By Amber LeRoy
It’s been about four years since I first shared my mental health story, and what a journey that has been. I’m able to give myself compassion in regard to my diagnosis, but the struggle of daily life still impacts me greatly. Living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder has affected my life in both positive and negative ways. I continue to have difficult periods that cause my head to spin, my emotions to heighten, and my motivation to plummet. I recently completed my Master’s in Occupational Therapy in Ontario; I was living there alone during the outbreak of COVID-19. This affected my mental health immensely. It felt like the progress I’ve made over the past few years was diminishing. I felt like a fraud for speaking about my story when I could barely get out of bed. Being in this mindset increased my anxiety and it felt like I was participating in a constant battle of anxiety vs. depression. I was anxious that I wasn’t out of bed or completing my typical tasks, but I was too flat to actually make a change, again increasing my anxiety and making me feel guilt and shame. It was a vicious cycle. I felt shame for “being weak”. I wasn’t and I am still not weak. I’m living with an illness and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
Mental health is not linear
Although I wanted to be transparent about my recent mental health struggle, the focus of this post is to introduce my story. I cannot ignore the fact I am privileged, as I have supportive friends and family and a “toolbox” with coping mechanisms and resources. I thought back to the first time I shared my story and how honest I was with myself and others. Mental health is not linear, it’s constantly changing – why wouldn’t it? It is an illness. I hope this video helps decrease shame, increase acceptance, and becomes a part of your wellness toolbox.
My story includes the highs and lows of navigating the mental health system. The struggles of fighting with myself about who I was; what was my identity. It is sad and triggering, as well as encouraging and hopeful. I explored the different avenues of support including talk therapy, medication, mindfulness, online courses, and peer support. Not everything worked, and others worked sometimes but not always. The point was, there were resources available and if they were available, they must be needed. That was a huge piece of my recovery journey – I realized I was not alone.
My name is Amber. I am an Occupational Therapist, a big sister and a dog mom. I love dancing and reading romance novels. I’m scared of the dark, I suck at math, and I live with a mental illness. I am many things and living with depression and anxiety is just one part of my identity; I am Amber who lives with a mental illness and that’s okay, because it’s okay not to be okay.
To learn more about Amber’s journey in her words watch this video.