My Mental Health Does Not Define Me
Submitted by Gloria, a Pathlight Mood & Anxiety alumni
In 2006, my life was shattered when I was in a fatal car accident. My father was instantly killed, my brother witnessed it all, and I laid in a coma on a ventilator.
At 12, the entire foundation of my life had crumbled beneath me and I stepped up to start picking up the pieces. I became the rock for my family. I was completely detached, numb, and robotic. I didn’t feel human. I was only going through the motions of life, but not living. I was at the top of my class, I was president of multiple clubs, I earned multiple scholarships and I was beginning a promising career.
My façade made everyone around me think I was well, but they did not know I was ready to end it all. I felt numb, disconnected, alone, hopeless, and worthless. The void inside of me was consuming me. I had avoided my trauma for years, and it was catching up to me. My only escape in life was traveling. In addition to my mental health deteriorating, my physical health deteriorated as a result of the physical and mental trauma I endured.
Even when I was working full time, I would sleep from the moment I got home from work on Friday, until Monday morning. I did not want to be conscious. I sought therapy, and other treatments, but it was not enough. I could not take it anymore, and as a result, I ended up at Pathlight. I did not think anything could help me, but I still went to Pathlight.
My mind was like a rusty steering wheel that I thought was impossible to salvage. Slowly, through the help of Pathlight, I began to turn the wheel and change my mindset. Every day, I attended multiple groups including acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, radical dialectical behavior therapy, art therapy, vulnerability and shame group, and exposure therapy. Trauma group was the first place in my life that I felt I belonged and had a sense of comradery. For the first time I did not feel alone.
My biggest takeaway was my mental health does not define me, and it is only a part of me.
As much as I would like to get rid of my trauma and mental health issues, I learned how to radically accept that they will always be a part of me. I learned healthy coping mechanisms and tools to deal with my mental health issues, prevent a crisis, and deescalate if in a crisis. I learned how to be vulnerable and had the honor of witnessing other people’s vulnerability.
Even though I wish I could be cured, my mental health is a battle I will face for the rest of my life. Recovery is not linear. Some days you will be okay and others you will be knocked down. I’ve been through the Pathlight program two times, including the residential program, partial hospitalization program, intensive outpatient program, and outpatient program.
Every day I gained a better understanding of myself, others, and mental health. Pathlight provided the support, resources, and safety that I needed to build a foundation of lifelong tools I can always use to manage my PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
To maintain my mental health, I continue to see my therapist weekly, stay active through dancing, and I volunteer at an animal shelter. Having a dog has really helped me, especially during the quarantine. She motivates me to get up every day. Wellness for me nowadays is being able to function without the crushing weight of pushing away my trauma and standing up stronger and quicker when I fall.
Gloria wants to break the stigma of mental health. She loves dogs, memes, and dancing.
*Note: This content is reflective of our advocates’ lived experiences. It is intended for informational purposes only. These pieces do not provide medical advice, nor are they substitutes for professional medical diagnosis or treatment.