Shana Sanchez narrative photo.jpg

Shana's Story

I have decided that if I truly want to end the stigma around mental health and start more conversations about this topic, I need to be vulnerable and open about my own mental health journey and struggles. I’ve been sitting on this post for a while, not knowing whether I should post it to the internet for the world to see. Not knowing if my story was “good enough.” Not knowing if anyone really cared. But I am hoping that if I am willing to talk about it and create the space for this type of conversation, that it is a step toward reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

Truth be told, I have been in therapy since I was a kid.

Truth be told, I have been in therapy since I was a kid. I first went to a divorce parent’s group called Rainbows and eventually started seeing an individual therapist. I always felt different. None of my friends went to therapists, well at least no one talked about it. I sometimes felt like no one really understood who I truly was. And then there was high school…

As most of us know, high school is a tough time for a lot of adolescents and I felt it was a particularly tough transition for me. I had to move in with new caregivers and start at a new school with barely anyone from my grade school. I became increasingly anxious and felt like my emotions had extreme power over me. I became impulsive, but also needed to be a perfectionist. I felt the need to be two different people. The perfect student, but also the rebel. I felt a need for control. In situations where I didn’t have that control or where there was a bit of uncertainty about the outcome, I felt extreme anxiety. I started to lose touch with who I was. 

I became increasingly anxious and felt like my emotions had extreme power over me.

My anxiety started to impact my relationships. I felt a need to always be liked, a need to always say the right thing. Yet I struggled to really connect. To connect with friends, partners, and my parents. I put up this big wall, but also acted like I was this open book. I kept everyone at arm’s length so that ultimately I wouldn’t get hurt. I felt alone. 

I started to shift into a feeling of despair and felt that I was unlovable and unworthy. That I didn’t have any control over what was happening inside of me and I wanted to just give up. I began having thoughts about suicide. What would it be like if I tried to kill myself? Would it be worth it? How could I do it? Would anybody care? Would it fix things?

I got to the point where I thought that I wanted to drive my car off the side of the road. I sat in my car sobbing. Terrified. Frozen.

I felt like I had truly hit rock bottom. No one understood me. I didn’t understand myself. So what was the point? I felt overwhelmed by everything I was feeling and thinking. 

I drove home, still feeling unsafe. My family and I discussed being hospitalized for my safety, but ultimately I didn’t go. 

It’s strange thinking back on this night. I sometimes feel like it wasn’t real, but at the same time it’s a night that I will never forget. It feels like a blur, but I can also immediately go back and remember the intense emotions I felt in my body. Sometimes it even feels like it didn’t happen to me. But it did.

It feels like a blur, but I can also remember the intense emotions I felt in my body. Sometimes it even feels like it didn’t happen to me. But it did.

At this point, I was already on Lexapro for my anxiety, so my psychiatrist added Abilify into the mix. My family told me that I needed to go to therapy at the same time as I was taking the medication. (My poor therapist… I was a tough cookie for her for a while.) However, when I started the Abilify I started to feel nothing. Absolutely nothing. Numbness. And I hated it. I am a person that feels emotions deeply. I have very high highs and very low lows, but these emotions make me feel human. So the fact that I couldn’t even feel happy scared me. I wanted off the meds ASAP.

*I want to say though that medication can be great for some people! If it works for you, good! Keep taking them! I think it depends on the individual and what works for them. I just didn’t feel like the ones I was taking weren’t a good fit.*

So, I agreed to do the work in therapy. I worked really hard to find coping skills that worked for me and to sort through all my “baggage” to try to understand why I felt the way that I did. And sometimes there wasn’t a reason why I felt the way I did. Brain chemistry can do powerful things to your mood. I had to learn to educate myself, but also to accept it and find ways to minimize the hold these emotions or moods could have on me.

I am still in therapy and have been on and off since high school. I personally find it incredibly helpful for me.

These were some of the most difficult times of my life. I grew so much as a person. However, I still have my moments of anxiety and feeling of panic attacks creeping up. I am not perfect and I still struggle to take hold of some of my emotions. I still have periods of sadness, but I now recognize that having a spectrum of emotions is okay. I can identify the bodily sensations better and can work to prevent it from becoming a more severe issue by utilizing my coping skills. I no longer have suicidal ideation and haven’t since high school. But I realize that mental health is something I need to constantly work on in my life. I am still working hard to try and maintain my mental health. I stumble and have my moments, but I am proud of how far I have come.

I am still in therapy and have been on and off since high school. I personally find it incredibly helpful for me to have an unbiased source of support. I have used therapy for different reasons: to process thoughts, to get through difficult times, and to connect things from my childhood that have shaped who I am today.

Everyone’s story is different and unique. Everyone goes through some tough time in their life. I wanted to share my story to that I can help to reduce the stigma. I feel so exposed, vulnerable, and self-conscious… but I want to encourage others to see that they are not alone. That struggling with mental health is nothing to be ashamed about. That you are not alone.

I feel so exposed, vulnerable, and self-conscious... but I want to encourage others to see that they are not alone.

Written by Shana Sanchez