Mental illness has lived inside of me for a long time. As a child I remember anxiety eating me up inside. I was too nervous to eat before school, and too worried of failure to participate in any extra-curricular activities.
In my early adolescence my anxiety and paranoid thoughts got so invasive that I barely slept. I had intrusive thoughts that a man would break into my house and steal/hurt me. I lied awake so many nights, wide awake and terrified.
When I was 13 I began to self-harm. It started as something experimental...something I thought I deserved. But quickly became a coping mechanism. I began seeing therapists, counsellors and psychiatrists. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression and was prescribed an anti-depressant.
Fast forward to grade 12 of high school. I was still taking medication and came out as gay. I lived through an abusive relationship and a few traumatic events. My depression and anxiety were consuming me. I smoked weed, drank daily, and hid inside my room. I felt alone, like no one understood and as if I had to hide a terrible secret about myself.
In my second semester of grade 12 I attempted suicide and genuinely thought that was the only way out of the abyss of darkness I was experiencing.
I was admitted to CHEO mental health unit and stayed there for over a month. The staff at CHEO -- truly saved my life. They helped me open up and face my demons. They taught me coping strategies and evaluated my medication and thankfully, after trial and error, found a medication that worked for ME.
They never once took a "one size fits all" approach.
Life after being released from CHEO wasn't easy. My life wasn't magically different upon my return. But I had the support and tools I needed to function.
I am so thankful for the support of every single person in my life now. I am not "cured." Mental illness affects me every day. But, being able to TALK about it and be heard is so helpful in my wellness.
To anyone who is struggling, or has struggled, you are so strong.
Tara is currently promoting her upcoming poetry book, Waves which surrounds her experience with mental illness. She plans on donating a percentage of the book sales to CHEO mental health programs. Click here to learn more about Waves