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The art of healing: Deb’s story of navigating through depression, substance use and the stigma held by her family while finding hope and healing through art and music

"You are capable of living the life that you dream of…"

Written story

Share your stigma experience.

I started experiencing depression in high school. Looking back, I’d gone through a lot of behavioral changes such as lying, taking drugs, and suddenly failing in school. No adult ever discussed my mental health with me. So, I kept engaging in my behaviors and getting in trouble. The only comment I remember any adult making to me about anything mental health related was my dad once asked, “You don’t think about killing yourself, do you?” My reply was “yes” and my dad just shook his head in annoyance and this was never mentioned again. Later on in my 20s I shed some of the behaviors but my abuse of substances was stronger than ever. Alcohol numbed my racing and intrusive thoughts.

After years of this I knew I needed help so I found a counselor. It was only then that I started my journey to start feeling better. I started being more open about my symptoms of depression and anxiety with my friends and family. I started taking antidepressants. One major obstacle was my family was still unsupportive about my mental health stuff. They operated under the notion that mental illness was made up and antidepressants were unnecessary and useless. I remember my dad said, “I don’t know how you got like this,” referring to my mental health challenges as an adult. My family did turn a corner though, when several of them were diagnosed with depression. They finally realized mental illness was very real, and also treatable.

How did you overcome this experience?

I stayed in counseling for years and I formed friendships with people who empathized with my experiences and didn’t judge me. I spent a lot of time drawing and listening to music and just sitting with myself to get to know myself again. I worked on allowing my emotions to the surface, the good and the bad.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

You are a dynamic human being who struggles and makes mistakes just like everyone else does. You are capable of living the life that you dream of and you are already taking steps (no matter how small) towards your dreams, each and every day.