With My Mental Illnesses, One Thing Led to Another

by Jessie Brar – Follow @jessieebrar

Anytime I tell someone about the different mental illnesses I have experienced in my past, I’m always faced with the response:

“What, are you collecting them?”

I have dealt with substance abuse, an eating disorder, and I still struggle with depression and anxiety today. My mental illnesses are very interconnected and I’m slowly tackling them, one at a time. I think many people have trouble understanding how all of these can occur at once. I often hear from people that I did this to myself or that I’m seeking attention. There’s so much stigma around mental illnesses and I hope by being open about mine, I can help erase some of that stigma.

Anxiety was first. I was 8 years old when my anxiety started. As I’ve written about in my other articles, I grew up surrounded by abuse. My father’s alcoholism and my grandparents’ verbal abuse made me so scared. I was constantly worried. I was scared by loud noises and yelling. I never felt like a normal child. I was constantly searching for ways to feel better.

[Read Related: #TherapyTalk: How to Talk About Feelings When You’ve Been Told Not To]

When my anxiety was taking over, I grasped onto anything that would help me feel like I was in control of my life. It started with me just eating less to try and quickly finish my dinner so that I didn’t have to listen to the yelling that was going on at the table. Then I skipped meals altogether. I felt a sense of strength and control. Every time I skipped a meal, I felt like I was doing something for myself. I felt as if I was making a decision and had the power to deal with everything in my life. Then I started focusing on dropping pounds. It made me feel good for awhile until I started noticing my weight would fluctuate. Every time the numbers on the scale went up, the voices in my head telling me that I wasn’t good enough got louder.

This negative internal dialogue led me to feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and loneliness. Symptoms of depression started to occur and, when I tried reaching out for help, I was told that I was too young to be having these kinds of problems or that it was just a phase. When I eventually did get to a counselor, I didn’t know how to express my feelings, and so I internalized it all. I kept silent about my depression for years and this only made things worse.

[Read Related: The Mental Health Spotlight: BG Jessie Brar]

When I got to university, I felt even lonelier. I was so overwhelmed that I would do anything to feel a bit better or forget about all the negative thoughts in my head. I started drinking heavily. I would go out on Fridays and drink until I got home. It wasn’t the type of drinking you do at a university party where you’re trying to have fun. I was drinking to forget. It was so dangerous.

All of these mental illnesses are interconnected. One thing led to another and every time I put off reaching out for help, things got worse. It kept building and building, snowballing into something I couldn’t control. Reaching out for help wasn’t easy, but when I did, my whole world changed.

Many people ask why I have had so many mental illnesses. To them I say, take a minute to think about the situation someone is in. Trust me, I never wanted this to happen. It just did.

Chocolate Lover – Bollywood Dancer – Bhangra Enthusiast – Mental Health Advocate.
Jessie Brar studied psychology at Queen’s University and is currently working at a boutique recruitment firm in Toronto, Canada. Her spare time is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health through volunteering with organizations such as Jack.Org and running The Mental Health Spotlight (@TheMHSpotlight), an Instagram project dedicated to erasing stigma around mental health and mental illness in South Asian communities through the power of storytelling. In her downtime she can be found cuddled up watching/reading Harry Potter, eating Reese’s Cups, or dancing to Bollywood and Bhangra tunes in front of a mirror. 
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