August Warrior – Ayla

August Warrior – Ayla

Hello all, and welcome to my next Warrior of the Month! This month’s post is a little late, as both Ayla and I were needing some time to focus on our mental health and spend some time taking care of ourselves. I can’t thank Ayla enough for being so patient with me and allowing me to take my time getting this post out. Ayla is a lovely woman I have had the pleasure of meeting through Instagram. She’s a great advocate for mental health and I am soo excited to share her story. Read below:

I’ve been battling my mental illness (or at least aware of the fact that I had a mental illness) since I was 15 years old. I’m now 23, soon to be 24, and although I’m still on that road to recovery, I know that I’ve been getting better since that first trip to the Emergency Room.

Admitting that I wasn’t okay and asking for help was one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do. I am beyond lucky to have the support system that surrounds me, but it wasn’t always like that. My parent’s generation didn’t really talk about mental illness, and it’s not like they were provided with support books and brochures with information on it – for them it was a lot of navigating through unchartered waters. For the longest time, they had no idea what I was going through, and it wasn’t until I was almost 20 that they found out about all my dangerous, impulsive and self-destructive decisions in my teen years (I was very manipulative, and sneaky). Unfortunately, all that often led me to traumatic situations, which only worsened my condition.

Before asking for help, my parents thought I was just acting out. I had been diagnosed with depression after a doctor asked me a few questions, but nothing much came of it. My parents didn’t understand what was going on, as the diagnosis didn’t match the symptoms and nothing they did seemed to help. Because my feelings and emotions weren’t handled properly, the situation just kept escalating. Once the self-destructive behavior and trauma began, they became more and more lost and the cycle continued. Looking back, I know now that if I would have just opened up to my parents, a school counsellor or even a teacher, I could have gotten help a long time ago.

I think there were a few reasons why that was so hard. First, the stigma surrounding mental illness, especially my symptoms, can make the idea of talking about it really scary. Second, I was terrified that any adults I spoke to would rip me out of my home and into a hospital (when in reality, I would have gotten a proper diagnosis and the proper treatment). Finally, I’m extremely high functioning. I managed to get straight A’s all through high school, hold down jobs and somewhat maintain relationships, even with my cocaine addiction.

Subconsciously, I always put on a brave face and told myself “it’s not that bad, you can do this” every time I felt like getting help. Even after opening up to my parents, it took an entire year to start getting the help I truly needed. As I said before, there’s no guidebook that parents get for how to deal with this stuff. They were more focused on helping recover from the abusive relationship I had recently left and thought maybe the drugs and dangerous situations could explain my mood swings.

It wasn’t until I was 21 years old (maybe closer to 22) that Borderline Personality Disorder was finally mentioned. That day, my boyfriend and I had decided to work out at his house together. It was my first time working out in front of a guy since getting bullied, and I was terrified. I remember feeling tense, irritated, and for some reason I was actually mad at him for telling me that I was beautiful and I could trust him (and by mad I mean I felt like he was literally attacking me). I tried to make it through, but my hand ever so lightly tapped a light bulb above me while I was doing jumping jacks. That was enough to make me unravel. I went from mad at the world to hating myself. The thoughts were racing – sorry spiraling, crashing and blaring – in my head. Some thoughts were screaming how worthless I was, others were screaming back that I need to pull it together before I lose everyone I love. I was having vivid images of ways to end my life flashing in my head. It felt like the only way that I could make it all stop is if I hurt myself. It felt like I was leaving my body and I needed to come back, so I grabbed a knife. It sounds like this all took minutes, but it was seconds (the thoughts are fast when I’m in an episode). Thankfully, my boyfriend had enough time to react. He ran after me, grabbed the knife and ended up taking me to a hospital that was in a city nearby (they’re really good with mental health there).

During the car ride he realized something serious was going on. I went from raging mad and trying to jump out of the car, to sobbing and apologizing and full of guilt, to happy and laughing and asking if we could skip the ER and get a burger instead. Needless to say, we went. When it was my turn to be seen I was literally shaking. I had to ask that my boyfriend come in with me, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak. He agreed, and we were led to a dim-lit room with two plush couches. Calmly, Brian explained the situation to the psych nurse. Once he was done, the nurse turned to me and began asking questions. He knew exactly what to ask and how to say it so that I became more comfortable talking. After about two hours, he told me about BPD. He told me what route to take to get a diagnosis, I was referred to a Community Mental Health Worker and he told me about the Crisis Stabilization Unit.

At first, the idea of staying somewhere for a week terrified me. Thankfully, after trying some new coping mechanisms, I was able to think clearly, and I realized it was my best choice.

After my stay at the CSU, recovery officially began. I won’t lie, it’s been a bumpy road. I now have officially been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (also looking into Bipolar Disorder and Fibro), I speak with my Community Mental Health Worker every second week, I’m on the waitlist for a 6 month in-patient DBT program (unfortunately on hold due to COVID, but I’m hanging in there), I moved in with Brian in March of 2020 and we’re still going strong, I am off work until I can get the treatment I need, and I am using both medication and natural coping mechanisms to manage my symptoms and make the most of life until my treatment begins! I’m even doing some work from home and running a free mental health education and support group!

The best part? Three years ago, I was terrified to tell others that I have a mental illness, but now here I am advocating online and guiding others to the same resources I was once looking for. I call crisis lines when I need, I reach out to my supports when things get tough, and I’m sharing my story with as many people as I can because I truly believe that the more we speak on this, the sooner we can end this stigma.

 

Ayla, thank you for agreeing to share your story and for your bravery in starting your own mental health page. I am proud to know someone with your strength and I wish you all the best in your recovery.

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