I have often likened my experience finding my way through mental health services as being like “a mouse in a maze” and the picture I chose is even more appropriate because there were many dangers and obstacles facing me along the way. There was the risk of a serious relapse on my part and the help I needed was not always clear or obvious.
I began my journey through these services in 2006 and along the way I dealt with family doctors, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, nurses, mental health workers and various other therapists. I can’t even begin to count the number of business cards I’ve gotten and lost over the years.
There were times that I wanted to give up and just be content with my life the way it was, even though I was seriously unhappy and unhealthy. I grew tired at times with not only having to constantly advocate for myself, but also fight the stigma and shame that accompanied my illness.
But I persevered and pushed through the darkest of times, with the love and support of my husband and daughter through it all. And I honestly believe that the darkest times are behind me. Looking back at the person I was in 2006 and the person I am today, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I made it! Some people climb physical mountains and count that as one of their proudest achievements – me, I climbed my mountain and I’m proud.
As I continue working towards maintaining my recovery and managing my symptoms, I began to feel a sense of purpose within. I wanted to contribute in some way to helping others along their way. Sometimes, when you are stuck in that maze for so long, you just need someone to step in and guide you to safety.
I owe a substantial amount of my recovery to all of the people who played a part in my journey. The professionals that make mental health their passion in life are to be commended for their work. They save lives every single day. They inspire me to do what I can to help them. I choose to speak up and speak out.
I am Wendy and I am a survivor of mental illness. I wear my scars like a badge of honor and there is no shame in telling others that not only do I have a mental illness, I’m LIVING a life worth living.