I smiled when I saw this quote. I pictured my daughters and their friends playing with glow sticks when they were younger. I’d buy them for the kids to have at parties, in shapes of necklaces and bracelets. It was fun to bend and snap the dull-colored sticks, and watch them magically light up.
But this quote has a much deeper meaning. It reminds me of several of my family members who are in the military. In boot camp, they were broken down before they were built back up. It took years of training to develop them into the brave soldiers that they’ve become.
When I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, it nearly broke me. I had panic attacks every time I drove, went to the grocery store, or the mall. It got to the point where I worried every time I had to go out. I was afraid of becoming a prisoner in my own home. Thankfully, after twenty years of enduring severe panic symptoms, I finally went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with panic disorder and agoraphobia. I received treatment with medication.
It’s hard for me to describe how wonderful it felt the first time I drove somewhere, parked, and realized I hadn’t panicked.
I can’t tell you how amazing it was to meander through the aisles at the grocery store, relaxed and calm. To stop and read labels to decide which pasta sauce to buy or which cereal to get. Before, I basically threw food in the cart just to finish quicker.
Panic no longer had it’s heavy grip on me. I was in control. Sure, those familiar anxious thoughts still lurked in the back of my mind. I knew I wasn’t completely cured. But–I was able to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and not be overwhelmed by anxiety.
It was freedom.
My struggles with a mental health condition made me stronger and more compassionate. I know what it’s like to be beaten down by the stigma surrounding mental illness. I didn’t tell anyone about my symptoms for twenty years. I finally reached out for medical help when I couldn’t stand it anymore.
It’s going to take time and effort to end the relentless stigma. Years ago, I didn’t realize the hold it had on me. I’m thankful I made it through and am now able to spread the message of hope.
I want people to know that having a mental illness is no one’s fault. They shouldn’t be ashamed. I know how scary and lonely it is to think you’re alone. I didn’t believe anyone would understand me. Now I know there are millions who do.
Like a glow stick, I was broken. But now I shine.
There is always hope.
Second image courtesy of here
Third image courtesy of here