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Mental Health Warrior Stories: Living with PTSD, Anxiety & Depression as Shared by Tori Long

This week's story from a mental health warrior is about living with PTSD, Anxiety and Depression and is being shared by Tori Long. You can find Tori on Instagram or on her Website "Read this On Your Coffee Break"  

Want to share your mental health warrior story - submit your story here

Tori is a writer based in Louisville, KY.  She loves coffee, NPR, reading and crafting.

What Mental Health Challenges do you face?

I suffer from PTSD and the anxiety and depression that goes along with that.

At what age were you diagnosed? Age 22

How do your mental health challenges affect your daily life?

Right now I have things fairly under control with medication and therapy.  I still have issues with my trauma anniversary date, but it’s way more manageable than in years past where I would often stay in bed crying on that date.

I did grow up being told that I didn’t want to be labeled with a mental illness.  When I suspected I was suffering from depression in high school I was told that it would be better for me to try to hide it than to go to a psychiatrist.  Medication was also seen in my family as something problematic and not a real solution.  

In my senior year of college I finally decided that I needed to speak to a psychiatrist when my mental health significantly declined months after being raped.  My anxiety and depression were worse than ever at that point.  So many things were triggering me and my formerly sharp memory had gotten super foggy.

I felt shameful about admitting to needing help and to make matter worse they had me speak to a grad student in the psychiatry program that gave me what I’ve now found out was horribly done hypnotherapy. At that point I just decided that therapy would only make me worse between being conditioned to think it was bad and a horrible first experience.

I then spent most of my twenties badly self-treating with meditation, yoga, and making it through the days by hiding my true feelings and using my acting skills as much as I could at work and around friends.  Alcohol also became a crutch for a while until at 29 I ended up in the hospital after being drugged at a work party in a room of people I thought I could trust.  

Suddenly my PTSD was worse than ever and alcohol was no longer a crutch, but now a new trigger.  It was in the moment that I realized I should give therapy a second chance.  

Over a couple years of on and off treatment I realized that between medication and therapy my life could drastically improve.  I still have some mild depression and anxiety from time to time, but it’s much more manageable now. 

What positive aspects do your mental health challenges bring to your life? 
 
They’ve made me realize that if you want to change yourself and you’re willing to accept help from others you can.  

I no longer care if people might judge me for who I am.  I try to live honestly and do the best I can.  I have no desire to keep up with the Joneses anymore, I just want to be the best version of myself that I can be.

How do you see your particular mental health challenges being stigmatized?

I definitely saw it in my own family. I was taught that mental illness was a flaw that should be hidden and that medication wouldn’t help. It made me feel like my depression was just laziness and selfish behavior.  

I do think this goes far beyond my family though. So often victimized women are called crazy by boyfriends etc. for having symptoms of PTSD instead of being guided towards help.

Depression is often viewed as laziness by society. I’ve definitely been told by friends that claimed to be close to me to just “snap out of it” when they should have been guiding me towards real help.  

What do you do for self care?

When I’m feeling anxious I find that either a long walk or drive is helpful to clear my mind. I also enjoy guided meditations and yoga. Journaling is also a great way to deal with difficult feelings when they arise.

On particularly busy weeks I find it super helpful to set a period of time for self care. Even if I just spend that time reading or taking a bath it gives me a chance to de-stress before I become too overwhelmed.

Any online resources that you recommend?

If you’re not familiar with guided meditations I recommend starting off with Headspace. They’re great at showing beginners how to get used to mediating and I found it super helpful when I was starting out.  

What would you say to someone who was just diagnosed with the same mental health diagnosis as you?

Research the type of psychiatrist and therapist you want to go to and make sure to look at reviews. Unfortunately they are not all the same and even some good ones may not be the right fit for you.
The journey towards finding the right treatment might take time, but when you find the right treatment for you it will all be worth it.

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Thank you Tori so much for sharing your Mental Health Story and helping to create more awareness about living with Anxiety, PTSD and Depression. I appreciate you and your willingness to share! 

Want to share your mental health warrior story - submit your story here

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