by Courtney Paré ND
By the time I was 15 years old I was fantasizing about my funeral regularly. The nice things people would say about me. Hearing the positive ways I impacted their life during my “short time” here on Earth. How I was so loved and had had so much going for me. How greatly I will be missed.
As a young teenager, I remember when I would hear stories about someone passing away, people had nothing but nice things to say about them.
And I wanted that! I wanted to feel loved, accepted and worthy. I used to fantasize about death because I thought that was a sure way to be loved.
Honestly, when I think back to how I used to envy someone because they passed away, I am filled instantly with shame. A feeling of “what is wrong with you, you sick-o” is quick to consume me.
But that’s just it. I was sick
I was hiding an illness inside that I wouldn’t even begin to understand until years later. An illness that stole so much happiness and vitality from me for the first 30 years of my life. And an illness I’ve only just begun to take my life back from.
That illness is a mental illness. Or, as I prefer to refer to it, a mental health struggle.
Finding motivation to get out of bed in the morning was an everyday struggle. Walking in the front doors of school knowing I was going to be around people was an everyday nightmare. The amount of food I ate versus amount I exercised was an everyday negotiation. The desire to stay alive versus the desire to die was an everyday battle.
Keep in mind that this was all going on while I boasted a nearly 4.0 average. I was a repeated “all star” and MVP in the sports I played. I gossiped with friends. I had “crushes” on boys. I smiled and I laughed. Pretty much, I was a “normal” [successful, even] teen.
On the inside, I was anything but normal or successful
I felt alone. I felt different. I felt hated. I felt worthless. I felt ugly. I felt unlovable. And, I felt like I didn’t deserve to, or want to, be alive.
Through grade school on to college and up until today, I pretty much went from a “normal, successful” teen to a “normal, successful” adult. While my successes speak for themselves, what people could not see, is that behind each accomplishment, was me tiresomely struggling to overcome [at times debilitating] depression and anxiety.
My depression and anxiety disorders had an incredible ability to make me feel like my successes were invalid. Like I was never good enough. Like anything I did was pointless. Like I was constantly being judged negatively. Like things would never change. For me, depression and anxiety sucked any meaning, peace and joy out of my life until all I was left with was a constant desire to end it all.
Currently, I practice as a mental health provider, and I am continuously grateful and to do so. By the time I received my medical degree, I had accrued several mental health diagnoses, and remember thinking as I held my diploma that I just wasted eight years of my life. There was no way anyone would trust me or accept me if they knew “who I really was.” If they knew that I had a history of struggling with my mental health.
Ironically, what I have come to realize is that my personal journey is one of my greatest assets as a practitioner. I can relate to feeling hopeless; but also know what if feels like to be hopeful. I can relate to feeling ashamed; but also know what it feels like to be proud. I can relate to being desperate to stop the chaos in my mind; but also know what it feels like to make strides toward healing and have a sense of peace within myself.
For every bit that I used to fantasize about dying, thinking my death would have an impact, I now fantasize about living, believing my life can have an impact.
I am fortunate to have received the support I needed in time. The support I needed to start transforming mental illness into mental wellness and self-hatred into self-love. Tragically, not everyone receives that same support.
Mental health struggles can affect ANYONE, and with the right care, I believe EVERYONE is capable of living peaceful, content lives. There is no shame in struggling! Let’s encourage our children, friends, siblings, colleagues and anyone else in need of support to speak up and reach out for help. Their life is waiting for them!
Courtney Paré is a lover of growth, kindness, animals and holistic living. Professionally, she is a naturopathic doctor specializing in the natural, homeopathic management of anxiety disorders, OCD and depression. Her practice, Natural Health Solutions of Virginia, is located in Richmond, Virginia, although she works with individuals all over the country. Her passion for mental wellness extends outside of the office, where she is a volunteer speaker and supporter with local mental health advocacy organizations. Courtney enjoys spending time with her human and fur family, watching movies, exercising, and exploring the beauty nature has to offer.
Natural Health Solutions of Virginia