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Changing hushed whispers to loud resilience: Jocelyn is met with support

"You. Are. Worthy."

Written story

Share your stigma experience.

I moved to Minnesota in 2006 for my job. My family has always been very close, living within two states of each other (Virginia and Pennsylvania). When I moved to Minnesota, I was all by myself for the first time.

In 2008, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I took five weeks off to be with my mom through her surgeries. When I came back, I started having what I learned were anxiety attacks. I felt panicked about being here and asked myself, “Why am I here? My family needs me.”

I finally saw my doctor and reluctantly started medication. I tried several before he referred me to a psychiatrist.

I missed work one day because I couldn’t get out of bed, I was so depressed. It was awkward when co-workers asked, “Were you sick?” That’s when the whole stigma piece started. I was uncomfortable talking about depression and anxiety because I didn’t want others to think I was a freak or immediately change their thoughts about me and who I am.

Time went on and I was struggling. With changes in my job, the added stress only worsened my symptoms and I was underperforming, which bothered me. At one point, I said during a one-on-one meeting that I was changing medications, which sometimes has side effects. I was trying to explain my performance without sharing too much.

As time went on, I was still having a very difficult time being at work. It was hard to explain, I just didn’t want to “be.” Each day was a major challenge to get through. I was frustrated that I couldn’t be “normal” and enjoy my life. It was 2016. At another one-on-one, I was comfortable enough to share with my supervisor and she suggested I see a therapist. I decided to take her advice, and it really helped, but things still weren’t quite right.

Then, my psychiatrist diagnosed me with an eating disorder and prescribed more therapy on top of everything else. I was so overwhelmed. In therapy we talked about my feelings and how it was ok to feel that way. Hearing that went a long way in making me feel better.

Still, having two types of therapy was too much. I ended up taking leave in 2017. I am an open person and couldn’t handle the additional stress of keeping my secret any longer. I shared with my manager and close co-workers the reason for my leave. My last day before leaving, my manager and co-workers gave me a going-away basket containing relaxation items. I was very touched because they treated my mental illness as if I was going in for an operation or had some other physical debilitation. Still, I felt embarrassed, it was “just for mental health.”

When I returned to work early this year, I was warmly welcomed, and I noticed how it made me feel better to talk about my disease (yes, it truly is a disease) and not be treated differently.

How did you overcome this experience?

Through a combinations of therapies and lots of changing around medications I am doing well today and actually trying to back off some of the medications.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

I leave you with this advice:

  • There are others who know how you feel.
  • You don’t have to feel this way.
  • It isn’t easy, but you can feel better.
  • This is an illness, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like it isn’t.
  • You. Are. Worthy.