Mental Health's Impact from a Young Age to Now and how it Affects Day to Day Life
he first time I remember my heart beating too fast and sweating too much was in seventh grade. At the time, I had no idea what it was, but it never really seemed to go away. But I never understood what was happening
and this is the case for a lot of people suffering from mental health issues at a young age. Amanda Boeing, a current occupational therapist a mental health rehabilitation center and my older sister, says “It wasn’t until high school that I noticed my mental health issues, but I think they were there in grade school, but I was too young to really comprehend what was happening.”
This is not something that is uncommon. According to a research study by the University of Michigan, nearly 7.7 million children and teens in the United States have at least one treatable mental health disorder. This can range from depression, anxiety or ADHD. But a lot of kids do not realize or understand what they are going through. In public schools, there are about 50 million kids currently and 1 in 5 of those kids show signs of a mental health disorder. But these kids do not receive the information or help they need, with 80% not receiving counseling, therapy or medication. David Anderson, an expert on schools and mental health at Child Mind Institute says, “Mental health is all too often one of the last things that we pay attention to, even though we know how immensely important it is…”
It is jokingly called my winter glow but in reality, it tells me that the worse days are to come. It is my pale skin and dark circles around my eyes.
Montessori teacher, Janine Boeing, who is also my mom, says that she has kids who range from three to five who she knows are dealing with mental health issues. “It is really sad because there are some parents who are accepting and say, ‘let’s get on this’ and then you have others who are in denial and that breaks my heart. It is something I have always been open about, with you and Amanda [my sister] because it is not something to mess with. People need help and it is out there.”
For Ohio University sophomore, Bailey Jones, she was in seventh grade when she was first diagnosed with depression and adjustment disorder. Those early diagnosis allowed her to be in touch with her emotions which lead to her later diagnosis of anxiety and an eating disorder, “basically sitting in a hospital room, being told you are dying because of your actions. It’s really intense and terrifying,” Jones says.
OCD is portrayed in an inaccurate light in Hollywood. People with OCD need a sense of control over our obsessive thoughts. I do not obsess over cleaning. I obsess over what I cannot control, thoughts about how many ceiling tiles there are and if they are even, the drip of my bathroom sink and how much water it wastes a year, the sound of my roommate walking around, the boys above me and how it feels as if they are right in my room sometimes. Cleaning is a way I feel in control, it is not what I obsess over. Hollywood is wrong.
The sounds I hear throughout the day. Sometimes they are calming but other times, it is all I can focus on.
But now in college, Jones feels stuck with the label of an eating disorder. Dieting and working out on college campuses are the new norm. More so, between classes and work, new environments and a party culture, college students struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle. College students are at a higher risk to develop eating disorders because of fad dieting such as Keto diets as well as over-exercising. NEDA reports that 35% of normal dieters progress to unhealthy dieting. Being surrounded by these fad diets and people focused on how they look is hard for Jones, but she is working to focus only on her journey.
It is important to catch mental disorders earlier in life but unfortunately, that is not the case. Nearly one in five adults in the United States deal with some kind of mental health problems, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health. Two categories to describe these conditions are Any Mental Illness (AMI) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI). AMI encompasses all recognized mental illnesses while SMI is a smaller and more severe subset of AMI.
But for myself, a diagnosis did not come until later.
Going into high school, I thought, maybe, the issues I was feeling would go away but it only seemed to make things worse. I dealt with typical teenage stuff such as not fitting in and not having a lot of friends. But I noticed it was more than that. While I was on the volleyball team, I felt in control of myself and my anger but when I got cut my sophomore year, I no longer had a way to control things. My thoughts would run out of control and without an outlet, my bitterness and anger took over who I was and filled my brain with thoughts of suicide.
It was decided that I needed a change my sophomore year of high school. After the new year, I started at a new high school. I saw it as a fresh start, away from drama and not fitting in, “[Your first high school] just did not fit with your personality and who you are. Not fitting in caused a lot of problems for you,” My mom says. But transferring did not solve everything immediately. I was overwhelmed with new people and learning my way around the new school.
But with as hard as it was in the beginning and as much anxiety as it did cause, my junior year came around and sitting in my friend’s car, crying about my uncontrollable thoughts, I finally sought help. It first came in the form of my English teacher, Julie Brandel. From the first moment I walked into her classroom, she had made me feel welcomed and accepted so I naturally felt compelled to open up to her. My free periods and lunches became therapy sessions. Through writing and literature, Brandel, taught me how to open up about my emotions to myself as well as to someone else. She gave me a sense of feeling okay for the first time in a while.
