March Warrior – Courtney

March Warrior – Courtney

Welcome to March’s Warrior of the Month! This month we’ll be hearing about Courtney’s story. Courtney is a brave warrior who reached out to me, looking to share her story with the world. She has an instagram page that she runs called chronically_courtney where she discusses chronic illness (both physical and mental). Read her story below:

My story is a different one, I think, but maybe everyone feels that way.

I can’t honestly remember a time where I wasn’t in my head; feeling like I was different, something was different, or wrong, with me.

I knew for certain that something was wrong with my dad. He had these mood swings that kept him away from us a lot, saying he was working late (and maybe he was) more often than not. 

And something was maybe wrong with my mom, when for a period of time when I was a kid, I noticed she would cry any time she had to drive. But she was strong. And pulled herself together because nobody else was there to take care of us.

I was 13 when my parents finally split up and it was more of a relief than anything. Dad had left and came home so often we just needed normalcy and stability. By us I mean my 2 sisters and I, and I am the middle child (go figure).

That same summer that my dad left I had been sick. I felt fatigue that I couldn’t put into words, nausea, and like something was definitely wrong with me. My mom took me to doctor after doctor who wrote me off as a ‘tired teenager’ or that it was ‘possibly mono’ or I was ‘severely anemic’, before taking a good look at my bloodwork and sending me urgently to a hospital 2 hours away because I had leukemia. There it was. Something was wrong with me. And it was cancer. Getting cancer at 14 when you’re supposed to be entering high school is the definition of unfair. I missed that entire year of school and more than one friend seemed to forget I existed. There was no social media in 2001 and we didn’t have cell phones to text with. It made sense that I was depressed, the hospital psychologist told me, and it would probably go away when all of this was over.

But in December of 2003, when I finally finished chemotherapy, the depression wasn’t leaving.

And by summer of 2004 anxiety joined the lack of party in my head. I had watched a stupidly scary movie; When a Stranger Calls Back. A made-for-tv film about a ventriloquist who painted himself into walls and could throw his voice to confuse and lure his victims, and man oh man, this movie did some damage to my psyche. I had nightmares about it and told everyone I could talk to about how stupid this movie was, trying to convince myself that I was crazy for being scared of it.

I was 17 when I was babysitting 2 small boys a couple houses down from mine when I had my first panic attack, not even knowing what it was. I was terrified; I couldn’t breathe and I was just crying, almost paralyzed in fear. I called my mom, my friend and lastly, the parents of the children. I told them that everything was fine but my friend was going to come sit with me until they came home. They didn’t know what to think, and the next day they fired me because my panic attack scared them. 

I called my doctor and made an appointment with a psychologist and psychiatrist. I needed to get this under control. I was then diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Attack Syndrome. I began medication for it and, thankfully, never felt any sort of stigma about taking this medication. Mainly because I was used to taking medication for my health, and secondly because my mom took medication for her anxiety as well. When I was struggling through this, my mom disclosed to me that she had panic attacks when I was younger, and that was why she cried when she drove. It was nice to not feel crazy, and now I know I have a little extra in common with my mom now.

I found out when I was older that my dad has bipolar disorder, and his mother did too. I guess mental health disorders are really genetic, aren’t they?

My health trials haven’t stopped as I’ve aged, but thankfully my mental health has at least remained stable. My disorders are still there, and they pop up a little extra hard every now and then, but hey, mostly consistent is nice. They’re like these little monkeys that just live on my back, but they’re not attacking me anymore. I have changed medications over the years (and stopped the medication for a few years when I got cocky in university), but I know I need them and that it’s okay. It keeps the monkeys docile.

I still have panic attacks from time to time, but they’re less screaming and crying and more internal and hard to explain. But I know I will be okay, even when my brain tries to convince me otherwise. I’m going to be 33 this year, and I still remember that first panic attack like it was yesterday. But I’m a huge fan of scary movies now, even though I will never watch the one that shall not be named ever again!

Thank you for letting me share my story!

Courtney

Thank you so much Courtney for sharing your story with me and my readers. Mental illness really is a matter of genetics in a lot of cases so thank you for bringing that to light. I personally got bipolar disorder from my grandmas side of the family, and remember her erratic behaviors. My hope is the more we end the stigma around mental illness, the better we can take care of ourselves and make sure our children grow up informed.

Thanks for reading folks, talk to you again soon.

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