Works in Progress // Sanya

***** Trigger warning: sexual assault*****

Since she was just 11 years old, Sanya has been combatting suicidal thoughts. Moving from the U.S. to India at a young age, she was forced to adapt to countless changes. Suffering through anxiety with school, depression and sexual assault, Sanya eventually made the decision to focus on her mental health.

Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, she still has her low days. The difference is, she now has the tools to save herself when slipping. Raising her voice and sharing an important story of strength within the mental health community online, meet Sanya.

 

unnamed

 

Name: Sanya Singh

Age: 25

 

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time? 

The first time I thought of committing suicide was when I was 11 years old. My parents had moved us from the US to India and the cultural shock was too much for me to handle. I was bullied in school, I didn’t know the local language and basically everything sucked. While going through puberty I had a lot of angst, I started self-harming and even attempted taking my life multiple times. I thought all this was normal teenage angst. I didn’t realize that this was not the norm. I struggled with body image issues throughout high school, more bullying, erratic relationships and a mess of other things.

I thought going away to college would solve all my problems. I enrolled myself into Boston University. The first semester there, I tried drinking away my sadness. I felt isolated, misunderstood and like my soul was being sucked out of me. Second semester I tried taking several pills, I tell everyone that I stopped because my mom called me but in reality I called her. I didn’t want to die, but I also did? The summer after my second semester I went to a psychiatrist – he diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I didn’t like him at all, I was defiant and found him to be callous and kind of smug, but I went. They wanted me to start medications but I was resistant, I would skip doses and eventually stopped taking it completely. I went back for a third semester, thinking maybe things would be okay. But they were not.

I started smoking pot everyday. My grades were slipping and I wasn’t eating or sleeping properly. Winter 2011 I went back home and had a major breakdown when it was time to head back to Boston. I think that was finally when my parents realized I needed more help. So I withdrew from college, started going for therapy and Reiki healing. I started feeling better, but I still had a lot of emotions I couldn’t deal with. Therapy helped, but when I started college in Delhi, I stopped therapy. I convinced everyone I was okay, I didn’t feel like my soul was being sucked out, so I must be better. I still had intense mood swings and anxiety attacks but I thought those were just normal now.

Three years of college, with a lot of ups and downs, more self-harm, but all this was kept a secret – to everyone else I was better. I didn’t need medication or therapy anymore, I was over my depression. After I graduated, I took a gap year and was working at an organization and out of nowhere all those thoughts came back.

“I hate this job, maybe I should hurt myself so I can quit. Maybe I should die so I don’t have to deal with this? I am worthless, I am useless.”

I spent hours crying on the bathroom floor wondering “Why am I like this?” I told my parents and they kinda freaked out, but were far more supportive. So I met a new psychiatrist who I loved, and he referred me to a therapist who changed my life. She did a bunch of tests and diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder. I loved working with her, she didn’t put up with any of my bullshit. I worked through a lot of issues with her, including some trauma I had faced as a child. I had been sexually abused by my grandfather on visits to India when I was younger. And when my family moved back to India, I had to see him and pretend nothing happened. That was one of the major issues I always struggled with, and even then I didn’t come to peace with it. I spoke to her about my past relationships, one of which was emotionally abusive. I told her about all the issues I had with my body and self-worth.

For a few months I worked on therapy, I was doing well in general. So I decided, “Hey let me apply to grad school!” I did, and got into University of Chicago, which was so unexpected. I was ecstatic, I thought “YAY! I am gonna go to Chicago, it’s gonna be awesome cause I am well now.” I got here, and I thought things would be good. But two months in, I started feeling isolated again. I stopped taking medication, again. I stopped therapy, again. I met this guy, and we were in a “non-relationship,” but I would spend all my time with him. And he would drink and smoke pot a lot, so I would drink and smoke pot a lot. By a lot, I mean five to six times a week. Sometimes, even every single day. I wasn’t eating well; I wasn’t sleeping well.

I went to visit my parents in Malta for Spring break and I had to spend the week sober. I also got news that I had failed a class that week. When I got back to Chicago after that week, I broke down. I spent hours crying and called my uncle and told him I need help. I got to Naperville on Wednesday night and Thursday morning I admitted myself into an In-Patient program. During program, I told myself, listen to what they say, do what they say, tell them what they want to hear. I started medication again and went back to campus. Two weeks in, I still hadn’t made any appointments for therapy, I was taking my medication but wasn’t eating. I was sleeping 14 hours a day. I wasn’t bathing or taking care of myself. I had a presentation in class which I broke down during and I knew I was not ready. I went back to Naperville, and then admitted myself into a Partial-Hospitalization Program. I took a leave of absence and decided that I had to focus only on my mental health.  

 

 

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

I was in class, trying to give a presentation on material I knew, but I was so tongue-tied and anxious that the professor told me to stop talking. That day I knew I had to do something. I didn’t want to suffer my whole life. I wanted to do so much to help so many people, my goal is to become a teacher and I can’t do that if I am not well. I decided I needed to get my shit together.

 

 

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

The last few months after getting discharged from the program have been relatively easy because I have been spending time with my family. I still have days when I get extremely anxious. I still have days when I worry I won’t be okay or that I am not good enough. There are days when my thoughts overwhelm me and I lay in bed wondering if everything I am doing is wrong. I have my sob-fests. But now, I know what to tell myself, I know that I have to use positive self-talk, that I have to be self-compassionate. I know that I should just ride the wave and let the emotions flow. I’ve been reading a lot about DBT and I have been practicing my skills and they actually help! I never thought they would but they do! I am going back to school in a few weeks, and I know a lot of stressors are going to come my way. But I feel like I have an arsenal ready for all the stuff that life can throw at me. And I know what I have to do if I feel myself slipping. I am also getting a cat, so yay! 