But I still lacked control in my life. Without a sense of control, I turned to punching walls, floors and books – anything I could hit without doing too much damage and without too much noise. I did not want people to know I felt out of control. But with the help of my English teacher and some convincing, I started therapy after crying to my mom about how helpless and anxious I felt. “It broke my heart knowing you were dealing with that struggle by yourself and didn’t want to let me in. I remember the conversation of trying to tell you that you were worth everything that I thought you were worth,” my mom says, remembering that conversation.
This is me taking my medicine after I get off work. Normally, I take it at 10:30 but I was running late for work so I took it when I got home. I have an app that tells me when I have to take the medicine and stays on my phone until I do take it. The stay alive tattoo on my finger I got my freshman year of college when my depression was really bad. It serves as a constant reminder to stay alive and to take my medicine because sometimes I forget. Sometimes I don't want to take it.
The first diagnosis came my junior year of high school. At first it was just anxiety, but I knew I was holding back from my therapist. I did not trust her enough to open up about everything because I was scared, she would tell my mom. But with a new therapist came two new diagnoses. First, she told me I had obsessive compulsive disorder and then she said I had depression. Receiving the diagnoses made me feel less crazy and I felt like I gained some control back in my life because I knew what was wrong and we could fix it.
We tried breathing exercises, mindfulness exercises, meditation and so many other things but none of them could really break through my bad moments and bring me back to the present. It was decided that I would get on medicine at the end of my junior year of high school. I was started on 25mg of Zoloft to treat my anxiety. Soon it was bumped up to 50mg and just recently, it was bumped up to 100mg. My doctor decided to add 10mg of Buspar to help more with the depression as well as what I call my calm pill to help with really bad panic attacks.
I saw a lot of change and so did my family. “[About changing high schools] You found your niche with the drama department and you found your group of people. It brought back the Kelsey I was used to seeing, the happy go lucky, driven person, someone who liked herself and liked the direction she was heading.”
Changing high schools started the movement of saving my life and every day from that moment has just been another thing to save my life. I have learned a lot about myself and my mental disorders through the years. I have learned that there are still bad moments. From the time I was diagnosed to my junior year of college – almost four years – were probably some of the worst years of my battle with mental disorders. Dealing with the change that college brought, to being away from home and all the stress of college classes, I saw some of my lowest moments in these past four years.
It brought back the Kelsey I was used to seeing, the happy go lucky, driven person, someone who liked herself and liked the direction she was heading.
Mako and I spend a lot of time together. She is the reason I get up in the morning. Between her needing food or bringing me whatever random object she is playing with that morning, she makes me get out of bed. She is there to curl up on my lap when I am trying to do work or ready to bring me a toy when she wants to play. Every time I come home, she is there at the door or there shortly after the door opens. She makes everything a little bit easier.
But even in those bad moments, I have learned how to deal with it. From taking medicine to finally getting an emotional support animal, I have learned that I can be okay on my own. Of course, my mom saw it earlier than I did, saying, “I don’t think I managed anyone. I give you guys credit. You and Amanda are both strong females who recognized there was an issue and weren’t afraid to go after it. And when you did open up and came to me, we called the doctor and got you help. I think you managed yourselves pretty well. I was just your crutch to lean on when things got rough or a sounding board. Don’t sell yourself short, you managed yourself really well.”
There are a lot of low moments when it comes to dealing with mental disorders. There are days when it can feel as if the world is crashing in on you and there is nothing you can do about it. I can sit and stare at my computer for hours on end and get absolutely nothing done. My apartment will be obsessively cleaned for a few days and then clothes with pile up in my bathroom because I cannot bring myself to pick them up. Life seems to go on and I am just not living with it. Some days it feels as if everything is moving around me and I cannot seem to move with it. Some days, I feel okay and I feel as if life is okay. There are good moments and bad moments. Sometimes the bad outweigh the good and that is when I turn to Mako, my emotional support cat.
Mental health can affect school, work, personal and professional lives. It. does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, age or anything, it is always there. And without help, it can take over. But with help, there is hope even if it is hard to ask for. The hardest part of getting better is admitting you need help.
But even asking for help does not make everything better.
The days get shorter in the winter and it makes me feel worse as the days go on but I just try to remember that these days will pass and that you just have to stay alive for all the moments your future can possibly bring. But if the world ends before that, well, at least I tried.