It was never my goal to become the poster child for mental health. What I have set out to do or hope to do by telling my story, is to eliminate the stigma around depression, anxiety, etc. This never-ending pandemic has given mental health visibility and acceptance none of us could have foreseen. For that, I am incredibly grateful.
Those who struggle with their mental health are often told to suck it up or to stop being so dramatic. I'm not going to get into chemical imbalances or the hereditary nature of mental illness. What I am going to do is tell you my story.
Growing up, I had massive mood swings, most often manifesting in anger and frustration. If you asked my siblings to describe me as a child, they would more than likely say "volatile." When I was 16, I went on meds to help stabilize the mood swings and the significant highs and lows I experienced. My parents also put me in anger management, which made me extremely resentful and hateful towards them. That relationship didn't heal itself until I was in my 30s. Hindsight really is 20/20.
Entering adulthood, I had a whole new range of emotions to deal with. My meds needed to be adjusted to accommodate hormones, growth (weight) and how my mental illness evolved.
As an adult, it was depression, anxiety and loneliness. I suffered from imposter syndrome. As I continued to rise in my career, I became self-deprecating to a fault and constantly thought, "I'm fooling everyone, even myself. I don't deserve this."
If I wasn't experiencing debilitating anxiety, I isolated myself from everyone. People close to me called it "hermiting." I would stop taking calls, texts and I wouldn't leave my house. I was overwhelmed, scared and oh so alone.
Meds only helped so much. I was in a downward spiral and so unhappy.
When I started 8THIRTYFOUR, I named the agency after my first home, which had been at 834 Arlington. The house for which the business was named came to represent the lifecycle of a business and life—failure, more failure, perseverance and a rebirth.
Bankruptcy, divorce and a foreclosure are all part of my story. However, medication, an incredibly strong support system and therapy gave me the strength to move forward.
Mental illness does not define me. I have clawed my way to where I am, fighting anxiety, depression and more. I will never take anything I have achieved for granted, because the journey was twice as hard, but I persevered in spite of it.
My life can be summarized as "finding comfort in the uncomfortable." I chose to share my story through the Cascade Community Foundation's Isolated Q&A because growth happens in the uncomfortable. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and it's time society stops portraying it as a weakness.
There is nothing wrong with you. You are strong, beautiful and brave. Asking for help, reaching out to a therapist or taking medication does not make you weak. You have a level of self-awareness many will never experience in their life. Be thankful for that. You are not alone.
You are not alone.
Written by Kim Bode, Principal at 8THIRTYFOUR Integrated Communications.