Dakota Center for Independent Living

Dakota Center for Independent Living

Mental Health Awareness Month: My Story ~Ardeen

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. With that in mind, I want to share my experience with depression, anxiety and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It has not been a fun journey to get to the place where I am now. That is, for the first time in my life, at the ripe old age of seventy -three, with the right antidepressant and years of therapy, I have reached the point that I am now free from these crippling illnesses. When a flashback pops up, I have the tools to work through it, and I know that this too, shall pass.

I was in therapy off and on for 30 plus years (Yes, I am that old). In addition, I have been prescribed antidepressants with the therapy, but I am one of those, who when they start to feel good, they stop taking it. And so the cycle repeated itself for many years.

My first thought of dying by suicide was when I was around eight or nine, then again at twelve and a few times in my adult life.

To compound the issues, I used food to cover up traumatic memories of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

Now you would think I lived a lonely, horrible life, but I got married, raised three great kids, enjoyed my grandchildren, had great and not-so-great jobs – all the while fighting the urge to never leave my house, due to the crippling anxiety. On the outside, my life looked pretty darn good. I laughed a lot, and was everyone’s buddy. On the inside, my brain was screaming at me that I was worthless and shouldn’t be alive.

Now, in order to maintain my mental and emotional health, I am very careful about what I watch on television, who I spend time with, the type of conversations I take part in, etc.. Revisiting those memories isn’t easy, but when I look back on my life, I am so grateful for the good therapists I have had, and the progress I have made. 

Now, my smile is real, my laugh is loud and sometimes obnoxious – also real. The pain and crap I went through has made me who I am today. My worst day now, is by far and away, better than my best day before becoming mentally and emotionally happy, joyous and free.