The Reality of Living With Mental Illness - a guest blog by Catlin Smith.

Hanging out with my friend when all of a sudden, my breath becomes shorter, my heart feels like it’s pumping out of my chest. My mind is racing rapidly. I can’t seem to think straight. My sentences blur together as I can’t seem to finish a sentence. My body begins to shake and I can’t stop moving. All of a sudden, I feel anxious.

Those are my symptoms of having an anxiety attack. Those that are reading this can probably relate to my everyday life. When I have multiple things going on in my life, I have multiple anxiety attacks a day. I have to constantly keep my mind occupied by either reading, playing solitaire, or writing. Those are some of the few things I do. I solely focus on working out and writing. I love doing both. I’ve done those things since I was a kid. I was the kind of kid who played just about every sport out there. That helped me in the long run because now, I’m an adult in her early twenties. Not to mention reading. I could read all day if I could! Keeping my mind occupied has been a key factor in controlling my mind. If I don’t constantly do the things that help me, those taunting thoughts creep back into my mind without any sort of warning.

To put it this way, anxiety and depression is like a big ugly cloud that is constantly hanging over us. It’s always there no matter what. You wake up one day and you feel as if nothing can stop you. But then, you wake up the next day and you don’t even see why you should get out of bed. Today, as I am writing this blog, I almost didn’t get out of bed. I didn’t see a point in doing so. I am 21 and when I was in high school, I did self-harm. People would ask me questions “what happened to your face?” The truth….. I punched myself because I don’t love myself well enough to care what I look like. Instead, I made up some story and people would actually believe me.

I wrote a book called From Failure to Success. I explained what it was like living with something that a lot of people aren’t comfortable talking about. I know a lot of people struggle with opening up about that part of themselves. Believe me, I know and it’s not fun. I have been turned away countless times because people couldn’t handle what I deal with on a daily basis. Their insecurities and stories that they tell themselves are all lies in their heads. I began studying people and how they react to certain things. I study what causes those reactions. Most of the time, they're afraid.

Living with something that so many people struggle with has ultimately been the key I’ve been searching for. For the longest time, I saw that part of me completely worthless. I hated that side of me. But then I realised something, my anxiety and depression go everywhere I go. It’s there when I wake up, I do my daily life things, and when I go to bed. It’s always present in my life. If someone is going to turn me away all because I have these flaws that at times, go out of control, then that’s on them. I am who I am for a reason and all because I have a kind of mental illness, which in a way, everyone has, why not embrace that part of me that so many other people can relate too?

I had to change my mind into thinking that anxiety and depression is a good thing that we all should embrace. Rather it’s accepting ourselves or others accepting us. Our minds are the most powerful things in the universe. If you view your life and the things you want from a positive perspective, then your mind will do anything in its power to get that.

My mental illness does not define me by any means. But it is a part of me and I have to accept that. What if we actually embraced that part of ourselves? What if we could change the world by turning something so bad in our lives and use it to bring awareness too? My friend…… life goes on and rather we like it or not, mental illness cannot be cured but it can be embraceable. Only if we choose too.

The past year, I’ve been on ongoing battle with a severe case of depression. But I live to tell my story and save lives. I’ve attempted suicide twice and it’s been my biggest regret. Based on my experiences and who I am as a person, I know that I will live to prove others wrong and impact tons of people in my life.

Mental illness does not define me! I define it! You always have a choice rather or not to take charge of your mental health. It’s okay to say “I struggle and this is my story.” My dad always told me growing, that your biggest critic is yourself. No one can judge you harder than yourself. It took me years to open up about my mental health. When I started opening up about it, it changed my life. I found out who my real friends were and it allowed me to help others that had similar issues like me.


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