“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Contributor Meghan King

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Meghan King:

Meghan King

My name is Meghan and I have lived with anxiety and depression for over a decade now. I was diagnosed eight years ago in the fall semester of my junior year at William Paterson University (WPUNJ).

Looking back, I believe symptoms began to display themselves when I was about 15-16 years old. My mother left when I was a small child of 11 due to addiction, alcoholism, and living with bipolar disorder untreated. I know my battle with abandonment, trauma, and anxiety and depression have some roots in this loss. Anxiety shows itself as irritability, lack of focus, panic attacks. My depression has many faces from not wanting to get out of bed to accomplish daily tasks, questioning my value, not believing in my self worth, etc.

It took me years to realize that despite my diagnosis, I am a survivor and I thrive in the face of adversity. Seeing therapists since I was a teenager and taking the time to find the right medication to help me have a better quality of life has taught me this. I chose to stop attending school after missing school for 3 weeks due to psychosomatic symptoms I was having. I needed to take care of myself. That decision was frowned upon, to say the least. I couldn’t handle what I was going through and making my academic success a priority. My doctor started me on medication following my diagnosis. After trial and error, I have found the combination that works for me.

From August 2018 to June of this year I moved four times. I slept on couches, transferred jobs between North and South Jersey to living under a liquor store in Paterson because I did not have stable housing. I was basically homeless. If it weren’t for my loving boyfriend, his family, my brother, and my friends for emotional support, I don’t know how I would’ve traveled this road.

I have always had a spirit of surviving despite my diagnosis. I was having panic attacks while driving, things around me would slow down and I would have to practice grounding skills. I had to focus on my breathing and things around me to stop my racing thoughts. Nothing has scared me more than experiencing a panic attack while driving. Having to kick those ugly, dark thoughts out of my head, and convince myself that yes, I am worthy of love and my life is worth living.

As a side note, my boyfriend’s mother would have me over for dinner most of the week. Their home was too small to accommodate living there, but that woman fed me and let me stay on occasion. Simply providing meals for me and showing her care has made all the difference. She has shown me so much love and has been one of my greatest blessings. I signed a lease with my boyfriend in June for an apartment and I truly feel at peace where I am. I started a job that allows me to more than scrape by.

I can live comfortably and safe. I’m paying things off and paying for classes to continue my education. I have learned to live one day at a time and appreciate my blessings. I choose not to be defined by my mental health challenges.