Never Give Up MYSELF I graduated Cum Laude from Westminster College in Pennsylvania. I served as the Student Government President, collegiate softball player, student representative to the Board of Trustees, Treasurer for my sorority, among other roles. I have successfully immersed myself into the community since moving to Jacksonville five years ago. I immediately jumped into volunteering activities such as Junior League of Jacksonville, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and her sorority alumnae chapter. I continue to be involved in various social sports. Currently I am receiving my MBA part-time and am a Corporate Recruiter. So as you can see, very active, involved, smiling… happy. HISTORY/SIGNS I was always active in my life, with sports and organizations really started to thrive in high school. I enjoyed being a very approachable and an outgoing leader, but inside I noticed I wasn’t fulfilling myself, or to me, I wasn’t enough. So, I pushed more and harder, accomplished more things; became class president, captain of the softball team, and won the honor of Prom Queen during my senior year. So, college wasn’t much different. I played softball still and pushed to join every organization and be the leader of it. Why? Because I loved it and I thrived on challenges and being organized. I never drank a sip of alcohol until I was 21, even then do I only have sips rarely. I still would go out and have a good time and wake up refreshed to push and attack through another day. I graduated and followed my parents down to Saint Augustine, to look for my first career. I left my family, friends, then boyfriend, everything, to start anew. I quickly found my career and then broke up with my boyfriend of 4.5 years, and started my new life. Things were moving and grooving, until Fall 2012. I started experiencing some panic and anxiety. Then I couldn’t sleep, and then never could get out of my bed, or shower, or leave my room, or answer my friends, or even go to work. I had dark thoughts. It was a massive change to my lifestyle. My parents didn’t know what to do so I went into a rehabilitation facility that fall, and then again, and then it was officially diagnosed just severe chronic depression. I got on some medication and bounced up to sprinting through my life again. I got off my medication, because I thought I was fine. I was healthy, so why do I need these? In Spring of 2014, I noticed some similar actions and thoughts again, clouded vision to reality and became numb to my environment. Couldn’t work, again, or hang out with anyone or anything, because everything was so overwhelming to me. I went back into rehabilitation, quickly got out, stating I was fine, and then went back in shortly thereafter because I attempted to end my life. I was sick to my stomach because my brain and thoughts were so foggy, but I genuinely thought the world would be better without me. Everyone told me, why do you have to be upset, why do things make you unhappy, you need to be happy, you’re too pretty, you’re too athletic, or outgoing. etc. etc. I finally got help and better from new medication and by Winter 2014, I was feeling okay. My then boyfriend at the time could not understand this concept and eventually left me because of it all. Shortly after that time, my parents separated and divorced and my grandfather passed from leukemia (my first close loss). Jump to Fall 2015, happy, healthy, and dating a wonderful new man, but I noticed (for the first time) how quickly I was moving and going through life, I couldn’t stop and ‘smell the roses’, and I wasn’t sleeping well. I went to my doctor and he stated that I was officially living with bipolar disorder. This explained all my serious crashes and un-functional ability. Right after this, and a change to more applicable medication, I noticed that my speech was slurring more and I wasn’t able to move as quickly as normal. The weeks went on and it got worse and worse. By one point, I was completely stuttering or having an accent, and could not walk or move my arms well. I went to the hospital and received every form of physical test and everything came back negative. Finally, the psychiatrist came in and diagnosed me with conversion disorder, a physical form of stress attacking the body. With the ‘stress’ of recent events, my brain essentially reset, and I had to go through occupational therapy to gain my speech/motor skills again. I was having non-epileptic seizures because all of my senses were heightened and noises or smells or anything would cause me to ‘seize’ and fall, but I would immediately wake up, but couldn’t open my eyes or speak. It felt so trapped to me. This time was very tough being a former collegiate athlete but I worked hard. ACCEPTANCE/TREATMENT/RECOVERY I continue to see my psychiatrist and my therapist once a month at least - working for a manager that understands my issues also allows me the time to go and schedule these. I enjoy being a certified NAMI Ending the Silence Presenter in efforts to minimize the stigma surrounding mental illness. Being active and social, playing softball still, are extremely therapeutic to me. I have my tattoo on my body to give me my ‘pauses’ and to remember that those times in my past are just that, they are pauses, not ends. Also, that wonderful man who helped me through, is now my new fiancé. I learned who my true support group was: my friends and family. It’s okay to seek help, raise your hand, ask for guidance. You are not alone. Never once think that you are not worthy or that the world would be a better place without, because it would not be. Take it from someone who genuinely believed those dark thoughts personally but finally saw through the fog. 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