 

  

 

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

I think that it has given me the ability to empathize with people. I feel like when you struggle so much in life, you have a little bit of an understanding of other’s struggles. I also know that it has given me strength, if I can survive all the shit I have done to myself, I can survive anything. It has also helped me figure out what I want to do with my life, I feel like I could really use my experiences to help adolescents with their struggles and plan to pursue a career in guidance counseling.

I also think that it has given me a new voice. For a long time, I was silent about my struggles, but recently I have started speaking out through Instagram. The mental health community on Instagram has been so supportive and kind. We all cheer each other on and it is so beautiful to see. Mental illnesses can be so isolating, it is important to see that you are not alone. 

 

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

Do not give up. Things actually can get better.

 

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below to be potentially featured on the blog! 

Works in Progress // Elly

Trigger warning: There is mention of suicide in this post. 

Battling severe anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder, Elly started out living the life she thought was normal. It was only after several self harm episodes and near death experiences that she looked within and made the decision to attend therapy.

With the introduction of DBT therapy, self care, and saying no to things that didn’t benefit her life, this beautiful soul has come home to herself. Preaching a strong message that each person should fight for themselves, meet Elly.

IMG_20161015_134017765

Name: Elly Melo

Age: 29

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

I was diagnosed in 2015 with Borderline Personality Disorder. To be honest, I noticed that something was different with me when I was 14/15; I felt like the odd one out. At the age of 16, a teacher suggested I go to a counsellor in order to get help for my anxiety around exam time. However, I struggled to keep up with my sessions and stopped going after only a couple of sessions. But I managed to force myself to keep doing the things that everyone else was doing; I finished college, I went to uni, I went into a job related to my degree. 

Unfortunately, I was living a life that others wanted; thus one I really didn’t want or value. At the age of 24, I broke down and was diagnosed with severe Depression and severe Anxiety. It wasn’t until many more breakdowns, near death experiences and self harm episodes that I was finally sent to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder.

 

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

I came too close to succeeding with a suicide attempt. I had been in the NHS mental health system for years by this point, and found my NHS experience was very invalidating and the “professionals” I was seeing, were actually making me feel worse. 

After one particularly bad episode, I agreed with my mum that I would seek private therapy. My mum then helped me apply for ESA and PIP, and with that money I am now paying for private DBT. I have been seeing my current therapist for just over a year now; since May 2016, and she has changed my life. I would recommend this type of therapy to anyone with Borderline Personality Disorder. However, please do go through the hard work of finding a therapist you like and feel comfortable with, finding a therapist for you is extremely important. Without that connection, I’m not sure I’d be where I am now; I’m improving slowly, but I am in a very different place to a year ago. In a good way!

 

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

My moods change a lot throughout the day, and they are very intense! I wake up feeling like one person, and by night time I have been at least six different people. I hear voices; good ones and mean ones. I have hallucinations and delusions. I can become very paranoid. My anxiety is still quite bad, and it stops me from doing a lot. My depression really affects me too. I also get manic episodes, and sometimes can experience mania and depression at the same time – it’s a special kind of torture. But, my therapist and psychiatrist (also private now, as the NHS let me down too many times) have really helped me, and continue to do so; I have found a good combination of medications and my therapist has taught me many tools and techniques (such as new/different ways of thinking, setting boundaries, identifying my values, talking about how I’m feeling and asking for help when I need it, and taking care of myself in general – self care has been key!) which I use every day, and they actually work. 

For now, I’m focusing on recovery. I’m not working on anything other than myself, I live with my mum, and use my disability allowance for specialist treatments, such a DBT and other psychiatric support. I am hoping that in a couple of years, I’ll be in a better place and managing a more independent life. I have hope now, which really has been key to keeping me alive and working hard on my recovery.

 

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

I have learned more now, than ever before. It’s been kind of a rude awakening; it’s painful and so hard, but it’s woken me up to life; MY life. Now I try to live for me, and I am more open and honest about how I feel and what I need. I try to live in the moment and be mindful, I have learned to breathe and say “no” to anything that doesn’t contribute to my healing, and “yes” to the things that do help me.

I’m coming home to myself, and it is difficult but it is so amazing. I’m looking forward to my future now. Don’t get me wrong, I still go through relapses and suicidal thoughts are a daily thing. The struggle is real. But I believe in myself now. 

Most important of all, I have met the most amazing people, thanks to my illness. It really seems that your vibe really does attract your tribe! And I’m so grateful for the co-warriors in my life. 

My illness has taught me that I don’t want to be another zombie on the capitalism race, I want to help others and live a more meaningful life, a life that’s more me. I finally have my own values and have set boundaries, things that I wasn’t aware of prior to my breakdowns. 

 

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

ASK FOR HELP! Fight for it, tell those you love and trust that you are struggling; be thorough and do your best to get them to understand you. It’s not easy, but eventually it helps a lot. And you’ll be surprised how many “me too” moments you have, with new friends and with old ones. 

Fight for you, it is the hardest and most amazing thing you will ever do. Identify your values and set boundaries, you’re the only one walking in your shoes and following your path. Nobody else understands who you are and what you want, only you. You can have people who help, love and support you, but it is your journey. You decide what works and how you want to do this thing called life.

 

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below and you may be featured on the blog!