I am a Scientist, but Most Importantly, I am a Human Being
I was locked down in my dreary studio apartment one Saturday morning in Midtown, Sacramento. The curtains had all been drawn, and sunshine inevitably trespassed through the thick patterned glass of my steel door. What were once empty bottles and cans, had visually manifested themselves into hideous statues and mounted towers. Medicinal marijuana was recently delivered to my door, and containers of strains lay lifeless by a pack of half-empty cigarettes. On this day, social anxiety had physically crippled me, transforming itself into full-blown agoraphobia. Countless neighbors passed by my apartment for what seemed like hours, making their way to the laundry room or trash bins in the alley. Every word I would make out sounded like a sadistic joke, a school-yard taunt, or an insult only made to personally destroy me. At one point, I wondered if these words came from my own fuzzy mind, although their origins made no difference. Paranoia had been a frequent visitor of mine, and its presence only served to further intoxicate. Did my neighbors know that I was steadily killing myself with alcohol, sleeping only through its black outs?
Sometime after this experience, I found myself uplifted by my own mind. The realization that I could not give up on my life had given me a sense of purpose. “Not today,” I thought to myself, “I will not let social anxiety, depression and alcoholism execute me, taking everything that I have.” With purpose in my mind and spirit, I decided to make a plan to keep on living. I wanted to continue my search for the right treatment option, and to communicate my progress with doctors and therapists. I also planned to create a network of people who understood my mental conditions, a network that would eventually include support group attendees, friends and family. Additionally, I planned to continue learning as much as I could about what I was going through, both at home and at school. I decided to apply to an undergraduate biology program in my hometown of Chicago. I felt passionate about the field of neurobiology and wanted to work towards a career in mental health as a research scientist.
Two years later, I find myself on the brink of obtaining my undergraduate degree and having completed my own laboratory study on social anxiety disorder. There were times when I wanted to give up on my treatment and recovery, my school work, and surrender to the suicidal thoughts that overwhelmed me. As others have said before, recovery is an upwards spiral, with copious ups and downs. Even despite my mental health accomplishments- finding an effective treatment combination, presenting my social anxiety research (despite having social anxiety myself), and maintaining my sobriety, I still have hopeless days. When I have one of these, I try my best to remember that I am not defined solely by my mental illness. ADAA has provided me with numerous resources, including education, support groups listings, and access to a diverse community of people in recovery. Reading other's personal stories gave me the courage I needed to share my own, so that I too can reduce stigma by raising awareness. Before anything, I am always a human being. Therefore, my primary purpose is to continue living, and to stay on the road of recovery.