Lately I have been really struggling with my mental illnesses. For those who don’t know, I have severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and panic disorder, depression, and personality disorder.

I went to Portugal last autumn (side note: during that time I wasn’t in hijab unfortunately). It seemed that I had conquered my struggles with mental health. I was on a certain regimen of medications that was working wonderfully. I was doing great! And then my bubble burst, as all bubbles eventually must. I began losing memory of who I am. I didn’t know where I was or who other people were. I didn’t know my own name. These spells would come and go at the drop of a hat. I began not sleeping. And when I did sleep, I was tormented by nightmares from the past. I was having multiple panic attacks each day.

When I returned to the US, I thought that I could re-enter therapy and all would be well. But alas, it has been five months since I got back. And I am still suffering. My medications have been through numerous changes. I have added another psychiatric professional to my team. I have had so much happiness enter my life, most notably in the form of getting married on January 15. But even as I have become happier and so many dreams are coming true, I am battling debilitating symptoms.

In a recent therapy session, hospitalization was discussed as our next step if my care at home becomes implausible. According to my therapist, the only reason she isn’t ordering my hospitalization now is because of my husband. He is my full-time caregiver and my greatest supporter. He can pull me off the edge of an episode before I completely lose my mind. I often call him my angel.

The truth is that mental illness is often stigmatized. I have addressed this before on my blog, and I cannot repeat it enough. The stereotypes are inaccurate and unfair. Just because the movies and television series portray the mentally ill as only mass murderers and kidnappers and such, doesn’t mean it is true.  I have been tested extensively, and it has been thoroughly established that I do not possess violent tendencies or traits. In fact, witnessing aggression or violence is a major trigger of panic for me.

Many Americans are dealing with at least one mental health diagnosis. Odds are that someone you know is struggling, and you might not even know it. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, “One in four adults−approximately 61.5 million Americans−experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 17−about 13.6 million−live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.” This is significant. These are our friends, family, coworkers, fellow students, professors, the lawn care guy, the postman, and that one super smiley waitress. This is me.

My husband is Brazilian and Portuguese. Most of his cultural behaviors are Brazilian. Something that has blessed me immensely is discovering that stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental illness, while not exclusively American, are far less present in the Brazilian culture. What a relief to not have to make a production of coming out of my mental health closet! Nobody worries that I will turn into a serial killer haha. All I ask of anyone is to be treated like a human being. To be respected and given dignity as I do to them. Why should a label change that?

But I have digressed. I want to write this post to talk about my illnesses. You read my posts, and many of you have become my friends. So I want someone relatable (like myself) to talk to you about something that otherwise might feel a bit unrelatable (mental health and illness). Hopefully I shed some light on the matter, while also getting a few things off my own chest 🙂

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