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Kara’s Story

“Talk to yourself like you would your best friend and you’ll begin to truly forgive and love yourself.”

Share your stigma experience.

In STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) graduate school it is difficult to admit struggling with a mental illness. I find myself getting anxious when I need to email my boss to say I am taking the day off when I know I need that day to fight a depressive episode. There are a lot of stories about how grad school is hard, and anyone who admits to struggling is just considered part of that crowd, sharing the same experiences. In reality, it’s difficult for me to progress when I have hit a rough patch, because my depression tells me I am not worthy to be there. My anxiety tells me that I am not working hard enough, did I leave the burner on, am I going to be fired for not getting results soon enough? My OCD makes me sit in the back, in an aisle seat during seminars in case whatever I ate that morning will make me sick and I need to make a quick exit with the least disruption.

These illnesses feel like a weakness, and they feel like they make me a lesser researcher, like I could never fit into the field or be competitive while I was still diagnosed with them.

How did you overcome this experience?

Finally seeing a doctor that understood one medication is not a cover-all for every person. A personalized medication plan that adapted to my needs as they came up changed my life. Following that up with counseling that teaches me how to use a planner to manage my anxiety and how to change the way I talk to and about myself has revolutionized the way I approach my illnesses. It has changed how I talk about these illnesses to my peers and how I can pass on what I’ve learned to others who are struggling.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

You have to be your own best friend and your own advocate to overcome the stream of negativity illness can subject you to. Talk to yourself like you would your best friend and you’ll begin to forgive and truly love yourself for just being human.

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