END THE STIGMA: my struggle with mental illness


I want to start off by first saying that this post is not in any way meant to gain your sympathy.

Mental illness is NOT a choice, it is a disorder. It’s biological, at least in my case.  You see, genetics play a major role in mental disorders. They can be hereditary, meaning it can “run” or be passed down within a family. I didn’t  “choose” to be anxious, depressed and suicidal. I didn’t “choose” to feel like in a world made up of 7.5 billion people that I was completely alone. And I sure as hell didn’t “choose” to spend my adolescence being ashamed and disgusted with myself, for reasons I could not understand. With the way my brain is “wired” and with the trauma that I’ve been through, I became all those things. But it wasn’t by choice.

My name is Grace Horgan, I am 19 years old, and I have a mental illness.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I was diagnosed with severe social anxiety and depression. I suffered from years of bullying that started in the seventh grade, when I was just 12 years old. From that time, up until my freshman year of college, I was living some of the darkest days of my life. I was fighting a battle unforeseen to everyone around me. For seven years, I felt alone, ashamed, embarrassed and hated by everyone. I was made fun of for my appearance, being called names like “Flat Stanley” (which was funny maybe the first two times, but not after years of it.) There were rumors spread about me and videos sent around of kids making fun of me. I was constantly being told that I was hated by my peers. I felt as though I was being targeted for the sole reason of my existence. But why?

Kids can be mean. And by mean, I mean RUTHLESSLY BRUTAL. I would tell myself every night before I closed my eyes to go to sleep, “Tomorrow will be better.” Except it wasn’t. It never got better, it only got worse. That was when I started crying myself to sleep overnight and dreading what tomorrow had in store for me. That was when I lost all hope….

For years I put up a front. In high school, I was happy to finally have someone to look out for me. My brother. I don’t think he knows this, but he saved my life freshman year. Had he not been there to walk with me in the long dreaded hallways, I don’t know what would’ve happened. It wasn’t until freshman year that my anxiety kicked into full force and disrupted my life. I would skip school day after day because I was afraid. I was afraid of what people were thinking about me, of what they thought when they would see me walk into a classroom. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t escape the thought of everyone judging me, hating me and hurting me.

I was always considered a good student in school, getting high honors each semester. But as the years went on in high school, and the bullying intensified, my grades began to slip. I went from getting all A’s to getting B’s, C’s and even D’s. I was struggling to stay focused at soccer practice, to listen in class when teachers were giving instructions for an exam, all because I couldn’t escape the thoughts. Why? Why did everyone hate me? What did I do wrong? What is wrong with ME?

I’m not going to single out those who made my life a living hell for seven years, they know who they are. I will say that some of them were people I considered very close to my heart, only to now realize they only ever had the worst intentions for me. And it breaks my heart that I ever believed their bad intentions were my blessing and protection.

Fortunately, after I hit my darkest point, I got help. McLean Hospital and the 3East PHP saved my life. After years of feeling alone, hopeless, sad and ashamed, I finally met a wonderful group of the most genuine and beautiful people. People who all struggled with their own mental illness. I made connections with people that can never be broken, and that was when I knew things would be okay again. It wasn’t until I joined 3East that I  was able to look forward to waking up the next morning. (Not even the 2 hour drive every morning at 6 am could aggravate me because I knew that in 2 hours I would be spending the next 6 hours with my favorite people.) I knew that no matter what I always had my group to fall back on.

I owe my life to that group at McLean’s and my treatment team. Because of them, I am able to say I look forward to my future and that I actually HAVE a future. Because of them, I will be able to tell people about my plans to go back to college and study psychology in hopes to one day help save someone else’s life, like the way mine was saved.

Because of them I believe that I have a life worth living.


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