Compassion, Community and Understanding Helped My Recovery by Destiny A. My mood swings began when I was a teenager. I remember that I had always been an awkward kid, and I felt like I saw the world differently than my peers. Eventually, my social difficulties and the severity of my moods became concerning, so I went to our family doctor for guidance. That was the beginning of my mental health journey. After a series of misdiagnoses — PCOS, thyroid disorders, PMS and bipolar disorder, to name a few — I finally received a diagnosis that stuck: schizoaffective disorder. Unfortunately, I was never actually given this information in person. I discovered my doctor’s conclusion about my mental health when I asked for a letter explaining my need for academic accommodations at school. In the letter to a school official, my doctor listed a diagnosis that they had never discussed with me personally. I remember my frustration in that moment; How could my psychiatrist have determined I had schizoaffective disorder and ADHD without informing me? Despite my frustrations with the delivery of such news, I researched the disorders, and concluded that the diagnoses made sense. I began to work with a therapist who agreed that my symptoms fit these particular conditions. But words on a piece of paper didn’t define my mental health journey. They simply gave it a name and helped me process my struggles. My symptoms had always been present, but I had never been able to identify a cause or explanation. Understanding my mental health conditions would become even more important as my symptoms worsened over time. My mental and emotional health deteriorated when I finally moved out of my childhood home and left a meaningful job. I moved to a new town where I knew almost no one, and I struggled at my new job. My life took a dark turn; I couldn’t seem to get my life back on track. I tried going back to school but struggled to make the transition. I began to feel unworthy of life and others’ time. I decided I was a burden to those around me, and I believed that it would be better if I wasn’t around to bother them anymore. My suicidal ideation escalated, coming to a head when I made an attempt to take my life. After surviving the attempt, I felt like a failure. But my loved ones rallied around me to change my perspective. Eventually, with the proper support and education about my mental illness, I abandoned this unhealthy thinking. I quickly learned the people around me didn’t see me as a burden or a waste of time — and that the depression wasn’t my fault, and it could be treated. After months of spending time with my family and my closest friends, I began to find hope again. They taught me how to see the beauty in life and how to be kind to myself in the way I was kind to others. Navigating mental illness is a lifelong journey; There are times when I slip up return to negative patterns of thinking, but the love and grace of my friends and family who continue to support me always helps me recenter. Moving forward, my goal is to try to see the hope, even in the darker times. I have been fortunate to experience true compassion, love and support as I recovered — and my vision is to serve my community with the same compassion and optimism that sustained me. I don’t always live up to this vision, but I strive to find the hope every single day.