In the past few weeks, we’ve done a couple of blogs on the program Stand Together. We first discussed the work that the initiative does and then had the chance to sit down with the project coordinator, Danyelle for an interview. During the first part of the interview, Danyelle spoke about Stand Together and the work they do to combat stigma in schools. If you haven’t already, check out part one! During the second part of the interview, Danyelle spoke about her personal experience with mental illness. Danyelle has a dual-diagnosis (two diagnoses that often occur together) of bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. Danyelle spoke with SOVA about her lived experience with mental illness and her passion for helping others…
To start, Danyelle spoke about her personal experience
Until the age of 20, Danyelle said she lived undiagnosed in an environment that attempted to normalize her mental health concerns. She recalled thinking, “maybe everyone feels this way.” Danyelle also spoke about how the environment she grew up in wasn’t always helpful in addressing her mental illness. As a result, Danyelle said she became closed off and used unhealthy behaviors like self-medicating to cope with what she was experiencing. Danyelle spoke about going off to college and how this worsened her mental health. She said she created fake safety nets that weren’t ultimately helpful in addressing her mental illness. This resulted in suicide attempts which led to getting help through rehabilitation in 2010.
Danyelle also spoke about using her personal experience to help others. Because she didn’t know about mental health in high school, she now works to help others understand mental illness so as to prevent the same course/experience she had. Danyelle stated that she “didn’t know that it didn’t have to be like this” when she was experiencing her mental health decline. But Danyelle emphasized that “people can and do recover.” She is proof of this!
Do you have any experience with stigma against mental illness in adolescence and young adulthood?
Danyelle said with her anxiety and borderline symptoms, she believed “everything had to be perfect” and that nothing could be wrong. Danyelle recalled putting on a front of being okay. She went on to say that “putting on these masks” was exhausting. When considering those around her, Danyelle said others didn’t know how to respond. She experienced a fear of being judged as a result of this.
What would you say to a younger version of yourself?
“It’s okay to not be okay.”
“It’s okay to get help.”
“Mental illness is not your fault.”
“I am not alone.”
We want to thank Danyelle for sharing her expertise, both about the Stand Together initiative and about her personal experience with mental illness. Check out the Stand Together website for more information on the project.
What would be important for people to know about your adolescent’s/young adult’s experience with mental health?