My Story

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t struggle with my mental health. As a child, it was separation and anxiety. I began therapy in elementary school. It helped a bit but made no lasting progress. I returned to therapy in middle school and was started on antidepressants shortly afterward.


I also discovered my career path, therapy. I wanted nothing more than to help those like me feel less alone. That is how I’ve always felt, broken and alone. I survived high school and even went off to college. But after the first year, things went downhill. I was diagnosed with depression. Therapy, medication changes, recovery.


I changed a lot throughout college. Struggling with my identity and sense of self. I engaged in dangerous, self-sabotaging behaviors, and desperately sought approval. I couldn’t seem to understand the whirlwind of emotions I felt instead. Nevertheless, I survived college. I graduated a year early and got accepted into graduate school. I was on a high. Then came the low. Self-mutilation, dropping out of school and working way too much. I attempted suicide twice.


Finally, it clicked. I couldn’t continue to suffer like this. I sought therapy and intensive treatment. I also received my first formal diagnosis. It came back as Anxiety, Depression, and to my surprise Borderline Personality Disorder. I was hurt and shocked. I knew the stereotypes and I didn’t want to be ’that.’


However, it didn’t take me long to recognize my second chance. For once aspects of myself that I felt but could never name, were validated. Slowly, I began to recover. I went back to nannying and started to regain a sense of normality.


I returned to school and excelled. Yet, that year I was so unhappy. My relationships became distant and I lost touch with myself. Finally, I recognized what I had been doing. I was sacrificing my identity for a career. I saw my future of stress and unhappiness. Taking it out on my relationship and future family. I understood what needed to change.


I left school. I decided not to become a therapist, and instead, I became Ashley. Now, I write, paint, and nanny. I still want to satisfy my childhood desire to help others feel less alone. I’m on a path of recovery and self-acceptance and blogging about it on the way. This is my story.


People Call Me Brave


People have called me brave for writing and sharing my story. I agree I am brave, but not for sharing or writing. I may be brave because of what I have faced and do face daily. I am undoubtedly courageous for choosing to continue when all I wanted was to die. I know I am brave for continuing to make the most of my life. But writing and sharing make me authentic and vulnerable, not brave.


I can push past the stigma, enough to share my story. Due to my stability, I feel comfortable talking about thoughts and feelings. Therapy was once my career goal. Now I write my story from a unique perspective, both personal and education-based.


Currently, I am stable. Summer is here, and I have gained control of my depression. I know it will return, hopefully only for a day or two. Once the cold weather comes around, things will be more difficult. For now, my head is clear.


I am sharing my story because I can. I need to write in some way to release these thoughts from my head. You reading this is helping me do that, so thank you. Those of you who can relate to some of my deepest and darkest thoughts, you are so brave. Keep fighting.

Broken

I have always felt broken. I believed there was something wrong with me, and I needed to be fixed.



Growing up, I was told a lot of things about myself. However, I was never taught how to express my big feelings and emotions. Nobody knew why they were there, or what to do with them. I didn’t understand what these feelings meant or how to handle them.


I never knew how to advocate for myself because others had always jumped at the opportunity to do it for me. I felt lost and broken, and I believed I needed others to fix me.


Due to lacking emotional intelligence and the ability to express myself, I never fully understood how I felt. It wasn’t until a formal diagnostic assessment. I expected a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, but not borderline personality disorder. Initially, I saw this as an affirmation that I was broken. I was angry and hurt, but I stuffed my feelings down.


Then I enrolled in a counseling graduate program. I think I learned more about myself than anything else. I was gaining self-awareness and acceptance.


I then began to realize that my diagnosis was the validation I had been looking for. I understood that I was being given an opportunity to better understand myself. Aspects of myself that I had felt but could never name were validated.


I no longer had to feel broken because I could externalize my symptoms from myself.


Self-awareness is the key to my healing. From feeling broken to becoming whole. This is my journey, my recovery, my life.

I thought I could do it all

I’ve planned on being a therapist for the past 12 years, which is more than half of my life. I’ve always planned on being someone’s wife and mother. I planned on being among the small percentage of those with a Personality Disorder who can hold a steady job, be in a relationship, have children, and be mentally whole. I planned on doing it all.


I’ve spent the past year in a Clinical Counseling program. I was exceeding my expectations. My professors told me how much of a natural I was, how I would be useful and help so many people like me. That’s the thing; I was doing well in school. From the outside, it looked like I was doing it all. But I thought I wanted “bigger and better things,” transferring to a top program in Colorado was my next step, or so I planned.


One of my favorite aspects of the world is how unpredictable it can be. I honestly can’t believe I feel this way now. I once viewed the world’s unpredictability as frightening and painful. I’ll tell you what changed. I took the summer off of school in preparation for a potential move. It only took two weeks of no school and no job to realize I was the happiest and healthiest I’ve felt since I can remember. I’m also mentally unstable due to medication changes, but even so, I am so happy, mindful, alive. I understand what a lot of you are thinking – everyone would be satisfied if they had no obligations. Maybe so, but I’ll tell you why that’s not the case for me.


I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life, Depression since age 18, and I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder at 21. Although my personality disorder feels constant in my life, I view my diagnosis as an explanation of why I am the way I am. I don’t remember the last time I was genuinely happy about myself and my life. I experienced happiness on occasion, but it was never constant. I was always in crippling fear, overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, despair, and internal rage. I looked like a successful young adult with a Bachelor’s Degree in Graduate School, dog mom, a loving girlfriend, and daughter, devoted friend, athletic, successful, (happy?). I looked like I could do it all, I wanted people to believe that, and I just about fooled myself in the process.


Look ahead 5, 10, 15 years, and what do you want in your life? I want to be a mom, friend, wife, artist, writer, and advocate. I thought I wanted to be a therapist too, but was it my dream or something I did because people told me I was “good?” I would be a competent therapist, and I could help so many people, but would I neglect myself in the process? I throw myself into whatever I’m doing, and it becomes my identity. I don’t want my identity to be a therapist, so drained from work that she struggles with her mental health, neglects her marriage, takes it out on her children, self-sabotages until she ends it all. I don’t want to be that person. I want to be Ashley.


My life felt like it was crumbling underneath my feet. Who am I? What am I going to do with my life? Taking time off of school, sharing my story via Instagram, and meditating, I’ve discovered who I am. I still don’t know what I am going to do with my life, but I do know what I need to feel mentally whole. I need to write. I need to paint. I need to read. I need professional support, family and friends, a family with children of my own, and some part-time work on the side. I need so much control in my life because of my mental illness. I can’t live life like everyone else. I thought this made me broken or a failure, but I would never view a client in this way. That made me think. Is it okay if I can’t hold a full-time job, have a career, or equally accomplish what those around me can? That’s doesn’t mean I’m a failure, and it doesn’t mean I’m broken. It means I’m healthy. I know my limits, how to care for myself (which feels like a full-time job), and how to feel whole. I thought I could do it all, and I can. However, my doing it all is going to look a lot different than yours, and that’s okay.


For now, I’ll love, write, read, paint, run, meditate, and live. I no longer have my life planned, but because of that, I feel free.