want something new don't go after what's already created. Create something YOU need the most. For me, I stepped out of my comfort zone and onto the stage. I stood up and started making jokes about being bipolar. My mother couldn't stop laughing nor could the audience. But this was as much for me as it was for them, if not more so. I hope you enjoy.