The Valley Echo

Rachel Cohen

This is the fifth installment of This Is My Story, an eight part series. In this article, Pascack Valley senior Rachel McCambridge tells her mental health story with anxiety and depression.

This Is My Story: Rachel McCambridge

(Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and The Smoke Signal asked Pascack Valley students that struggled with their mental-health to tell their stories, some of which may contain sensitive content. This is the fifth article of an eight part series.)

I have tried to write this down so many times. So many people know about what I have been through, and I truly do not care who knows, but there is something about writing it all down that changes everything.

I have had anxiety since sixth grade, or at least that is when I was diagnosed. Looking back, there were so many signs that something was wrong. To me, though, what I was going through was normal and I did not know anything different. I was under the assumption that everyone had these feelings and behaved this way.

When my parents brought me to see a therapist, she told me that I had anxiety and OCD, a wave of relief came over me. It made a lot of sense and I was relieved to understand that there was reasoning for a lot of my behavior. Though I was angry with my parents for making me see a therapist and angry I had to go at all, it helped. However, seeing my therapist weekly was not enough.

After a few months, my parents and my therapist decided that I needed to be put on medication and see a nurse practitioner to prescribe it. Again, I was angry that this was even a consideration. I was fine. All my life, I have felt this way, and once I was told it was wrong, I thought therapy was the answer and I would soon be “cured.” It took me a long time to learn mental illness does not work that way.

I was not, but I refused to admit I needed help, which became a common pattern with my mental illness.

Medication was only the beginning. My first therapist retired and I convinced my parents, and myself, that that I would be fine with solely seeing the nurse practitioner.

I was not, but I refused to admit I needed help, which became a common pattern with my mental illness. It was only after my sister was hospitalized that I asked my parents if I could start seeing someone again. I did for two years.

During my sophomore year, I was sent home from school for being deemed at risk to harm myself for suicidal thoughts. It was my grandma’s birthday when my mom left lunch with her to come get me. I kept seeing my therapist until the beginning of junior year. It was right after my paternal grandma died.

My therapist told me that I could start seeing her less and less until eventually not at all. I was thrilled. Finally, I was “cured.” I convinced myself that I was fine and stopped seeing her altogether. I continued going on with my life, not telling anyone that suicide was a constant thought in my head.

I wished that I could disappear.

I wished that I could disappear.

Eventually, that January, I told my parents. They were in shock; I was their second daughter telling them that I did not want to live. My parents, as supportive as ever, got me a therapist as soon as possible. I was still thinking about suicide and having panic attacks. I had zero self esteem which is still something I am working on. I was so lucky that I had so many supportive friends and family who were always there for me.

That June, almost six months after I began therapy again, I was sent home again for having suicidal thoughts. The biggest difference was that I reached out for help the second that I felt my mental health declining again.

It was almost a year later that I told my parents that I got into my dream school to become a teacher. People told me that “things get better,” but I never believed that it was true until it actually happened. I was thinking about suicide constantly and though I still hit some rough patches, a panic attack occasionally, or my mind wandering to unwanted thoughts, I am still here and still working hard to manage my symptoms.

To anyone who is struggling, I hope that you believe when I say that “the world would be a less better place without you,” which is something my dad told me every time that I doubted myself.

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