Guest Blog Post by Mia Ellis
When I was 20, I came to an alarming realization that something was wrong. A week before Thanksgiving, I ended an abusive long-term relationship, and it seemed my entire world fell apart overnight. As a senior at Towson University living in an off-campus apartment, the winter that followed was debilitating.
Some mornings, I could not get out of bed. I barely made it to class or work. I cried as I got dressed, cried as I got in my car and drove. At my internship, I tried desperately not to cry at my desk, but I would start shaking until tears eventually fell as I stared into my computer screen. When I got home from class, I started taking painkillers to feel less miserable. That got me through the evenings, relieved once I could get in bed and sleep once again. I hated mornings because I didn’t want to participate in life, I just wanted to sleep. I was scared of being alone because of the dark thoughts that consumed me. I deleted my social media and ignored my friends; I couldn’t stand to see people happy and successful when I felt like a miserable failure. I became a shell of the happy and motivated extrovert I was, and I didn’t recognize myself. I felt empty, alone, depleted, isolated, useless, and irrationally overwhelmed with the feeling that my life didn’t really matter.
I attribute my recovery from major depressive disorder, which I was diagnosed with at 21, to three things: a good treatment plan, the support of my loved ones, and NAMI. I found NAMI Metro Baltimore through Towson University’s Counseling Center. In the spring I booked an emergency appointment with a mental health counselor, and not only did that begin my healing journey with therapy, but I met someone at the center who told me about NAMI Metro Baltimore. That day, for the first time in months, my spirits lifted. Maybe I wasn’t alone after all. I felt surrounded by people who truly understood, cared, and wanted to help.
I have been a NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group facilitator for almost two years, and it has changed my life and the way I view mental illness. After I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Psychology, it became clear to me that I wanted to help people like me, struggling with a mental health condition. I wanted to be sure that nobody had to suffer through it alone or without help. With certainty, I can say to anyone with mental illness – whether it be depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD or anything else – you are not alone in the way you feel. There are so many others out there who can relate to you and genuinely understand you.
For me, helping others work through mental illness helped me work through my own illness. I feel a strong connection with young adults in particular. Young adults, especially those of us with mental illness, experience the world differently. Growing up and finding your place in the adult world is not easy for anyone. School, finding jobs, figuring out what you want to do with your life, coming to terms with who you are, dealing with family issues, finding intimate relationships, living on your own – these are just a few of the struggles of young adulthood, and mental illness makes this journey feel overwhelming, if not impossible at times. But it is not impossible, and sometimes we need to be reminded of that. I think the more we can empathize and relate with one another, the more we can try to understand and support each other through the toughest of times.
This January, NAMI Metro Baltimore will launch a new NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group for young adults. This peer-led support group will provide a space for young adults to connect, share challenges, to see that there is hope for recovery. Starting January 10th, the group will begin meeting bi-weekly at the Southeast Anchor Library in Highlandtown. This free program is open to any young adult age 18-39 who is living with a mental health condition.
I am a young adult with mental illness. At times I need support, and I know other young adults like me need it too. Through NAMI, we can offer each other mutual support, comfort, and understanding as we battle mental illness. You are not alone, and you do not have to go through this alone. Together, we can cope, heal, and find the road to recovery.
Mia Ellis is a Connection Support Group Facilitator and NAMI Metro Baltimore outreach volunteer. She has been volunteering with NAMI Metro Baltimore to help peers living with a mental health condition since 2016.
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