We did not talk about mental illness when I was a child. My uncle had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and I had to hide in my grandma's bedroom when he came to visit. I was taught to be afraid, not just of him, but afraid of his diagnosis and his symptoms. I always worried about how he would act or what would happen if he learned I was in the house. As I grew up, I experienced my father having debilitating depression, inability to finish any task, and extreme impulsivity. My father has bipolar disorder and I never knew how to understand why he acted the way he did. I also learned that I was starting to struggle. I felt like I had to hide, wear a smile every day, but inside I wanted to die. I as 16 when I first planned to commit suicide. I felt like I was different, like there was something wrong with me and I was better off dead. I felt like no one would miss me. When I was 17 I had my first inpatient hospitalization and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. We started a series of medications and over the years I have tried dozens of combinations. Some of them helped, for a while, but some of them made me feel worse. When you already feel like you are as low as you can go, it is scary to think that I can get worse. But it can also get better...I was hospitalized again earlier this year, and finally I felt like we are making progress. Finally, they found medication that makes me feel alive. Do I still struggle? Yes. Do I have bad days where I have no desire to get out of bed? Absolutely. The good days are worth fighting for and worth helping others fight for as well.

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