How Mental Health Has Shaped My Life

First, if you feel anxious, disengaged or hopeless please reach out to someone. Please chat with a friend, get out and smell the roses, or call a helpline. Please!

Now my story with mental illness. This is hard for me to write and cuts me to the core, but we don’t talk about it enough and we desperately need to! We need to remove the stigma and make safe places for people who are going these monumental struggles within their own minds. It’s something we can’t see and it makes it harder to understand. That doesn’t mean it’s something we can overlook. 

When I was eight years old my mother told me that could no longer take care of me and my brother and that she would be leaving us with our father. She also made me ask her to promise me she would never kill herself. This was on the way to friend’s birthday party. It was my first brush with how mental illness isn’t convenient. How people don’t make the rules, it rules them. My mom did leave us with our father later that week and I carried that conversation with me into adulthood. 

I was very fortunate to have a father who was frank with us about my mother’s bipolar disorder. Who answered questions and never disparaged her. My dad has done so many amazing things for me in my life, but the greatest gift he ever gave me was understanding and perspective when it came to mental health. He acted as if there were no stigma so we didn’t believe there was.

Fast forward to being an adult and I move in with my mother. The environment was toxic and led me to feel constantly anxious and unnerved. I decided to seek help and was prescribed Xanax. I did not react well. Within a few days, the drive to end my life wasn’t just background noise it was all I could think about. I remember driving over a very long bridge on my way to see Scott and deciding that this was the moment. I would drive off the bridge. Luckily he called and I stopped taking the medication and have never had a thought like that since. 

This is when I realized those thoughts of suicide aren’t as controllable as you might think. I’ve always been an anxious person, but I have never thought of hurting myself. Yet, there I was, not contemplating but actively willing to carry out my own suicide. It flipped my perspective on what it means to be depressed and what it means to be suicidal. It’s not anyone’s fault and it’s not anything anyone wants. 

Finally, in 2014 I was so stressed, anxious and scared. I had just moved to new city, with my new husband and was trying to work full time and go back to school. It came to a head and I passed out while I was driving. I slammed into a parked car (thank God no one was in it!) and then into a curb. The passenger’s side wheel came completely off the car and there were several thousand dollars of damage. This was a moment where I could no longer deny that there were big problems in my life. I walked away unhurt but knowing I needed to make a change. That’s why my food looks the way it does and why I do the things I do. 

Please know that we all struggle and we all need help. You’re not alone and you don’t have to be! Say something! All you have to do to start is say something. And for those of you lucky enough to not be touched by this. Make sure when someone says something you are there to listen. You have no clue the impact you have on other people. You could save a life. 

Sincerely,

Jessica Kapusta

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